There's nothing like ringing in your 34th birthday carrying your baby home from the hospital in your arms. I can't even start to express the emotions I went through yesterday, suffice to say today my greatest birthday gift is my healthy sons. I'm so relieved and thankful that everything's ok. I don't want to go into the details here, but I will say that every day that passes with two healthy happy boys will be my "best day ever".
Noah met his first doctors and nurses last night, charmed every one of them with his happy smiles, suffered through pokings and proddings, and only lost it when I had to restrain him so his ears could be examined.
I was like a tiger in the hospital, daring anyone to come near me and touch my baby with less than respect and love; I'd have bitten their hands off. Luckily none of them did, and I was so overwhelmed with the gentle grace of his doctors, who took time to engage with him before laying a finger on him.
I was struck by how lucky we are, seeing other children in the waiting room who didn't get to leave and go home last night, stressed and anxious parents snapping at each other, kids tired, crying, being force-fed medicine...
The waiting room where we spent nearly four hours was filthy, messy, never-been-mopped, despite the "please let us know if this room needs cleaning" sign on the wall. I wondered at the hourly signature, who was coming in blindly, checking all four walls were in situ and signing the room as suitable for children to spend time in. Discarded plastic cups of pink liquid and drinking syringes lined the windowsill, crumpled napkins on the floor, stains from long-ago spilt drinks, crisp packets, bun wrappers... The toys were filthy, every moveable piece long ago robbed as a souvenir of what... a lucky escape?
It was crowded, overheated, a sign on the wall said not to feed crisps / bars / fizzy drinks to your child before they'd seen the doctor, yet the vending machine sold only them. Oh, and sandwiches for 4.50 euros which were stamped 3.75 euros.
Yet the staff were gentle, kind, eager to help refill a bottle of tap water, to engage with the older brother, to hand the baby a toy while checking his blood pressure. That's the main thing, I suppose.
To all with sick children, I salute you. You are stronger than you ever know. You hold it all together for your kids, acting like it's all one big game, then when the lights are out you shudder and sob with the what-might-have-been's.
You realise who your support system is, those who will drop everything to be by your side, to offer a shoulder to cry on, a hand in the dark.
I carried my baby home in the cold, dark night - he went apeshit at the sight of the car. I relished every step away from the hospital, away from the bright lights, the machines, the name stickers, every step closer to home.
I reflected on how "grown up" I am now, a mother of two. There's no more feeling like a teenager, no more kidding myself that I'm just out of my twenties. This is it, I've "manned-up", accepted life's challenge. There is no going back, no hiding in the duvet. These children look to me for everything, they pick up my every mood, they need my strength.
There is no "time off", no holidays, no "leave", I'm an adult now.