I have stared at the ceiling’s of rooms all over the world. I have counted the ripples on the ceiling rose in Barcelona, held my breath for 5,10,15 seconds in Copenhagen, I have written lists in Madrid and contorted my body into various shapes Reykjavik all in the hope of being able to fall asleep. The trouble with sleep is that it is a necessity and without it your mind is given the power to deceive you. My sleep problems are fuelled by thoughts of uncertainty and I carry these thoughts around in my mind like an unlucky penny.
On one particular night I found myself sitting and replaying, in my mind, the reactions of individuals, when I told them that Arabella had been born early. The feeling this made me feel was like a burning in my stomach followed by an overwhelming surge of memories and the desire to cry. I don’t know why it made me want to cry, most likely because the whole event is still such an overwhelming thought and one that I am still processing little by little.
Reactions varied from “Congratulations!” “Is she okay?” to “Oh my god, that’s really VERY early.” the latter of which hurt me so much more than I hope was intended. Whilst Arabella was in hospital I couldn’t stand the thought of there being any doubt about her wellbeing. I needed everyone to be positive at all times and I would only accept deep conversation from a few trusted friends that I would email and text rather than speak face to face. The reason I couldn’t speak to anyone face to face was because I found myself reading in to their expressions too much in my sleep deprived state. A raised eyebrow mid sentence, to me, meant that they were worried things wouldn’t be okay and I should be worried too.
Once we were out of hospital a new wave of fear manifested and I with it I began to look for hidden signals from strangers when I told them how old Arabella was. Even at 4 weeks old she should still have technically been inside me, so a lot of the remarks were “Oh, she’s just a dot!” This comment was meant as a term of endearment but to me they were suggesting that my daughter was as small as a mark at the end of a sentence. It soon became the remark that most people made when they saw her, and with every “Dot” the fire in my stomach reignited.
Was she really so small, could I not see it? She seemed perfectly sized to me. If I thought she seemed the perfect size and other people didn’t then what else was I missing?
After texting my health visitor an unsociably long message asking her to come and look at Arabella’s tongue that I had decided was too big for her small mouth, she mentioned to me that I might want to see about getting something to help calm my brain down a bit and hopefully break the cycle of:
Worry something is wrong > stay awake worrying > feel overwhelmingly tired > increased worry due to tiredness > stay awake worrying > feel overwhelmingly tired > increased worry due to tiredness, etc, etc.
I did manage to break this cycle and I once I was able to get more sleep it became far easier to see that Arabella was perfect to me, regardless of her size, weight, tongue length and gradually everything became far less intense. A few weeks later whilst sitting in a coffee shop a little boy came over to Arabella and stroked her nose, this sort of thing happens often and must be some sort of communication between little boys and babies that I didn’t know about. His mum came over to supervise and asked me how old Arabella was. As always I explained her age and that she was 6 weeks early, her response was “Oh how nice that you had those extra weeks to spend with her.” I will never forget that sentence and how happy it made me feel. It was the first time I’d ever had such a positive unprompted response and that alone made me feel better than any medication.
So on this particular night as I stare at the ceiling I think about that young woman and how she will probably never know how much her son touching my daughter’s nose and the conversation it led to, meant to me.