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Guest post for World Prematurity Day: If you’re going through hell, keep going

“If you’re going through hell, keep going” – Winston Churchill.

I can’t be one of those Dad’s that stays at home at lets the wife visit their child. Special care was one of few places that I have seen a congregation of Dad’s actually interested in their children. But still, it was largely women with absent partners. And I just couldn’t let that happen. It wasn’t initially because of a strong emotional bond to my child, but rather the lack of one. My wife and I both felt guilty that we did not instantly feel this over-whelming love of the strange creature in the incubator. The sound of the monitors were the only sound we heard. The initial lack of touch left us with sweaty palms pressed against the plastic ark. The smell of hospital, a universal disgust for the lemon scented crap they try and cover it with.

The journey to experience that was a long one. Harder on my wife than me. But we both had traumas – hers the birth, and mine was to stare absolute madness in the face. That’s just what it was to me at the time. My child, my second child, was living in a plastic box that was keeping her alive, and to just hold her, just for a second, required me to ask someone else for permission. To hold MY child. That was absolutely maddening to me, even more so on the occasions I was told I had to put her back. While I didn’t feel connected to her, as I do now, that was the first hint of the primal fatherly instinct kicking in. It’s all well and good to know that they are doing their job, doing their supposed best, but who cares when you want to pick up your child, hold them to your chest and somehow protect them from everything they are going through. The trauma wasn’t just mine and my wife’s – it was hers too. But in she went back into the plastic box that keeps her alive. What could be more insane than that? The first time I went to see her, I wasn’t even allowed in the room for the first ten minutes. I’d already been crying thanks to an altercation with the rudest surgical assistant to ever grace a theatre, and I truly don’t know how I kept it together when I was denied entry to my daughters room. With all the good they do for so many, hospital workers are saints made flesh. But I will never forgive them for the rift they caused, for the moments they stole from me and my daughter. I got to look into my son’s eyes moments after he was born. With my daughter, I collapsed onto the floor of an empty recovery room in unrestrained misery.

When my wife and I had subsequent mental health issues related to all of this, those assigned to look after us as parents where no where to be found. Their solution – call social services.
This and a thousand other examples make up my experience of special care. It is a living hell, and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.

But it does end. My daughter is now a happy, healthy 9 months old bundle of strange yet joyful energy. And I would repeat everything if I had to, for her. Love comes in the end, even if it takes time.

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To read about this from my wife’s perspective go here.

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