By Alex Myall
Our perfect two-year-old shouldn’t be a burden. She’s loved beyond measure with two adoring parents. Yet, somehow, in the face of preparing to labour her sister, comes an unexpected dilemma. Where will my daughter stay while her dad and I are in hospital?
On paper, ours is the perfect scenario. A few years ago, we returned to Wellington from Australia to be nearer my partner’s family. They’re eager to be involved in their granddaughter’s life and so are my partner’s two sisters.
Our flawless community includes neighbours’ children who happily roam from one house to the next playing together for hours at a time. Childish laughter echoes from over the fence and sometimes taps sound on our front door from excited girls wanting our daughter to join them.
Where will my daughter stay while her dad and I are in hospital?
Just a few minutes’ walk from home takes us past fields and the local school to playcentre where my daughter and I attend three times each week.
Like most families, some days are a struggle. Balancing work from home with providing a toddler all her needs has challenges. Then, a few weeks ago, hospital staff labelled my pregnancy as “complicated”. Now there is the additional pressure of needing to “take it easy”. Whatever that means for a working, stay-at-home mum.
We have no shortage of supportive offers. Friends in our community regularly offer to “let us know if we can look after her for a few hours”. My daughter is the kind of child who is regularly stopped in the street while strangers compliment her.
My well-intentioned in-laws plan to spend time with my daughter, doubling up grandparent bonding with providing me rest. But they are flawed with poor health and pandemic-related worries. No matter how much they offer to help, more pressing concerns take precedence at the eleventh hour.
Sister-in-laws are the same. Covid has a way of undoing the best intentions. Be it heightened work commitments to stay afloat or extra pressure of where to be and when.
No matter how much they offer to help, more pressing concerns take precedence at the eleventh hour.
At 22 weeks pregnant and with concerns of early labour, my daughter is suddenly unwittingly displaced.
Labour’s unpredictability – narrowly eclipsed by birthing complications – is pregnancy’s final hurdle. Striking at any moment, we will watch our frightened daughter’s eyes as she attempts to understand where Mummy is suddenly going. Her lacking understanding tugs on my heart. Should I instead be strong enough to birth alone?
We know well the complications that can undo best laid birth plans. Our daughter was born six weeks early, and arrived within 90 minutes of my waters breaking at home. She was full breach. I can still vividly see the doctor’s panicked expression during delivery. That notion of birthing alone brings its own anxiety.