Manna Manuka is out in the world! The labour was fast and wonderful. Ember (Pickle has decided I should use her real name too) was my birth partner for the first three hours, copying my 'funny movements' while I managed back-to-back contractions, fetching clean pants every time my waters broke (there was an ocean in there) and phoning Granny to let her know. Regardless of age, I couldn't have asked for a better person to be with me. She was calm but excited, did everything I asked and even made me laugh. With a big grinding crunch (yes, ouch), Manna spun round to the perfect position and the contractions got much faster, but also much easier for me. Gappy came to play with Ember and my excellent friend and neighbour Miriam came to take over as birth partner and get me to the hospital. Her husband drove us and we spent a looooong time in a traffic jam (tip: don't go into labour on a Saturday morning) while I tried not to groan too alarmingly, but we got there in time and Manna was born an hour later, weighing 8' 6". She was grey and floppy in a way which makes my heart tremble as I write. The midwife couldn't get her breathing, so the neonatal superheroes flooded in and after just a few puffs of the oxygen mask she was breathing fine. I lost a very messy amount of blood, which is why I can never have a homebirth - way too much cleaning to do afterwards, but I didn't need a tranfusion.
Once I had been stitched and had a cursory bath (why do my daughters feel the need to cover me in meconium at first sight?), I fed Manna her first bottle. I was sad I didn't have a breast to offer her, but the way she guzzled it down then looked so content afterwards reassured me this was good enough. And I knew I had milk from some wonderful women in the freezer at home. Ember wanted to be the first to know Manna's name, so I told her over the phone and she announced it to Gappy and my parents. This is the sisters' first meeting:
Ember has been such an amazing big sister. I didn't imagine she would be so unfailingly tender and understanding. I feel I am falling in love with Ember in a new way, as I fell in love with Thomas in a new way seeing him with Ember.
Manna herself is awesomely contented and smiley. She even sleeps! In the night! She had bad reflux and took a while to get her birthweight back and she struggles with colic still, but generallly she looks like this:
She is cute in both ways, always watching, learning; now grabbing whatever she can.
When she was three months I had my final surgery - ovaries and fallopian tubes out. It is a big relief to feel safer, although it has been tricky getting the HRT balanced, but I think I'm there now. I didn't have to stay in hospital overnight, so Gappy had a day with Manna. It was very painful to leave her for so long, but of course she was quite happy:
So now she is splendidly plump and already very keen to be up at the table with the big girls. She is so pleased with herself and merrily teeths on bell pepper or carrot, grinning all the while.
I am so happy with both my daughters. Of course it isn't always easy being a single mum with two children and there have been times of deep grief for the loss of Thomas too, but we feel like a complete and loving family, which is all I ever wanted. Our next adventure is to find a new home, but we'll stay in Chagford and maybe it will be a strengthening thing, in the end, to get some distance from the memories which overlay this house and garden for me. There are so many more memories to be made and I will do everything I can to make them very, very happy.