Anyone else sick of being told to stay positive? I certainly am, or so I thought. The prospect of endless lockdown had me feeling like I was at the end of my positive tether.
It was a special anniversary that made me rethink. Reminiscing, I remembered how positivity had served me well in the past. Now a decade later, and stuck in a slightly different ‘waiting room’, I feel it may be wise to reflect. I’m not usually one for sharing my personal tales, but what the hell. It’s a pandemic.
When I was 30 I found myself single and pregnant.
Me – career driven, loved to party. I hadn’t really thought about kids before, and always felt far too young to be tied down. Nobody was as surprised as I was about how I felt upon finding out this news. I had a sudden clarity, purpose even.
I dreamt I was having twins the night before my first scan. I jokingly relayed my dream to the sonographer, who replied with a flippant ‘ha yes, everyone thinks that!’, before growing quiet. There they were – two tiny, peanut sized heart beats. Any doubts I had dispelled in a moment. To this day, I struggle to explain how a split second gave me such an overwhelming realisation of what my future held. Destiny was calling.
Of course, telling people you’re having twins (when single) can be pretty shocking. I left the people in my life dumbfounded without exception. From your basic jaw-drop, to people thinking I was joking. Sadly, some even told me I shouldn’t be keeping them, that it would ruin my life. But time passed, and as I accepted and embraced my situation, so did others.
At 20 weeks pregnant, away delivering a course in London, things took an unexpected turn. Knowing something didn’t feel right, I conscientiously waited until the end of the session before asking a friend to take me to the hospital. A scan showed I had started ‘funnelling’ – something that occurs just before you go into labour. The hospital kept me overnight before telling me to call family, get a lift back up north and call the Manchester hospital on my return.
As I laid on the back seat of Mum’s car, watching the London landmarks pass by above my head, for the first time I was scared. I started to drift off, exhausted after zero sleep. When I was rudely awoken by a call from the hospital in Manchester, it was a darker tone. They had seen my scan pictures and had a more urgent message – pull over and call an ambulance immediately. As we were passing through (somewhat) nearby Stoke, I took the decision to continue home.
When I got to Manchester the bad news kept on coming. I was dilated, in labour, and at 20 weeks this would be the end of the journey. I was heartbroken. The three of us were just getting comfy with each other. I’d told everyone, gained some acceptance. This couldn’t be happening. The bereavement counsellor came to my bedside and told me what would happen to my boys (did I mention I knew they were boys already?). Where they would be laid to rest, what keepsakes could be arranged.
Now, here’s the point in my story where I’ll link you back to the start. I didn’t believe them. Doctors solemnly stood at my bed, apologising that there ‘was nothing they could do’, but I refused to accept it. I was adamant that this wasn’t happening. I’d planned a life with these boys, and it wasn’t going to be taken away that easily.
The next four weeks were the longest of my life. It turns out that when you’re in early labour, all you can do is wait. So I did – on a tilted hospital bed, of all places, relying on not much more than gravity and the strength of my cervix! And not for one second did I let the thought that I could lose these babies come into my head.
What seemed like years later, I finally got to 24 weeks. By this time I had taken residency in the hospital, and was warned daily that the outlook wasn’t good. Each twinge, and there were many, panicked both me and the staff. The days were long and the food was dire, but I lay there patiently and positively.
At the 25 week mark my daily briefings were about blindness, heart problems and wheelchairs – but with each week came with a slightly more positive outlook. Doctors began bringing in other doctors, who brought in students, who all studied my case in amazement. My little team were defying science as the weeks passed… 26,27,28,29. They were miracles.
Once I’d been in-patient for almost 10 weeks, I was free to go. After being in the safe hands of the NHS, I admittedly didn’t want to go home – and when I arrived back to my 1 bed flat, the silence felt deafening. I also wasn’t quite out of the woods. The babies were still tiny, and I’d left with strict instructions to call an ambulance if anything happened. I distinctly remember one nurse saying: “It can be so quick when they’re this small, and you don’t want them popping out on the kitchen floor!”. Christ.
As you can imagine, my biggest fear at this point was going into labour alone. But my vibe was positivity, and so I was. I buried the thought and didn’t let my mind go there. A few days after arriving home, my friends arranged a baby shower in my flat. They came armed with sweet treats, baby gifts and bunting. All sprawled out on blow-up beds, we laughed and joked about ‘how funny it would be if Abi went into labour right now’.
And guess what… I did! I wasn’t alone. Not only that, but I had a bunch of my best friends there to bring my two little boys in to the world with me.
On the 11th January 2011 at 08:03 and 08:06, Toby and Jonah entered the world. Teeny tiny and needing a little fattening up on SCUBU, but healthy and ready for action.
So, my point? As I celebrate their 10th birthday in lockdown, my career and livelihood in lockdown, I find myself reaching for this positivity once more. As frustrating as it is being told to stay positive, I know that striving for it holds some weight – maybe even the power to define our future. I’m no psychologist, but I believe that thinking positively, using positive language, talking to positive people, and focusing on the future that I wanted helped me create the outcome I wanted ten years ago.
Let’s hope it serves us well now.