Family has been very important to me for a long time and has always taken priority over everything else. Needless to say, so have friends. I do not have 876554 friends on my FB profile but I have a few VERY good friends. In fact, I can almost count them on my fingers. When I count my blessings, I would count my family and friends first. But I digress. This post is about something else.
When I was expecting Pickles, like all expectant moms, I had a plan. My in-laws were supposed to arrive at the end of the 8th month to have the baby shower and stay on until a week or so before the due date. My parents would arrive just as the in-laws would leave and then stay on for a couple of months. So, in any case, the plan was to have either set of parents around when the baby came. But Pickles, I guess, had other plans.
So, when I was somewhere in my 8th month of pregnancy and having a good time with friends, I thought I felt my amniotic fluid (water bag) leak and went to see my doctor at the hospital. Just to be safe, they admitted me and said I had to be on bedrest until the baby came. The baby, however, did not want me to be on bedrest for too long and arrived that very night!(more on that on another day). His arrival caught R and me totally off guard. We had not even decided on a name for him, not to mention, done any baby shopping for him at all. Since he was premature, he had to be in the NICU for a couple of weeks. I, on the other hand, was discharged the next day. I had no family around to help. I had a tiny baby in the NICU, who I had no clue what to do with. And I came back home from the hospital, minus the bump but without a baby. It goes without saying that I was terribly depressed.
I had no clue what I was going to do now. My parents couldn't travel immediately due to my dad's health and for reasons I can't remember, neither could my in-laws. In some sense, I was glad that Pickles was in the NICU, because had he been sent home, I would have freaked out because I had absolutely no idea how to take care of him.
When I came home, I had my friend, A, who did a small ritual to welcome me home, like my mum would have, had she been with me. I remember being so touched, that I held on to her and bawled my eyes out. She left after making sure I was ok and that I had food and after giving specific instructions to R about how to care for me. In the next few days, I went to A's place for several meals like she insisted. The only thing I kept doing was pumping breastmilk like I was advised to, every three hours, and promptly ferry it to the hospital, so that they could feed Pickles. It also helped that A lived closer to my hospital, so travelling back and forth was not so hard, between pumping sessions.
The next few days after that are like a crazy dream. Days just whizzed past with repeated daily visits to the NICU and trying to do some preparation to make the home ready for the baby. It was at this point that my other friend P, who had her hands full with a 5-month old and another toddler, made sure she sent home-cooked meals for me. Not only that, she made sure she cooked nutritious food like she was given when she had just given birth. How she managed all this with two kids, is really beyond me. Even though I told her I was ok, she just kept sending food until the family arrived.
In between this, I had another friend, Sayesha, who went one step further. Because she lives far away from us, she decided she could not do much from being afar. She arrived with her little girl, Xena and stayed with us for a few days. She cooked meals for me, gave me moral support and also helped me shop for the gazillion things that needed to be bought for the baby. Since she had been through a similar ordeal, her being there provided a lot of comfort for me. At this point, I have to mention Xena, who was my personal stress buster. Having her around helped distract me from the yoyo of depression that I was going through.
Those few days were the hardest days of my life. Watching my little helpless baby in the NICU, dealing with the health issues that come with having a premature baby, dealing with the feelings of guilt that I was somehow responsible for his early arrival, all this was not easy. But I pulled through, thanks to my friends! Eventually, the in-laws arrived just on the day we were supposed to bring Pickles home. Later on, Sayesha even had a post-baby baby shower for me, because I had missed my baby shower. Do I have the greatest friends or what?!
I remember speaking to my mother everyday. She herself was feeling very depressed and helpless because she could not be there. And I would give her detailed accounts of what I ate and what I did etc. She always said "You are blessed to have friends like these. With them around, I'm sure you don't miss family at all." I am indeed blessed. I remember that when I came to Singapore, I used to think I'll never feel at home here. Now, I think, I feel at home and it is not because I'm used to the place. It is the people I met here, my friends, my family!