The best and worst month of my life

"It is amazing how life and death exist side by side. How sometimes we gain a life and lose one."
"It is amazing how life and death exist side by side. How sometimes we gain a life and lose one." Photo: Getty Images

It was December 3, 2013. It was the first time we saw our little baby-to-be up on the screen. It was the shape of a little jellybean, or some might say it looked like a peanut. The sonographer stretched a digital ruler across the little shape three or four times before telling us I was eight weeks and two days along. She said that he or she was "lovely" and "perfect", and she gushed about how everything was developing exactly as it should be. Then she continued to take some more measurements and that's when I saw a date appear in the corner of the screen – July 13, 2014.

That was the date our little bundle of joy was due. That was the date when life would change and never be the same. That was the date I was going to spend months counting to.

July 2014 was going to be a month to remember; the best month in my 27 years. But for some reasons – some that have nothing to do with being a first-time mum – it wasn't.

Going into motherhood, I thought I had no expectations. I thought I was ready. I thought I was prepared. But I was wrong. It turns out I did have expectations. I wasn't ready. And you can never be prepared for those first few weeks of motherhood. Never!

Firstly, I didn't expect labour to be so traumatising. I didn't expect to have no time to recover from giving birth before being very needed by a little human being. I didn't expect my baby to cry so much in the middle of the night. I just didn't expect those first two weeks to be SO DAMN HARD!

But more so than anything, I didn't expect my grandfather, a man who has had such an impact on my life and shaped who I am, to pass away 16 days after my little boy was born.

It was mid-morning on Wednesday July 16 when my sister called. She started off strong as she told me Pa had had a massive stroke. But then her voice started to waver and the tears started to flow as she told me there was nothing they could do. It wasn't a matter of if he would die; it was only a matter of when.

I'd had a pretty rough night the night before. Bubs and I had only been discharged from an overnight stay in hospital a day earlier. He had lost more than 10 per cent of his birth weight, so we had to be admitted to hospital to find out why. It turned out he simply wasn't getting enough breast milk. Nonetheless, it had been an emotional experience.

Needless to say, in my sleep-deprived, anxious state, by the time I hung up the phone from my sister I was distraught.

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It was mid-afternoon by the time we embarked on the four-hour drive to be by our grandfather's side. When we walked into the regional hospital, I couldn't help but notice how quiet and low-lit it was; a stark difference to the bright, bustling hospitals we are used to in Sydney.

The first person I hugged was my nana. I wrapped my arms around her and told her how I had been meaning to call to say thanks for the card and money they'd sent when my son was born. She said not to worry; they understood how busy I was. I'm the type of person who is always too busy.

By this stage our Pa was unconscious. He was lying there, not hooked up to any machines, just breathing. A nurse explained what was going to happen to Pa's body over the course of the next few hours, days or weeks. No one could say how long he would last like this. But he had deteriorated quickly, so they were guessing it would be sooner rather than later.

As I sat by his beside there was so much I wanted to say but I couldn't find the words. The best I managed was to sit up on his bed, take his hand in mine and stroke it with my thumb as I spoke about his beautiful great grandson that he'd never get to meet, as I promised him we would always look after Nana, and while I told him it was okay, he could let go now. I didn't need to say much more than that. The constant stream of tears rolling down my face said more than enough.

It was only a few hours later when he took his final breath.

In the space of 16 days I had watched my little boy take his first breath and my grandfather take his last. Somehow, both experiences had been just as beautiful as the other.

It is amazing how life and death exist side by side. How sometimes we gain a life and lose one. It's amazing that your heart can be filled with so much happiness and so much sadness at the same time. And it's amazing that in the darkness of the night, during a 1am feed, I can feel like smiling at the precious gift in my arms while crying for the loss of my grandfather.

I would like to tell you that my tough start to motherhood has made me a wiser mother, but it hasn't. It has just reminded me of a few simple things in life: you are never too busy for the ones you love, you are always stronger than you think, and life often doesn't pan out as we expect.

July 2014 was the best, yet worst, month of my life so far.

Nicole Thomson-Pride is a first-time mum and freelance writer. You can find her on Twitter here