As the train rattled me home on a Friday evening, the news came by text:
“You’d better get knitting!!!”
Now we’d known for a couple of weeks that England’s future spin bowler had been giving his mother more than his fair share of chaos and havoc during her pregnancy, to the point that he’d already been pulled up the batting order from being a May baby to an end of April baby, but this was still March. A good 5 weeks before even the earliest that we were anticipating him; I phoned my sister immediately:
“I haven’t even chosen the colours yet!”
She’d just popped into the hospital for a growth scan at lunchtime, with the famous last words “I’ll be about 20 minutes”. To my Dad, who has developed an impressive ability to be in the right place at the right time to babysit his existing grandchildren while their siblings arrive, this must have sounded all too familiar; when Pip was born I was certain I was nipping into hospital to have it confirmed that my waters had broken and then I’d be home again for the labouring bit, we didn’t even take the hospital bag.
And so after a long, and probably rather hungry wait, my newest and littlest nephew arrived in the world at 34 weeks at 27 minutes past midnight last Saturday morning , 3lb 11oz and utterly cute with it. He is absolutely perfect, just really tiny, and so after a quick cuddle he headed off for neonatal while the proud parents tried to remember what sleep looked like.
Peregrine Love Train (bump names attributed by my Dad, Elma (whose other suggestion was “Friendship”) and Pip) has I believe set out on a course of showing off to the nurses as much as humanely possible. He was always going to have to stay in neonatal for three weeks or so but he’s a week old as I write and he’s already dispensed with all but a foot monitor and his NG tube, never needed any help in breathing (yay the steroids from a couple of weeks before), and has graduated from his incubator to clothes and a nice cosy fishbowl cot.
I’d always assumed that we wouldn’t get to see him until he was home and quite a good bit bigger. It’s not that the kids couldn’t be suitable gentle but they’re little germ factories at the best of times and no one wants that with a premie baby in the house. But then we were talking, and I remembered that I had a meeting in our London office on Tuesday, and we hatched a plan.
Work finished, I took a tiny detour in the direction of Konditor & Cook for the most amazing box of mini cakes, and caught the tube heading south. And in about the time it would take me to get most of the way to Warwickshire on the overground train, I made it to the hospital, made it through the hospital (a serious feat in itself) and found my sister, and then together we went to see her baby.
Even when you know that he’s going to be small for a newborn and even smaller compared to my babies, who all saw 41 weeks in utero with the corresponding weight gain, the only reaction I think anyone has had to meeting Peregrine is, “Oh! He’s so small!”
He is the dinkiest little boy and was clearly more than happy to be cuddled up on his mama and snooze for an hour of so while we chatted. And while Rosie could see the top of his head, I was getting all the expressions, from blissfully fast asleep to the occasional accidental sort of smiles. I have a couple of really beautiful photos that I took while we were there; Peregrine cuddles up and Rosie looking down at him, but anyone who’s ever done kangaroo care will probably be able to hazard a guess as to why I’m not sharing them on the internet. The pictures above are from the day I visited, and those below are more recent and it’s amazing how much he’s changed even in a few days.
With the wee boy tucked back up into his incubator, and in a vest for the very first time, we sat on her bed in the postnatal ward and ate all the cake, and laughed until she told me off for making her tummy hurt, and then laughed a little bit more. I tied her hair up in bunches with the cake ribbons and threatened to leave them in until the next doctor’s round, read magazines and talked about all the ordinary things of a sister chat that usually takes place though a computer screen. I don’t think we’ve been together in person without our children since before we had children, and I’m going to hope that the reason they moved her to a private room after I left was because she’d been in for a while, and not just because we talked the hind leg off a donkey and they wanted to give the rest of her ward a break.
Rosie teases me that my meeting was the reason why her baby had to come so early; just so I could meet him at a few days old, and whilst I suspect it was just a teeny tiny bit more medical than that, I’m so happy that the timing worked perfectly. By the time I got back across London and on the train and in the car and through the front door I just about managed to say hi to John before falling fast asleep on the sofa but it was a wonderful completely out of the ordinary treasured moment to spend that time with her, to be guilt-free company to while away the boredom of the postnatal ward knowing that the world’s best eldest nephew was having a treat with Daddy and Grandma; a little bit of silly sisterhood after some intense few days.