Saturday, 2 March 2013

I had a dream....

Well, sort of.

My first experience of birth had me in the delivery suite longer than on the ward and straight home to be looked after by my Mum.

It looked like this.....

My second experience had me on the ward about 10 hrs then home to find my main carer struck down with the flu on the second day and myself looking after both children with stitches and zero sleep or energy. Certainly not my plan. (Thank God for my sisters who took turns to drop in and do my dishes and feed me.)

It looked more like this....

Third time round I was not taking any chances. No amount of protests that it would all be ok this time could convince me to come home early. I had a plan. I was gong to milk this admission for all it was worth. I was going to make up feeding issues and fainting spells if I had to coz I was going to sleeeeep!!!

Of course I had no delusions that I'd be getting a full night's sleep with no interruptions, but the chance to sleep whenever my baby slept was going to be made full use of, and then some.

Worst case scenario I would stay two nights, get whatever sleep I could while someone else did all the housework and brought me food and I hung out with my baby, then we'd pop her in the car seat and all leave the hospital together as a family and drive home........

Worst case scenario....yes......

It's funny how you go through life with a kind of boundary for where you think tolerable discomfort ends and everything beyond that just happens to other people. It was oddly coincidental that with this pregnancy I actually skirted around the edges of the special care nursery a tiny bit. Firstly arriving in hospital at 26 weeks after scrubbing the floors at home and finding that the excruciating abdominal pain was just a strain, they turned off the heater in the little resuscitation crib because there was no baby arriving today. It was on leaving the hospital that day that I first noticed the special care nursery and thanked my lucky stars that we'd never seen the inside.

Another day, as I waited outside after an antenatal appointment, I met a lady whose baby had been born somewhere else and had been transferred to my hospital which was closer to home so she could commute. I pictured her coming in day after day, sitting by her baby's crib all day with breaks to go outside for a bit then leaving her baby and going home at the end of the day. It seemed so desolate and just not right, but she was coping with it.

Then three weeks later there I was standing on the other side of the door, looking at my own little baby in the resuscitation crib - which must have a cool and fancy name, but I don't know it.
All the usual things we were particular about with our elder two - having no speaking near them, not giving them injections and causing unnecessary pain - were secondary considerations to actually making sure she could breathe and the staff could do their job without difficulty. There's a time to be precious and a time to just do what has to be done. Talk about the birth plan going out the window!

We saw her there and received the diagnosis (which was unconfirmed, but only because of the technicality of the genetic test) then hung around for a bit. I still needed to have my stitches so we went back to the delivery suite and went ,"woah". We hadn't told anyone at this point that she was born, although most of our family knew she was arriving that day. We decided to tell everyone some of the story, but keep certain bits back. My main concern was that here we had this new baby and it was the start of her life. She had some tricky times ahead and one thing that would get her through was the vibe of those around her. I didn't think it would be fair if the announcement of her arrival had any watering down of the jubilation and love that usually comes with such a statement. Her two sisters had such a fantastic welcome, we felt she was entitled to the same.

So the conversations went something like...."We have a baby daughter, she's 9lb, .5oz, she's in the special care nursery, having a little bit of trouble breathing, she'll be fine though, just have to transfer her to the Women's because there are a couple of pieces of equipment they don't have here, but there's nothing to worry about". And we put off telling anyone who wasn't waiting expectantly for news.

Sitting around in the hospital was weird. Not having a baby in front of us was weird. I know that many mothers in years past would have done the very same in hospitals where all the babies were kept at the nursery, but to me it was strange, though oddly not the end of the world. Just what needed to happen.
(Most odd when the hospital photographer came by the next morning, looked around the room and said cheerily, "no baby?".  Lucky for her I did have a baby somewhere. It was awkward enough as it was!)

So we decided that Kane would go off to the Women's to help Jacinta settle in and I would stay behind to get my milk happening and visit in the morning, since there was no bed there for me at that time. We went back to the nursery to tell Jacinta she had a name and let her know what was going to happen. The transfer guys arrived and spent about an hour working out what she needed on the way and the best way to transport her etc. and they buckled her in to her bed. As we were saying goodbye one of the nurses said, "look, she's waving!". We looked and there was her little hand opening and shutting with her looking straight at us. So we waved back and off she went. All grown up and living on her own at 6 hours old!

One thing that I noticed from the very beginning and continually throughout Jacinta's care was that the nurses who look after babies really understand them. Kane and I have always talked to our babies expecting them to understand us and our babies have always responded as though they do. The medical staff also operate this way around babies and when they get an appropriate response to a question or statement they always acknowledge it. And here I thought the medical community thought babies had no idea what's going on. Uh-uh. Not the ones who deal with them. More about that in another post I feel....

Anyway, I made sure I started expressing as early as I could. Being from a long line of breastfeeders, there was no way my newborn was going on formula if I could help it. This meant that I was up every three hours expressing. So, irony of ironies, I have the opportunity most mums of newborns would (almost literally) kill for some days, no baby waking me up and no other children waking me up. Except, since I have no baby to wake me, I have to wake myself up to feed the baby who isn't there.

And of course, expressing has never been my strong point. How my mother managed to hand-express
a glassful of breast milk (or EBM, as all the people in the know call it) to put on my brother's cereal, I'll never know. Expressing colostrum in particular is high drama. Because it's the early stuff before your milk comes in, there's only a tiny amount and each little drop is packed with nutrients, like one of Roger Ramjet's proton pills.

So you massage and stimulate to get things going (sometimes the parallels between breastfeeding and sex are a little disturbing), then you grab your boob in just the right way and squeeze it in just the right place, fairly firmly so you get something, but not too hard or else your nipples will explode and you'll have bruised ducts (or so it seems). Then, when the planets have aligned and you've done it all right, you'll get a drop.

Next is the tricky part. You have to find the tiny syringe that you put next to you and put it right up near the drop which is hanging there on the tip of your nipple, poised to drop. You have to pull out the plunger with one hand while keeping it close enough to suck up the drop but not so close that you smoosh the drop all over the top of your nipple and have to hoover it up with your syringe like a mini hoover.

If you're very lucky you may have managed two or three drops at once and this just doubles the drama and the quick precision needed. You keep going like this for a few minutes each side, doing your best to pull the plunger out just enough so you don't have to try pushing it back in to get air out and maybe shooting your hard-earned gains into the air and onto your sleeve. At the end of all this you may have got .2 mil and you're ecstatic!

That night I was put up in my own single room (one of only three) and Kane had the option to stay if he wanted, though he chose to go home since it would be the middle of the night by the time he got there. I think we were in 'special care' too! Around 2am I ventured out of my room bearing a carefully labelled, dated and timed teensy weensy syringe with the precious .2 mil of liquid gold to be put in the fridge. I walked past the nurses' station and saw four baby cribs there like there was a midnight baby club going on. Apparently they had all been going off at once and they'd gone to the nurses' station to give the mums some rest.

I went up the hall and made a cup of tea, feeling like an impostor since I had no baby to show for anything and wasn't even limping or hobbling since they'd done such a great job of my stitches. On the way back, I almost stopped at the nurses' station and offered to look after a baby for a bit since I had nothing else going on. I sort of felt like I needed to earn my keep - but decided that would be a bit weird. I went back to my room and lay back on the bed feeling like I was on holiday at a crappy hotel.

I rang through to the Women's and had a quick chat to the nurse looking after Jacinta. She was doing fine, settled in. I could sleep. I was looking forward to the morning when I could start things rolling to get my plan back on track.

Meanwhile, my plan was looking something like this....

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