THERE’S no feeling that can compare to the first 24 hours after giving birth. Exhaustion, excitement, sheer terror of being responsible for a tiny little helpless person – you go through it all.
I felt complete disbelief as I looked down at baby … and a bit guilty that his chubby cheeks were the result of more than one afternoon tea I knew I shouldn’t have had. How could I be a mother of two? How was Santi going to react to such a big change in our lives? And I know my bump was big, but really? How squashed must he have been in there?!
We spent the first 24 hours in hospital, as I did with Santi because both had to pass three blood sugar tests before we were allowed home. But this time it was quite a different experience.
I think having a daytime labour helped me to deal with things better, as last time I only had about two hours sleep and was both physically and emotionally overwhelmed. It also meant that I got a night’s sleep (albeit broken) before visiting hours and didn’t have two lots of people coming to see us within 10 hours of giving birth. As nice as it was that everyone was able to meet Santi so soon, I think the recovery time was a big factor in how much better I felt this time.
I’m not sure how it took so long, but baby was born at just before 5.30pm and we weren’t taken to the post-labour ward until 9pm. Stew left shortly after, partly for me to sleep, and partly I think because he was in shock at how the day had panned out – he hadn’t brought anything with him, assuming he’d be leaving me in the induction ward.
We’d missed tea time so I asked a midwife if there was anything left over, and felt a bit surreal eating tuna sandwiches at 9.30pm while feeding a newborn and watching Alice in Wonderland on TV. I swear nothing is normal after childbirth, and I thought nothing of tucking into a Fruit and Nut bar at 10pm. At least I’d had a shower this time so I felt slightly more like myself. After having Santi I was so weak that I didn’t even care that I had blood all up my arm from my cannula and left it a good while before attempting to stand up, let alone a shower.
Because I had gestational diabetes, baby needed to pass three heel prick tests to make sure his blood sugar levels were high enough. These aren’t very nice because they have to stab the baby’s heel and squeeze their foot really hard to get the blood out. Poor little thing had no idea what was happening to him, and it was awful seeing him cry so pitifully knowing he’d have to go through it again three hours later. It’s even more guilt-inducing knowing that the minute he was born I had no need to test my own blood sugar any more, so he was the only one going through it.
By the time I’d fallen asleep, after another woman and her baby were brought into the ward, it was almost midnight and I was woken up for the second test. It’s frustrating because sleep is the one thing you really need after having a baby, but is just impossible in hospital when there are people coming in and out, babies crying, and most annoyingly someone’s mobile ringing almost constantly between 2am and 4am (she somehow managed to snore her way through it).
At 3am we were woken for the final test and this time it took nearly an hour for the midwife to get enough blood for the machine to get a reading. She tried both feet, there was blood all over his sleepsuit and he cried so much that he eventually gave up protesting. He was less than 12 hours old and already I felt enough guilt to last a lifetime. At that point, the baby next to us decided to wake up and exercise what seemed to be a fair pair of lungs – I later found out she was struggling to feed, and spent most of the next day crying too. There wasn’t much hope of sleeping (especially as I couldn’t work out how to move the bed up and down so was stuck in an upright position until 4am).
I finally got a two hour stretch before the midwives started coming around to do blood pressure checks, and just as baby latched on for a feed we were told breakfast was available, but in the visitor room which I couldn’t get to until he had stopped feeding. I was so hungry that as soon as he took a break I ran down to grab some cereal and toast (which had been out for nearly an hour by that point). Oh, and on the way down I had to decide what I wanted for dinner and tea if we were still in – I hoped we wouldn’t be, as the thought of a hospital turkey dinner isn’t all that appealing at 7.30am!
I’d been told once the three blood sugar tests were done we’d just need to see the paediatrician and could be discharged. I was really hoping this would be done by the time Stew and Santi came so we could all go home together, but by 11am there was no sign of anyone coming to do the newborn checks so Stew would have to drive back again later that evening.
I’ll write about their visit and the brothers meeting for the first time in another post or this will end up being even more of an essay than it’s turning out to be. Here’s a sneaky peek at the brothers meeting for the first time…
Finally, after more tuna sandwiches, a lovely visit from my parents and a short nap, the paediatrician popped his head in to see if we were ready. I can’t remember exactly what he did, but I was quite anxious because he seemed very young (how old am I?!) and a big nervous about handling a baby. Stew said maybe he’s used to smaller babies, but I’d have thought you’d have more confidence with a chunky one! To stop him from crying, the doctor gave little drops of sugar water to baby and I remember thinking don’t give him the taste of sugar now, have you seen his cheeks?! Anyway, everything was fine, apart from baby’s left foot turning inwards slightly, which should correct itself with no need for intervention, and he was happy that we were good to go home, but our discharge had to be approved by another doctor.
I’m a curtain closed kind of hospital patient – I’m not a fan of making small talk with strangers at the best of times – so the wait between my parents leaving and Stew coming back was quite lonely. The other women had people with them for most of the day so opening up my cubicle probably wouldn’t have helped anyway. I had a little sleep and ate rather a lot of chocolate, but mostly the time was spent feeding – the midwives thought it was great that he was feeding “so well”, but it started putting doubts in my mind about breastfeeding again if it would take so long for him to fill up each time (we’re talking hours here). With two to look after I wouldn’t have the luxury of settling down on the settee to feed for the entire length of This Morning like I could with Santi.
I still hadn’t been given the go ahead to be discharged by 6pm, when Stew arrived just as I was finishing off a plate of cheese and potato pie with chips and beans (carbs, carbs and more carbs … good thing I was allowed to eat normally again). I asked the midwife again what was happening, and Stew thought it was quite funny that I dropped in how I’d like to be home to put Santi to bed (he thought I was trying to guilt trip her) and finally at 7pm as I was resigning myself to the fact we’d be in for another night, we were allowed to leave.
Finally, at 7pm, we could bundle baby into his car seat and begin the nerve-wracking journey home to start our new life as a family of four, mostly in silence as I brought up the subject of baby names … but that’s another story…
You can read about baby’s rather speedy birth here