Wednesday 12 December 2012

Mum's the word

based on diary entry 18/02/11
I now look at my mum in a totally new light. No, not because she forgot to lock the bathroom door earlier, but because I now have an understanding, in part, of what she went through when she raised three children. Three. I realise that the weight of that fact will never feel that heavy until you experience at least one of these miniature people for yourself - and until you've welcomed one into your home, your life and your sleep. That's not to sound condescending to you who haven't experienced this, it's just to suggest that you never fully appreciate what someone has been through until you have been through it yourself. I'm not sure I'll ever fully know that to the full - at this rate one child will be a big enough challenge for me for a lifetime.
I sometimes wonder if that's part of why becoming a grandparent is so rewarding - because finally your own children now feel the same depth of love that you have felt for them all their lives. That's not to say I loved my mum less before; more to say that there is now a new level of appreciation and understanding. This understanding is like gold in any relationship. I appreciate her grace as I say in disbelief "mum, he feeds every hour", and I await her look of horror only to be faced with a knowing smile; that silent understanding that is left unspoken... Mum's the word.
It works the same the other way around of course. When my mum looks back on my childhood with rose tinted glasses she is soon jolted into a more realistic hindsight when she is faced with her screaming grandson and she can't figure out how to help him. She says in disbelief "is he aways like this?", and I will adorn the same knowing smile she wore earlier. Right now I feel like my life is far from rosy but just you wait, in another twenty years or so I will be telling Albie how much I loved every minute of raising him, and every minute of getting woken up several times a night to feed him. Maybe it's just because life is so fragile, so precious and you never want to take it for granted. Maybe I need to start to appreciate him calling for me in the night because one day he may never even call me at all. One day I will look back and suppress all the bad times, like most mother's do, and I will annoy him for years to come with stories on repeat about the first time he laughed or cooed... or said the word 'Mum'.

Monday 26 November 2012

From career to motherhood

I popped in to work today for a visit. It's weird that instead of walking in to the office with just my handbag, I am now walking in with a bright yellow pram and a nappy bag the size of Gibraltar. And Instead of being asked 'how are you?' I am now greeted with 'How are your nipples?'. I quickly change the conversation - some sort of dignity and respect has to be kept for one's body and there are some things that do not need to be shared (until I have a slight urge in the future to reveal what I've written in my diary to, you know, a close friend... or the world wide web :-o).

I glanced over to my desk and it was already occupied by a work experience girl who looked like a supermodel, and I just stood there with my rather rotund belly and sick-splashed t-shirt and felt like crawling into a hole. My boss asked if I needed to breastfeed, and said I could use the couch. What, you mean the couch where the whole office can see me? A few months ago they were all discussing my 'assets' very differently, and now I am expected to suddenly switch into 'function' mode and whip them out like I'm an ice-cream van. Not that I'm a fan of any sort of attention in that department, but I am now to be viewed very differently - something along the lines of a sack of potatoes.

They suggested we arrange a night out in a couple of months and I enthusiastically (but with some apprehension) signed myself up. I'm desperate to be normal again; to be part of the team again; to be respected for more than the quantity of milk I'm producing. By the time the work night out comes round we should be more or less in a routine and, despite looking like I could do with a bit of 'nip and tuck', I do look like I've had major surgery elsewhere. For the first time in my life, I have somewhat of a 'natural lift' and if I could physically jump (which I can't due to my c-section scar), I would with the sheer excitement of being able to fit into low cut dresses. So much for retaining one's dignity.

I could quite easily go back to work tomorrow but, then again, if I did I would say I wanted to be a stay at home mum. The grass is always greener. Sometimes I feel like it's deeply unfair that women have to give up so much - I know I just feel bitter because life feels very hard at the minute, but surely it's one thing to carry the equivalent of a melon for 9 months, another entirely to give birth to it, and then after all that you are expected to do everything else as well. How will I cope at my desk on five hours sleep? How will I act professional in meetings with sick in my hair? Welcome to life as a working mum.

Based on diary entry 17/02/11, Albie approx 1 month old).

Wednesday 21 November 2012


Before you have children there are certain things you say you'd never do as a parent. I'm not sure where this insane perfectionism comes from; I mean, it's not like you'd go into a new job and promise yourself beforehand that you will never forget to re-load your stapler or that you'll only use Bic pens. The first of these insane parenting rules is to avoid using a dummy at all costs. Well, I'm not sure who created that rule, but I'm pretty sure they haven't experienced a baby like mine who screams 80% of the day unless he's stuck to my boob. So here I'm left with 3 options: 1) to hear him scream constantly all day, 2) to have him permanently stuck to me, or 3) to use a dummy. Option 3 was selected on day two of his arrival. You whisper the word 'dummy' when you need it as though it is some unspeakable swearword.

Another such swearword is epidural, or any kind of pain relief for that matter. There's an unspoken rule that natural is 'best' and deep down all women want to believe this. I for one, am one of them! I certainly don't think it's unrealistic to experience a positive birth - I know many women who have, but when a select few of those women say things like 'I'm so proud of myself, I did it without pain relief', what that sounds like to those who've had difficult births is 'you didn't persevere enough; you didn't have a 'successful' childbirth. Well, I for one call a success by it's product; I don't care how Cadbury's chocolate got on our shelves, I'm just glad it's there to enjoy. It makes no difference to me if someone pushed them onto the conveyor belt with a headache they didn't take a paracetamol for.

Albie has had a particularly difficult day today - he has been crying constantly, and I've tried everything. He seems restless when I feed him like there's just not enough, the only reason I need breast pads is to act as some sort of bandage. I'm just sat trying to feed him all day, I'm miserable and in pain. And when I'm not feeding I'm trying to stock up on expressed milk, of which today I've produced a big fat zero. His screaming reached a crescendo this afternoon and I just flipped; I reached for a carton of f***ula in desperation - there's another of those words that I can't even bring myself to say - the F word. I feel guilty. He gluggled it down like there was no tomorrow, and I cried (just for a change!) because I haven't done the 'best' for my child yet again. At least it saves me from saying actual expletives which would have been the case had I pursued with feeding him myself.

Based on diary extract from 15/02/11

Thursday 15 November 2012

Liquid Gold... the art of expressing milk

But she looks so happy? It must be fun!
I am now starting to feel a little bit like a cow. No, that's not just because of the way I am snapping at everyone due to my lack of a good night's sleep; it's because I am producing milk at a rate that even Asda would not have enough room in their refrigerator for. Albie, on the other hand, seems to think that my milk is not sufficient for him and would like some every two hours to fill his little stomach. Now if there's one thing I remember from my maternity classes, besides the knitted boobs and midwife's birth impressions (that sounded a little too much like an orgasm for my liking), is that a baby's stomach is the size of a ping pong ball. I don't know how many shops stock ping pong balls the size of Albie's stomach but if I found one I would probably track that midwife down and throw it at her head.

To compensate for these excessive feeding frenzies, I decided to purchase a contraption that might give me a break: a breast pump. Modern technology is a wonderful thing - we now have devices the size of a matchbox that will hold 1000s of songs, phones that recognise your voice and answer your questions. Technology is getting smaller and quieter... except, of course, the breast pump - whose developer is probably the same guy who is developing the NHS kidney shape bowls right (another story)?! I was surprised the neighbours didn't come round and check if I needed help evacuating the house due to the earthquake. No, actually, nothing to worry about - please come in for a cup of tea made with really fresh milk, all 10ml of the stuff. Yep, that's right, I've been sat expressing for twenty minutes and I get 10ml of 'liquid gold'. No wonder that's what it's referred to.

I carried on until I'd got a whole 60ml - it took me an hour. At least that might give me a break later, I thought. Wrong. Right on queue Albie started screaming and, as I rushed to his aid, I proceeded to knock the 'liquid gold' over, all over my bed sheets. I wept. I wept like I'd just lost actual liquid gold. I proceeded to take the soggy sheets downstairs to add to my excessive washing pile and returned to being mardy cow once more.

(based on diary entry: 12.02.11)

Wednesday 14 November 2012

'weak'ends... what Friday means to mothers

I have decided that weekends should now be renamed 'weak'ends. This is because the once celebrated end of the week has been replaced by more week, leaving you feeling, well, weak. The days just blur into one and you only realise when you smack your head trying to walk into the automated glass doors to pay a cheque into Barclays. That'll be a Sunday then. I remember the old feeling of getting home from work on a Friday - the glug glug of the wine pouring in my glass before a night in front of the telly or an impromptu date night. The chores could wait and I would stay up late; safe in the knowledge that I would have a lie-in in the morning and uninterrupted, peaceful sleep (that is, without a few kicks in the Gluteus Maximus due to my beloved's restless leg syndrome, or his whistle-sounding snores). Well, give me whistle sounding snores any day compared with shrill Albie screams (on the plus side, it's because of Albie I can no longer feel any restless leg kicks at night due to my Gluteus Maximus doubling in size. Cheers).

Men, on the other hand, need their weekends. They've had a hard week at the office after all and the last thing they need to come home to is a baby with colic. Women who have just had babies, on the other hand, are on one big jolly holiday - dancing and singing round the kitchen with their newborn tucked neatly in one arm as they bake chocolate muffins with the other and chuckle heartily whilst watching Jeremy Kyle - because who would have a life that depressing, right?!

Me. That's who. I do. I have been mopping up sick and trying to settle a baby for two hours whilst trying to unload the washing machine and getting the piles mixed up so now I don't even know which piles I've just washed and which are dirty because I've had 4 hours sleep and I'm now going to have to do the whole chuffing pile of washing again and I may as well just apply to be on Jeremy Kyle in the first place and get a DNA test done on who my child's father is because I'm hoping it proves it's not the once currently playing football... *sobs*.

Of course, I'm exaggerating; Albie's Dad most definitely is the one playing football. I have a deep rooted jealousy that he can do the things he wants - he can just 'nip' out when he wants. The only 'nipping out' I'm doing is... you get my gist. Okay so I'm just having a bad day; a bad weekend. Before you know it I'll be dancing round the kitchen and making chocolate muffins and my 'weak'ends will be weekends once more.

(Based on diary extract from 12/02/2011)

Sunday 11 November 2012

Parental Catchphrase

People say silly things to you once you have children. It's like parental Catchphrase. You get random old ladies approaching you in the street telling you they 'enjoyed every minute' of raising their children. They seem to time these comments at moments such as your baby screaming for no fathomable reason, or your baby puking all over your face. You just have to smile sweetly, as you wipe the vomit from your earlobe with a half-used baby wipe, and simply put such comments down to senile dementia.

Another classic parental catchphrase is: 'I bet you wonder what you did before your baby came along don't you?' Wrong. No amount of sleepless nights would make me forget the things I did before I had Albie. For starters, I didn't used to get out of bed on a Saturday until gone 10am! That memory is a tough one to forget at five o'clock in the morning, believe me (although I do frequently find I am still in my pyjamas at three in the afternoon if that counts).

Despite all this, I am determined to have at least some of the life I had before. I am still the same person in here somewhere. Just because I have a child doesn't mean I've lost all humour, all desire for hobbies and a social life, or all taste in fashion (although admittedly there are a limited number of materials that can take excessive dousing in milk and vomit). My mother told me my diary would go in the bin when I had a baby; well now I've just bought another and planned my first night out. In anti natal classes the midwife told us we may as well throw away our nail polish; well now my nails are in alternate pink and orange (okay, so I had to sacrifice a meal to do so but stubbornness wills out). And the next time anyone approaches me and asks me if I'm enjoying every minute, I shall point to my screaming, red-faced baby and say in my best Roy Walker Irish accent 'Say what you see'.

(Based on diary extract from 11/02/2011) 

Thursday 8 November 2012

He's not jaundiced, just ginger

(Based on diary extract from 09/02/2011). 
The midwife came round again today and told me Albie is still jaundiced. Well, she couldn't quite work out if he was jaundiced; 'It might just be because he's ginger', was the assessment she gave me.
We've managed to escape a third trip back in hospital so far due to blatantly lying about any ailments we think he may have and using the internet as our personal doctor. Now don't get me wrong, there's no need to call social services just yet, I would do anything to make sure my little boy is alright but when you have to keep going back into hospital every time something happens to him (eg. the equivalent of him breaking a nail), well, it just gets a little bit ridiculous.
I'm pretty confident that my little boy is alright. He is, in fact, thriving. The midwife, however thought differently and short of me shaving off his ginger locks to avoid any orange reflection on his face, we've had to make another trip to hospital for full blood tests.
We waited for what seemed like ages in the waiting room. As time went on I could see Albie starting to squirm and whine and the realisation hit me that I was going to have to get my boobs out in front of a very busy waiting room of people. I could feel myself starting to sweat - I've not tackled the public yet, I'm not sure I'm quite ready for this. Thankfully we were called in before I had to do my 'earth mother' thing in front of what looked like 3 generations of an indian family opposite. I know it's natural but I'm sorry it doesn't feel like it.
We got called in and after waiting in ANOTHER waiting room I managed to find a quiet room and feed Albie for 10 minutes before he screamed the whole hospital down - that was until they told me they needed him to pee in a pot. Sorry?? Pee in a pot? I mean, I'm 30 and I still find it hard to aim and fire, how am I supposed to get a 2 week old baby to do the same??! Now, if it had been like the normal sample pots you get it may have been a little easier but yet again I am presented with non other than the beloved hospital kidney shaped bowl... except this time in miniature!! Did they not get the message after my vomiting episode during the birth?! Is there some Doctor who has patented the kidney shape that has to be in all NHS hospitals and now he's got them in baby size?! We held Albie in mid air flashing his manhood to all and sundry. He screamed and screamed and all we could do was wait. Bloody ridiculous. After about 20 minutes he did a pee, and, as the kidney bowl is specifically designed to do (!), it hit it then sprayed out all over the hospital bed. Thankfully 2ml of pee was enough.
As if that wasn't traumatic enough for him, we had to take him into another room for some blood samples. Not just one blood sample, no...6! 6 tubes of blood had to be taken from my screaming child. Now they hadn't quite taken into account that my baby was pretty strong. Strong enough to know at 2 weeks old that he did not want to have a needle in his leg and give up half his weight in blood. He was going to make it bloody impossible. So he kicked and screamed and by the end of it the nurse looked like she had been involved in some sort of massacre, and she gave up at 3 test-tubes worth.
I know I make these things light-hearted, but I could feel a lump in my throat, seeing my little boy in so much pain and distress and I just wanted to take him home. I had a realisation that we were very lucky; lucky that we could take our baby home. We walked back through the ward of very poorly children and I felt sick for all the parents who had to watch their children suffer and I cannot imagine the heartache. I am so grateful that my little boy is healthy and well. He's not jaundiced, just ginger.

Sunday 4 November 2012

One-Handed Spreading

Today I have mastered the art of one handed spreading. The dreaded day has arrived where my husband's paternity leave has come to an end and I am left trying to butter toast with my teeth whilst my baby is permanently attached to me. You would have thought a sling of some kind would help but this child does not seem to appreciate anything that would make mum's life easier; he squirms and squeals until he is held properly in my arms. Quite cute really until you try to make yourself a cup of tea with one hand, then it's just plain awkward. In fact, I didn't have a cup of tea today until 3pm, along with my lunch: haribo again. A slight contrast to the hearty meals my baby is getting every 2 hours for 40 minutes at a time. Mind you, I'm not surprised: I may as well liquidize some haribo and bottle feed it to him.

Still, it's not all bad; I've had my fair share of daytime tv and learnt how to decorate my lounge in 60 minutes, if I could use both my arms. I also arranged for a few visitors today which I was slightly apprehensive about. I don't want to look like an incapable mother if I get all flustered because I've no idea why my baby is crying, especially if I don't know them well enough to be myself and ask them to make me a cup of tea. Still, nothing quite like an icebreaker of flashing your boobs at people by accident in an awkward attempt to breastfeed. Nice. On the positive side, visitors came with chocolate muffins and cake and my sugar levels went soaring again and what could've been a tough afternoon with a grizzly baby, turned into a nice afternoon with cake.

(Based on diary extract from 07/02/2011). 

Tuesday 30 October 2012

The Circle of Trust

I have now entered the Parent's circle of trust. Other parents look at you with a knowing smile as you walk down the street, pushing a newborn. There's an element of rarity to your condition, after all, babies don't stay babies for long. Yet, women have been popping* them out for centuries and along with the looks of pride over your present state, there is an underlying look of sympathy. They too recall their sleepless nights, the despair at feeding times, the incessant crying. They look at you, and you at them and you 'know' each other's condition. You suddenly have an overwhelming respect for womankind. How they survive these times is a mystery.

Yet here I am - still alive and so is my child. I remind myself of this everyday, as though I have achieved a miracle. He's still alive so I must be doing something right. He may cry for hours on end but at least it means he's breathing.

Friends kindly keep coming round to drop off meals for us which is an absolute godsend. I can't even imagine trying to cook beans on toast at the moment – I find myself sustained by whatever I can find in my kitchen cupboards. Whoever invented Haribo was a good man. However, what I am learning is that although Albie doesn't have a natural instinct to sleep when he's tired or feed effectively, he does have a natural instinct to know when MY mealtimes are. I hear the last beep on the microwave of my first proper meal of the day (and the third delivery of chilli con carne this week, not that I'm complaining) and little Albie decides he would like to wake up and scream. An hour later I return to my cold chilli and wolf it down. Then I write my woes in a facebook update, to which the circle of trust responds with comments of support. That is, until someone decides to post something on my wall along the lines of 'I was cooking Mousakka four hours after my baby was born' and the circle of trust relents by not 'liking' their comment and I 'de-friend' them out of sheer jealousy.

*Babies are not like pringles, they do not 'pop' and you DO want to 'stop'.

(Based on diary extract from 04/02/2011). 

Saturday 20 October 2012

It's official...

(Based on diary extract from 03/02/2011). 

It came to the point where we felt we should make Albie official and register his name at the town hall. This would also be a good test of whether we were capable of leaving the house with a baby. I prepared my bag - which has turned into his bag but I'm determined not to get one of those crappy nappy bags from boots and retain at least some sort of style (yes, I'm still wearing my knee-high c-section socks). Nappies, portable changing mat, breast pads, muslins, Lansinoh cream (only mum's know what that's for ;)), change of clothes, hat, toys.... I just about found enough room to fit in my purse and phone.

We then headed to the town hall. I felt quite proud walking down the road, carrying Albie in his car seat. Onlookers walked past and cooed and smiled and it made me feel like I was a celebrity (or was it that my socks were showing?!) As we waited outside the registrars office I noticed the name 'Lesley' on the door. Expecting to be greeted by a middle aged lady in a suit and heels, I was instead greeted by a very eccentric middle aged man like David Dickinson, with jet black hair and the bushiest eyebrows I've ever seen.

We told him the name "Albert Joseph Maltby", expecting those huge eyebrows to raise at such a traditional name but instead he typed it in quite matter of factly (maybe they were just too bushy to raise). "A-L-B-E-R-T,".... he carried on in an unhurried manner, typing each letter with one large stubby forefinger. "what I'm going to do is..." he started to speak in his deep-based, slow voice as though he was explaining something to a 5 year old, "I am going to type on the keyboard A-L-B-E-R-T. J-O-S-E-P-H. M-A-L-T-B-Y, and then the information goes into the computer here," he said as he pointed his left stubby finger to his computer screen. Neil and I were trying not to snigger but managed to compose ourselves. "And then what happens..." he said slowly, "is I press the print button here" *thud* (that was the stubby finger pressing down with as much force as I would use to get into a cadbury's chocolate orange), "and the information comes out here," he said, as he pointed to a rather large printer. Once we'd finished our crash course in computing, we proudly walked out with our official child to the cooing, smiling, adoring faces, as though I was suddenly transported to a Mary Poppins film. I held back the urge to break into song.

Thursday 11 October 2012

The Hopelessness graph

We finally get released from our prison sentence,
I mean, hospital!!

(Based on diary extract from 31/01/2011). 

I finally got out of hospital today after about a week, although I keep expecting another midwife to knock on my door with a clipboard of new policies stating why I have to go back in hospital. My emotions go from sheer joy to sheer hopelessness all day. If I plotted them on a graph it would look like a thrilling new roller coaster at Alton Towers. People keep telling me how amazing it is to have a baby but I can honestly say this has been the worst week of my life (eek, did I just say that?!). People look at me blankly when I say I'm not enjoying myself - as though all mothers have relished being drained of all resources for centuries (or maybe just been involved in the world's biggest conspiracy theory and they forgot to let me in on it). Well, I'm sorry I'm not one of them and I'm not going to lie about it either. I hear stories of women who gave birth in 3 hours, or didn't even take a paracetamol and I just want to cry. Deep down I feel like a failure.

I know it's just a bad experience; I was just one of the unlucky ones in that way (Oh yes, but the luckiest woman alive to have a beautiful healthy baby *disclaimer). I only have one more week of Neil being at home and I just don't know how I'll cope. I think we've got the fussiest baby known to man! He takes an hour to feed, then nearly as long to get off to sleep because he's so restless, then he wants feeding again! I'm left with no time in the 'routine' (erm, what routine?!) to do anything else unless Neil helps.

...but then I rock Albie to sleep and I pace the floor with him till my arms feel like they're about to drop off. He nestles his tiny head into my neck and coos. I feel his delicate soft skin against my face and his soft red hair. He smells of heaven and I just want to bottle it! I can see the graph in my mind's eye souring up the 'joy' scale again. That is, until he projectile vomits all over my shoulder and the graph takes a sudden sharp decline.

Wednesday 3 October 2012

The Jackpot

(Based on diary extract from 30/01/2011). 

I'm making the hospital my second home now. I've even landed my own private room which sounds very glamorous but in reality there's only so much glamour one can associate with being in isolation with a screaming child whilst wearing the rather fetching c-section bed socks and a 1960s style maternity bra (surely there's a market for something just a little bit sexier?!). Put it this way, I'm looking hot. And instead of the sound of other babies crying keeping me awake, I have the constant drone of the 'emergency' buzzers going off every few minutes down the corridor which sounds like I'm in some sort of amusement arcade, minus the amusement.
Except I have, in fact, hit the jackpot. I look down at Albie, my prize, who has finally gone to sleep on my sore and oversized belly and I just cry with love for him. I have never experienced anything so overwhelming and I feel like I'm going to burst. That's why this whole experience has been so hard - because I'm so desperate for him to be happy that it's almost a burden as well as a joy. I don't care that I'm in pain, or that I've had no sleep or that I'm constantly serving him - I expected as much. I just didn't account for the weight of the love.
There's a knock on my door and finally it's food time but the meat pie was not exactly what I was expecting and I have never craved fish and chips more in my life ;)
Hospital food had a lot to be desired... seconds anyone?!
This was the moment that my love for Albie hit me like a ton of bricks and I cried for about an hour (until his next feed!!) because I'd never experienced love quite like it

Wednesday 26 September 2012

My first breast feeding diary

(Based on diary extract from 29/01/2011). 

A sample from my feeding diary (day 4) before i downloaded a handy feeding app on my iPhone!! No time for sleep!!

Wednesday 12 September 2012

Baby Blues

(Based on diary extract from 27/01/2011). 

I got discharged today, which I was so relieved about as I'm desperate to get back to my own bed and home comforts and I'd had quite enough of the girl next to me who liked to feed baby 'Mason' whilst listening to happy hardcore. That and the night of constant feeding I've just had and the very unhelpful midwife 'Jackie', who said she couldn't give me any advice and I would literally just have to stay awake all night to feed him. Cheers. She did however proceed to give me an industrial sized breast pump which helped me get my own back at Mason's mum.
I got back home this morning and started getting into 'family' life. I fed Albie in the peace of my room whilst catching up with Facebook and Twitter and thought 'I could get used to this'. At 3 o'clock the midwife came round, weighed Albie and said he'd lost too much of his birth weight (I should think so at nearly 9 pounds!!) and that we would have to go back into hospital until he put on sufficient weight. My milk had only just come in due to losing too much blood with the c-section which must've been true, if only for my Dad telling me he thought I looked dead after giving birth. The midwife continued to tell me about the 'policy' and I just burst into tears - I was mortified 'Please don't make me go back in' - but it's 'policy' and I'll do anything to make sure Albie is ok (and to avoid social services).
I re-packed my hospital bag and (sorry gory bit) as I was doing so Albie started to sick up his last feed which was nothing new except this time his sick was black (yes, black!) and I started to panic. All sorts of things were running through my head and I felt sick myself. He continued to do so all afternoon so in the end I concluded it was just as well I was going back in so I could check everything was alright.
At 6 o'clock we arrived back at hospital and guess who was on duty? Jackie. She told me I would have to stay for two nights and I burst into tears again. She turned to me and gave a half hearted stroke of my arm and with all the fake sympathy she could muster she said 'ah bless you, is it all a bit too much? If it's any consolation love, I hate coming here too'. No, actually it's not. Then she turned to Neil, my rock, who was holding my precious bundle and said 'speaking of which Neil, visiting hours are over, can you make your way out please'. Neil placed a very restless Albie in the crib as Jackie proceeded to inject me in the stomach with my daily dose of Heparin and I burst into tears as Neil kissed me on the head and walked out the door. Please get me out of here.

Wednesday 5 September 2012

The birth (the good bit)

(Based on diary extract from 25/01/2011... actually it was written a few days later as I was in no state to be writing after birth!). 

...Neil held my right hand; the anaesthetist the left, as my body shuck uncontrollably. I presumed I must be nervous but the anaesthetist informed me it was due to the amount of drugs I'd had pumped round my body. Nice.
I felt the surgeon give one final tug, followed by a sound that I think will change me forever... A cry. Now don't get me wrong, I've heard lots of cries before and I'm sure I've heard plenty of babies in supermarkets screaming their lungs off and never once has it made me want to take them home with me. But this, this was something different; something spiritual, even. As I heard my baby take his first breath, my breath was simultaneously taken from me for a brief moment, followed by a gasp of emotion as strong as being hit by a tidal wave (I'd imagine). I will never forget that.
The next thing I'm waiting, trying to guess which side of the pale blue curtain separating us (and my insides) that they would bring him. It felt like ages. Is it a girl? A boy? Ginger?? Then I finally saw a baby being dangled into the air and a flash of his bollocks confirmed he was in fact a boy. I somehow knew he would be, though I can't exactly class myself a psychic with a 1 in 2 chance.
They rushed him off to check he was ok, and Neil went off to check, more importantly, whether he had inherited his beloved 'strawberry blonde' hair. Two minutes later and a very excited Neil came rushing back, holding him in a lion king pose. 'He's ginger!' he exclaimed proudly, as though he had indeed inherited his kingdom. The nurse gently laid my baby on my chest, wrapped in a white towel. He stared at me like he was an old soul - like he'd been here before or something. I spoke to him in what, looking back, was probably a very drunken manner because I can't remember much of it except the anaesthetist had a bemused look on his face and, in fact, so did my baby. I can still see his big dark blue eyes piercing me as I gabbled away to him. Everyone said I'd know what to call him when I saw him but I wasn't sure. I said 'Albie', partly because I loved it, partly because Neil wanted to name him after his Grandad and partly because it was either that or Wolfgang (no, Neil wasn't joking). But I loved the name Albie and he kind of looked like an Albert, which means "noble, bright and famous". Albert Joseph Maltby.

Albie's first feed
They took him off me and the surgeons sewed me back up casually as they listened to radio 2 and joked about Eastenders. Then they wheeled me into a little room followed by Albie who looked like a 'meals on wheels', except a little tastier. Speaking of which, the next highlight was getting a slice of toast and jam which was quite possibly the best meal I have ever had, considering I hadn't eaten in 18 hours. 

Tuesday 4 September 2012

The birth. Not for the feint hearted ;)

(Based on diary extract from 25/01/2011... actually it was written a few days later as I was in no state to be writing after birth!). 

I started late sunday evening with weird crampy pains which I put down to the fact there were far too many onions in the previous night's pasta dish. I thought I must be having 'braxton hicks' or something as they weren't too painful but annoying enough to stop me sleeping, so at 1am I got up and went downstairs. Neil came down at 6am, fixed me up with a tens machine and I took my position: clinging to the mantle piece for dear life every time a contraction came. By 12pm, I was in agony. Contractions kept coming every 5 minutes, then 2, then back to 10 - they were all over the place. In the antenatal classes they say to go in when they're 4 minutes apart but I didn't have a clue what mine were. I was determined to leave it till the last minute as I didn't want one of those long hospitalised births. I was hoping for more of a drive thru experience: Baby-to-go.
Neil ran me a bath in the hope it would help, but when I got in it the contractions seemed to be one after the other "I think we better get to hospital quick". Neil dragged me out the bath, struggled to get me dressed, then insisted on making me eat before we left. A woman's about to give birth and what's a man thinking about? Food. The food of choice was boiled egg and dippy fingers, which he had to feed me like a baby in-between each contraction as I clung to the chair.
By this point it was about 1pm, we got in the car and what happens? Nothing. No contractions, no pain: nothing. In fact, we drove straight past the hospital and went for a very scenic drive round the peak district until they heated up again. How romantic.
At 3pm we arrived at the hospital. They seemed very relaxed about the whole thing and took ages to see me, and when they finally did the midwife said "Don't be upset if we have to send you home again Love, you might not be ready, now just lie down while I examine you...... Oh my goodness, you're 7cm dilated! This baby could be with us in a few hours!" The midwife commented on how relaxed I was and that most people need pain relief at this stage. Neil looked at me and gave me a high five with his eyes. The birth pool was even free... thank God I wrote that birth plan ;)
I made myself comfortable, got a gym ball and moved around on it casually whilst sucking fruit pastels and updating my Facebook status to "just sat in hospital, 7cm dilated". I may as well have written "Just giving birth. Piece of cake". Don't get me wrong, the contractions were still intense, but I was excited now and I felt in good hands. I decided to take a dip in the pool...
But 2 hours later and nothing was heating up. They decided to take me out and break my waters to get things going, which  just felt like i'd wet myself but in an even less dignified way. I got back in the pool and after about 30 minutes it was like i'd been hit with a ton of bricks. The contractions got so intense and lasted for what seemed like minutes at a time of excruciating agony, gradually getting closer and closer together until there was barely any break in-between. I remember feeling like I couldn't cope any more but tried to hold out before I asked for any pain relief (why?!). The midwife seemed surprised when I asked for some gas and air, I'm not sure why as I felt like I was dying. I lost all control, I couldn't even tell where the pain was anymore because the whole of my body felt in pain. I have vague blurry images from here on in. I kept feeling my head drop under the water, maybe in the hope that drowning would be a nicer experience. I writhed around groaning like some sort of deluded wildebeest. I felt like an animal. I gripped onto the gas and air for dear life, breathing as deeply as I could. It took the intensity off the pain but made me feel dizzy. I felt drunk but I wouldn't let it go. Neil told me to take a break from it and I used some expletives to tell him that I would carry on using it, thank you very much. He kept telling me 'it's ok, the baby will be here soon', while he looked over to the midwives for reassurance and they just stared back blankly and asked me if I was ready to push yet. 'NO!!!'. I had no urge to and I knew this baby was not coming out!!
Another hour or so of intense pain and they finally decided to examine me again and, big surprise, I was only 8cm and nothing was progressing because my big fat baby's head was stuck and he/she was in a back-to-back position. I could barely blurt out the words in between breathing the gas and air 'I WANT AN EPIDURAL', and the midwife proceeded to tell me that I would have to have one anyway because I would need to go on a hormone drip to get things going. Thank God I wrote that birth plan. Not.
I walked like a drunk tramp down the corridor, with my hair still straggled and dripping wet, with the gas and air on a trolley alongside me like my most prised companion. I've never clung so tightly to anything in my life.
The anaesthetist came to talk me through the terms and conditions of an epidural and I just nodded incessantly, not listening to a word he was saying but hoping to speed up the process short of me screaming "just stick the needle in!!!!!". He said he'd never known anyone so compliant.
I felt a tingle down my back and experienced what was a brief encounter of no pain. He gave me a button to top up the epidural, I had wires and gadgets attached to me and all was sorted... so I thought.
The epidural wore off somewhat in the next few hours, I kept topping up until it ran out but the pain was still there, if a little duller but now I had the added pain of not being able to move and my back was in agony. The midwife told me to try and get some sleep. 'Are you joking?!!' I looked over at Neil, who looked totally drained. The gas and air also started to catch up with me and I expressed the need to vomit, to which the midwives responded with a small cardboard kidney shaped bowl. "Sorry, I said I needed to vomit not spit out my gum!". Too late. The bowl acted as a sort of propellent for the sick, which went all over the midwives, the equipment and my birthing outfit. I couldn't move of course, so the midwives had to undress me and remove all the wires and I'm left laid starkers on the bed while they clean me up and I've never been so humiliated. No sooner had they cleaned me up when I did the same thing again. Nice.
At 1am the doctor came to examine me. No change. She gave me the option of a c-section, which I didn't want but by this point I was so exhausted I wasn't sure how I would push. Neil and I decided we'd give it a few more hours, God knows why, but 'women have done this for century's', right?! As soon as she walked out the door I felt like the clock stopped. I remember looking at the clock at 4am and thinking that I wanted to die. I didn't care about the baby or Neil, I was deluded but I just wanted to be out of pain. I said to myself 'If I ever think about having another child, I will think about this moment'. The trainee midwife asked if I was ok and I burst into tears. "Aw, is it all a bit too much for you?". "Yes, it's all a bit f****ing much.
The doctor finally came back in and agreed that a c-section was the way forward, but I would have to wait for the anaesthetist. So glad I wrote that birth plan ;) Another hour or so later he came and promised me that this time I would be fully out of pain. Had I not already been taken, I would've asked him to marry me right there and then. In fact, I still think of his face with a halo around it.
No sooner had I arrived in theatre, than I vomited again all over the equipment, the staff clearly hadn't learnt their lesson from the last kidney dish incident. But FINALLY, finally, I was out of pain. I've never been happier, and I didn't care about the feeling of them slicing me open and tugging around down there. I was out of pain, nothing else mattered... until I met my son that is...

Wednesday 22 August 2012

Ready to pop

(Based on diary extract from 22/01/2011). 

It's my official due date today. I don't expect he or she to turn up on time. In fact, I half expect the baby to never turn up at all because this whole thing seems very surreal. Me, a mother? What a joke, I can barely fend for myself.
I have my hospital bag packed which, to be honest, is more of a bag of snacks than anything practical. Admittedly, I don't think I'll be screaming out for a double decker in the final pangs of labour but you never know, I might be one of those women who gives birth in ten pushes with just a paracetamol whilst managing to knit a matching hat and gloves in time for the delivery. Maybe that's where all those knitted boobs came from in my antenatal class.
I tell people I don't care if I have an epidural, that I'll take anything I can get but I secretly hope I'm one of the lucky ones. Maybe it's not even about that, maybe I just have something to prove - as though it makes me a more valuable member of society to have gone through childbirth without medical intervention. Why is that? It's not like I'd put it on my CV.
My midwife asked me to write a birthing plan, and I told her I didn't want one because I wanted to take it as it comes. So she decided to write one for me by spontaneously firing at me a series of multiple choice questions 'vitamin k injection for the baby on delivery...or not, and risk the baby having blood clots?' Erm, can I come back to you on that?! How ridiculous. So I've somehow signed up for a water birth. God help me.

Wednesday 15 August 2012

The gamble

(Based on diary extract from 18/01/2011). 

So I’ve come this far by just being me... well,  so to speak. The so called ‘ball and chain’ of marriage  (for me anyway) never turned out to be so and the day I married Neil I felt more myself than I ever have. Since then I feel like my life has been richer, more supported, more full of bear hugs and private jokes, stinky football kits and general lack of hygeine. I’ve become more accustomed to picking pants off the floor and organising someone else’s diary.
It’s funny how someone else can make you feel more complete, simply by making you more aware of who you really are. That’s when you realise that you need other people around you, to bring out your best. And no matter how many spanners they throw in the works, the challenges they provide make you a better mechanic at working out the cogs of life.
Then the unspoken question starts to emerge. Would we be better as a three? We’ve been perfectly happy for 5 years as a 2. Why spoil it? So we carry on living life, every now and again dropping the odd hint to figure out where the other stands on the matter. ‘Im thinking of turning the spare room into an art studio... I mean, it’s not like we’ll need it for a nursery or anything is it?!”... a quick glance reveals he’s totally not bothered by the comment. Not sure if I’m delighted or saddened (or whether he’s even heard what I said in the first place with the delights of Sky Sports transfixing him).
Then comes the point when you wonder if you’ll even be able to have kids, and people try to worry you with comments like ‘well, body clocks ticking, you don’t want to leave it too late’. You start to treat it as a gamble; “Maybe we should just try because it might take us years”. And then you start to resent the fact that people think it’s a given that you’ll procreate, despite the fact that these very people are the ones who will tell you what matyrs they are for doing so themselves, as though it somehow happened to them like an unexpected natural disaster. These people seem shocked after their repetoirs of ‘woe is me’ to hear me say I never want children. Well really, what did you expect?
But life seems, well, a little samey. I mean, there comes a point where you’re ready for the next challenge to come along. You’re happy but you’re ‘content’, and there’s something about ‘content’ that makes me uneasy. I could carry on like this forever but I’m not evolving. I think about what I want to acheive in life and, after years of trying to gain people’s approval and be a success, I’ve realised that the only thing I want to acheive is happiness. And once I have it I want to share it.
Now don’t get me wrong, my marriage isn’t all bliss. I mean, there are only so many football matches you can take in a week, and only so many farts you can stand in the middle of the night. But there’s something about making a commitment to someone or something that seems, well, somehow sacred. Despite everything, you’re in this together and you’re grateful for a friend to stick by you in it, and to remind you that you’re not perfect either (that yes, I too fart in my sleep). There’s something raw when you agree you’ll take each other on, all the fun and intimacy, followed by the risk of inevitably letting each other down and dealing with things you never hoped you would have to. And I’m grateful. Grateful enough that I want to do something amazing for him. Grateful enough that I want to seal a part of what we have into eternity.
So we decided to have a baby. Well, we decided to not try not to. We took a gamble. We figured we’d be laid back and maybe in a few years something might happen, or we might change our mind and decide the whole idea was stupid. Which I did... a few days before I found out I was pregnant. And before I know it, I’m 39 weeks pregnant anticipating what life will be like for us in a few weeks or even days. Wondering if my life will be a little more raw, a little more challenging, a little happier.