I remember writing The Prawn’s birth story some 3 years ago from a fairly bad place on the other side of a birth experience that was utterly unexpected and traumatic. Over the last few days, I’ve devoted a very small portion of my brain (the only part not occupied by washing, feeding, expressing, disciplining and, on occasion, breathing in and out.) trying to figure out how I felt about my experience this time around.
In the first place, I didn’t bother with a birth plan. While expecting the Prawn, I spent one very long evening composing a rather detailed plan for her birth which I responsibly printed out and included in the folder of notes that I took to the hospital. This piece of paper was instantly discarded and used as firelighters when it became apparent that the Prawn was having NONE of that labor shit and that she was QUITE HAPPY just where she was, thank you, necessitating the medical SAS to stage a uterine incursion to extract her. This experience taught me that that once you are caught in the current of the hospital system, it is best to behave as a very pregnant twig and follow where it leads. Knowing also that a Caesarian was on the cards this time around made it seem even more pointless to try to dictate the terms of The Squid’s arrival when I myownself wasn’t really going to have much to do with it other than turning up in an open backed hospital gown, showing my ass to the anesthetist, lying back and then marveling at the sensation of not being able to wiggle my toes.
The Rock Star and I arrived at the hospital unfortunately early due to my insistence that we were supposed to be there at quarter TO seven as opposed to quarter PAST seven, so we spent 15 rather whispery minutes sitting in an all too familiar cubical and surrounded by the all too familiar curtains with the all too familiar sights of Aylesbury and the surrounding areas. (Although this time around, I noticed that one of the buildings depicted was in the complex where I work) Of course, the catch phrase of the hospital is “hurry up and wait”, so had a fair amount of time to get reacquainted with the local sights before called down to the theatre.
Unlike my visit to the theatre with the Prawn, I walked in under my own power, getting a really quite detailed look at all of the instruments that would be being used shortly to expose my insides to daylight. Perhaps it was this fact or the fact that we’d been waiting for nearly 25 minutes in a very hot hallway, but the proceedings did NOT get off to the best start when the very talented anesthetist (to whom I felt much indebted later) put a relatively simple cannula in the back of my hand, and I pretty much nearly fainted like a big girl. My thoughts, through my rapidly diminishing field of vision, was that this was NOT a good start, considering what was to come.
During the Prawn’s birth, I did not have the luxury of a spinal block. The epidural that I had been enjoying the services of for 12 hours or so was simply topped up for the surgery. While epidurals are great for blocking out labor pains, they are not ideal for being attacked with sharp surgical implements and towards the end of the surgery, I started to get some sensation back at a rather inopportune moment, requiring me to be put under for the duration of the procedure. Because of this, it was AGES before I actually got any bonding time with the Prawn. The anesthetist was dead set that I should make it through this procedure awake and to make sure of it, gave me a fairly heavy dose of the numb stuff. So heavy, in fact, that I was not ENTIRELY sure they had begun the operation until suddenly I heard a baby crying and was informed that it was, in fact a girl. (Which both the Rock Star and I were hugely relived about as we had a) neglected to choose a name for a boy and b) had a large drawer of pink clothes waiting at home.)
Of course, because this is me. this is around the time that things started to go wrong.
The Squid was bundled up tightly and given to The Rock Star and I got a full 3 minutes or so of gazing adoringly at my new daughter’s face before it became apparent to me that all was not going completely well on the other side of the curtain, where bits of me that had never seen the light of day lay open to the elements.
First I was hot. Then very cold. Then incredibly sick. The Rock Star informed me that the anesthetist was very busy twiddling buttons behind my head, trying to keep ahead of my plunging blood pressure and the nausea that resulted from the blood pressure medication. The junior and senior registrars were called into theatre due to the fact that things were going a bit pear shaped in the uterus contracting department. Despite the fact that I was now completely numb and no longer about to pass out or throw up, I could tell that there was a fair amount of pulling, tugging and shoving going on. The Rock Star was made to clear out of the way and was standing on the other side of the theatre with The Squid looking nervous. However, I didn’t really notice any of these things as I was just so grateful to feel absolutely nothing.
Things finally DID come under control, albeit after some major bruising and blood loss and I was wheeled into the recovery room where I was able to hold the Squid. But what kind of birth experience would it be without a little MORE drama? One of the theatre nurses noticed that the Squid was making a rather demure squeaking sound which was not par for the course as far as newborns go. A consultant from pediatrics was dispatched forthwith and agreed that they’d like to have a little bit of observation time in the NICU. Of course, this is the news that NO new parent wants to hear, but as shot away as I was, I was keen for her to be looked after as well as she needed to be, so rather reluctantly surrendered her to a pair of blue scrubs and asked another midwife if, since they were taking my baby, could I please FOR THE LOVE OF GOD have a glass of water as I’d not drunk anything since the night before? I then proceeded to ignore advice to drink slowly and nearly drowned due to the fact that my diaphragm was in a spinal block induced coma and was temporarily unavailable for lung clearing activities.
It was, in fact, several hours before the Squid was returned to our be-curtained cubicle back on the ward. The Rock Star was valiantly trying to keep a full fledged pota-freak out from occurring when they finally wheeled her back in, looking rather pitiful with a My Very First Cannula sticking out of her tiny left hand. We were informed that she’d been started on a course of precautionary anti-biotics and given a chest x-ray (“Welcome to the world. ZAP!”) to make sure there was no infection lingering about. They were fairly sure she’d just gotten a snootful of fluid as many babies delivered by Caesarian do, but they wanted to be 100% sure.
Thus began again a rather traumatic time on the wards, much as I’d remembered it from the Prawn’s birth. I would simply like to re-iterate the fact that whoever thought it was an awesome idea to stick 6 post op women AND their babies in the same room for a minimum of 2 nights should be promptly found and set on fire.
One thing that had definitely changed was the speed at which the hospital was intent on getting Caesarian patients out of beds and out of their hair. With the Prawn, I remember begging every nurse and doctor that passed me if they could PLEASE GOD TAKE OUT THIS GODDAMMED CATHETER only to be told that I had to wait for someone very senior in charge to give them the go- ahead. However, this time around Operation Mobility was sincerely in force and midwives were working furiously to get those of us who had just undergone major abdominal surgery walking around again so we didn’t keep hitting the Call button every time our new offspring sneezed. Unfortunately for me, while I was able to get out of bed fairly soon, due to some unexplained internal bleeding, I was equipped with what was rather simply called “a drain”. For those not acquainted with this particular post-surgical apparatus, I shall spare you a detailed description save for the fact that it is deeply unpleasant to have to carry around a bag of fluids that are currently leaking out of you via an opening that, up until 24 hours previous, did not actually exist. And if I thought having it IN was bad, this was nothing compared to taking it OUT. This was done by a very kind midwife who was just as surprised as I was that the surgical team had left approximately half a mile of tubing in my innards which, at the end, whipped out rather suddenly, tagging what felt like every organ I owned on the way and causing me to yelp like a stuck pig. Oh, the indignity.
Unusually enough, my sister in law was in the hospital at the same time. Sometime during my second day, The Rock Star texted his brother asking whether they were upstairs yet and discovered that they were, in fact, behind a set of curtains on the other side of the room with our new niece, who has been affectionately christened “Wubba”, born less than 24 hours later than the Squid. Luckily, the midwives were on the ball and two women with identical surnames and nearly identical addresses in the same bay caused little to no consternation or pharmaceutical mishaps. Although I would not have wished a c-section on Trumpet, it was rather nice to have someone to text across the ward at 3 am when a VERY young woman was brought up with a new baby who proceeded to scream ALL NIGHT. It’s mother, not possessed with much in the way of initiative, took to tapping half heartedly on the plastic cot beside her bed rather than pressing the buzzer for the nurse who could have been of some assistance. Trumpet referred to the ward as “Guantanamo Bay for new mothers”.
Round about Friday, when I was ready to pack my bags to go home, we were dealt another blow to our morale when a pediatric doctor said that although all of the blood cultures were negative, they were awful gosh darn sorry, but they’d forgotten to have a good look at that pesky chest x-ray very closely and due to what they saw, they were keen to keep The Squid in for two more nights to complete the course of anti-biotics. Not only this, but due to a miscommunication with the NICU, the Squid’s cannula had already been removed, meaning that my 3 day old daughter would have to have a second ENORMOUS FREAKING NEEDLE inserted into her hand. Not only THAT, but THIS time, I got to be the one to hold her down while they did it, making me feel even more like Mother of the Year.
This of course, also meant two more nights in for ME. By this point, I was beyond tired; not due to the Squid, (who spent rather a lot of time sleeping) but rather to the lack of opportunity to have ANY peace and quiet for 2 nights running. I don’t mind saying that this lead to an absolute melt-down on my part- the idea of two more nights on the wards were more than I could bear. However, I was kindly offered one of the private side rooms for the duration of my stay so that I might actually be afforded half an hour here and there to catch 40 winks. So while still in the depths of despair at having to remain in hospital, the idea of a private room made it slightly more palatable.
I was feeling especially desperate due to the fact that I’d hoped to be home for the Prawn’s birthday on Sunday. In an uncharacteristic burst of foresightedness, I’d wrapped all of the Prawn’s presents before leaving for hospital, so it wasn’t much work for the Rock Star to gather them up and bring them to my little room along with the Prawn so that we could have a birthday of sorts in hospital. This was probably way more depressing for me than it was for the Prawn, who was thrilled with a bounty of Peppa Pig merchandise and a gingerbread man to munch on. While I felt terrible at making her share her birthday with me and her new sister in a clean but wholly sterile environment, she was quite happy to run around and try to find a moment when the two of us weren’t looking to press the “CPR” button on my bed control.
We were finally given the all clear to leave on Monday morning. While I had visions of being made to wait until sometime in the afternoon for the drug trolley to rumble my way, I was pleasantly surprised to be greeted in the morning by an enthusiastic midwife who’d obviously been informed about the melting down earlier in the week and had made it her mission to get me out of that ward as fast as humanly possible, so by the time The Rock Star arrived at 11 for visiting hours, both the Squid and I were packed, dressed, in possession of powerful painkillers (those were for me) and ready to get the HELL out of there.
Life since the hospital has been blessedly easy in comparison to what I was actually expecting, although both the Rock Star and I are waiting for the penny to drop. As far as sibling rivalry goes, The Prawn has pretty much been acting like your garden variety 3 year old with a burr up her tailpipe, but none of her acting out has actually been DIRECTED at her new sister, who she seems to be surprisingly well disposed towards. As for the Squid, she does rather a lot of sleeping and remarkably little shouting, although she has drenched both of her parents in bodily fluids various, but since this is par for the course for newborns, we shall not hold it against her. In the hospital, I took to calling her “Spitty Frog” due to some highly comical amphibian-style faces she was wont to pull. Upon her return home, we christened ourselves “The Itty Bitty Spitty Committee“, which, let me tell you, sounds HILARIOUS coming out of the mouth of a 3 year old.
We are well, but tired. Happy, but exhausted. And we are a complete family.