The day my daughter was born was both one of the best and worst of my life.
So we'd arrived at the hospital at 9:30 - a tad late and I had phoned to apologise (oh the irony) - that traffic was insane - and then I proceeded to wait. And wait. And wait. In a fetching gown, no pants and surgical stockings. Bottle green stockings. Nice. Who decides on such colour? "Forget the sexy pink - let's go with... ah yes, the bottle green. That'll cheer up anyone waiting for an op for sure." Grim.
All I could think about were the needles about to be rammed into me, the pain post op and the fact my son hadn't really been himself when we'd dropped him at a neighbour's house and explained that his Granny would collect him from school that day. In my head I pictured a momentous movie moment replete with tears and hugs and all that jazz when later that day Sproglet would meet his little sis for the first time. I pictured how they'd exchange gifts and he would be over-joyed and no longer would he wear the fearful look on his face he had been sporting all weekend. Having had a section before I should have been more relaxed - but I wasn't. I was dreading the moment they'd jab those tubes in my hand - even with a local administered I knew how those fecking tubes hurt - and then the monster epidural needle in my back. I'd been nil by mouth since the previous night and was tired, nervous, hungry and thirsty as I lay on a hospital bed and tried to amuse myself in the arduous wait. I even watched 'Loose Women' on the free tv thing - yes, I was that bored.
At 11am they told me they'd had an emergency section in theatre, but I would be next. Then they took another planned section instead of me. I was meant to be next but another emergency took precedence. Then another. Then another. When the head of the ward walked in with a cup of water at half past four I knew she wasn't bringing good news. She was bringing a glass of water as a peace offering - but I wasn't feeling so damn peaceful. No, I was an anxious ball of rage. I burst into tears, worried that I wouldn't have my baby that day at all. All my little movie monet fantasies went right out the window and for a moment I wished I could grab a bread knife and slice myself open.
I didn't think I could go through another day like this one. There was only one theatre on the ward, which they kept free in case any woman mid birth suddenly needed an emergency section. The selfish byatch. Only joking - I understood, I really did. But oh my god - could these women not shut their legs for two minutes? Maybe an hour, just so I could get my sprog cut out and then they could go back to their difficult labours? Sorry, but my patience had run out. And my sense of humour.
Head of ward woman took pity on my tears and told me she had a plan to open the second theatre. (Could this not have happened earlier? Or did it take a mad Irish woman with an unhinged glint in her eye - that's me obviously - for this ward women to suddenly find her second theatre keys??) An angry anesthetist came under my curtain - I thought to start the whole drip thing to keep fluids in me - but thankfully she brandished a bit of paper - with a name to write a complaint letter to - full of apologies that I had had to wait so long - saying that folk having hip operations didn't get bumped if someone came into hospital having fallen, so why are planned sections made to wait (often until the early hours of the morning) when they should have an allotted time? Hurrsh for this woman. She speaks the truth. I could have hugged her. The mental torture of knowing you are about to be drugged up and sliced open is really exhausting. That's before I even mention waiting behind a bland blue curtain - staring at it for 8 hours, wearing no pants and without the aid of a cuppa or gin to keep you mellow. I wanted to scream - just get me in there! I mean, I'm the kind of woman who schedules my smear tests for 9am - my thinking being I don't want to spend the whole day worrying about someone jack knifing open my v-jay-jay - kind of how you lift a car to change a tyre - so I get up, get on with it. It is the thought of something that gives me the heebeejeebies - not the actual event itself.
Anyway, I got into theatre about half five. In went the grim needles, the epidural, the cold water sprayed on my back. My floppy breasts hanging outside my gown as if they had given up on life. I promptly threw up. Oh yes, I was in full attractive mode - spit hanging from my mouth - legs marked with spider veins, hair stuck to my head, listening to folk shear my pubes away. It felt very like a conveyor belt - one in, one out. The team were tired, over worked. Knew they had another section to do that evening and just wanted to get on with it. At that moment, lying on the slab, I really wished I could do natural birth because I am sure the whole experience is infinitely better than a section. You can do it at home or in a hot pool for a start. With nice white candles dotted around and maybe a joss stick. A midwife squatting between your legs - all very hand holding and snuggly. My sections were a world apart - it felt so cold and not just the epidural. It felt like a means to an end, rather than a euphoric moment. When a guy walked in wearing a helmet covered in a plastic guard that said 'splash cover' on it and announced he was assisting - I told him how comforting that was. Husband was incredible. He held my hand (although earlier failed to hold his temper with all the goddamn waiting and him on a rickety chair for 8 hours) and kept telling me how brave he was. For some reason I was obsessed with the question - is she healthy? That somehow having 2 perfectly well kids was asking for too much... I said so many silent prayers I couldn't think straight. I kept trying to bond with the team - asking what they wanted Santa to bring them etc and they all pretty much ignored me - celarly thinking the drugs were working - all too well.
Then I heard her. A magnificent cry. I asked 'Is it a girl, they said it was a girl?' But they couldn't tell me. She wasn't even out of me yet and she was hollering. Clearly a child of Irish descent. They held her up at 6:14pm - my beautiful bunny - and wrapped her and brought her over to my husband. I couldn't help it - the tears of relief started to flow. I kept asking if she was ok and the midwife told me she was beautiful. I'm sure they say that to every new Mum - but I bought it, she was indeed beautiful. No cone head, a button nose and plump pink skin. I was much more emotional than the birth of my son - maybe because I was so fecking relieved, the op was almost over, she was here, I was no longer pregnant. Hurrah. Goodbye heartbrun and piles, hello sleepless nights... Maybe because I knew all along I was having a girl - so I was much more prepared this time - I wasn't expecting a girl and ended up with boy, or vice versa - I was able to just enjoy her. Well, if you can enjoy anything drugged to the eyeballs while folk stitch you up and you can't move three quarters of your body.
Funny thing is she looked exactly like Sproglet when he was born. A clone. His nose, his full lips, soft fluffy hair and big eyes. She smelled that delicious baby sweet smell that is utterly intoxicating. It isn't hard to fall in love with such a helpless, cute bundle. But I had to wait until they were wheeling me to recovery to get my first hold of the newest member of my family.
I was stitched up and finally taken out of theatre to recovery. However, I was wheeled back to... the room I had just rolled around in for 8 sodding hours. I never wanted to see the fecking blue curtain again. The wee one wasn't getting warm enough so they put her tiny 7lbs 1 oz body under a grill thing to heat her up. They fed me morphine which failed to abate the searing pain tearing through my abdomen. By midnight I was hooked up with triple strength morphine - and still I was so sore. Something about them cutting through scar tissue meant that second section was far from a walk in the park. My legs were still numb, the tubes still dragging on my hand, my belly still 8 months pregnant and swollen. Eventually I was wheeled to the Knutsford suite (i.e. heaven in a room. A £400 a night room but heaven no less) at 10:30pm and placed in the hands of a midwife who was fittingly an angel. Husband left just before 11pm and I tried to process how I was feeling: I was shattered, elated, relieved and in dire need of a good cup of tea. The tea and toast angel Tracy brought were the best I have ever tasted. I lay and marvelled at my daughter and counted my blessings that she was safe and well. Had I not been so emotionally wrung out I am sure I would have stared at her all night - but instead, sleep was calling.
The private room I know cost a fortune but was simply the best money I have ever spent. That first night my midwife Tracey helped feed my newborn, swaddled her and provided the care that post section, I couldn't physically or mentally give. She answered my questions, she understood why I wanted to give my daughter formula to stop her hunger, and supported this without the usual midwifery judgement that makes us all feel like shit mothers within an hour of giving birth. For 2 hours she stayed with me. I didn't feel overwhelmed or alone. I felt pampered. It was a million times better than when I was left post section after my son. I say to anyone - get a private room!! Sell your tv, your sticker collection - your Husband, but get thee a private room. It makes all the difference to your recovery I swear.
The next day another midwife helped me shower - in my own bathroom - and dress. Having someone help you put on your pants is an underrated privilege when you have just had an operation. I relaxed in front of my plasma tv, in soft low level lighting, eating a hearty breakfast. I could have been in a fancy schmancy hotel were it not for the hospital bed and sanitary towels the size of bricks laid out in the bathroom... It was so damn comfy I never wanted to leave. Sproglet arrived that day after school - and we introduced him to Riley, his new sister. I had Husband primed with the video camera and I'd taken a deep breath - hoping that my tears of complete joy wouldn't make him afraid. I'm a single child, and I've always dreamt having 2 kids - so that they'd never have the childhood that I had. Introducing them was a moment I'll never find the words to express - even thinking about it now makes my throat itch and the tears start to form in the corners of my eyes.
He stroked her head and was overjoyed when she gave him a Woody toy that he had long coveted. I told him she had great taste in toys and a telepathic powers and he didn't question this. My Mum told me how the day before he had slept for an hour at nursery, needed cuddled for half an hour and hadn't been his usual sunny wee self at all. This broke my heart - and for the first time in my life I was torn between wanting to tend to the baby and wanting to smother Sproglet in affection 24/7. He was wearing badge that school had given him saying 'Finn's Fantastic news.' Bless his school, they gave him Mr Snuggly (the new Kipper) home for the night (ha! Husband had to write the 'I went home with Finn today and we did blah blah...' story) and had made an almighty fuss of him. As he left he looked at me so mournfully I bit my lip not to cry. My Mother later told me he kept asking when I would be home. If someone had carved out my heart with a knife it would explain how I felt when she said this.
We eventually got out of hospital on Wed evening and when I walked in and saw Sproglet I burst into tears. (There are lots of tears in this post. Oh yes, the hormones were RAGING through my body. If I looked at Sproglet, my husband, the baby, or most of all when I looked in the mirror - I cried.) He hugged and hugged me and then asked me to move out of the way, Ben 10 was on telly. And so we 3 became 4. The next week was a blur of midwives, trying - and failing to successfully breast feed, visitors, cards - a sea of pink, no sleep and celebratory glasses of wine. Maybe a gin or two. Or three. I made sure that the morning after I got of hospital I was at Sproglet's school, watching him as an innkeeper (he looked more like a transvestite al qaeda terrorist in the costume I had fashioned for him) in his first ever nativity play. His wee face lit up when he saw me and he barely took his eyes off me the whole time - waving like a madman. That week he was needy and irritating and attention seeking and all the things you wish to god your child wasn't when your energies are so sapped by a new born. I have never felt so torn in my whole life. On one hand I wanted to comfort him and reassure him, on the other I had a mewing newborn who needed wiped, changed, fed, burped every minute of the day. So I bathed with Sproglet, read him stories, hugged him tightly, gave him chocolate treats, (one for you, one for Mummy, one for you, two for Mummy - Mummy needs comfort food...) so determined was I to make sure he felt secure, that we loved him just as much as we always had done. After we bathed the kids together (get me - kids!!) - which was just too cute - he turned a corner and since then has embraced 'my baby' as he calls her - and has been a doting, over enthusiastic brother - back to his usual cheery self.
Somewhere long the line, christmas came and went. I feel like I have spent my life on the sofa watching some goddawful kid's movie eating toblerone. Friends have taken Sproglet for playdates and I've been ridiculously, pathetically grateful. Trying to entertain a 4 year old whilst looking after a 2 week old, in minus five temperatures, with thick snow everywhere, unable to drive post section, has not been easy. Husband has been nothing short of amazing. Miraculous. He has a love affair going on with the dish washer he has spent so much time loading and unloading it. He has shopped, cooked, done washes, all tedious chores and has fallen hopelessly in love with his little girl. We've shared the feeds - taking it in shifts. Thank god or I would be even more of a basket case than I am now. And boy am I basket... It has taken me two attempts at writing this post to think it was worth posting. Normally I can write with ease - now, I can't even remember my name...
Boobs or bottle?
The breast feeding? Well I came, I tried, I pumped, and pumped and pumped - and then it got to Xmas eve and I just could not find 2 hours plus in every day to sit with that horrific contraption and suck the life out of my already lifeless boobs. My wee one copied her older Bro and just refused my right breast from the off. The left one she took to - but she hated the unsatisfying colostrum and so we topped her up with formula. Then my milk came in and I looked like a porn star - my G cups overflowing - but each boob was as hard as rock. My midwife was wide eyed when she copped a feel and told me to get expressing - as my daughter wasn't interested - only grazing for ten minutes, while I panicked that my chest would somehow smother her. The first time I expressed I filled two full bottles in under an hour...
But it isn't for me. For so many reasons - expressing is time consuming and when you have a house and a baby and a 4 year old and sodding Xmas and visitors etc - you just can't do it all. My baby has gone from 7lbs one oz, to 7lb 4 oz at 5 days old, 7lbs 11 oz at ten days old to - at 3 weeks and 3 days old - 8lbs, 11oz. So she aint starving. And I tried, I really did. And I expressed for almost 3 weeks - which felt like an achievement. So I'm here, bottle feeding and trying not to feel guilty - but I'd be lying if I said I was guilt free. Hell, we mothers have to beat ourselves up over something don't we?
Life has been turned on it's head with my daughter's arrival. Everywhere I look there is a muslin cloth. My washing machine has permanently been on with a white wash since she came home. I spend my life winding and wishing for wind. Seriously, I will a burp to pop out in the wee small hours of the morning to the point were I make deals with god, begging for that burp - for it's appearance means I can finally lay her down and embrace sleep. Oh god, I miss sleep. I yearn for it. Plus, Sproglette has reflux - nightmare - so she has been on gaviscon to ease the pain and then on boxing day we had to wait in a skanky out of hours hospital to get her a prescription of ranitidine. Until then she grazed on her bottles, taking only a small amount and then throwing it up moments later - unable to sleep as her wee tummy rumbled. Now it seems the ranitidine makes her throw up - the exact thing we have got it for in the first place - so she is off it, back on Gaviscon and we are garteful that we haven't been chundered over in over 24 hours... and counting.
But she is worth it. My beautiful girl. With her long fingers and dainty legs, her wobbling head and her searching eyes, her soft cheeks and warm delicious neck - I drink her in and remember that this period will pass soon... I will sleep again some day. And she will grow and become her own person. So I'm cherishing it while I can - this little scrunchy person that has turned my world around... that makes my night day and my day night. I still would sell my soul for 8 hours straight sleep, I cannot lie. But I'm coping. I was anyway until I got on the scales today - have over a stone to lose - a stone and a half to be my dream weight. Joy! I have given away all my maternity clothes to a friend expecting twins, so I have to diet if I want to have anything at all to wear. The pressure - to routine the baby, to keep a house tidy, to feed Sproglet, the lose the weight - it threatens to overwhelm me some days and other days - good sleeping days - I think somehow I can get through it. I'll keep you posted.
But the one thing that delights me every day, no matter what time of day or night, is the fact that my wonderful family is now complete.