Unfortunately there was a slightly sad part to Wilf’s arrival, well it was sad for me. It’s hard to even write this as it really has affected my mental health and it has continued to traumatise me in little ways here and there. I can just about tell this to someone now without crying or feeling like crap afterwards. I have chosen to write this on a Saturday morning, because Danny is home and we have some nice things planned for the weekend, therefore it can’t bum me out for too long!
Once the C section was performed, Wilf wasn’t handed to me, he was held by a lot of medical staff, weighing him and checking him over etc, then given to Danny for some skin to skin. One of the team said to me because I had been given a strong epidural (literally could just about feel my boobs but nothing below) they weren’t always keen to hand over the baby to the mum incase the baby was dropped. Like I would drop my own child! So that upset me, I was laying there sobbing my eyes out. Partly joy because finally he was born and he was ok as it had been a long ordeal getting to this moment, but also because I just wanted to see him and hold him and no one was letting me. Eventually after what felt like ages I got to hold him, and it was blissful. I felt so happy to see his scrunched up cute little face and know we’d done it and he was here.
Then we were wheeled into a recovery room and I was asked if I wanted to try breast feeding. I took Wilf and tried to get him to latch, but I struggled with being so exhausted so the medical assistant helped me. When it didn’t work out I was given some syringes to collect the colostrum to feed him. In my memory it was only about 10 minutes before I was thrusted a syringe and wheeled back to the delivery room. This is the turning point I think that became the struggle of trying to breastfeed.
I don’t really remember being in the delivery room after the birth, I remember being wheeled to the ward with Wilfred in my arms under a sheet and thinking how warm he was and how I wasn’t going to let go of him. I know that we were on that ward for 6 days, but to be honest it just felt like one incredibly long nightmare day.
It turns out I had one high temperature reading during my labour, therefore both Wilfred and I were fitted with cannulas and fed antibiotics from the moment of birth onwards. Wilfred never had a high temperature reading, but because I had this one reading in labour it meant he was automatically under the care of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). He got to stay with us in his crib, but twice a day he was wheeled to the NICU to give blood and be poked around. It broke my heart every time he was taken away, because at that time I didn’t really even understand why, no one had explained it to us. It also meant because we made sure Danny always went with him, I was just sat on the bed not being able to move on my own. Now I know it wasn’t about me, it was all about making sure Wilfred was healthy, but when you’ve just had a baby and major surgery plus a ton of fresh evil hormones, being left in a hospital cubicle on your own does feel quite devastating. When I was eventually able to shuffle round to the unit with him and Danny, it was so hard as we had to watch them poke his heels to get blood, which with Wilf often didn’t work so they would then have to take it from the backs of his hands causing him more discomfort. The staff in the NICU are fantastic, extremely caring for the baby and parents making you feel at as much ease as you can feel in those situations.
Another hard part of our 6 day long stay, was the breastfeeding. I tried and tried and tried, under the watchful eyes of the midwives who seriously do a fab job. However they are SOOOO stretched it was never consistently the same person you saw, which was hard to feel like they really cared. When you are there you do forget about the other 7 women in the ward going through similar things, and it really does feel like it is all about you and your own baby – why doesn’t that same midwife remember my name or bring me the pain relief when I’ve asked for it twice? When you are in your own little bubble of self pity you really don’t think about how that midwife has been doing a 12 hour shift with 30+ emotional and tired women and grumpy husbands trying to sleep on uncomfortable chairs.
Back to the feeding. I felt like I was failing. I was failing. He wasn’t latching. He was loosing an awful lot of weight – which only rang more alarm bells in the NICU unit, searching for diseases and illnesses he might have due to him losing so much weight (9lb 9oz down to 8b 2oz in 2 days – 17% of his birth weight ). It was awful. I felt so much pressure to get it right and I just wasn’t in the headspace. The care assistants and midwives would come and watch me try to feed him, they would touch my breasts to try and help him latch. I wouldn’t even cover myself up when they came into the cubicle anymore, I think about 3000 people must have seen my boobs by the end of the stay!
If I did manage to get him to latch and feed properly (not that I actually had a clue what that really felt like being a first timer) I had to ring the buzzer and get them to come and observe, to see if I got an A* for breastfeeding or not. More often than not, they wouldn’t come in time and it wouldn’t get marked down on our file. It was all about collecting evidence so that there was enough for them to let us go. It was like we were under trial. “WOMAN IS UNABLE TO FEED HER CHILD” and Danny was my lawyer, fighting hard to collect evidence to present to the jury. He was amazing, writing down every single feed time, how much, how long, breast/cup/bottle/syringe (yep tried it all) and also recorded all of Wilfred’s nappies and sleeps. We worked in 2 hour cycles, so making sure I tried to feed Wilf every 2 hours. It was pretty tiring as you can see from this photo I turned rather grey!! We found the notebook a few weeks ago and decided to get rid of it, neither of us could bare to look at it. Eventually the winning formula was expressing and bottle feeding (I would always try the boob first) to get him to start putting weight on and for them to think about allowing us home.
Whilst this was all happening, I had a horrific neck ache, which started the morning after he was born. Then it moved to my head as well, the worst headache I have had all of my life. The only way to make it feel slightly better was to lay down. Now there’s another reason for the breastfeeding to not work! I would cry in pain every time I had to sit up, I couldn’t get up to pick Wilf up or to change him (again praise Danny for doing it all and sleeping next to me on the most uncomfortable arm chair for 4 nights – on the 5th night we moved cubicles and he got an upgrade to a reclining chair!). I told every single midwife and care assistant who came to see us, and I would press the buzzer for more pain relief every hour or two (liquid morphine – great but I was probably off my face all week – Wilf, mummy took a lottttt of drugs the week you were born!). Finally, on the penultimate day, a doctor came to see me and said that I had maybe suffered a lumbar puncture when my epidural was put in. This is where a small hole is accidentally pierced in the lining of your spinal fluid, and the spinal fluid leaks out therefore there is less around you brain which equals to mega headaches. Hurrah! Finally someone had listened to me saying for the millionth time “Is it normal to have such a stonker of a migrane to the point I can’t move after birth?”. No physios palming me off saying it was probably relating to my posture now I am “breastfeeding” – seriously?!
So I was wheeled back into the theatre the next day and they plugged the hole up with some of my own blood – amazing. Once again, I can’t rate hypnobirthing highly enough, and the staff at the hospital – both kept me remarkably calm even though going back into the theatre room and leaving my baby and our tiny cubicle home was a huge deal. A couple hours later I could feel the effects of the “patch” and felt so much better. Danny and I worked hard again on ensuring the feeding was regular and eventually at 11.30pm on day 6 we were discharged, it was the best feeling.
As you can probably tell from this post, I didn’t enjoy the time in the hospital, I wasn’t a glowing new mum, and it really affected my relationship with breastfeeding and going back to the hospital still brings me out in a cold anxious sweat. I’ve got a future post lined up about how we’ve got on with feeding since this bumpy start so I wont dwell on it anymore. One last thing, I didn’t expect the crying. My word did I cry. ALL. THE. TIME. I cried if he latched and it worked, I cried if it didn’t, I cried just because I loved him so much, I cried because I wanted a shower. If I’m honest, some days I still shed a little tear, be it of sadness or be it of joy. Having a baby is one emotional ride and for me it still hasn’t levelled out. What I do know, and I realise is very predictable to say, is it is 100% worth it! I would do that 10 times over for Wilfred. He is my little legend – and he’s not so little anymore. He’s gone from being seriously underweight to me worrying he’ll be so big when he’s older he’ll need special clothes made for him…