Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Me, Being Mummy: Week 1

TO SUM UP: AN EMOTIONAL ROLLERCOASTER

Hi Guys,

I promised in the last post to catch every one up on our progress, which is exactly what I shall aim to be doing every week as a little diary of being a Mummy.

Mummy. Ha! I'M A MUMMY!YAY!

As much as it would have been nice to lose myself in this wonderful fact all week, and do what other new mummy's do - y'know, such as soak up skin to skin contact with their new bundles of joy on a whim, begin feeding and nourishing them via bottle or breasts, changing their nappies and choosing cute little outfits to go home in - I spent my first week as a Mummy watching and waiting patiently for Teddy's soggy lungs to dry out and function independently through the aid of multiple beeping machines, drips, wires and various types of incubator and cot, all under the watchful eyes of the amazing team on the Trevor Mann Special Care Baby Unit. 

Soggy lungs are very common, especially with babies born before their full gestation period is up. Teddy came along at 35 weeks 4 days gestation, meaning he was 10 days shy of being classed as full term. 10 days doesn't seem a lot, but in a baby's time frame, it is a massive amount, each minute being very precious. He could have potentially had a full 7 weeks more in the safety of my womb, if it hadn't managed to spring a leak somehow and push forward his delivery from the stork. 

The week has flown by in some ways.... But felt agonisingly dragged out in others. The first half of it I was recovering from giving birth in hospital, and was on a ward with two other mothers. We were put into what I heard midwives attempting to whisper in reference to as 'The Prem Room'.... Sounded like a recreational site rather than a room full to the brim with a kind of sad and nervous tension. We kept our curtains drawn round our beds most of the time for privacy, mostly because one or all three of us were either crying, in pain, or trying to take the nurse's advice and rest up to be as emotionally and physically strong as possible for our babies upstairs. 

I've never stayed in hospital before. I have been in them a lot in a caring capacity, what with my Dad being poorly with various things throughout my life and then Paulibear needing attention at times to manage his heart condition. So I was familiar with being on a ward in a visiting capacity, but not as an actual patient. Part of me enjoyed having people around, especially the midwives and nurses who all came round regularly to do my blood pressure, temperature checks and to provide copious amounts of pain relief and Anusol (more on that later!). I am a chatty person, chatting helps me to feel comfortable and I am a people person. But naturally, I swung between needing time alone to process what was happening upstairs with Teddy, each hour sometimes bringing new developments and targets with them, and then there were times where I needed to chat in order to stop my emotions from running away with my sanity. Paulibear and I have always relied on our sense of humour and banter as a coping mechanism, and it was important to us to be able to vent off our nerves and worries by joking with the staff and making light of some of the scary things we were seeing. 

No doubt, upon first glance, the two parents standing beside an incubator laughing away with the staff and pissing about with the equipment whilst their little baby continuously had blood taken through a needle prick in his heel, a sore and cumbersome looking drip stuck in the hand, milk being syphoned off into his tummy through a tube in the nose and a rather pesky oxygen tube poked in his nostrils and taped across his cheeks..... well, you'd probably think 'How can they be so unaffected by this?? How can they be cracking jokes right now, at a time like this?'.  Especially when all the other parents were hunched over their little people, wearing anxious and worried expressions, concentrating on them getting better.

But, spend a little time and take a second glance and all would have become clearer. We may have been laughing, but we were there as far round the clock as possible, sometimes the only parents there when everyone had gone home for the night, holding a little hand or foot or feeding tube wherever and whenever we could. We didn't want to miss a thing, or have him feel we weren't nearby. For example, Paulibear went home one evening at 11pm, only to come back again at 1.30am to support me through our first ever breast feeding attempt. It was too soon for Baby Bear though, who struggled to gain the stamina to feed and actually went backwards in progress. Therefore an exhausted and emotional Mummy Bear gave in to tiredness at 4.30am and was urged to go back to the ward and rest by the nurses, whilst Daddy Bear stayed until Baby Bear finally settled and was stable again at almost 6am. Witness all that, as the nurses did, and we wouldn't seem unaffected or insensitive anymore. We laughed to stop ourselves from crumbling a lot of the time. 

That is how I know that the staff are absolutely brilliant. They never stopped us from being ourselves, or questioned our strategy. They made us feel welcome and kept us informed of everything they were doing, in a very gentle way. We were always well prepared and every small step they made was explained..... to the point where at times, we just had to make light of it. 

One night, after Baby Bear had YET AGAIN pulled his drip line out of his hand, a rather dashing male nurse - who incidentally looked like Richard Gere - arrived in our corner of the room and asked us 'Is it ok for me to just pop another drip into Teddy's hand?'. We both stepped aside and motioned him toward Baby Bear, before looking at one another and asking in unison 'Does anyone ever say no? Like.. No, don't help our baby thanks.' We both laughed at such a strange prospect.... before realising 'Richard Gere' was looking at us rather taken aback by our question and seemingly at a loss of quite what to say in answer or how to take the question. He mumbled a reply... something about checking everything with parents and how it is protocol... we assured him it was fine, that we weren't actually SAYING no, but just wondering if anyone out there had ever refused. Poor guy, he left looking pretty confused. 

The days ticked by, and the second half of the week became more proactive. I was discharged and allowed to go home. Part of me was happy to get back to my creature comforts... not to mention the comfort provided by two little furry feline creatures who had apparently been watching and waiting at the window ever since I had left home. But, leaving the hospital without Baby Bear was torturous. I left the ward lumpy throated, the tears were streaming by the time I was down 14 floors and out of the lift, then by the time we had reached the car I was racked with sobs. We drove home, me feeling both bereft and angry at the thought of our empty car seat in the back behind me, and our baby left up on a ward across town without us. 

Everywhere I looked were Mothers with their babies too! I looked in a window of a home when we stopped at some traffic lights, and a Mother was lifting her baby up in the air, a picture of happiness. Pushchairs and prams were being wheeled along every pavement and at one stage, we drove past a field and even the sodding sheep had their lambs with them! I wanted to punch someone, but all I could do was cry and take out my grief on poor Paulibear. He soon got me to get a grip of myself though, and put me to bed when we got home so I could sleep it all off. Raging hormones certainly didn't help things either. 

It made me realise how much Paulibear had been through in the week himself... after all, he had needed to trudge home each night without both of us being with him. Not to mention he had been a walking, talking suitcase, ferrying clothes and snacks and necessities up to the wards for us, on top of maintaining things at home and keeping all our friends and families updated. He did so well, that Bear of mine. I witnessed men on the ward who wouldn't even help their ladies out of bed when they needed help.... mine helped me off of the loo at one point!! Lucky doesn't even come close to how I feel.... nor does cherished. 

Two days on and we were on a roll. Teddy was shedding his drips and wires like a caterpillar would its cocoon, and by Sunday, our Baby Bear butterfly showed off his true colours in the guise of chubby cheeks, a button nose and cupids bow lips all sticky tape free, with the last tube (the one that was down his nose and used for feeding) being taken out after managing to consistently breastfeed off of me over the course of 24 hours solid. The joy and relief we felt was amazing.... not to mention feeding and changing him became considerably less tricky!

The hospital had put us up for the night on Saturday in a 'flat' on the ward, aka an ensuite room with a double bed and TV, where the three of us could get acclimatised to each other, try out feeds in the night and almost have a dummy run of parenthood. It was lovely to finally all be together in our own space, plus we felt that bit nearer to home...

And rightly so, because we were all finally allowed to go home together as a complete family unit, early on Sunday evening. We packed up all our things, hugged and waved the nurses goodbye before tentatively making our way to the car. I managed to get in a bit of a frantic state, leaving my phone behind in the 'flat' and not realising until we were all the way down in the lift. You would have thought I had lost my arm! I had to rush all the way back, panicking it had been taken and lost for good. I found it on the window sill of the flat, under a muslin blanket. Baby brain!! 

Looking back, I realise I was actually nervous about leaving the hospital. We have witnessed Baby Bear going through something pretty harrowing, and seeing your baby struggling to breathe leaves you a bit daunted. If we felt uncertain about anything or lacking in know how, we had the best 'babysitters' on hand to help guide us through and step in if there was anything to worry about. Now.... all of a sudden, we were on our own.

But hey, thinking about it, that's just parenthood. And we are fledgling parents, finding out how to rear this little being who we know nothing yet everything about. Everyone gets chucked in at the deep end of the pool and all you can do is your best. We've been home a couple of days and are learning new things all the time! More on how we're doing next time.... hopefully we shall still be swimming in the deep end! Well... More like doggy paddling really...

Additional information and findings from this week:

- Having a partner who can make you laugh your maternity padded pants off is a great way to survive the hormonal surges after giving birth..... however, not ideal when your womb is contracting back down from your ribcage to back inside your pelvis. I count my lucky stars that I didn't have a c-section!
- Making trained professionals laugh whilst they work to save your baby's life is at times risky, especially when they are trying to hang up drip feeds and extract blood samples. 
- Also, making trained professionals cry is an equally ungratifying experience. Upon being asked how I was dealing with being separated from Baby Bear by one of the hospital midwives, I sited the 'Baby Mine' scene from Dumbo, where Mrs Jumbo is chained in a cell and has a brief moment with Dumbo through the bars before he has to be taken from her, in order to illustrate how I felt. Cue tears and a hug from the midwife before being moved to a room of my own to protect me from other Mum's in 'The Prem Room' getting their babies back. That was a pretty tough day!
- Going for a number 2 for the first time after giving birth is a nerve racking experience. Take a phone with you, so you can read messages and fb to help distract you from the fact that you are using the same muscles that pushed out a person to help relieve your bowels. After pushing out a baby, the idea of pushing anything else out seems a foolish thing to do. But you do get over it, obviously!
- After almost 9 months of being period free.... your womb comes fighting back after birth! Bring on 5-6 weeks of hemorrhaging on top of night feeds and new parenthood. Mother nature is so kind!
- My feet were so swollen at times that Paulibear referred to them as putty. I wore flip flops the entire week.
- The piles hit their peak after birth! It was painful to sit down at Baby Bear's bedside on hard chairs but I couldn't imagine them wheeling up my bed to the unit for the week's duration, so I just tried to remember to take a pillow with me wherever I went. Not to mention the aptly named 'Anusol' ointment did the trick after a few days and everything shrank back to normal. Who the hell called it that anyway??? How to flag up exactly what is wrong with a person by labelling where the stuff goes on the front of the bloody packaging?! Hmmm.... could this possibly need to be applied to the anus? Funnily enough, I didn't require the instruction booklet, it was all pretty self explanatory.
- My tummy now resembles a semi inflated whoopie cushion. 
- Hospital food is the pits. Apart from the sponge and custard, that was pretty good actually. But then again, something warm and filling that you haven't had to cook when in a vulnerable state is always welcome, and I loved the ladies who came round with little menus taking orders every day. 
- The view of Brighton at night from Level 14 of the hospital tower is spectacular. And on the occasions that Paul was allowed to sleep over with me, it was oddly romantic to sit and share a Subway foot long for dinner, looking at the twinkling lights of the city beneath us. 
-Getting up every 3 hours to express your milk when you don't even have your baby with you takes a lot of commitment.... especially when you can hear other babies squawking for milk from their Mummies on the other side of the ward. Am considering Olympic training for my next act!
- As hard as the week has been, we have a lot of positives that have sprung from it. We met some amazing people, having our perspectives changed by witnessing how lucky we were to have our baby back home within a week when there are some poor parents starting their 10th week of care in the unit. We were eased gently into parenthood with the support of the staff, gaining tips and knowledge from them that no baby books could have provided. I managed to get more sleep than most first time mums do in their first week. And most importantly, we stayed strong and came through it as a family, together. 







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