April 14th, 2007 (09:27 am)
current mood: contemplative
Sixteen years ago today I was laying in a hospital bed feeling dazed and wondering why my new baby wouldn't go to sleep. After all, everyone knows newborns need a lot of sleep, don't they? Only it seemed someone had forgotten to tell mine.
I should've known he'd be an awkward one following the manner of his arrival into the world. 30 hours of labour. After 24 of them I was having contractions every 3 minutes lasting a minute but had almost no progress to show for it. It'll be a loooong time yet, they told me, but they could speed things up if they broke my waters, so I let them. Then I really knew the meaning of the word pain!
In fact soon I was delerious with the pain. I gulped Entonox as though it were oxygen and I was suffocating, pressing the mask against my nose so hard I had a bruise across the bridge for weeks. People came and went but they seemed a long way away and I didn't know or care who they were. I heard someone screaming and gradually realised it was me. I watched, amazed as a cupboard on the wall pulsated and grew bigger and smaller. I stared intently up at a spot on the ceiling and prayed, perhaps vaguely thinking that if there was a God, He was Up There, somewhere. "Please, if you're Up There just take me, right now!" I begged. I no longer cared what happened to me, but If He was there He was studiously ignoring me.
Someone must have suggested an epidural and I must have agreed. Eventually an anaesthetist came and set it up, with me hunched over a pillow trying desperately to keep still so it went in the right place. I never felt a thing when he put the needle into my back, and then it started to work. The pain vanished completely and the relief was indescribable; it was then that I began to cry. The midwife said, "You were so distressed!" and gently stroked my hair. I quickly fell asleep after twenty six hours of being awake.
Four hours later I woke up. I was examined and, to their surprise I was ready to have my baby. They got me sitting up a bit and told me when to push, because I was still totally numb from the waist down. I pushed as hard as I could, and the baby's heart beat slowed to almost nothing. I stopped pushing. It didn't change. I watched, detatched, as the midwife pressed a red button on the wall and doctors came running. Shortly afterwards they dragged the baby out using forceps. I stared, bemused, at his vaguely outraged expression and his little button nose and I thought the ordeal was over.
Eventually, stitched and washed I was wheeled up to a ward with my baby. I wanted nothing more than to sleep for about a year, but I had a baby to look after, and he had other ideas! He wouldn't settle. I think I had somehow imagined I would automatically know what to do, having been around babies all my life, but I didn't. I had to learn how to feed and care for him. It was hard work. I was battered and sore, I felt like I'd been hit by a truck.
That evening my baby had a bit of a rash. I took him down to SCBU for them to have a look at him. I sat in a little side room and cuddled him, waiting for a paediatrician to come and check him over. Someone came and asked me if I wanted a cup of coffee, but all I wanted in the whole world was a huge drink of water. That should've been my first clue. I wasn't even keen on water on it's own, but I drained it like I was dying of thirst, and then another. Someone came, looked at my baby's rash and proclaimed they didn't know what it was but they didn't believe it was anything to worry about.
I went back to the ward and for the first time he settled to sleep for a bit. By this time it was late. As I climbed into my bed the first of a wave of shivvers came over me. I lay there in the dark, thinking how stupid it was that they only give you one thin blanket. Later I realised that maternity hospitals are always tropical in temperature, to keep the babies warm; most of the time you don't even need that blanket. There was something wrong.
I slept fitfully, feeling cold when I was awake. I suppose I must have fed the baby at some point. In the morning when the ward came to life I lay there, feeling too miserable to move, my breakfast untouched. Then, obs began. They took my temperature, and it was fantastically high. I was ill. Probably the most ill I have ever felt in my life; I had what they used to call childbed fever. I was moved into a side room, on my own and soon was attatched to a drip, with fans blowing on me left and right. Later that day my baby was taken away, down to SCBU as his rash was worse and they needed to give him IV antibiotics in case he had the same as me. They would phone the ward when he wanted feeding and I'd have to go down three floors in the lift and walk ever so slowly down a long corridor to feed him. It felt like a slap in the face a fortnight later when my milk just dried up and I was forced to give him a bottle.
Ten days later I was allowed to take him home. I'd love to say it has all been plain sailing and life has been perfectly idyllic since then, but then life is never that straightforward! We've had our ups and downs, but if I had to go through that all again to have him in my life, I would, in a heartbeat. No-one has the power to break your heart like your children, but no-one has such power to make you happy either. He's a lovely young man, handsome, strong and charismatic. I'm so proud of him, but I can hardly believe he's that tiny newborn I used to hold on one arm.
Happy Birthday Matt! You may be taller than me, but you'll always be my baby.