Tag: Newborn

6 weeks in (well, almost…)

Well Baby Flat is almost 6 weeks old and I can’t believe how much life has changed! He seems to be doing really well, considering his terrifying entry into this world.

I’m afraid this post and future posts will probably be full of clichés.  I sort of hate myself a little for coming out with all the “I can’t remember life before him” lines (for the record, I most definitely can, but I’ve found that people don’t appreciate it when they say “I bet you can’t remember life before him?” and you respond “Yes, I can.  It was only 6 weeks ago”).  What I will say, is that my “old life” of only 6 weeks ago seems like a distant memory.

So yes, as the cliché goes, having a baby has changed my life and I will never be the same person again.

Firstly, with regard to my career, I have always been incredibly ambitious and hard working.  I wanted to make something of myself and never have to rely on a partner, my parents or the state.  I wanted to be one of the best people in my chosen field.

Now I think back only a few weeks to the 5:30am starts and 3+ hour commutes.  To working all the hours under the sun to prove myself to an employer, who then turned around and reduced my pay and denied me a bonus simply because I made the error of falling pregnant. I now realise that none of that matters in quite the same way any more.  My priorities have changed.  I will go back to the awful employer, simply because I cannot lose my maternity pay (I have to pay back the enhanced part, being 3 months’ full salary, if I hand in my notice within 6 months of returning) and also because I want to stay “in the game” so that later down the line I don’t have to start from the bottom again. Ultimately though, if they sack me and I am left jobless, it certainly won’t be the end of the world.  I could stay at home with Baby Flat and spend my days doing activities to help his development.  After all, because of the ridiculously high childcare costs in this country, along with my expensive commute, I will almost be paying to go back to work!!!  (More accurately, the amount I earn per day will cover almost pound for pound the daily cost of childcare and my commute, but I will also slowly be paying off my student loan and will be paying into my pension, so while I will have no take home pay I will be paying off my debts and will be saving towards my pension.)

Secondly, with regard to my body, I am much more forgiving of myself.  Over the course of TTC and my pregnancy I gained around 5 and a half stone (75lbs to be precise).  Since having Baby Flat I have lost 2 stone to date (28lbs), but my body is still horrific.  Not only do I have a long way to go on the weight-loss front, but my body is covered in stretch marks.  They are awful.  I have them on my tummy, my love handles and then really badly on my legs.  They seemed to only appear in the last week or so of pregnancy, and the ones on my boobs only appeared post-pregnancy as my boobs got swollen with the breast milk! On top of that, I still have very bad bruising from the difficult c section (although the bruising will eventually go).

It is the weight gain that really bothers me.  In my teens I had a range of eating disorders and it took me years to get to some version of healthy.  Even when I was healthy (the weight I was pre-TTC) I felt heavy and really did not like my body.  When I gained weight when we were trying, unsuccessfully, to have a baby I felt particularly low about my body.  Then when I finally fell pregnant I worried about how rapidly I gained weight.  Throughout that time though, I told myself that I could sort it out once Baby Flat arrived and I could start working out again.  Then of course the awful birth happened and I was advised to do no exercise for a minimum of 12 weeks, which means I cannot start doing proper exercise until January 2017.  I feel very low about my weight, but I remind myself on a daily basis that I would rather be in this position than the position I was in a year ago.  A year ago I would have happily gained 10 stone to be able to have a healthy baby!

What annoys me though, is I “check myself” all the time and remind myself how lucky I am.  Every time I feel down, I remember that there are women out there with bodies as battered and scarred and swollen as mine, but who never got to take their babies home.  I try to be good at forgiving myself and being kind to myself about the way I look, as I have just been through a huge ordeal physically and emotionally.

Then someone feels the need to say something and make me feel like I shouldn’t feel this way and that focusing on my body should be my priority right now, instead of taking care of Baby Flat.  Just this weekend I was at a party and someone felt the need to comment, and it has made me feel much worse about my body (again) and also really angry that society values post-baby weight loss so strongly.  (As an aside, it angers me that weight is what we judge and value women on and not their kindness, intelligence, ambition etc.)

To cut a very dull long story short, I arrived at a party with my cousin (“E”) who had given birth two weeks after me.  She is naturally extremely skinny, to the point where people who don’t know her assume she is ill.  During her pregnancies she gained almost no weight, and the doctors were worried about the health of her babies due to how skinny she remained.  Since giving birth she has (rightly) done no exercise at all, but is already back to her (incredibly low) pre-pregnancy weight.  When we turned up, this woman (who knows the trouble we had getting pregnant and how traumatic my labour was) made a point of gushing about how “amazing” E looked and how she was “so slim already”.  She then looked me up and down and walked off.  I just felt so awful about myself as I stood next to E, wearing a frumpy maternity dress and weighing double what E weighs.  Since I’ve gained so much weight I haven’t wanted to be seen in public, but I have made it out on two occasions post-birth for parties of people who are extremely important to me.  Both times I have felt incredibly self-conscious, so incidents like this make me feel even worse about myself and make me not want to leave the house!

Anyway, this lady had clearly seen my face drop when she said this as she later came over and gave me a pep talk about how I could be back in my jeans by Christmas (yeh – maybe I’ll be back in my maternity jeans by then!).  She kept saying “Don’t worry, I know you’re breastfeeding so the weight will drop off” (erm, I never said I’m worried.  I never even mentioned my weight to you.  Also, it’s been almost 6 weeks of breastfeeding and no it hasn’t.  Plus, I don’t think breastfeeding makes you lose 75lbs!!!).  She then started saying about how “with a bit of exercise you’ll be back to a size 10 by Christmas” (erm, as you know, I sustained injuries during the labour which mean I cannot exercise until January at the earliest).  She clearly thought that everything I said was just an excuse.

The whole thing has made me incredibly angry. Since Baby Flat was born, I have spent almost all day every day doing things for him.  If I am not playing with him (and yes, it’s limited what you can do with a newborn!) I am feeding him, changing his nappy, expressing, sterilising bottles, soothing him when he cries, doing tummy time, dealing with baby admin (registering births/looking at nurseries/trying to get information on bank accounts for children) etc.  In the few minutes I get to myself, I’m grateful if I can brush my teeth and have a shower! Not to mention there are so many non-baby chores, especially with Christmas coming up.  I wouldn’t change any of this for the world and I am really enjoying it so, even if I were medically fit to exercise right now, prioritising my body at the moment would mean sacrificing one or more of the many things I need to do for Baby Flat.  While he’s so small, I just don’t want to dump him in a crèche for an hour or so while I go to the gym (ignoring the fact I can’t drive until January 2017 so can’t even make it to the gym!).  In due course, when both he and I are ready, then I can’t wait to get back into exercise.

It just makes me so sad that we live in a society where people value how much weight you lose more than whether you are a good mum (or daughter or friend etc).

Anyway, as I said at the start of my post, I feel very differently about a lot of things.  My priorities have changed dramatically.  It still takes a little bit of getting used to though! I am loving motherhood and have even enjoyed the monotonous activities (baby laundry for one!) much more than I thought I would.   When you haven’t fallen pregnant easily, I think you appreciate the little things more and don’t worry about the stupid, small things in quite the same way.

I’m still finding my feet though.  I have good days when Baby Flat is happy and everything gets done and I feel on top of the world.  Then I have bad days when he’s hungry 24/7 and doing 15 nappies (no lie) and I can’t catch 5 minutes to even go to the loo, and then I feel like I’m not really cut out for it all.  I’m sure many other people feel this way though!

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Welcome to the world Baby Flat

I am pleased to say that Baby Flat arrived on 12th October, weighing 9lbs.  Both he and I are doing very well, despite a pretty scary labour.

To keep the dramatics down, I’ll say from the start that we are both perfectly fine now, which is the main thing.  If you’re pregnant and giving birth anytime soon though, maybe don’t read this until after you have safely delivered! I know how much I hated all the scare stories that people just LOVE to tell pregnant women.

I wrote in my last post about my concerns about Baby Flat being a large baby.  I wasn’t too concerned about the birth if he came on or before his due date, but I was worried about his size should he be born around 42 weeks and the associated risks of having a large (i.e. above 10/11lbs) baby.

On 11th October, at 39 weeks, we had a follow up scan and appointment with the consultant.  The scan showed Baby Flat to be 8lbs 13oz, so on the big size but hardly massive.  At the consultation the doctor suggested that we look to be induced at some point that week, so that I could hopefully have a natural birth and avoid needing a c section.  We assumed that meant going in around 40 weeks, but when she called the hospital they suggested that we go in that day!  Suddenly it was all systems go!

Around 4:30pm I arrived at the hospital and got settled in my room.  Thankfully it was a really quiet night, so I had the calm of being totally alone and not having screaming women everywhere.  I think having screaming, labouring women next door would have freaked me out a little bit!

After explaining the induction procedure, I was given the first pessary and was told that there was a high chance it wouldn’t do much very quickly and that I’d probably be given a second pessary six hours later.  I told BT to go home (approx 45 mins away) as there was no point him hanging around all night and it would be more helpful if he got a decent night’s sleep.  (Truth be told, I also wanted him to keep the cats company and make sure they were fed properly as they can get a bit silly if we just leave the ‘Cat Mate’ out for them.  I won’t write too much about this though, as I’ll just sound like a crazy cat lady!)

I was given the first induction pessary around 7/8pm and we made plans for BT to come back to the hospital around 7am the next morning, unless I contacted him before then.  I settled down, hoping to get a bit of sleep to prepare me for the next day.  It quickly became apparent that wouldn’t happen, as they needed to check on me and run some tests every two hours.  It also turns out that I am super responsive to the pessary and started full on contractions within three hours.  Ouch.  I had no idea what to expect, but those contractions were not fun at all.  They were particularly rapid, with a new contraction starting within a minute of the last one ending.  By about four hours in, it was completely unbearable.  I sent BT a text and asked him to come back and an anaesthetist was called to give me an epidural.  I was given gas and air, which I HATED (memories of drunk nights out as a student?!), and some other pain relief, as well as having a warm, relaxing lavender bath.  Unfortunately something caused me to start vomiting, which was particularly unpleasant as I hadn’t eaten for 12 hours so was just vomiting bile (sorry for the TMI).

I don’t think I have ever been so relieved to see BT as when he arrived back at the hospital in the early hours of the morning! Just as he arrived, the anaesthetist (“A”) also rocked up.  It was a little surreal, as BT (who does a medical job – I won’t say specifically what) and the anaesthetist regularly work together.  It was a little odd to hear “Oh hi A, how are you? Haven’t seen you in a while” as A is preparing a massive needle to stick into my back and I’m bent over a bed either whimpering or unable to breathe! Oh the glamour of being in, or working in, a hospital!

Unfortunately for A, the epidural was hardly a slick operation.  As my contractions were so frequent, he really struggled to get the needle into the right place so there were lots of failed attempts.  In the end, it took just under an hour and a half from him turning up to him actually getting the needle in the right place! I felt so sorry for him, and he was later joking that it’s typical that the one epidural that goes so badly wrong was done on a colleague’s wife.  Poor man! At least I understand that nothing is ever straightforward when it comes to medicine.

Once the epidural took effect, the pain was much more manageable.  It was more discomfort than actual pain.  It was also not very pleasant being made to stay lying down and be strapped to the monitors (by this point I’d had the catheter put in.  Fun!).

As the contractions had come on so quickly and strongly, and I started dilating very quickly, it was decided that I did not need the second pessary.  At some point, and I can’t remember when, I was put on the induction drip.  Again,  I am not sure of the exact timings, but by early morning I was 8cm dilated and so it was decided that the dosage would be increased gradually every four hours and that they would just keep monitoring me regularly.

We should have known that things would go wrong when the following comments were made (amongst others):

“You’re the most straightforward patient on this ward”.

“The trace is absolutely textbook.  It’s perfect”.

“You’re responding so well, the baby will be out by lunchtime”.

Cr@p.  Those were definite warning signs that things wouldn’t be easy!

After around 12 hours of being on the drip, I had only increased to 9cm dilated.  The midwives thought that upping the dosage in the drip would push things enough that I would be able to start pushing, but as they were already at the maximum amount that they were allowed to give, they needed to wait for a doctor to agree to give a higher dosage.  When the doctor came, she felt that it would not work, as I had already had over 12 hours of being on the drip and had only dilated an extra 1cm in that time. As such, she recommended an emergency c section.

On hearing that I would need an EMCS I became quite upset.  Firstly, this was exactly what I had wanted to avoid when we asked about having an elective C section, as I know that (as a sweeping generalisation) the safest methods of delivery are: 1) natural (when there are no risk factors at all, including being a large baby); 2) ELCS; and 3) EMCS.  I knew that the most dangerous births are the ones where the mum had been in labour and then an EMCS was needed.  Secondly, at this point I had been in labour for 24 hours (not established labour, but it had been 24 hours since I’d first had the pessary).  I was exhausted from the whole thing, hadn’t eaten in forever and was actually quite looking forward to the pushing part and having Baby Flat come out that way.  I know that sounds a little odd, but after the hell of the contractions I just wanted to be able to do that final part and have that experience!

I was quickly prepped and consented and wheeled off to have the c section.  In another bizarre twist, the new anaesthetist (“J”) was actually our ex next door neighbour! Again, so strange.

From the very start, the c section did not go to plan.  I instantly felt extremely unwell to the point where I was almost passing out.  I was vomiting and had trouble focussing and could hear a weird sort of white noise amongst the talking.  I also instinctively felt that the operation wasn’t straightforward as I had been told that it would take about 10 minutes for Baby Flat to come out and then around 40 minutes for the stitches to be done.  Although I had lost track of time, I knew that things had been going on much longer than 10 minutes.  I could also feel that I was being tugged and stretched aggressively in lots of directions, even though I didn’t feel any physical pain.

Although I didn’t know it at the time, it turns out that Baby Flat had made a good start on his journey out the natural way and he had also got into a very awkward position with his head pushed back (whatever that means).  As such, the poor surgeon really had to batter me to get Baby Flat out and ultimately had to take him out an unusual way (I think he said Baby Flat came out feet first and head last, but in all honesty I can’t remember everything I was told later that evening).  Throughout this, I lost a lot of blood and there was talk of giving me a blood transfusion (they didn’t), which explains why I felt so out of it.

Unfortunately, once Baby Flat came out, he was not breathing.  I wasn’t really aware of what was going on from the start, but after a while I realised something wasn’t quite right.  I kept asking BT and J what was going on, and they both tried to reassure me.

It turns out that things were much worse than I realised.  After five minutes, Baby Flat still wasn’t breathing and BT heard the surgeon say “Put out a crash call”.  We have obviously spoken about the birth since, and poor BT said that hearing those words was the worst moment of his life.  Due to the job he does, he knew exactly what that meant and in his head he was starting to really panic.  Although he didn’t show his panic at all to me, a few days later he got quite upset and admitted that he genuinely thought that we had lost our son and in his head he was thinking “How the hell do I tell Flat that our Baby didn’t make it?”.  I just feel sick thinking about what could have happened, and I feel so awful for poor BT having to try and keep a calm presence so as not to worry me.  I am not sure I would have been that strong.

Thankfully Baby Flat did start breathing and very soon we heard his first cry.  There are just no words to sum up the feeling of hearing that and knowing that he was ok.  BT even started crying (probably a mixture of joy, terror, relief…everything!) which felt very strange as he is a British Man so never cries at anything!

I don’t think either of us will forget what happened and we will never, ever stop being so incredibly grateful that Baby Flat is alive and well.  My body looks like a total horror show (11 days on I still have bruising covering the whole of my tummy and up to my ribs), I struggle to move about from the pain and I have been banned from doing anything remotely strenuous, or driving, for 12 weeks…but I just could not care less.

Since getting home just over a week ago, things have been going really well.  I felt quite wretched in the first few days.  Partly due to the physical assault on my body and all the drugs in my system, but also partly due to the way the birth happened.  For all that I am grateful that he is ok now, and that really IS the main thing, I feel very sad that I couldn’t hold him for several hours after he was born because I was just so out of it and weak.  I couldn’t even raise my arms up and I couldn’t focus enough to see him.  Also, I can’t really remember the first time I DID hold hold him (certainly not in any detail) or the first breastfeed (I am told that the Registrar came and put him on me and helped him to latch on).  I know that there was nothing I could have done, but I still feel a lot of Mother’s Guilt for not being there for him in those first few hours.

Anyway, we are now settled back home and Baby Flat seems to be doing much better.  It’s amazing how quickly he changes and every day he becomes more alert and aware of his surroundings.

To say that I am completely in love as an understatement!