I’ve been meaning to write a bit about #mumlife #parenting #babbies #othersuchhashtags.
When I was a pregbot, I eagerly read around (floozy!) for recommendations. What things do I need to have straight away? What should I take to the hospital? What other things should I get that I don’t even know that I need yet? How many baby clothes should I have already? What pram? Should I get a baby carrier? Should I read any books? Oh my dog there are so many books and so much advice I feel like I’m drowning under the pressure to learn about babies (and not be a ditz) AND therefore to consume the reams of information that are out there!
So here’s my post(s) about all that.
I took everything. Everything that was on any “recommended” list. We had bags of stuff.
The things I used: PJs, robe, bed socks, change of clothes, nice shampoo/body wash, maternity pads, snacks, sports drinks, iPhone, baby clothes, blankets and nappies.
The things I did not use: everything else. (A paper fan? Um, no. A water spray bottle? Um, no.)
How I would do it differently next time: I will be taking more food. I was so hungry. It was okay during the day, because my slave (partner) ran downstairs and bought me things. But at night time, I was super hungry! Muesli bars, jelly, cheese/cracker snacks, chips, cookies, fruit… I don’t know what exactly, but next time I’m going to take more.
One more word on the hospital experience, regarding pain: If you want no pain, ask for an epidural straight away. I was holding out for “the pain to get worse” before I asked, and (paraphrased) my partner told me: “Don’t be a dumbass, you are going nuts from the pain right now. You need it now.” And then we asked for an epidural and they said “OK, it might be an hour before someone can do that.” And just before I almost went nuts, they reappeared and said “You’re in luck, there was someone nearby, they can do it now.”
One more word on the hospital experience, regarding babies: If you have a boy, point the penis downwards when you put the nappy on. Nobody told us this, and we were going through so many baby clothes… until my mum arrived and saw what was happening (#thanksmum).
One more word on the hospital experience, in general: It seems like everyone gets a story. It’s a pretty big deal, having a baby, and you’re very vulnerable and emotional during this time. Some people get a story from a stressful birth, things not going according to plan, or from completely crushed and destroyed expectations. Some people get a story from any procedures that need to be done, like caesarian surgery. Some get a story from the after-care, when maybe they are in the hospital and just want to be at home, or from having conflict with the hospital staff, or from sharing a room with other people they don’t like.
Me? I had two stories, one from the birth and one from after-care. During the birth, staff were concerned our baby was stressed out. There were two times during labour when the room filled up with people – lots of people – who all came in, suddenly, and went about running a test to check if the baby was actually OK. I didn’t mind though, I felt pretty comfortable knowing they were checking the baby and that they knew how to do their jobs.
After the birth, though, that’s my bad story. I was mostly lying down in the hospital bed, but I had to sit up to feed the baby. I found this so painful. I thought that everyone who gave birth must feel that way, so I thought it was normal. I also thought that maybe I was holding the baby incorrectly, and so I was causing the pain myself. When the staff came around to check on me, I told them about it – a searing cross of pain, between my shoulder blades – and they reacted as though it was normal, and gave me paracetamol.
When they showed us how to wash the baby, in another room, I walked down the corridor, incredibly slowly, almost doubled over. I couldn’t stand up in the baby wash room, and watched the lesson while sitting down.
It wasn’t until we got home that we started realising that something was really wrong. I couldn’t stand up. I was in constant pain. The only place where I felt no pain was in the bath, submerged, floating in the water. Two days after getting home, we had the regular, scheduled midwife visit. They come to check how you’re going, check the baby, and check the home environment. I was lying down on the lounge room floor, and we told her that I couldn’t get up. She wasn’t fazed. She said, “If you want, you could go to the GP or to Emergency.”
I was helpless, hopeless, in pain, not coping. I burst into tears when my mum came to visit. My parents knew it wasn’t normal, did an internet search on my symptoms, and said they thought it was a bad case of a post-dural-puncture headache, which is a possible side-effect of having an epidural. I went to the GP, puking in the car on the way, and she prescribed valium and painkillers.
By the next day, nothing had improved, and we were all thinking that it was definitely a PDPH. The internet suggested two cures: 1) You get a second epidural, a “blood patch.” 2) It had been reported that in some cases, high doses of caffeine could fix it. We went back to the GP and she said, yeah, it was time to go to Emergency.
We went to emergency. They booked me in for a “blood patch” the next day, and in the meanwhile, they went looking for caffeine tablets – their on-site pharmacy was out of the stuff. I was horrified/terrified at spending a night in hospital, alone with the baby – I needed support, I could hardly go to the bathroom or pick up the baby. Someone came around Emergency, offering everyone tea, coffee and sandwiches. I figured: I might as well try some coffee, seeing as the hospital staff can’t find any caffeine tablets. I drank a cup of coffee.
An hour later, I could walk again. My pain was down 50%. I couldn’t believe it. The hospital staff came back; they’d sourced caffeine tablets from somewhere else; they gave me a huge dose of caffeine.
That night was awful – I was utterly sleep-deprived and utterly wired from caffeine. I was trembling, and didn’t feel safe holding the baby. But… the pain was gone. I could stand up and walk again. When I got home, we started from scratch – we pretended that I had just come home from the hospital, and this was our first day at home together.
Just gotta say a quick somethin’ somethin’ about this. Almost every gift we received was baby clothing. This was really sweet and thoughtful and lovely of course; I don’t want to be awful or ungrateful; but we had so much newborn clothing, too much for our baby, and also, seeing as I’m a “MY KID WEARS PINK AND GOLD AND FLUORO ORANGE!” kind of person (aka: Terrible Parent), most of the clothing wasn’t something that I would have purchased.
To people buying a gift for a new baby: a favourite childhood book, a little toy, a gift card for a store (baby clothing can be so pricy!) so that the parent can gloriously! and very, very gratefully! buy some clothing for their child that they would really like.
To #newmums: don’t be afraid to put things aside that don’t gel with you. It wasn’t until much later that I got the nerve to do this, and started choosing clothes for my kid myself. And started giving some of those other clothes away to people who would truly appreciate them.