A New Arrival – And What I Learnt

Well, a week has passed since the birth of our daughter and it’s gone in the blink of an eye! Sadly, due to a fever, mother and baby were kept in the postnatal ward of the hospital for five days after birth. So between the initial checkups, getting booked in, induction, labour, post-labour recovery and antibiotic treatments for mother and baby, there were nine hospital days in total. Everyone’s home now, and we’re trying to figure out feeding and sleep and life. But before I get on to any of those things, here’s what I learnt from our nine days:

  • Induction: It can take ages, there are several stages/attempt, any of which might or might not work. We went the whole course, ending with the drop feed of syntocinon. That one worked, which is just as well as it’d been three days by that point.
  • Hospital Bag: All of those things were needed. Just don’t expect to get any reading done. Also, definitely bring a pillow, those chairs are uncomfortable to sleep in.
  • TENS machines: They sound great! By the power of electricity, early labour pains will be lessened! It seems their effectiveness is anecdotal at absolute best. We made sure it was properly applied by the midwife, it was a well-recommended brandname product, and it did bugger all.
  • Hypnobirthing: Might have been more successful if started very much earlier. Contractions tend to take you out of your mindfulness.
  • Epidural: As it happened the birthing centre wasn’t an option for us anyway, the induction forestalled that. But as a birth partner let me tell you, the relief you feel when mum’s pain vanishes is beyond palpable. It’s like a tension leaving the room and everyone in it.
  • Hospital Food: Everyone jokes about how gross it is. It’s not a joke, it’s bland, disgusting, barely edible. It’ll do in a pinch if absolutely necessary, but be prepared to buy sandwiches, bring food from home, or order pizza. And yes, postnatal wards especially are generally willing to let you order food in, and it was such a godsend.
  • Wards vs Rooms: If you have a long postnatal stay, try and get a private room. Some hospitals have them on a first come, first served basis, some have private, paid-for options. But it’s going to make quite a difference. You’ll have someone checking in on mum and/or baby roughly every 20 minutes, and they don’t knock. Constant in and out, endless interruptions, no matter what state of undress or distress anyone is in. Now multiply that by four, for a typical post-natal ward, and add in everyone’s guests and partners. Nightmare.
  • Breastfeeding: It’s tough. So much tougher than all the NCT and antenatal classes really tell you. We struggle immensely and even with five days of midwives at our beck and call to help, we’ve still not cracked it.
  • Skin to skin: Forget the apparent benefits. It’s amazing. Why wouldn’t you want to do this all the time?!

There’s so much more, those days went by slowly at the time, but now hindsight has compressed that to a mere blink of an eye. And all the difficulties seem so diminished when I look at my daughter, whimpering in her sleep and making little hoglet sounds.

Hospital Bag for Dads

There are about a billion links for mums for what to pack in the hospital bags, from the sensibly succinct to the outrageously overblown. But dads will need a bag too, especially if you’re going to be at the hospital for a drawn out induction process as I am. Note that until she goes into labour, chances are you won’t be able to stay the night, but you’ll still need supplies. 

  • Toiletries – You’ll want to freshen up. Don’t forget shower gel and shampoo, it’s not provided
  • Towel – In case you want a shower during a longer stay, again not provided
  • Phone, charger and headphones
  • Comfortable overnight clothes
  • Sandals or flip-flops
  • Layers – It’ll be hot on the ward, but if you need to pop out for air or supplies, it’ll feel cold. 
  • Change of clothes for coming home
  • Entertainment, whether book, iPad or what-have-you
  • Pillow – Seriously the chairs for partners are really uncomfortable and hospital pillows are tissue thin
  • Coffee – Hospital tea is fine, hospital coffee is an abomination
  • Snacks – The hospital shop will be expensive, and food options are only for mum. None for you!

Obviously this list isn’t exhaustive. But after three days in hospital so far, that’s what’s been of use to me or what I had to go back for!

Baby Proofing Your Relationship – Part 1

This is a precarious subject to write for about, for a variety of reasons: 1) I’m no relationship expert, if there is such a thing, 2) If I ever claim to be an expert in relationships, I ought to be punched in the face, I’m an idiot, and 3) baby isn’t here yet. However, NCT do raise the topic of baby-proofing your relationship in their classes, but don’t really give any answers, so I’m going to give it a go, from a dad’s/husband’s/male co-habiting partner’s perspective. But, because I want a chance to laugh at myself and illustrate how wrong I was, I’ll write Part 2 after baby’s been here for a few weeks and I’ll let you know how I got on!

Communication

That’s got to be a pretty big one, right? If you don’t talk to each other, discuss your hopes and fears, your wishes for the birth and raising of your child, your aches and pains, anxieties and general state of mind, you’re pretty much sunk. Sure, it’s general advice for any relationship, and one I’ve disastrously failed to take in the past. But the need for it is amplified tenfold during the emotional time of pregnancy, and I can imagine hundredfold after your tiny human is with you. Make decisions together, air your fears and grievances. Tell her you love her and that she’s beautiful, not because she needs to hear it (though she does), but because it’s true and that truth will shine from you. Tell her you’re excited, what you’re looking forward to, speculate with her how your baby will look, act, develop, what foods it will like, whether it will get on with the dog or be academically gifted. Discuss your own childhoods, and what bits you thought were great, and which you as parents never want to inflict on your child.

Get Out

This is an important one during the pregnancy: Get out and do stuff. Go to the theatre, the cinema, go out for meals, meet people, go to galleries, see beautiful things, take walks along the river. It could be all too easy to stay inside with a tub of ice-cream and her favourite soap, but going out, doing things together, seeing new things or things that are beautiful and calming is good for all three of you. Despite what everyone tells you, life doesn’t end as soon as the pregnancy test shows positive.

Positivity

Speaking of ‘Positive’: Positivity is going to help. She feels massive, can’t see her feet, struggles to waddle down the street, Facebook and her friends will shower her with unhelpful anecdotes, and she’s about to try and push something the size and weight of a watermelon out of her vagina. If she can’t do that, they’ll cut it out of her, then expect her to figure out breastfeeding, then you have a small fragile human you now have sole responsibility for, for about 20 odd years. By the gods, don’t be a misery guts. Don’t add to the potential negativity, don’t ruminate about all the things that can go wrong, don’t scare her. Make sure you’re informed, sure, but don’t terrify her. Or yourself for that matter, you’re of no use to anyone as an anxious wreck. (No offence to anyone with actual anxiety). Be a beacon of light and positivity, in a maelstrom of uncertainty.

Get Involved

Seriously, don’t be that guy. Go to the NCT, Daisy or other antenatal classes. Read the books. Read the websites. Get the apps. Whenever you can go to the midwife meetings. Definitely go to the scans. Talk to other dads and don’t let them brush you off with embarrassed banalities. You’ll be able to help make informed decisions, you’ll feel part of the process rather than divorced from it, and you just don’t want to be that guy. You know the one I mean. That stereotype of the clueless dad, uninvolved, disinterested, baffled by the ‘womanswork’ going on around you. That guy that’s the reason so many mummy blogs and pregnancy books write articles extorting dads to maybe once in a blue moon maybe try helping out a little bit during pregnancy. Please. Don’t be him.

Preparation

Okay, you’re involved, you’ve ready the books, you’re supportive, open and positive. What else? Well, good news, there’s practical things you can do. Obviously there’s the dishes and general housework. But if you have a few favourite dishes you’re adept at making, make a ton of them and freeze them! Nobody will feel like cooking in those first days after you come home with baby, so having something you both love that you can make with zero effort is a win. Research! There are about 80,000 different baby products being released every half an hour, and the choices are bewildering. If you can help narrow the choices as to which pram┬áto buy, or what the benefits of different cribs, cots and moses baskets are, it will be a big help. Assemble the pram and the cot. If you’re going down that path, decorate the nursery. Pack your own bag for the hospital! (I’ll write a separate article for that). You can’t grow a child, and when it’s here you’ll likely not be able to help feed it for a while. But with a bit of prep, there are practical things you can do, to ease the way.

That’s it, that’s all I have for now. I hope it helps!