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!

Inducing a surprise

Eight days to go, that’s what we were telling ourselves. That’s what the calendar said and the midwife said and the doctor said. Our little lady though, she decided that the last days were going to go differently. We had a question around her reduced movement this morning, for which we went to the hospital for a check. Which is always okay to do, and you’ll never be made to feel bad for doing. They then recommended a scan, which was largely, mostly okay. But between all the points of mild concern, and the fact that we were almost at 39 weeks, the recommendation came down: Is it time to induce?

To be fair it was a question, a recommendation, but nothing was forced. But the signs were there, the bag was packed, it was time. It meant that I’ve been robbed of my movie trope: There has been no dramatic breaking of waters, apparently instantly leading to contractions, followed by a hilarious drive to the hospital and a dramatic entry into the maternity ward. Instead it was all calm, we were already there, and now it’s just waiting. Waiting to see if the different stages of induction take, and in what timeframe. It’s now a question of either hours or days.

Sadly until my partner enters labour, I can’t stay overnight. I have to go home and fret and text people. I have to not worry too much, and prepare the house and the dog and myself for what could be coming at any moment.

The phone’s on loud, and I’m poised and ready. I doubt I’ll sleep much tonight. Our baby is due to arrive any hour or day now. And I can’t wait.

BCG Vaccine Shortage

Whether you ask for the advice or not, all medical professionals will advise you to get the BCG vaccination for your newborn baby in the hospital before you leave. This is for a few reasons:

  1. It’s less traumatic for everyone involved to do this straight away, rather than making a separate doctor’s appointment
  2. There’s UK-wide shortage of the BCG vaccine.

This means that while it’s sometimes tricky in the hospital, the odds are reasonable that they’ll have enough of the vaccine on hand for newborn babies. If you leave without getting it done, it means a reasonably long waiting list for the GP to get some more in, never mind the length of time it may take to get an appointment in the first place.

I know baby will likely be at home for the first weeks anyway, and the odds of encountering TB is largely small, but it’s better to be safe than sorry, herd immunity is still important, and you don’t want to fall into the risk of letting it slip by the wayside…