Michael in full scrubs is something I’ll never forget. It was hilarious. I’d just managed to scrape my hair into a messy bun and had my maternity nightie hitched up. And that was that. I was wheeled out of the room I’d spent the last 17 hours in and into this bright, clean, shiny looking theatre. The anaesthetist, Dr Medy then administered more anaesthetic into my already blocked spine to ensure I was completely numb rather than just the pins and needles feeling I’d had before. I was then lifted up onto the table and a crowd of people surrounded me. Around 8 I think. They were all chatting amongst themselves like a real life water cooler moment, but I guess to them it was just another day at the office. Dr Psy then got everyone’s attention and the next few minutes really put me at ease. ‘Good afternoon everyone and good afternoon to Stephanie’. ‘Stephanie, Steph – which do you prefer?’ he asked. I said I didn’t mind, Steph is fine. He then got everyone in the room to introduce themselves to me and tell me what part they were going to play. There was Dr Psy, doing the actual operation, Dr Medy the anaesthetist who stood by my head the whole time, there were two midwifes, Anna and another, another Doctor (I assume in case the main doc croaked?) and three theatre staff. One of the theatre staff introduced himself and I had to do a double take. He looked about 11. I asked him if he was on work experience and he laughed and said he got that a lot. He was in fact a 25 year old junior doctor but Christ, what a baby face! Once the introductions were done Dr Psy’s exact words to me were ‘so happy with everything? Let’s get this baby out! Wooooo’ and everyone started clapping. It was like a rally. So weird but so comforting. It was 12:31 and I heard him say to one of the theatre staff ’12:31 – first incision’. Michael was there at my head gagging to have a look over the screen but he resisted, for now. He kept asking if I was ok, which I was and Dr Medy kept telling me to let him know if I start to feel anything. I was like, ‘mate, you’re colleague is hacking away at my womb with a scalpel. If I feel anything, you’ll be the first to know – trust me.’
The next few minutes were quiet. Dr Psy was obviously concentrating and then I felt movement in my bump. Much more movement that I had felt with the kicking. It was more like my stomach was a shopping bag and someone was going through it. The next few minutes seemed to take longer than the documented 5 minutes they actually took so I decided to count the ceiling tiles. I got to 27 and then at I heard my boy cry. It was 12:36 on 1st May 2017 and time stood still. They lifted him over the screen to see me and then ushered him off for his 1 and 2 minute checks. I watched him the whole time and then Anna wrapped him up and brought him over to us. She placed him on my chest and told me he was 7lbs 4oz and that he was perfect. Michael then had a cuddle and then he passed him back to me. I couldn’t believe he was finally here. The whole affair was so overwhelming I couldn’t stop crying. Dr Psy then told me they have removed my placenta and other gubbins (his words, not mine) and they’d begin stitching imminently. Anna then took him off me to do his 5 minute check which again was fine so she placed him back on my chest.
It took about 20 minutes to stitch me up completely. Michael finally got a glance at my insides and went on to tell me that my large intestine wasn’t how he’d imagined it would look. After about 10 minutes I came over really sick. I told Dr Medy who said it’s a common side effect of the anaesthetic so I quickly gave the baby to Michael and vommed in one of those little cardboard hats they give you in hospital. I asked Michael to keep him for a minute as I wasn’t sure I was done and the last thing I wanted to do was to vom on my 12 minute old son. It was shortly after this that my stomach started to sting. I wouldn’t say it was painful as such but it was a feeling and I wasn’t sure I should be having a feeling. I told Dr Medy and his response of ‘I did see your toes move a second ago. It may be wearing off but there’s no point in administering more now, they’re almost done’ was obvs the least comforting sentence of all time. He was right though, they did finish pretty livo.
By 1pm I was signed, sealed and ready to go. I was moved back on to the trolley, modesty hidden and some of the tubes and needles were removed. I had to have the baby on my lap for the journey to the post-natal suite which was a bit like a little fairground ride. As I was being pushed around the corridors I was like ‘hey guys, this is my new son, what do we think?’ In my head obvs. I’m not a nutcase. What happened next was really strange. We got into the post-natal suite and my eyes just closed. It was like they were being glued together. The baby was still on my chest and I remember hearing people talking to me but I couldn’t physically open my eyes. This was tiredness like I’d never known. Michael then took the baby from me and said to for me to sleep. One of the midwives (not one of my lovely ones form earlier) said ‘you have to keep her awake, she has to start feeding and do skin-to-skin’ If I’d had the energy I’d have told her to eff off. It’s 1:15 on Monday afternoon. I’ve been awake and linked up to umpteen machines for 36 hours you opinionated twat. I thought new mums were meant to be supported and not made to feel inadequate within the first 45 minutes! But as I looked back and saw Michael with his top off and making up a bottle I knew he had this covered. I just needed half an hour to recharge my batteries, ready to be a Mum. I obviously went out like a light and Michael put a nappy on him, put him in a lovely clean outfit and was giving lots of cuddles and bottles. About an hour later I awoke. I saw what Michael had done in my absence (without any prompting or guidance) and I just burst into tears. What sort of mum sleeps through the first hour of their sons life?! He tried to calm me down by saying look what you’ve just been through, you deserve a quick hours shut eye but I didn’t care. What was wrong with me? Most people would be so ecstatic and so overwhelmed that sleeping would be the last thing they’d need but not me. I was so upset. I felt like a real life failure. I wasn’t a fan of the woman I was with at this point so when they said it was time for me to be moved to my private room I was pretty happy.
Mum left around 3pm and that evening my Dad, step-Mum, brother and best friend, Fiona, all arrived. It was so lovely to see them all and for them to meet Oliver. He was the first grandchild for both of my parents, so he was extra special. That night I told Michael to go home and get some proper sleep. He’d slept on the floor of a hospital, on bean bags or in chairs for three nights. He needed to sleep to be on his A game to bring Oliver home the next day so I’d like it if at least one of us was well rested. Plus, I needed some bits from home. He left about 9pm and I got settled down for the night about 11pm. We both fell asleep and Oliver woke up about 2am. That was him done for the night. He was awake until about 6am. I tried everything, feeding, changing, rocking, burping – nothing. He had very little time for me that night. He eventually fell asleep just after 6am and we woke up around 8am when my midwife came in to check on us. She took my blood pressure and for the first time in almost six days – it had gone down! Yay!!! Michael got back around 10am. He had Oliver for an hour or so whilst I showered and got myself sorted. We then packed up the bags and waited to be discharged. Oliver then had his last tests on his hearing and sight and once passed, my blood pressure was checked for the last time and it was normal. What a relief! We were given some leaflets and told the health visitor would be round in a day or two and we were sent on our merry way. I couldn’t have thanked each person in that hospital enough if I’d tried. I received a first class service 100% of the time and the doctors and nurses of the NHS really don’t get the recognition they deserve. Not once was anything too much trouble and they spent hours tirelessly ensuring Oliver arrived safely to the world. I will forever be grateful to them for that.
As we walked back out to the hospital front so many people were peering in the car seat. Everyone asked his name and how I was, whether it was patients, staff, visitors, it was so nice. We secured Ollie in the car and off we went. I remember saying to Michael to go over speed bumps slower than slow because every bump in the road was felt in my scar. We got about 5 minutes from home and I thought, I wonder if I should have sat in the back?! It didn’t even dawn on me. I mean, he slept the whole way so it didn’t really matter but still. We arrived home and Michael brought Oliver and the bags into the lounge. I sat on the sofa and he passed Ollie to me accompanied with a prosecco. ‘Welcome to your home little dude’ I said to him. He fell asleep on my chest and I fell asleep soon after. As the classic song goes… what a difference 4 and half days makes.
Nuggets of Knowledge:
• Read about inductions. I didn’t and I really should have. Over 25% of births are induced artificially in the UK and I really didn’t know enough about it. For example I didn’t know that with an induction you are likely to have a more complicated labour, you’re more likely to require assistance (i.e. forceps or ventouse), labour is A LOT more painful and therefore you’re more likely to require an epidural and in some cases you’re more likely to require a c-section. Education is key.
• If you want/need the drugs, take the god damn drugs! Some people have less painful births (and/or have higher pain thresholds) and can birth with just gas and air. If you need more, take more. It’s there to be used. They wouldn’t be offering it to you if it could harm you our your baby. Stop being a martyr and accept the help.
• Your cervix is a bad ass sassy bi’atch who does what she wants, when she wants. So if you’re thinking you dilate and that’s that, you’re wrong. She can close back up again quicker than a Venus fly trap. You’ve been warned.
• Don’t ever feel like you could have done better. You’ve already been an absolute machine! So what if you need a quick kip before parenting begins, so what if you handed your baby away 10 seconds after being given him to be sick in a bowl. This isn’t the stuff they’ll remember. They remember you turning up to every school play and standing on the edge of football fields on a freezing February morning. Do what you need to do to feel more ‘you’ again and the rest will be easier.
• ALWAYS REMEMBER – two people made this baby so two people look after it. You’ve just been through chaos, let your husband/partner/boyfriend take over for a bit. You’ve done a lot and you need to allow yourself time to recover.