Naive innocent children
When I think about the day Bailey was born I visualise Nic and I as naive innocent children, walking into Frances Perry Private Hospital skipping hand-in-hand to have our make-believe baby. We really didn’t have any idea what we were actually doing. We were just following the instructions given to us by our obstetrician. It didn’t feel real, but we were full of hope, excitement and anticipation. We could only see great times ahead. We didn’t envisage too much change or stress in our lives to come. We said all along we weren’t going to be like those people who become parents and then you never see them again. I remember when my oldest sister Sam had her babies Max and Tom and a few times she couldn’t make it to important family gatherings, because it was too late or too difficult with the boys. I would roll my eyes and complain to Mum that I would never be like that when I had babies and we would not stop going out. Nic and I would continue to take our babies out to dinner with us from day dot. What a naive idiot I was. I was about to get my eyes widely pried open about that little belief of mine and I was going to become much worse than my sister at getting out as well, but that’s for later. After 9 months of cooking this little bun in the oven Nic and I were just eager to get on with it. Finally the wait was over. It was time. Time to bring our baby into the world and more importantly find out what we were having.
We arrived at the reception desk at Frances Perry Hospital and were swiftly guided to our room, which would be our new home for the next couple of days. I remember sitting on the chair in the corner of the room in all of my glorious 92 kilograms. I got Nic to take a picture of me before I gave birth, just so I could assess what I really looked like without my pregnancy goggles on later. We were just so apprehensive about the day. Hoping it would all run to plan. That we would give birth to a healthy baby. We didn’t know what we were having either, so it was all the more exciting. What would it be? I thought because of my size it could possibly be a boy, but deep down inside I always thought I was having a girl. I really didn’t mind one way or the other. Nic was quite keen for a little boy though as many Daddies are I suppose. I think he thought that he might not know what to do if he had a girl. How ridiculous!
A man arrived with a trolley bed
A nurse came into the room with a gown and told me to put it on. She said someone would be here in a little while to take me to the operating theatre. So I thought, “Great, I have a bit of time to relax and compose myself”. But within what felt like a matter of seconds a man arrived with a trolley bed and told me to get on it. Okay. It’s all happening. We were off. Down the hall, into the lift and we came to rest in what felt like a holding bay. There was probably someone in the operating theatre having their baby as I waited in the holding bay. Experiencing one of the great unforgettable moments of their life. Having a caesar was a well oiled production line.
At this point I started to feel quite nervous. What have I got myself into here? What am I doing? Is this real? Before I had anymore thinking time the anaesthetist appeared. I think his goal was to make me feel as comfortable with him and trust him as much as possible before we entered the operating theatre or birthing suite as they like to call them. He had about one minute to achieve this. He passed. There were nurses too who had the same intentions. Trying to ensure you wouldn’t freak out when you entered the room and realised the enormity of what you were about to do. That is to have your stomach cut open and a baby pulled out of it. SHIT! Still no time to think. They made me lean over a pillow and stuck the epidural in my back to numb everything below the arms. That was scary, but it was over before I could think too much about the experience. Then I was lying on my back and they were prodding my belly and asking me if I felt anything. No, that’s fine. Little did I know they were actually cutting me open already. Nic had been taken away when I entered the operating room. I think they give the husbands ‘The Chat’. DON’T FREAK OUT! This is not about you. Do you understand that no matter how you feel, you have to stay strong and be positive for your wife, so she doesn’t freak out! Got it? Good. That’s what I imagined they said anyway. He was quickly back by my side after the epidural and smiling and saying many positive things to keep me in a positive state of mind. I could see in his eyes though that he was very stressed and worried about what was about to happen. It was almost too big to comprehend, that is that within minutes we would have a baby in our arms that we had created together. Luckily everything happens so quickly, so you don’t get much time to think to deeply about what is going on.
More prodding occurred
More prodding occurred. A bit of muffled discussion was taking place in the room between my Doctor and her assistant. There were about 10 clinical people in the room. A lot was going on. I remember the Doctor, who was assisting my Doctor, asking me something to do with where I was hiding this baby. I think she was shocked at the size of Bailey in comparison to Nic and I. I also think they mentioned they had to cut a wider opening in my stomach in order to get my baby’s shoulders free. My god, what was I giving birth to, a giant? It was surreal after this. I heard a loud cry and then they lifted up my baby to show me over the operating curtain. What is it? And there he was in all his glory. Magnificent. Beautiful big baby boy, with a mop of black hair. Screaming at the top of his lungs and quite obviously extremely disturbed about what had just happened to him and wanted to make sure everybody in the room knew about it. He was the image of his Dad. A mini Nic. His nose was a little squashed, because it had been so cramped in there for him, but it popped out pretty quick. He was perfect. I could tell that Nic was completely overwhelmed. How could it be? He was besotted and starry eyed. I knew from that moment on nothing else mattered to Nic, except his babies and family. He was happy.
At this point I was on an emotional drug induced high. I felt such a sense of achievement to have created this perfect being in my very own belly. I had no idea how drugged I was and how completely ridiculous I looked with my massive boobs and bloated 92kg, now wobbly body, and in my pink poker dot night gown from Target, but no one seemed to mind. Well, no one said anything anyway. All I cared about was showing off my new baby boy to the rest of the world.
Cutting the cord
After the birth of our baby, Nic was given the honor of cutting the cord. Then we spent some time with our little cherub, where we decided Bailey was the right name for him. We had it down to about 4 names before the birth. Bailey felt right straight away though. We all laid there for a few more minutes as a new family of four (including Bear). Nic and I just gazing at him in wonder. Then Nic was taken away with Bailey for weighing and other common tests and I was told I would meet them back at our room. I went along with everything, because I was so happy, not to mention drugged to the eye balls. All of a sudden someone was wheeling me back to the lift and towards my room. On the way there I ran into Nic’s Step-Dad, Norm. I think I was telling him how wonderful everything was. Then they wheeled me back into the room, where Nic’s Mum, brother and wife were being introduced to the new little man in town. My sister in-law was heavily pregnant too, so I am sure she had all sorts of emotions running through her. Anticipation of her own birth and wondering what she was having? A boy or a girl? We always thought that I would have the girl and Bianca would have the boy, but now everything was turned on its head and we had to reassess our predictions for Bianca.
How was I going to cope for the next year or 20
When my Mum arrived it was a very emotional moment. She was so nervous for me that day. And so worried about anything going wrong and I am sure worried sick about how I was going to cope for the next year or 20. For me, I wasn’t aware of any of my responsibilities yet. I hadn’t even hardly had to breastfeed. The nurses just put him on my boob every now and then and I just went with it. The drugs were obviously very good. My Nan and sisters were overwhelmed too. There were lots of tears to say the least. And I was just over-joyed by my new bundle and extremely proud of what we had created.
Then came our first night as parents. Our first night was very hard, particularly for Nic, because I wasn’t allowed to get up after the operation until the next day. Nic had to be on-duty all night. We had been told that after a baby is born, he usually sleeps for the first 24 hours, due to exhaustion. Unfortunately, for Nic in particular, this didn’t happen. Bailey screamed most of the night. We think he was extremely distraught about being pulled out of his cozy nest in such an unpleasant manner. Little did we know that this was just the beginning of our sleep troubles. From the moment Bailey was born, he was an alert baby. Frustrated and demanding. We just kept calling in the nurse to ask her if everything was ok with our baby and she would just keep putting him on my boob.
The next day the drugs were beginning to wear off. The reality of the operation was starting to rear its ugly head. Many women recover very well from a caesar. Unfortunately I was not going to be one of them. It would take me all of the 8 weeks and more, but the first few days were the most horrendous. The pain was coming on thick and fast as soon as the drugs wore off even slightly.
We were out of our league
Unfortunately the room we were given was less than ideal too. It only had one single bed in it, so not only was Nic playing Mum, but he was also sleeping on a very uncomfortable hospital floor. Our room was like a shoe box. It took us two nights before we realise we had been given the worst room on the baby ward, which was also right next to the nursery where all of the babies were screaming their heads off all night and we were in a shoe box while other couples were set up in massive rooms with double beds. I don’t know how we lucked out, but just bad luck I suppose. By the third night Nic and I were beside ourselves. Bailey had not stopped crying and we were way out of our league. Breastfeeding had become a total nightmare and my body was in a state of post-operation shock. I wasn’t bouncing back, it was getting worse.
As day one became day two and day two become day three, Nic and I were becoming more and more stressed from our lack of sleep. We started to argue as we just didn’t know what to do to make him stop crying. What we didn’t realise was that he wasn’t going to stop crying any time soon, because he was absolutely ropable about what was happening to him. He was also hungry and not getting enough milk. He was tired, but unable to sleep. He wanted back into the cocoon, I am sure of it. In hindsight, I really should have sent Nic home to get some sleep in our bed and for me to be able to sleep alone in the hospital bed, but as they say, hindsight is a wonderful thing, and at the time I believed Nic should be there with me every step of the way. He wanted to be there too, even though he was a wreck.
Learning our new job
Our time in hospital I would describe as difficult. We were learning a brand new and very important job and the information couldn’t sink in fast enough, before we required some new learnings. Some of the nurses were lovely and helpful and others were crap and grumpy and should have been working in a prison ward and not a birthing ward, but it was what it was. I was actually glad when this time came to an end, even though I was petrified about standing on our own two feet once we arrived home.
It was now time to leave the hospital with baby Bailey. This is another experience you completely underestimate. Driving home from hospital for the first time with your baby is totally nerve wracking. First of all you have to work out how to use the baby car seat correctly and then you have to deal with the fear of all of the other cars on the road being too close to your car. I sat in the back seat to protect Bailey. I actually did this for many months until I got the courage up to let him be there by himself. The sun was out and beating down on Bailey’s face. Even this stressed me out. He was screaming with discomfort. I was trying to shield his face from the sun. Nic and I were arguing, because I kept telling him to stop in the shade when he stopped at lights. He didn’t understand. We finally got home. Very stressed, tired and uptight. But we were home. What do we do now?
Thankfully the Maternal Health Nurse comes over fairly promptly to check you are doing everything correctly, so we felt a bit better after that. She spoke a lot about mental health to me and I was a bit confused about this. She asked me questions, made me fill in a questionnaire and told me the danger signs to look for in myself and Nic. This is obviously a huge problem, but I didn’t feel I had to worry about this. I was feeling fine. A bit tired, but fine. The emotional side of giving birth is something that just sneaks up on you when you least expect it. I wasn’t depressed, but I became extremely emotional when we got home and even in the hospital before we left and I couldn’t fully understand why or what I was crying about. I was just crying. My hormones were going wild and I was dealing with a whole new sleeping routine, or should I say non-sleeping routine. Not to mention the stress and pressure to breastfeed and the total loss of control you now had over your life, body, emotions and daily functions.
Poor Bear, our beautiful 2 year old black Labrador was unsure of what was going on too and why he wasn’t getting as much attention. Nic had brought home one of Bailey’s suits to let him sniff it, but he just grabbed it and ran off with it. He loved to be chased. Oh dear… When we arrived home we tried to introduce Bear to Bailey, but Bear just wanted to lick and sniff him, so we thought we would wait a while for that one. Everything immediately becomes an issue to either overcome or get used to when you have a new born. We had to keep Bear at a distance for a while, but we didn’t want him to feel left out. He still slept on the bed in our room, so he was doing okay.
Everything had changed already and it was about to start getting really hard for Nic and I as we struggled to cope with ongoing sleep deprivation. We argued about what to do? What not to do? Who to ask for help? Why Bailey was crying? Was he getting enough food? Was he constipated? Did he have stomach aches? Was there a serious problem? Was there a reason why he was crying so much? What are we doing so wrong? But there didn’t seem to be a specific reason why he was crying so much and certainly nothing to do with his health, as he was one of the fittest and strongest babies going around. He was just frustrated and whatever it actually was that he really wanted, we obviously weren’t giving it to him.
Responsible for the life of another
Going from having next-to-no responsibilities in life, to then being responsible for the life of another was probably what had the biggest impact on me. I wasn’t prepared for the affect this pressure would have on Nic and l and how we would need to manage and control our worries and fears of protecting this helpless being. It felt immense to me. The fear of making a mistake or a wrong decision. The stress I put on myself to ensure his safety at all times and keep him from harm. The fear of ever letting him down, or losing concentration of my job as a parent for a second too long. Taking my eyes off him. Accepting other peoples’ word and advice without researching myself. It all comes back to trying to minimise the amount of mistakes you make.
The enormity of having a baby is grossly underestimated. Well, it definitely was for me. You can’t possibly prepare yourself for it no matter how many books you read, how much advice you get or what experiences you have had caring for other babies. Until you become a parent or carer, you just can’t understand what it means.