(When I had my baby I kept a diary just to have somewhere to put all my highs and lows as I went from euphoria to tears to euphoria again, almost daily. I also kept lists of feeds, nappy changes and sleep times on my iPhone (please tell me I’m not the only one who’s done this? Comment at the end of the blog and let me know I’m not alone).
Day One – the Maternity Ward
As the Midwife pushes me onto the Maternity Ward I sit up proudly in my NHS wheelchair cradling Baby Bu in my arms. “I’ll just pop her in here for a sleep,” she tells me as she takes my tiny bundle off me and places her gently in a plastic rocking cot next to a bed nearest the door of the bay. I must look a little worried as she adds, “It’s OK she’ll be fine. You’ve done a grand job.” I exhale a long sigh of relief and hop into the hospital bed and snuggle down under the cotton sheet keeping my eyes fixed on Baby Bu.
Another Mother in one of the six beds in the bay says to me and My Mum, “I’m bursting for the loo, would you watch my baby for me please?” We readily agree as she dashes as fast a post partum mother can to the toilets further down the ward. My Mum smiles as she stands guard over the other baby. “She really meant please watch my baby so nobody steals him, didn’t she?” My Mum laughs. I know what she means; I don’t want to leave Baby Bu for a minute it seems so wrong to leave a newborn baby unattended even for quick wee.
The curtains are drawn round our little domain to shield us from prying eyes. Our world is a bed, a cot and small wooden bedside cabinet. It’s one up from a bed, several beeping machines and no end of professionals looking at your downstairs I have to say. Cool Daddy and My Mum collapse into the plastic visitors’ chairs leaving a mountain of baggage strewn about their feet. They are both exhausted and looking rather dishevelled it has to be said (they have not yet had the luxury of a lukewarm shower and moisturiser like me) but are very, very happy. They soon rally and go off to find much needed breast feeding provision of sandwiches, cakes, bottles of water and a decaf coffee from Starbucks. When in the afternoon Cool Daddy and My Mum return home to rest, I am secretly glad to have Baby Bu all to myself; it’s been just the two of us for nine months and being an only child myself, I’m not used to sharing.
A lovely Indian lady brings my dinner to me at 6pm on a tray and she fetches me cups of tea and refills my water jug, she even gives me a couple of extra jammy dodgers. She peeps into the plastic cot to look at my slumbering child. “She’s beautiful,” she tells me as I scoff down my dinner and beam back at her pulling the lid off a strawberry yogurt. As soon as I finish my meal I fall asleep more or less immediately. When I open my eyes only two hours later I can’t believe it, but I am hungry again. (I didn’t have much of appetite during pregnancy, the morning sickness killed that, but now I’m ravenous and food never tasted so good, even hospital food it turns out). Once I’ve stuffed myself again I fall asleep once more. Only every time I close my eyes I still feel as though I am in labour; lying in the bed in the delivery room. I feel the waves of contractions and nausea from the gas and air washing over me, and the beep, beep, beep of machines is still ringing in my ears. I comfort myself with some cold tuna melt and a cookie Cool Daddy left for emergencies.
I feed Baby Bu again, she’s such a dream and latches on beautifully (I know, I am very, very lucky). We cuddle and I accidentally fall asleep. Sometime later the midwife wakes me, “That’s not how you sleep with the baby, love,” she tells me. I look down and realise I have nodded off with Baby Bu on my chest. I am immediately guilt stricken. Stupid, stupid New Mummy I tell myself off. “I’ll show you what to do,” she tells me as she cheerfully raises the side bar of the bed and tucks Baby Bu in next to me as I lay on my side. “That’ll stop her rolling off,” she laughs. I am not so sure; I thought it was dangerous to sleep with the baby in the bed with you. I am worried I will crush her, but as we settle down for the night I savour this time alone with my daughter. It so magical to feel her soft skin next to mine, to hear the rise and fall of her chest as I kiss her beautiful head and drink in the sight of my baby next to me at long last. We fall asleep and she does not cry when she wants to feed (which is often) – she just bumps and nuzzles against me like a little lamb. Her tiny hand holds tightly onto my fingers as we drift off once more.
At around midnight a different midwife wakes me. “Here, express some milk into these,” she tells me as she hands me a few small plastic syringes. “Why?” I ask her. “It’s so we can feed the baby if you don’t manage it,” she says firmly. How bloody dare she I rage inwardly as I resentfully hand express a few droplets of the milk into the stupid syringes as she stands there watching me, making me do it against my will. Though I do not show my unwillingness to comply with her request; – I wouldn’t want them to take my baby away from me for even a second…can they do that?
Just after three O’clock in the morning Baby Bu wakes me again with her gentle bumping against my breast. She wants to feed, again. This time she thrashes about and cannot find the nipple and keeps falling off. I take a deep breath and try to be calm and patient and remember what My Mum told me. Once I relax she soon latches on and feeds from both breasts. I am so, so proud of myself and her. My clever, wonderful, good baby. So, when THAT midwife wakes me in the early hours just to say, “Do we need to give her the breast milk from the syringes?” I sleepily reply, “No, I just fed her from 3am to 4am.” “Oh well done,” she tells me. “You go back to sleep, you’ve done really well. I’ll leave you till breakfast.” Now I think THAT midwife is an angel and doing such a great job, isn’t the NHS wonderful I tell myself as I close my eyes and hold my baby to me and sleep peacefully until morning.
Amy Beeson is a Freelance Writer and is the Director of Wordsby Ltd working with many women running small business on limited budgets who need affordable solutions for their communications needs. Amy’s currently busy working away on three new books with baby expert Sarah Beeson MBE (and Amy’s mum) for HarperCollins.