Wednesday 26 June 2019

Birthing Debrief pt 2

As with the previous post, I appreciate this is something that isn't going to be of interest to those of you who read the blog purely for the geek stuff. I want to talk through the birth and days after to help sort it out in my mind and because it's a huge thing to me, and I want to talk about Ziggy endlessly because I'm overwhelmed by the wonder of him, but I also want to keep up writing about games and aerial and other things I love, because it's important to me to be a rounded person with interests beyond my child. I'll find a balance that works for me.

In the meantime, here's the cat pic warning for those of you not interested in birth and newborns, or who don't want to read about the things Husbit refers to as "human goo": the blood, faeces, urine, vomit, snot and dribble that comes from having a baby.

I stared at him. The trauma of the previous however long was tethered to me like helium balloons, and with each breath another string was snipped until the universe was him and me. I felt a swelling of love for Husbit, for my stepmum, my family, my friends. Everything and everyone that mattered to me mattered more. It was like he was an amplifier for the love in me.

They turned off the epidural as soon as he arrived, which meant no pain relief for the stitches. The antenatal class had warned me about this, saying that we'd be so absorbed in the baby that we wouldn't notice the pain. I was very absorbed in him, but it still really hurt (I remember that pain better than the pain of the birth itself, probably because it happened after I first saw him). While they were doing that, the trainee muttered about there not being any tearing (weird things to feel about), and the consultant saying this was unusual when there was - and I missed the next word, filling in "forceps" or "a large/stuck baby". Hours later, I learnt I'd haemorrhaged. A blood loss of 500ml or more is considered a haemorrhage. I lost 1300ml. I think I was lucky not to need a transfusion.

I'd agreed with the first midwife when we arrived that we'd do delayed cord clamping and that my stepmum would cut the cord, but she'd left by the time he arrived, and the doctors either didn't read her notes or didn't care and did all that before any of us knew. I'm a bit cross about not having delayed cord clamping.

I was exhausted and wanted peace and quiet to be with Ziggy. I wanted Husbit with me, but the bed was small and awkward with no space for him to curl with me, and I knew my stepmum's car was back at our house and I knew he was exhausted too and needed to rest and I knew I'd be ok with Ziggy (who had a real name now, a grown up name for such a young person) so when I heard him dithering around I sent him home to come back in the morning. I was still in this little bubble of love and it enveloped him even when he wasn't next to me.

Eventually, it was just me, Ziggy, and a midwife. She quietly scribbled notes, giving me some peace. Ziggy stayed on my chest for a few hours, which was lovely, covered in the blood and goo of birth, which wasn't. At some point, someone took him off me, cleaned him of the poo he'd smeared over both of us, and put him back on my chest in the same pile of meconium. I didn't bother to mention the next time he pooed and just enjoyed the weight of him instead. Midwives kept changing - I'm not sure how many we went through over the course of the night. Eventually, one took him and cleaned him up, dressed him and laid him in the bassinet beside me and we lay there staring at each other. I timed my breathing to his. Whenever one of us got hiccups, the other started soon after. I imagine we both dozed, but I don't really remember.

They left me filthy when they cleaned him. I'm pretty sure they turned off my oxitocin an hour early and took away my fluid drip before they should have, but I was pretty out of it when they were told when to take that away, so I may be wrong. The room was far too hot for me - they kept saying my faint feeling was the blood loss, but I knew it was the heat. One midwife listened to me. She turned the aircon on and I was fine (until the next came and turned it off again). She helped me stand so I could move to the chair for a change of scene, and said she'd be back shortly to help me have a shower. An hour, longer, passed and she didn't return, so I rang and another midwife appeared, said I couldn't have a shower because I couldn't stand up because I'd had an epidural (I could. It was hard because it was so hot in there and I'd lost all that blood, but I could stand and I could walk). The nice midwife eventually came back and apologised that she couldn't help me have a shower because she was too busy, now, but she did shortly after bring me a basin of water and some wipes, so I at least managed a strip wash, and she helped me put knickers on after.

Top tip: if you're ever helping someone with a catheter and stitches put on their knickers, put the catheter tube through the leg hole on the side the stitches aren't.

She did, at least, come back to remove the catheter pretty much to the minute of when it was able to be removed, for which I was very grateful.

Midwives would bring me tea and toast, then he would stir and I'd see to him so they'd go cold and midwives would take them away without letting me say that I'd rather have them cold than not at all... That didn't help my faintness either. 

One midwife, when I'd finally had enough and got as close to griping as I did all night, told me they were very busy and that "not everyone got to have a happy ending like you", which, y'know, probably not something she should have said to me. Definitely not something I wanted to hear. It cowed me, though. Meant I didn't make any more fuss.

I did eventually get a shower, though no help with it and I was far dizzier than I'd realised and struggled to stand. With hindsight, this was probably the blood loss.

Several midwives showed me how to feed him, but they all showed me different techniques and I felt a bit confused by it all - they'd say "yeah, you've got it" then the next would arrive and ask me to show them and they'd suggest I might find a different method easier/more successful, to repeat the cycle.

He received a vest and a teddy for being the first baby born that Christmas Day, and a book, another teddy, and some Child's Farm goodies for being born on Christmas Day at all. That was pretty cool.

I was told there was a place on the ward if I wanted it, but they knew I'd wanted a homebirth and they were unusually busy, so I could probably go instead if I'd prefer. Given my experience to that point, I definitely preferred. I let Husbit know and he got ready to come and collect me.

They brought me Christmas lunch, which was nice. I shared it with Husbit, as he'd arrived without eating anything as we both thought I'd be leaving sooner than I was.

When they did eventually discharge me, they explained that the doctors weren't happy to let me go because of the blood loss (which is when I discovered I'd had that), but that the midwives were "on my side"because it was Christmas. 

"It's Christmas, so you're willing to risk her life?" started Husbit. I shushed him, by now desperate to get out and unaware that he'd genuinely thought I was going to die during the labour (it took me several days to realise how traumatised he was). 

They signed me off as successfully breastfeeding because he latched ok (and let go immediately on doing so...), and we left.

Husbit's mother and sister met us at our house, with another Christmas meal and a bunch of presents. My mother-in-law informed me I needed to lose weight (something she'd repeat every time she saw me until he was 8 weeks old, even when I asked her not to, even when I pointed out it wouldn't be safe to Ziggy for me to start trying to diet yet, with him relying on my food). I asked her to give him back at some point while she was cuddling him - I forget whether I just wanted him back or if I thought he was hungry or something - and she snapped "NO!" whilst twisting her body away from me with him in her arms. My arm was ready to throw the punch before I noticed I'd balled my fist (I often wonder what would have happened if I'd let it fly). This was when our relationship - already frayed due to her behaviour especially towards the end of the pregnancy - started to really fracture, though I did my best to hide it for Husbit's sake.

My Dad and little sister came round Boxing Day. I'd suggested all my family should come, but they said I'd be overwhelmed. I pouted internally, but in the end was grateful. My sister laughed at my distended stomach "You've got a hippo too!" She hadn't known about this when she had her first, had thought you went straight back to looking not-pregnant immediately after giving birth and had been shocked and a little upset to discover that wasn't true, nicknaming the paunch "hippo" to make her feel better. She'd then forgotten again until after her daughter arrived.

My midwife checked us out. She and my sister were both a bit worried about his feeding, but the hospital had told me it was fine and I trusted them.

One of my friends drove down from Wales with presents. It was amazing to see her, and we ended up so grateful, because that was the night Ziggy decided to let us know he wasn't actually feeding. He screamed all night, kept pushing my breast away. Contacted my midwife, who sent Husbit out to buy some formula. She thought the one she recommended came with teats, but it didn't. Fortunately, we had some bottles and sterilising fluid. The bottles were really for a bigger baby, but it's what we had. Sterilised them in a bowl, having to roll them to sterilise the bit where an air bubble formed because we didn't have a bowl big enough to stand the bottle in.

Typing this, I can feel the anxiety building again.

He guzzled the formula.

My midwife arrived and weighed him. He'd lost 13% in 3 days. Babies are expected to lose weight, but not that much: 10% in 10 days, usually. She sent us to the hospital, and this is where my friend came in really useful. She's a trainee nurse and she's had 2 children, so she understood how sleep deprived we were, she knew some of the answers to the questions the staff asked us, and knew how to translate their questions and our answers where she didn't know. They wanted to take some blood, at one point, and she asked questions of the phlebotomist who let her assist, which I think helped me stay calm.

He was jaundiced, nearly enough to need a sun lamp but not quite. Part of me wanted them to put him under anyway, to make him safe, but I was too sleep deprived to know how to ask for that. I can see why it's a torture technique: I was very compliant. They admitted him to the children's ward for the night - I was distraught. I've never stayed in hospital before and it seemed frightening, especially to be away from Al.

Whose mother phoned when we were on the ward. She'd popped over to drop things off at ours and seen the bottle and sterilising set up we'd used, and yelled down the phone at me about how wrong it all was. I wanted to hang up, but, shaking, let her tell me off. After, I told Al she needed to back off, that I was fragile and needed handling with care and gentleness and she is not gentle. It's the first time I've stood up for myself like that and it felt strange, but I knew I had to for Ziggy's sake. "She's just worried. She's just trying to help. She just wants to help" was the refrain I would then hear from Al and, moreso, from his sister, which at least reassured me he had spoken to her but wasn't what I needed to hear, because, quite frankly, I didn't care what her intentions were so much as the effect. I felt that if she actually wanted to help, she could ask what would be helpful, and she could try to remember how overwhelming those first few days, weeks are. I still don't really understand why I'm the one who was expected to compromise at that time. On the plus side, my stepmum had had even worse problems with her in-laws and was amazing as a result. I hope to follow her example should I be lucky enough to become a grandparent.

It frustrates me to be so critical of Husbit's mother, but she's done a lot of emotional damage.

The hospital stay ended up being two nights and being really valuable. I managed some sleep - letting them take him from me for a few hours the first night was one of the hardest things I've ever done, but I knew I had to or I wouldn't cope. A wonderful, kind auxilliary nurse by the name of Lol sat with us for 2 days until he and I had a much better idea how to feed. She warned me about the day 5 emotional crash. We were discharged with instructions to feed every 2 hours, starting by offering expressed milk, then breast, then topping up with formula. This was exhausting, and after an unknown number of days (every a blur by then), my midwife moved it to every 3 hours overnight. Gradually, my milk came in and he started to throw up the formula until eventually he was 100% breastfed. It was an incredible feeling, and now I take it for granted.

Watching him leave that night was so hard
but worth it once he was feeding

I'm really glad I persevered: being able to feed him without needing a load of paraphenalia makes it a lot easier to feed him when we're out and about. The fact he was introduced to the bottle so early also helped, as it means he didn't have to learn to take a bottle later and I can go out and leave him with his Dad. He never experienced "nipple confusion", and the hospital staff said it wasn't really a thing, in their experience. And they have a lot of it! Locally, there's a real problem with babies not feednig properly, which they lay to two things, both of which were my experience: 1) the above mentioned hospital sign off when not really feeding (it makes the maternity hospital numbers look good), and 2) the antenatal classes all make it sound easy and natural, so new mothers assume that what they're doing is right. The children's ward would love them to be honest about how hard it can be, just as they are with the labour, but the midwives don't want to because they worry it will put people off even trying.

The trauma of it all meant my midwife had me marked as ?PND. The next time I saw her, I asked for counselling which she quickly approved: she'd been going to suggest it anyway. I went for two sessions and by the second the feeding was going so much better that I felt ok and we agreed I'd only come back if I was still dwelling on any of it after 3 or 4 months. I hadn't told her about the in-law issues, but that's the one bit I'm still struggling with. Things she's said or done still pervade my thoughts and I still find myself talking about it. She was diagnosed with a vitamin B deficiency, which includes depression in the symptoms and has started to improve since being treated for that, but because of the way she was for the first few months it's still very easy for her to say or do something that makes me internally flinch. I'm doing my best to deal with it for Husbit and Ziggy's sake, but she really has done a lot of damage and I'm only starting to understand how much now that her attitude has improved.

Next Ziggy instalment will probably be on the more exciting topics of his hobbies, classes and development. He's 6 months old, and walking already! (Holding fingers, but walking)

Sunday 16 June 2019

Real Life Interlude

Between Ziggy, Cat and the discovery of the Homecoming City of Heroes servers, I found myself without the time to blog that I'd managed to carve out a few weeks ago. But not just that - the post I was working on when I stalled again is necessarily very critical of my mother-in-law and I felt bad about writing and publishing it - especially as the wounds are still very fresh. However, she recently bought me a load of yarn (I think her way of apologising without needing to actually apologise, which I'll take) and I'm feeling better about her and so, strangely, better about writing a post critical of her. Maybe because I can end it with a positive.

Anyway, that will come later. The post is about the first week or so of Ziggys life, which was difficult and stressful and jumbled so will take time to untangle onto the page. Or screen. In the meantime, I've been knitting and playing Heroes (mostly the Reunion server. Global handle @Tempest Skydancer) and looking after Ziggy and Cat and playing Aberrant and Pathfinder and reading and playing Pokemon Go and teaching aerial and occasionally managing to train aerial and overall feeling pretty good.
Kitty has been losing weight. We put it down to the stress of Ziggy's arrival at first, but then she seemed ill and we found a lump on her back so took her to the vets. Turned out to be a cyst, but they were aso worried about the weight loss so ran bloods then did an ultrasound and long story short she's either had an infection that she's recovering from and is getting older, or she has lymphoma. We're overfeeding her for a few weeks, then back to the vets. If she's recovering her weight, then it's the former. If not, they can start her on steroids but there's not much more they can offer: lymphoma in cats doesn't respond well to chemotherapy, which would destroy her quality of life and be dangerous to Ziggy. She does seem to be gaining weight so we're hopeful but anxious.

Ziggy's growing so fast! I mean, babies are known to but he's huge for his age. Part of me loves having a mini giant, and part of me wishes to have a little baby. He moved nonstop in the womb, and that hasn't changed, meaning he's also a very strong baby who's already standing with minimal support (he'll hold your fingers and pull himself up, and sometimes he'll let go with one hand and stay upright!), and starting to try to walk (with inconsistent success). He still can't sit unsupported for long, and is nowhere near being able to crawl. He's smiley and chatty and loves singing and shoving things in his mouth. We've let him test a few vegetables - raw carrot sticks seem to help with teething (he has 2 teeth already), while potato appears to be quite tasty and broccoli is both tasty and a great toy (he cried when he ran out).

I have to go back to work tomorrow, which I'm dreading. Only for half a day, then another few half days before I go on gardening leave - my department got sold to a company based in South Africa, which was a bit too far a commute for me. Then 3 more months home with him, but I need to use that time to find a new job to start soon after and that's a stressful feeling, especially with the Brexit bullshit hovering over us. I'm terrible at interviews so need to train that and create a suitable online profile to demonstrate I'm good at my job (which I am, but the technologies I've primarily used are outdated - I've only used IDEs in training seminars - I've mostly coded C, bash and php in vim! But I learn fast. They took me on with no knowledge, no experience at all and in a matter of months I'd overtaken people with years of experience. It's just the way my brain's wired. And I need to learn how to say that in an interview... I don't have a portfolio at the moment because my drive to code has been focussed on what I do at work (and since Ziggy arrived I've been too busy looking after him and have only recently started to recover my life). I'm hoping to use my half days to set up on github, something I probably should have done long before. I also need to dust off and probably reset my linkedin profile. Wish me luck!