What Happens Next?
There is so much about motherhood that I have learned and discovered over these last (almost) eight weeks. Things I have learned about parenthood, about my son, my partner, our families and myself. I have also mastered doing absolutely everything with one hand, holding Hunter in the other. I have learned patience. I have learned that there is a whole other section of my being that is reserved solely to house the love I have for my beautiful son.
Today I want to share what happened after Hunter was born. Going into this, I didn’t know what to expect, and even still, every single day in the lead up to his birth I was picturing what it was going to be like. I spent hours, days, imagining the moments after Hunter was born. I tried to visualise how it would feel to have friends and family come to visit at the hospital, or what Hunter was going to look like in the clear bassinet, what it would be like to push him down the corridors of the hospital.
After the midwife had wrapped Hunter and everything had calmed down a little bit from his arrival, I was shown into the shower. “Ah,” you may be thinking, “a nice, warm shower sounds perfect after twenty hours of labour.” No. The last thing after that many hours of labour was to be wet. I was incredibly raw and sore and tender and my limbs were barely able to perform the basic task of washing myself. Basically I stood under lukewarm water, pathetically rubbing hospital soap on my arms and stomach while a pool of blood formed at my feet. Graphic, but true.
Ahhh, how relaxing.
Hunter was weighed and measured and a trolley of food was wheeled in for me. Here is my first tip of this post, get a family member (or whoever is going to be with you for your delivery) to have some food for you for after labour. Though you won’t really care about what you are eating straight after giving birth, the smell (and to be quite honest, the sight) of hospital food will do nothing positive for you. I barely ate anything of what they gave me and in hindsight, would have loved some hot chips. Or fresh Lebanese bread.
Pete and I had both expected to be going home the same day as giving birth but then again, we thought my labour was going to be quick. Ha! Because I ended up having an epidural, I was required to stay in hospital overnight. We went through the public health system however I was lucky enough that I had a private room. As soon as we were settled in the room – after having wheeled Hunter through the hospital just as I had pictured for all those months – the midwife that was going to be attending Hunter and I introduced herself and gave us a brief rundown on what was going to happen during the hospital stay. If I am perfectly honest, I wasn’t listening to her. I was far too distracted and utterly obsessed with my son.
In our discussions, Pete and I had also hoped that if I did end up having to stay overnight that we would be able to get a private room so that he could stay the night there as well. In reality though, neither of us had really slept and agreed that it would be far more beneficial for both of us if he spent the night at home in a proper bed, getting a good sleep to then come back and pick Hunter and I up the next day. It was only mid-afternoon at this stage so Pete went home to feed our animals before picking up some Chargrill Charlie’s (my post-birth dream meal) for Mum and I and coming back to the hospital.
The midwife returned some time later so that she could teach me how to feed Hunter and how to get hi to latch. Because he was so little when he was born, his mouth was too small to latch onto my gigantic mega nipples properly. I tried over and over again, and by “I tried” I mean that the midwife squeeze my nipples while grabbing Hunter’s peachy little head and shoving it towards my breast. Hunter was only hours old and it all seemed a bit ‘man-handled’ for my liking. In the end, I had to hand-express the colostrum from my breasts into one of those little plastic cups you use for urine tests. Then, with a plastic syringe I fed my son for the first time.
Mum and I were then presented with ‘a little bit’ of information about caring for a newborn. Pamphlet after pamphlet, booklet after booklet, rule after rule. I was told Hunter must sleep on his back. Hunter must be woken every three hours for a feed. Hunter must be positioned at the base of the cot. Hunter must not have a dummy. I was told about the breastfeeding classes and the physio classes and the play classes and the bath classes. The stack of information didn’t seem to get any smaller. Thankfully, and rather unexpectedly, Mum said after a while, “This is a whole lot of information to expect someone who has just given birth and hasn’t slept to take in.”
Like clockwork, once it had been three hours since Hunter’s feed, the midwife returned and once again started squeezing my nipple hard enough that I thought she was going to pinch it the fuck off. Hunter was in a deep, deep sleep and yet I was told that he HAD to feed, not only because he was ‘hungry’ but because if Hunter and I couldn’t prove that we could feed properly, we wouldn’t be able to head home until we could. So there he was, still only hours old, ASLEEP, getting my nipple violently rammed into his squishy little face. Obviously he didn’t latch or feed.. because he was asleep.
“Well, he isn’t latching,” the midwife said.
“He’s asleep,” I responded.
“You’ll have to go to the lactation classes because he isn’t latching. You won’t be able to go home tomorrow.”
“But, he’s asleep..” I tried again.
“You’ll have to express and syringe feed him again. Check and change his nappy to wake him up.”
I looked at mum pleadingly. I didn’t want to wake Hunter up, the poor thing was out cold and happy and warm and wrapped and from his peaceful face, clearly not hungry.
“Do we have to do it now?” mum asked the midwife, sensing my hesitation.
I did what she asked me to do, keeping in mind that as soon as I was out of hospital I knew that I was going to have to figure out how I wanted to feed my son. Once we were left again I had my first visitors. My two brothers came to meet their nephew, and brought champagne with them. Shari came to meet her godson, and brought bourbon and lollies. And Pete returned with chicken burgers and hot chips. I had everything I could ever want in one room.
Pretty soon after I ate, the adrenalin of labour an going birth wore off and in its place was a physical exhaustion like I had never experienced. Everyone left, including Pete, and I was left in the room with my son. I will never be able to properly describe what it was like to be sitting in that hospital room with Hunter. I had no idea what the night was going to bring, and even though I had almost a year knowing that I was going to be a parent it felt as though I had been thrust into motherhood without any warning – and it was the happiest moment of my life. It is a moment that I will never forget. I had dimmed the lights of my room so that there was only the slightest glow above my bed, footsteps and the beeping of machines punctuated the silence and even though I knew I was in a building full of people, it felt as though Hunter and I were the only people in the world.
I fell asleep almost immediately.
I woke up to Hunter stirring. That quickly turned into a full on newborn scream. I picked him up and immediately paged the midwife. To this day I have no idea why I called her straight away – I wasn’t panicking, I hadn’t tried to settle him yet but I knew that I didn’t know what he needed. All that information that was given to me in the hours straight after giving birth went right out the window (because it was given to me in the hours straight after giving birth..). The night-shift midwife came into the room and the first thing she did was check his nappy and sure enough, he needed to be changed. It was almost as if I was dreaming as I watched her change him. I snapped myself out of it and asked her the most basic question: what do I do when he cries like that again? She said he is either hungry, needs changing, has wind or is tired. I knew all of this already but I think that I needed to hear it in the moment, I needed to hear it as it was happening. Once he was changed, she helped me feed him again before leaving us alone once more.
Almost as soon as she had shut the door behind her, Hunter did another huge poo. Huge. I could hear it as it happened. I got up and changed him again but when I put him in his bassinet, on his back, he wouldn’t settle. I didn’t think about it – call it instinct – and picked him up, put his dummy in and lay him in the bed next to me and cradled him in the nook of my arm. He fell asleep straight away.
A few hours later, I was woken up.
“Hunter is due for a feed,” she said, rousing me from sleep, “look at how settled he is with you! He already loves his mama.” I was completely out of it. Completely. It took me a while to come to and really what was happening. Surely, I thought to myself, surely she isn’t waking us both up from sleep – a woman who hasn’t slept after a full day of labour and a newborn, both peacefully asleep. She told me to unwrap Hunter and check his nappy. I slowly and painfully pushed myself up and tried to get Hunter to latch. To be honest, I can’t remember whether he latched or whether I expressed and fed him from the syringe again, but either way the midwife eventually left and we passed out again.
I don’t like hospitals, but one thing that I love is that even in the dead of the night, in those early hours of the morning that are normally drowned in silence, the sound of nurses and doctors moving between rooms never slows down. Everything continues in hospital at night as it does in the day. I have always been someone who is comforted by the presence of other people. I am able to sleep better when there are people talking around me. I am able to write better when the television or music is on in the background. I am able to read better when there is noise that I have to consciously drown out. All through the night I woke up for brief moments, comforted by the unfamiliar sounds.
He only woke up once more that first night.
I was woken up early in the morning by the midwife I had the day before. As soon as she saw that Hunter was in bed with me, and with a dummy in his mouth, she immediately berated me.
“You can’t have him in bed with you,” she said, picking Hunter up before I was even properly awake, “so I will just put him back in his bassinet here. And tsk tsk tsk, no dummies.” Hunter’s dummy was taken out and cast aside, his little body placed back in the bassinet next to me. “I’ll come back when you are more awake,” the midwife said, seeing herself out.
I woke up again, grateful to see that mum had messaged me and was already on her way with breakfast and coffee for me. The morning comprised feeding Hunter, introducing him to the friends and family that visited and figuring out how the hell I was going to get discharged as soon as possible. Pete arrived mid-morning and all that we both wanted to do was get our little man home.
Long story short (not really though, this is a long-ass post. Apologies.), even though I was allowed to be discharged at 11am, the entire process took until just after 4pm.
A nurse came by and told us that Hunter had to go down the hall to take a hearing test. I had no idea that their hearing was able to be tested, so for all of you who didn’t know that either, headphone are put on Bub’s ears and they are played a sound at a specific decibel and their brain is monitored to see if they react to it.
“He won’t pass the test,” she said sharply, taking all of us by surprise, “no babies have passed today. If he doesn’t pass, which he probably won’t, we will have to do it again later this afternoon. Don’t fee bad that he probably won’t pass, its normal.” I swear to god, it got to the point where if she said that Hunter wasn’t going to pass one more time, I was going to lose it. Mum offered to take him to the test, rolling her eyes at me on the way out of the room.
We were told the test was going to take fifteen minutes.
They were back in five.
He had passed with flying colours.
The midwife tried to get Pete and I to go to the bathing class over and over again. “You really should go,” she said, every time she visited us. Pete and I were adamant that we didn’t want to go. All we wanted to do was wait for the paediatrician to give Hunter his assessment, put him in the car and take him home. Hours went by and finally, the doctor came to see us. During her visit there was a chorus of screaming babies out in the corridor.
“What’s going on out there?” I eventually asked when the crying didn’t stop.
“Oh, it’s the bath class,” the paediatrician told us.
Pete and I laughed about that later.
We were eventually discharged. We were both starving, exhausted and completely in love with our beautiful son. The moment we strapped Hunter into his car seat is one that we will never forget. As we both clicked the straps in, we looked at each other and said simultaneously, “Oh my god.”
I mean, come onnnnnn. Look at him.
I guess the reason that I am writing (rambling on) about this is because I want it to be known how confusing motherhood can be in even the first hours, simply due to all the different opinions that people will try and force on you. In the space of a few hours I was complimented on my mothering and then chastised for the very same thing. I want to say to all the mums and mamas-to-be out there that YOU DO YOU. Do whatever it is that feels right for you. I promise you that your instincts will kick in and without even knowing how, you will know exactly what to do and what works for you. I demand feed, and I have never and will never wake Hunter up just to feed him. When Hunter won’t settle or when he has been in pain, he sleeps in bed with Pete and I. Hunter continues to use his dummy, but more often than not he spits it out – babies are smarter than a lot of people give them credit for.
Mamas, you have got this. You really have.