From Birth to Day 10
Well, Helen and I checked into the hospital and were lucky enough to get a single room, room 20 at Ward 52N at the Monash Medical Centre.
Helen was to be induced, as she was 10 days over the delivery date. Prostigen was applied and the contractions started. Fetal monitoring was applied to see how the baby would respond by checking its heart rate. Contractions started as planned and the baby’s heart rate was within the range indicated by fetal monitoring.
Then, when everyone had gone to lunch, the heart rate dropped for a long period of time to 76 beats per minute. The experts arrived and indicated that all was well… a second opinion ensued which suggested that everything was not well and suddenly the room was filled with what seemed to be 15 people stating that a caesarian was required because the baby was in distress and Helen’s cervix hadn’t dilated. The concern on the doctor’s face said everything… there was no choice.
Helen quickly signed the form and before I knew it, Helen was being rushed, literally rushed in her bed to the operating theatre. I went with her, changed into theatre safe clothes and watched the anesthetic being applied to Helen’s spine to numb the lower regions of her body. I was asked to wait outside while preliminary surgical preparations were made. I joined Helen who was conscious throughout the whole operation and after the initial incision was made, it was discovered that Helen had fibroids, which are growths in the uterus that feed upon a pregnancy and grow along with the size of the Uterus. A large number of these were present and most notably there were some blocking the exit path for the baby.
A normal caesarian would require a horizontal incision at the panty line. As this cut had caused the discovery of the fibroids, which if cut could cause Helen to bleed to death, another, vertical incision was made to extract the baby. Upon the discovery of the fibroids, another doctor ( the doctor who had rightfully suggested the induction ) was called to assist with the operation which had now transformed from being a “routine” emergency caesarian to something more complicated, both for baby and mother. After an hour, the first scream from Joe could be heard as he made his way into the world.
Helen was doing as okay as one can do with their stomach open and I ventured to cut the cord after Joe had urinated all over the baby transit station. He did not let out the obligatory cry but proceeded to scream the house down. I stayed with Helen through the stitching and then went to change and I rang Mom and Dad.
I joined Helen in the recovery room where she was shivering badly and needed to be warmed up. After half an hour where Helen was sick a few times, she was returned to the ward connected to a catheter, a drain for the results of the operation and a morphine and saline drip. I went to see Joe who was in the nursery and had to have two shots, two large needles, one in each leg for Hepatitis B and a vitamin K shot to help coagulate the blood. He was then weighed and his length (height) measured. He was born at 15.06 on the 10th of December 2001, our wedding anniversary and also Human Rights day. He was 52.5 cm (20.83 inches) long and weighed 3.465 kg (7.763 lb).
The earliest photograph of him is taken when he is 2 hours and 20 minutes old. His head had a circumference of 35cm. Andrea and Professor Wallis did a fantastic job in the operation and the teamwork and professionalism of the nursing staff, midwives, fetal monitoring staff and doctors all contributed to a birth which in another country may not have been this successful. Helen was unable to take any food and was applying the morphine to ease the pain. Demanding Joe required feeding and Helen did very well to feed in her drowsy state of post birth surgery.
I stayed until early the next morning when Carol, a great nurse looked after Joe while Helen slept. The next day, the 11th was all about reducing Helen’s pain and the both of us learning to be parents… changing nappies, doing the first bath and doing the endless wandering of the corridor to keep Joe either distracted or rock him to sleep.
The first family visitors arrived that afternoon, Helen’s family and she was looking 100% on the previous day although she was in a lot of pain. We went through the machinations of breast feeding, made more difficult because Helen couldn’t sit up… Joe seemed to be ok, despite a little bacterial face rash, which is common for the first few days. I got home before midnight and sent out an email to let people know what we had achieved. Oh, we started receiving beautiful flowers on Tuesday… first from Geoff, Nadia, Malcolm and Julie… then from Sue, Tim and Adrian… further bouquets arrived from Mom and Dad, Melinda, Frank and Natalia and Sean, Coralie, Samara and Jared.
We decided to name the lovely bear given by Melinda, Frank and Natalia “Frank Willow”… The bear given by Sean will be named “J.S” after Jared and Samara. The staff from Avion also sent through flowers as did the staff at Multiemedia. Kelly and Toisin contributed to the bear collection so now Joe has four bears (and an octopus). The next day, Wednesday was where I got to change more pooey nappies than I had changed in my life. Helen was still fairly immobile with the exception of taking a shower, which made her feel great.
The day was fairly standard but that night we encountered the “3 day depression” which was brought on by a grumpy nurse, Joe’s crying and the difficulty of getting baby to attach to the nipple. After a little talk, a little cry and a bit of time out, we realized that Joe wasn’t getting enough food. A quick “expression” later supplemented with some formula saw Joe drink from a cup… actually drink is wrong… guzzle would be more appropriate. This event shocked and impressed me. Both sets of Grandparents were impressed with this feat from a 2-day-old baby. Joe settled, Helen settled and I went home at one… everyone satisfied that another mystery of baby rearing had been solved.
Today is Thursday and Joe is three days old. Now armed with the formula in a cup trick I can now work with Helen to ensure she gets a little rest although we focus on giving Joe breast milk whenever possible. His bodily functions finally started to match the input effort provided by Helen as her breasts enlarged and the pattern was formed. After the tears of the previous night, we had done some of our learning and were better equipped to give Joe what he was trying to tell us. The cries were becoming distinguishable at least to the point where I could pick his cry. By late this afternoon Joe and I had worn each other out and I almost fell asleep holding him in the nursery.
An important point here… In my wanderings I was tempted to take him for a big walk but there are insurance issues if you take a baby out of the ward, so it is best to refrain from the temptation… Joe has suffered a couple of pricks in the heel, one to determine his blood sugar level which was okay (this was done because he appeared to have the shivers) and another to test for cystic fibrosis and two other diseases that I can’t remember. I am sure there are more needles to come and I feel sorry for each time he has to have them. Helen got to have two hours of uninterrupted sleep, thanks to the formula in the cup trick. I think there is a time between when the baby is born and when he or she starts to respond to your touch, smell or sound that you think that this seems to be all hard work. I have noticed things like Joe’s wandering eyes when there is a variance in light source (Christmas trees are great for this) and the fact that his eyelashes have appeared from under the eyelids. Anyone who misses out on these subtle but important changes is missing out on the best part of what this is all about. I see a father turn up to see his wife after work dressed in a suit and tie… he is missing the best part of this initial stage of parenting.
My son probably has no idea who I am, but I am there often enough for him to be comfortable, even after three days. Likewise I am comfortable trying to work out the different cries and enjoy the small advances that make humans what they are. I sent out an email to friends saying that I felt that respect, understanding and curiosity where the three attributes I wanted Joe to have. On reflection I think that I can only influence respect at a formal level. The other two are the result of your surrounding environment, which you can play a part in but ultimately it will be the general environment that fosters understanding and curiosity.
I resigned my fulltime job to ensure that I shared this time with Helen. What could be considered foolish is something that when I am old, I know I will treasure more than turning up to a nine to five job. Not everyone can make that choice… having our first child when I am forty after working for 20 years makes the choice easier. I am sure that tomorrow will bring more surprises and challenges. I may never continue with these notes, but to capture the first few days of our son’s life in print is possibly interesting and something for me (and Joe) to reflect on when we encounter challenging times in the future.
I will need to remember how much I wanted this and how special this time was for me and maybe he will appreciate that although Father and Son can have differences of opinion that the starting point is a love for your partner and the expression of that love is a child, something that you don’t try to keep and nurture as a selfish monument to your life but as a free thinking creation that will unwittingly take up some of your attributes and invents some of his own to take a journey through an atlas of predestiny but with a choice of paths to follow.