Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Home, James! Err, Alex!

12th September, 2009.

Something tells me Nicola has not been enjoying her stay on the labour ward.
"Please text back to say you got this.  Please bring 4 more vests, baby grow and car seat.  Am hating hospital! Love Nic. xxx"
Not sure what it is, just a feeling.

*         *        *

My mum picks me up first thing and drives me down to the hospital.  Borders General is not what you would call convenient for Dalkeith.  In fact it's about 10 times further away than Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, one of the biggest maternity units in Scotland.  But ERI is also one of the busiest, and the chances of being bumped to a different unit at the last minute, or of getting a less personal level of service are quite high.  So we went with the Borders.  I don't regret it, but it does make getting there at 8am when your car is still sitting in the hospital car park somewhat tricky.  Thus Granny Tatty is on dad taxi-ing duty.  The drive down seems longer than I remember, but maybe that's just the anticipation.

Eventually we arrive.  Technically, only I should be let onto the ward.  (Dads get open visiting between 8am and 10:30pm, other people only get 2-4 and 6:30-8.)  We prevail upon the red-headed orderly who lets me in though, and Tatty is allowed to say a (very) brief hello to Alex.  Unlike all the other grandparents, she doesn't break down into tears.  I suspect she's probably already done that at home.

Once she's gone, Nic catches me up on the night's news.  It turns out that the good people of the Scottish Borders are unusually fertile at the moment.  (Or perhaps more accurately, were unusually fertile/frisky/drunk and careless around Christmas and New Year.)  As a result it's been really busy in the maternity ward.  At one point, it took over an hour for Nic to get a slice of toast, which she promptly threw up.  Also, she's been worried about Alex crying and disturbing other people.

Let's just take a moment to think about that, shall we?  She's worried about Alex, a less than one day old baby, crying and disturbing the peace in a maternity ward filled with crying babies.  I can't even begin to understand this.  Then I remember that Nic has had almost no sleep in three days, is on an interesting cocktail of drugs, has just forced a seven and half pound baby out through a hole that would comfortably take only a half pound baby and has stitches in places I didn't even know she had.  I decide to let this particular issue slide.  How gracious of me.

So we settle down to our first day of trying to look after Alex.  About the first thing that happens is that we need to change his nappy.  He rewards us with a remarkably accurate impression of the Manneken Pis.  Neither of us cops a faceful, thankfully, but the bed gets soaked.  (A good learning experience.  This is why you DON'T change your child on the bed!)  We press the call button and let the red-headed orderly from earlier know.  She goes to get new linen, but doesn't return for quite a while.

This going to do something but not coming back turns out to have been the bane of Nic's night.  It was responsible for the hour long toasting incident and numerous other issues.  Most upsetting for Nic was when she was told that she would be woken at five to breastfeed Alex, only to be woken at six thirty, scolded for neglecting her baby and then told that there wasn't time to breastfeed him and to give him this bottle of formula.  She is close to tears telling me this.  In contrast, I am close to homicide.  We both hold back with admirable self-control.

Maybe I'm pushier than Nic, or maybe I'm just less tired and so better able to articulate our needs, but over the next few hours we manage to get more help.  In particular, an Australian midwife (I thought all our nurses were going over there, not theirs over here) is able to spend fifteen minutes helping Nic with breastfeeding technique.

Visitors come and go.  It's all a bit hard to take in.  Shining through it all though is the fact that I'm enjoying my son for the first time.  I'm less stressed and (a little) less worried, so I can take pleasure in him.  We play "spot the inheritance".  The consensus is that Alex doesn't really look much like anyone.  He's got a bit of Nicola's dad in there, but it's not startling.  About the only obvious genetic hand-me-down is that he has my feet.  This strikes me as kind of weird.  I was expecting to be able to say "oh, that's my [eyes/nose/etc]", not "he's got my feet"!  I didn't even think of feet as being something you could identify, but it turns out you can.  Bad luck Alex, giant hobbit feet it is.

At five o'clock Nicola is discharged.  We're free to go.  We pack up our stuff (although not before I send Nic's only bra home with her parents, oops!) and carefully clip Alex into his car seat.  Then we're allowed to take him home.

Hang on, shouldn't there be a test?  Or some sort of home visit?  It was harder adopting our cat for goodness sake!  (£49 and a reference, if you're wondering.)  Just because we're fertile doesn't mean we're safe to be parents.  Why doesn't someone do something about this?  How can we be suddenly in charge of a tiny, fragile little life?  Eek!

We drive home, very, very carefully.  Ever two minutes or so I ask Nic how Alex is doing.  The answer, pretty much each time, is that he's asleep.  He is the only one who is unfazed.  On getting home we introduce him to the cat.  Ringo gives Alex a brief sniff, then demands food.  We assemble some sort of half-hearted dinner, all the time keeping an eye on Alex, as if he will despawn if we don't keep him in sight at all times.  We eat something.  I presume.  I can't remember doing so, but we must have.  Alex grumps and struggles to feed.

The Woolly Mammoth of Responsibility settles down in the back of my skull.  Oh gods, we're a family.  Life is never going to be the same.

P.S. I should explain that Alex was going to be called James until about 3 days before his birth, hence the title.

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