This post follows on from my birth story, which can be found here
I woke up on the ward in the morning with people bustling around me… my baby was still asleep. Someone brought me some toast for breakfast. A lovely lady came to see me with an electric pump, and showed me how to use it. She said every time they fed my baby through the tube, I should use the pump. Even if nothing came out, it was important to do it every feed, to ensure my milk came in and had a good supply. She showed me an article in a magazine with different positions to hold a baby in for breastfeeding.
Someone came to feed S, but they didn’t get on very well with the tube so a nurse from NICU came down. Someone told me I was lucky that NICU were allowing me to keep S on the ward with me. I didn’t understand what they meant, but found out later that because S had been premature, and needed feeding via tube every 3 hours, she was under NICU’s care rather than regular post-natal care. They could have had her on NICU from day one, if they had wanted to. I’m so glad they didn’t, as I’m not sure I would have coped with that at all.
On that first day, a nurse called Kit came down from NICU to feed S. She told me I should take S’s too-big clothes off her, and put her under my shirt against my naked chest. I was terrified; surely she would be too cold if I did that? Kit said, no, in NICU they had all mothers do this; it’s called Kangaroo care, and it’s encouraged for bonding. I took my bra off, and lay S on my chest. Suddenly I felt a lot more calm. I stayed sitting like this on my bed, until Kit came back 3 hours later for the next feed. We were going to try and have S against my breast while the formula was fed through the tube, to get her used to the idea of where a full tummy came from – but at that point the ex turned up with his 6 children. I could hear them coming down the ward, him hissing at them under his breath to behave themselves. Kit said we could just tube feed her this time, and worry about the breastfeeding next time. She let the younger children help her, holding the tube and the syringe for the milk, and then she left.They had been shopping in TK Maxx and I was handed a huge bag of clothes: some oversized t shirts for me, and lots of baby clothes that were all way too big for my tiny little baby. His eldest son had carried my backpack in too – it contained my laptop and my OU coursebook. I cannot remember whether I asked for this, or if it was just decided unilaterally that I should study whilst in hospital so as not to fall behind. The children took turns in holding S and having their photo taken. One of them perched on the end of my bed, and accidentally rustled a plastic bag that was laying there. He was immediately told off, and made to move. He sat on the floor against the wall, his head in his hands, and cried. Once all the children had taken a turn holding S, and had their photo taken with me with S, the ex held her for a little while. And then they all left again, just as my mother turned up.
She sat next to my bed and I told her briefly about my labour. I said that I couldn’t understand how anyone ever went through it without another birthing partner, as my sister in law had been an absolute godsend. Her response was, “I went through it on my own; your dad only came to one of my births!” She asked me if I thought I would have another baby, and I said I couldn’t imagine doing that again. She told me it was easier with bigger babies. I don’t remember what else she said; she didn’t stay long.
S had done a poo in her nappy but I was scared to change it so I went and got the nice lady who had shown me how to use the pump. She came and helped me change the nappy, but just as we were finishing the ex’s mother turned up, with her partner and mother. I’d never met the ex’s grandmother before. I’d only met his mother and her partner a couple of times. But they wanted to inspect the latest addition to their family – and that’s what it was really, an inspection. They gave me presents – more babygros that wouldn’t fit. While they were there, my sister arrived with her boyfriend and my brother and sister in law. I was so glad to see them, and relieved I didn’t have to survive the ex’s family visiting on my own. Nobody had warned me they would be coming or asked if I minded. I guess they don’t when you have a new baby; it’s a free for all isn’t it. We all sat in the visiting area and S was passed around while people oooh-ed and aaaaah-ed over her skin, her eyes, her hair. The ex’s mother started talking about piercing her ears. She was less than 24 hours old and I wanted to scream at her she was not touching my baby’s ears. They made a big deal of counting up how many great-grandchildren the older lady had now. Then they left, finally. That was the only time S’s great-grandmother has set eyes on her, and the only time her grandmother held her. My family stayed a little longer and took turns holding S, which was nice. It was good to be around familiar people with whom I felt comfortable after such a hectic 24 hours full of strangers.
That first day, I was too scared and self-conscious to try and use the breast pump, so it just sat there in the corner beside my bed. The NICU nurses came down and fed S formula through her feeding tube every 3 hours. I was in a daze and felt very lonely. There were visiting hours twice a day, but partners were allowed on the ward all day until about 9pm. All the other mothers were on their beds with their partners, surrounded by flowers and balloons, but in our bay it was just me and S. I pulled the curtain around us and sat and watched my little girl. When I went to sleep, I moved right down the bed so that I was next to the crib and could see her.
The next part of the story is here.