01 Apr

Dean & Claire’s first week of parenthood

This follows Dean’s birth story, here.

Day One.
I’m back in at 10am, Claire has got 1 hours sleep but looks great on it even if she doesn’t feel it. Alexander has had his first attempt at breastfeeding and it’s not going well. Claire is frustrated at not being able to get the right position and when she does he latches on, takes a few sucks and falls asleep. Blowing on his face, tickling his tummy or pinching his feet wake him for a few more gulps and then he’s back in the world of nod.

This is how it’s been all night and we are slightly concerned, but the midwives are ok with it. In fact, listening to other conversations around the ward this seems to be a common theme.

They bring around a leaflet and some syringes, we are going to try some hand expressing. Claire looks at the pictures and starts massaging, I’m on suction duty. After a few minutes nothing has happened and a midwife helps Claire with positioning. Off we go again, but to no avail, so I have a go. Despite lots of years of practice in this area, even I can’t get anything to appear. Claire takes over again and finally she gets a rhythm that seems to work as small bubble start to leak from her nipple. I suck/scoop it up (The syringe is not a needle but has a little cup on the end) I spend the next 5 minutes staring intently at Claire’s right nipple and collecting the precious nectar as it magically appears. Finally Claire announces that it’s getting sore and we stop. 0.2ml is a tiny amount and we are worried it’s not enough, also what do we do with it? We press the call button and a midwife shows us how to put a small finger into his mouth to stimulate sucking and I slowly squeeze his first decent meal into his mouth.

Over the next few days we learn that Breastfeeding is not always an easy, natural process. It’s full of frustration and abortive attempts to latch on.

Claire goes for a shower and my top is off again for my skin to skin session. She comes back and grabs some sleep as I sit in the chair with Alexander. Two very special hours pass. He’s so quiet that I have to stop myself breathing just to make sure he still is.

Time for another feed and the day sort of slips into a routine.

Claire’s very excited sister arrived and being the mother of two, proceeded to help Claire with breastfeeding. He got a good 25minutes and we resigned ourselves to a lifetime of boasting from her that she is a breast feeding Guru.
I left for home at 9pm after a visit from my unmarried Mum and her partner, Graham. We made his day by asking if he minded being called Grandpa Graham.

Day two
I return at 10am and Claire’s had a better night. She had plenty of help during the night to feed Alexander and he’s starting to suck longer between bouts of narcolepsy.

His bruise is going down and a small graze is scabbing over.

Due to his high heart beat at birth and Claire’s liver problem we aren’t going anywhere today. He’s also a bit jaundiced so a fancy flashlight is flashed on his chest and reading taken. They are a bit high so his heel is pricked again and blood taken. This turns ok to be under the treatable level and another one later in the day proves he’s getting better. His heels are looking like a pin cushion.

Two proud Aunties arrive and he’s cuddled for an hour.
Time for me to go home.

It’s now Day three and I’ve just got a text from Claire saying she got in 3.5hours sleep last night, so things are looking up. I’m about to head off and hopefully bring my family home.

Day 6. It’s Sunday and we have had virtually every member of our families around to day!! We finally got home at 8pm last night after some frustrating days on the ward.

Alexander had a bit of jaundice which wasn’t so bad as to need treating, but they did need to keep an eye on it.
Claire’s liver function needed to be checked – and it is all right.

But the major factor was that the little tyke’s weigh dropped to 12.5% below birth weight and they don’t really like to see it go below 10%. We had to stay in and feed him up.

So, on to the frustration. We were told that we needed to feed him at regular intervals on the breast and then give him formula as a top up. We were working on 40mls every 4 hours. Then we were told every 3 hours, 50ml every 4 hours and finally 70mls every 4hours. The later was delivered by a rude female Doctor who also questioned Claire’s commitment to breast feeding and told her that if he didn’t put on weight he might have to go “Upstairs and have a tube put in his nose” otherwise he might “Fade Away” All this to a sleep deprived, hormonal mother who has been religiously following instructions given by other midwives. Unforgivable.

I step in and have a word with someone in charge. We agree on 40mls every 4hours and crack on. Claire’s milk is slowly coming in and each expression is producing more and more, but we are talking 10mls, 15mls, 20mls etc. Not the gallons we were expecting and therefore we still needed to top up.

Again, frustrated with this we spoke to one of the Nursery Nurses. We told her that we were having issues and she came and sat with us for a feed. Alexander and Claire were man handled into correct positions, Alex was bottlefed and burped without any pussyfooting around. In the end he’d got the correct amount of milk, kept it down and sat there with a “WTF just happened?” expression. We realised he wasn’t as fragile as he looked and have now been a lot firmer and confident with him. The nurse came and sat in on the next feed just to make sure we’d all got it right. She also mentioned that the 40ml was a minimum and if he’d take more, then let him. We’d just been doing what we were told and stopping at 40ml.

On Friday he’d put on 1oz so everything was looking better and on Saturday he had put on a further 44g. Claire was discharged from Consultant care and after a chat with one of the Midwives we got the green light to go home.
Before I go I want to leave you with this. I’m not gushy or much of a new man, I’m definitely more of a hand shaker than a man hugger. During labour though, Becky said something to Claire that triggered something in me and that was “Take a breath and hold it” On my travels back down I’d been listening to a CD by a band called TAT (an English Punk rock band I’d seen as a support at a gig in London) and a particular a track titled “Road to Paradise” So guys, through the whole experience that is coming your way, keep your eyes open and drink it in, try and remember every glorious second, good and bad. It’s 9months coming and, for us, now a receding memory. (Helped by about 500 photos.)

I’ll leave the final words to TAT.
“Don’t waste a single breath you’re dealt,
Take it, hold it, make it felt”