During my pregnancy I often thought about what the first night back at home would be like. We had gone through nine months of pregnancy talking about the what if’s and the maybe’s, wondering what sex our baby would be, worrying about the labour, and thinking about how much our lives would change. But for me, the first night home was something that was always at the back of my mind.
Every week I received emails telling me about my baby’s development in the womb. My weekly antenatal classes concentrated on the stages of labour and ways of dealing with them. But nothing, nothing prepares you for entering the hospital as a couple and leaving with a baby that is relying on you 100%. This absolutely terrified me.
As you may have gathered, I’m not a fan of hospitals. I was adamant that no matter what, I was going home the same night I had given birth. Okay, I know this is highly unlikely given the chance of complications, but being forced to stay in on my own in a gross hospital bed that someone would have definitely died in was really worrying me. For some reason thinking of a hospital ward conjures up images of a makeshift hospital in the First World War, full of people wailing and screaming in pain. I was more scared of this than the birth.
My little man arrived at 12.18pm with no complications, meaning I was able to leave the same day. Unfortunately he had to have eight hours of observation due to meconium in my waters. Provided the doctor could get to us on her rounds though, this would still mean we could leave by 9.30pm. By 8pm I was getting nervous no one would make it to us in time and I would be forced to stay in for the night. This was not happening. Cue my mum and hubby taking it in turns to mill around the midwives station asking when the doctor would be here.
Fortunately the birthing centre was very quiet that day so we were able to stay in our own private room all day. It was amazing. It was like I’d given birth in a private hospital (I would definitely recommend having a baby at Homerton hospital). There was no way I was going from this to the ward. I’d been packed and ready to go by 2pm.
At 8.30pm exactly, the doctor arrived to carry out my baby’s checks. Some of them looked rather painful. I tried not to cry. I also tried not to let the fact she looked about twelve worry me too much. Once this was done, we managed to get him dressed, change his nappy and feed him – and he was still breathing. So far so good.
And that was it. Twelve hours after arriving at the hospital we were walking out with our son into the big wide world. Thank God my mum was with us – my very own safety blanket.
I’ll never forget the feeling I had as I walked through our front door holding my baby and thinking, “I am now responsible for this tiny little person. I am petrified I am going to drop him, or squash him, or kill him. I am literally going to watch him every minute of every day in case something happens to him. I am never going to sleep again.”
It was at this point hubby and I looked at each other with a ‘what do we do with him now’ look. Neither of us had the answer so we just sat and stared at him, taking it in turns to check he was still breathing.
We had now been awake for more than 24 hours. Despite the adrenaline coursing through our bodies we did finally go to bed. Not that we slept.
We put him down in the moses basket. He cried. I nearly had a panic attack. “What’s wrong with him?” I said to hubby. “No idea,” he replied. We called my mum. “Mum, what’s wrong with him?” As we all stood looking at him I wondered whether the moses basket was too big. Turns out it was. We put a smaller cocoon inside the moses basket and filled it with a sheep skin rug. He stopped crying. I felt a huge sense of relief and achievment. I’d successfully guessed what was wrong with him! “Maybe I can do this,” I thought to myself.
He settled down, but cried again soon after. “What’s wrong with him?” said hubby. “No idea,” I replied. My Mum came in and deciphered he needed his bum changed. Phew. We’d worked it out again. It only took three of us. It was at this point that hubby and I agreed we’d take it in shifts to stay awake and watch him to make sure he didn’t stop breathing. Hubby agreed to stay awake first so I could sleep. And I did. As it turns out we both did. The next thing I knew it was light outside and hubby had jumped out of bed in a panic “Shit, I fell asleep on my watch”. We both leant into the moses basket and prodded him. He was fine. He was also now crying at the shock of being woken up to find the two of us staring at him.
So we did it. After 9 months of pregnancy and labour, we’d brought our son home and survived the first night. What I hadn’t thought about was the second night, third night and every night after that. Hubby and I looked at each other through very tired eyes as the realisation dawned….things will never be the same again.