We have a beautiful healthy little boy, born on Friday by c-section. It’s been a very long, disruptive process of inductions and hospital visits and stays. He’s not yet been named. He’s very beautiful with a full head of dark hair. He makes all the lovely newborn snuffles and snorking sounds. He feels like velvet. Nightingale was able to do skin to skin immediately after birth in the theatre and through recovery. He’s in newborn sleep mode which means loads of naps during the day and cluster feeding and squeaking all night.
Nightingale sailed through day 1 post surgery then started collecting a horrible bunch of post op complications. We’ve been stuck in hospital much longer than hoped because of them. She’s been through hell the past few weeks with so many painful procedures and things not working. I’ve held her hand through most of them and we’ve worked hard to protect ourselves from the stupidity and vagaries of the health system. We’ve succeeded far better than I expected in many ways, but far less than I’d hoped. There’s a lot of bad stories and a lot of pain and trauma. Most of the staff have been fabulous, and a few really saved the day by talking us properly through options, or listening to concerns which they thought were unlikely but turned out to be accurate, or protecting our wishes when someone else tried to take over. A few have been so bad we banned them from contact again. It’s so different to Poppy’s birth and yet so familiar. Miraculous and beautiful and awful and dark. We are grateful and relieved and overjoyed and exhausted and hurting and can’t put many of the experiences into words.
Pain is an ongoing challenge, Nightingale has been suffering from pain crises where she is in 10/10 pain, sometimes for many hours and the pain relief doesn’t work. A few nights back she was unable to move or speak for 6 hours while the staff maxed out all the pain relief options without effect. She should still be in hospital but we negotiated fiercely for home. I can nurse her with all the same resources they have the (except of course, someone to take over at shift change), and the stresses of the long stay in hospital have been building each day. The awful food, the hundreds of people who come into the room day and night, the Covid limitations on visitors so we can’t have both our kids visit, the lack of proper titration of pain medication, the way the plans change at every doctor shift change, notes going missing, stretched staff taking 45 minutes to respond to a call bell, the new person not reading the notes and harassing Nightingale for needing pain relief or blaming her for not getting out of bed every day because someone forgot to chart that she has, the ones who don’t understand consent or are confused by anything that’s not 101 typical presentation and keep giving bad advice, the ones who block agency and access to even the basic resources like an ice pack, the constantly having to explain, provide context, build rapport, and ally with every new staff member, the gratitude for things that should be a given, the sheer helplessness of being stuck inside a system with so little power. The costs accrue alongside all the good care and helpful folks. So we’ve finally come home late last night with a long list of medications and things to deal with and some home visits and outpatient appointments.
Everyone has been homesick and missing each other. Our community of family and friends have been looking after Poppy and Nemo. We’ve managed two hospital visit with them both, Nemo is anxious about accidentally dropping the baby, while Poppy is nearly exploding with excitement. We feel stretched at the seams. We’re trying hard to look after all of us.
He’s beautiful. It’s incredibly strange to have a baby I didn’t birth. It feels a little like cheating at times, there’s so little effort on my part to bring him here, while Nightingale’s body has been a war zone. I feel oddly guilty.
I also feel slightly out of the loop. The hospital don’t see partners. They see a mother baby dyad. I’ve been absolutely invisible for most of the process. The same rules apply to me as any other visitor. All the paperwork says Baby of Nightingale. I have to find and store my own meals. I’m often not allowed to use the bathroom in our room but required to go elsewhere. There was a moment in theatre when they needed to take him off Nightingale’s chest and weren’t sure if they should put him in the warmer. I offered to hold him skin to skin myself and they were so startled and flustered and turned me down. The doctor asked Nightingale about her mental health as part of discharge, I’d spent most of the day crying but didn’t flag. We’ve done a fabulous job of protecting the connection between Nightingale and bubs, I’m not quite there yet.
I feel fiercely protective of both of them, and deeply relieved he’s okay, but also jolted by a hundred small experiences that tell me he’s not my son, like micro aggressions that have stacked on top of each other over weeks. I can feel the difference and I can feel the trauma jangling in my bones, the way I’m frustrated with him when the staff are doing something horribly painful to Nightingale and I’m trying to hold her hand and hold him too and he’s screaming and I can’t comfort him so I can’t comfort her. I hoped it might be better than this, we got our golden hour and protected our family as best we could. But here it is. We got the perfect outcome with him. We got a difficult outcome for Nightingale and I. We’ll keep repairing the damage. We’ve got time to grow all the good things. There’s a lot of love here.