A warning – this post isn’t going to be technical at all (despite the title!). It’s going to be quite confronting because it’ll go into (somewhat) gory details around pregnancy, birth and the first few weeks of my Lil’ GirlGerms’ life. It’s also going to be looooooooooong… So, go get a cup of tea. Go on. I’ll wait.
So, some of you might know, just recently I decided to spawn a child process…and a few weeks ago she was finally pushed (HA!) into production.
Before we get into that, I’ll take you back a little bit regarding my pregnancy.
To say my pregnancy was an “easy” one would be a lie. To say it was pretty fucking awful would be closer to the truth. First trimester for me was the same as lots of mums, involving lots of sleeping and also lots of morning sickness. I always knew the first trimester would be a bit shit, and I was expecting it. What I wasn’t expecting? That my second trimester would be even worse than the first. I’d always been told (and if you go online and do reading) that second trimester is the “happy time” for pregnancy, where you glow and feel fantastic and radiant and everything is sunshine and roses.
What a fucking crock of shit.
I have to admit, I’m a bit unlucky because my second trimester was cursed by an affliction that not everyone has – my rheumatoid arthritis. I also had insane issues with reflux, carpal tunnel, leg cramps, oedema, problems with my thyroid and issues with iron deficiency. I kid you not, the ladies at my local QML lab knew me on sight, I had what’s known as a “VIP” card, because I was there getting blood tests so often. I actually have three collapsed veins in my arms from having so many damn tests while I was pregnant!
To put it simply, me second trimester was a clusterfuck from beginning to end. It was not even remotely enjoyable.
My RA caused a fair amount of grief, to the point that I ended up with flare after flare continuously for nearly 7 weeks. Sure, I’d had a few minor flares during my first trimester (let me tell you, RA in the jaw is a totally unique experience….) but nothing like second trimester. I’m pretty sure it’s not my record at my local hospital emergency room that I threatened to cut off my own right hand to stop the pain I was having, as I had insane carpal tunnel at the same time as an RA flare in my right wrist…and even more annoying, the treatments for each is the OPPOSITE of each other. One does heat, one does cold and using either exacerbates the other. It was absolutely fucking *awful*.
Third trimester, on the other hand, was lovely…at least for me. I was on new medication by this point to get my flares under control (yay, steroids!), I was on extra pills for my reflux…and my iron deficiency…and my thyroid. Honestly, I was a pill popping junky. Even now, it’s still pretty bad as many of these conditions haven’t just gone away now that lil’ miss is here. But all in all, my third trimester was incredibly enjoyable – which apparently makes me the odd one out, as most women don’t like their third trimester. I enjoyed mine, aside from being unable to wear shoes for the last 8 weeks.
I should say that my issues didn’t mean there weren’t awesome moments to being pregnant. There were. When she started moving, that was pretty awesome. Seeing her on the scans and hearing her heartbeat everytime I went in for checkups was lovely. I only had one scare where I couldn’t feel her that I had to go in and get checked for…and she was just playing silly-buggers and was perfectly fine! That was one of the comments I received from everyone who did scans of her – her heartrate was always so steady, sitting flat between 130-140. She was a very chill lil’ bub…the complete opposite of her mum >.>
Leading up to birth
I was hoping to continue working all the way through to 38 weeks, but my ObGyn had other ideas. Apparently my stress levels were doing funky things to my blood pressure and she didn’t want me to start hitting preeclampsia territory, something we both agreed on. So at 36 weeks I called it quits and started my maternity leave at work. So I had a month (or I thought I had a month!) to get everything in order.
It was actually quite nice as there were still a few little things that needed to be sorted – curtains for the room, extra shopping to do be done, flat-pack furniture to be built and assembled…and pampering for me, in the form of getting my hair done, getting a massage, partaking of delicious waffley goodness with work mates. It also meant that my stress levels were *drastically* reduced, as I wasn’t at work. That’s not to say I wasn’t keeping an eye on what was going on (and I’ll get into all of that in a whole other post regarding staying in contact with work while on a long stretch of leave), as I was. I just wasn’t as invested in it as I would have been had I still been working. So my blood pressure was looking far *far* healthier.
The issue I had was that 38 weeks came…and went. 39 weeks came…and went. 40 weeks came…and went. By this stage, I was definitely ready to meet my little girl- and get my body back to myself again. So ObGyn and I agreed that once we 41 weeks, enough was enough and I’d be induced. We had a day picked and everything.
I’ll admit right now – I wasn’t happy about needing to be induced. I wanted nature to take it’s course and for things to go smoothly. I thought I’d be fine, but the day of the induction I was and absolute wreck. I was teary and miserable and unhappy and thought I’d failed. It was not a nice day. And I regret that probably more than anything.
Birth (this has all the slightly gory stuff in it!)
So evening of the induction comes and off we head to hospital – the way the induction works (at least for me) is this: they use a cervical softener (misodel) to start you dilating. You get to sit with that overnight and then the next morning they artificially break your waters and then they put in a drip of fake hormones (syntocinon) to start your contractions.
Now, the reason I was concerned and upset about this was for a few reasons – a) the cervical softener doesn’t always work, which worried me; b) the synthetic hormone drip meant that my favourite choice of natural pain relief (shower) wouldn’t be available to me and c) the synthetic hormone is synthetic…which means it doesn’t give you all the good things that the *real* hormone gives you. Like natural pain relief. Going down this route was going to *HURT*. A lot.
So, we get into hospital and we head down to the birth suite and I get the cervial softner stuff sorted. I’m told that it might work, it might not and to not expect too much. Obviously trying to not get my hopes up. We head up to one of the maternity ward rooms to spend the night – I’m asked if I want Mr GirlGerms to stay as well (in a recliner in my room) to which I say yes. Because I honestly didn’t want to be alone. By this time it’s about 10:30pm. They also gave me some pain killers (as the cervial softner can kick your uterus off into contracting all by it’s lonesome!) and some temazepam to get me to sleep. They said they’d see me during the night and my ObGyn would come and see me around 7am the next morning to put the drip in.
That stuff was *good*. I was out like a light, and barely stirred in the middle of the night when they did a quick check of me and bub. It was actually quite nice to have the monitor on checking on bub for a bit, the rhythmic ‘thumpthump’ of her heart actually sent both Mr GirlGerms and I back off to sleep! 🙂
I was a bit concerned about the sleeping pills, because what if something happened during the night? What if I didn’t wake up for it?
I shouldn’t have been concerned. We didn’t make it to 7am. 5:15am and I had the full hollywood experience of my waters breaking. It honestly felt like a balloon popping and it *gushed*. Have to say, I’m glad I wasn’t at home, my bed would’ve been destroyed! I quickly woke up Mr GirlGerms, who called in a midwife to check on me. Sure enough, 100%, waters broken…labour had started! Quickly went off into the bathroom to get cleaned up, grabbed the stuff we were going to need for this part of the fun and then headed off down to one of the birth suites.
We were left to our own devices for a bit, and that’s when the contractions started. Slow at first, not too painful, just annoying. Then getting stronger and stronger and faster and faster. I don’t actually remember too much of my labour other than a few things – boiling hot showers were a godsend, I remember requesting the gas (and being reminded by Mr GirlGerms that I don’t get any pain relief unless I BREATHE!), the trainee midwife had the most *AMAZING* massage technique; and labour was, without a doubt, the most painful thing I’ve ever experienced.
At some point (I’m guessing 9am-ish?) I felt the urge to push and was told that wasn’t possible, there’s no way I could be ready. Mr GirlGerms asked them to check, as I was *REALLY* keen to push and sure enough…fully dilated, ready to go. What this meant was things had happened so quickly there was no other pain relief. I was *THIS* close to asking for the morphine but got told that it was no longer an option on the table.
Fuck. We’re doing this the old fashioned way.
Much pushing, threats of using the ventose (vacuum), a snip of some muscles (did you know you can have *too* strong a pelvic floor?) and Lil’ GirlGerms was here. Perfect and here. 3.8kg and 56cm long! She’s going to be tall…
The rest is a bit of a blur – my ObGyn and the midwives injecting me with something, the placenta delivery, her vitamin K and Hep B shots, being measured and weighed, the paediatrician coming in and checking on her…through most of it I just got to cuddle her. Such a relief to finally have her here.
My stay in hospital
Now that she was here, it was time for us to disappear off to the maternity ward. Due to being the first to deliver for the day (yay me!) we ended up snagging the only available deluxe room (had to pay extra, but who cares…DOUBLE BED *and* gourmet food!). They were just waiting on it being cleaned up, so we were waiting for an extra hour or two and finally ended up getting in around 1pm. We were there for just under 4 days, and were discharged on Tuesday 22nd August.
I’ll be honest and say that the few days in hospital were a bit of a blur. Not much sleeping, lots of feeding, lots and lots of midwives coming and going and teaching us what we needed to know about this little creature that was going to upend our lives for the next gods-only-know how many years. I do remember a few things though, but they may be out of order…
Our parents came and visited the afternoon she was born, which was lovely. Though I couldn’t get out of bed, I was still that sore! Pretty sure everyone was teary upon meeting her for the first time, it was really sweet! We had some close friends come and see us on the Sunday as well, which was awesome – again more tearyness and soppy smiles. Our little girl was already a heartbreaker!
For medical stuff – we saw my ObGyn the afternoon our little miss was born and then again on the last day – the reason for so little hands on is because I was pretty much good to go with very few issues (thankfully!) so didn’t need much in the way of care. I saw a physiotherapist while in hospital, who taught me all the exercises I needed to do to get my body back to where it was…she even mentioned how to do pelvic floor exercise, something I don’t think I need assistance with! 😂 I saw a lactation consultant…and I’ll go into that in further detail in my “First month at home” section. Our little girl had her heel prick test, with no issues (yay!) and had her first hearing test and passed with flying colours!
We saw a paediatrician…who promptly scared the living FUCK out of me by seeing her on Day 2 and saying “Oh…she has a slight heart murmur…I’ll have to get the paediatric cardiologist to come and see you” AND THEN PROMPTLY LEFT THE FUCKING ROOM. Cue epic meltdown on my behalf. Pretty sure I had a compressed version of the baby blues due to his offhandedness. Had to get the midwife to explain what was going on so I didn’t turn completely hysterical. We did end up seeing the cardiologist, who said it wasn’t anything to really worry about and should clear up on it’s own. But still…not really happy with the paediatrician, if I’m to be perfectly honest.
Something I was unaware of, which I now find interesting *after* having it all sorted – when bubs are inutero, they don’t breathe oxygen so the way their heart works is slightly different to when they’re born. When they first breathe oxygen, a little valve in their heart is supposed to close and redirect the blood to the lungs to be oxygenated. In some bubs (including our little one) the valve doesn’t completely close and produces a slight murmur. Nothing too scary, because it usually does fix itself within the first week. What’s interesting is ho0w they treat it if it doesn’t…with ibuprofen. And the same reaction can happen in the womb, which is why they tell you not to take ibuprofen while pregnant *especially* during the last trimester. It’s because it can close this valve prematurely and cause your bub to suffocate in the womb! The things you learn!
All in all though our stay in hospital was lovely. We tried as hard as possible not to rely on the midwives, knowing that once we went home we wouldn’t have someone to call on to come to our house 24×7. We had to learn how to do this ourselves, so we tried as much as possible. But when we needed them, they were absolutely amazing. Every single midwife we dealt with was just simply fantastic.
One thing we needed them for…I wasn’t producing enough (well…*any*) milk. So had to sign the piece of paper that lets them give us formula so our lil’ miss could eat. I was devastated. But bubs need to be fed, and it doesn’t matter how. Without the assistance of the midwives on duty the night we discovered that, I probably would’ve gone insane. I’d been trying to feed her for nearly 7 hours when I was despairing. Getting that sorted was a game changer and meant that I could finally get some sleep.
We were discharged on Tuesday and headed home…let me tell you, there’s nothing scarier than that first car ride home. Especially when both parents are severely sleep deprived!
First month at home
So, lil’ miss is now a month old and we’ve been home for just under that time, learning how to take care of this tiny hooman that we’re now responsible for. We’ve had some ups and downs. She’s sleeping in the room with us in a bassinet at the moment, but don’t think it’ll be too long before she’s way too big for that and needs to be in her cot.
In the first week, we saw a few medical specialists – my GP for her one week check up and the lactation consultant we saw while I was in hospital. Seeing the lactation consultant helped me understand what was going on with my own body (hypoplasia/IBT, for those interested…yay for genetics) but also taught me that while everyone is *trying* to help and has the best intentions, sometimes they’re not helping.
The first lactation consultant we saw was big on “breast is best”. So I was breast feeding and supplementing with a set amount of formula. However, we’ve since discovered that I wasn’t producing anywhere near the amount of milk that the lactation consultant thought I was (even with the extra pills, herbal supplements, pumping and water consumption…I was really trying my hardest) which meant our little girl was, quite literally, starving. We ended up seeing a new lactation consultant and child health nurse who promptly quadrupled the amount of formula we were giving her…and we now have an (almost) happy child.
I say almost, because we’ve since discovered that she has reflux. Poor little thing…after having reflux during pregnancy, I totally understand how she feels. We’ve put her on medication, but it’s absolutely *vile*. Fake banana flavour that smells just disgusting. But it’s helping!
I’m trying to see the pros rather than the cons in formula feeding – for us it means that we can tag-team the feeds. It’s not just all on me. There’s also the benefit of us knowing *exactly* how much she’s getting (give or take a few ml that she either spits out or drools all over herself). The other benefit is it means I don’t have to watch what I eat…or drink. Took a few weeks, but had my first alcoholic beverage in over 10 months a few nights ago. Kahlua and milk. It was *amazing*.
In the first week we also made an emergency run to Baby Bunting for some kind of baby carrier. I ended up buying two different Hug’A’Bubs because I desperately needed to have my hands free to do…things. Like eating and washing and typing. We also discovered that we’d bought things that we really didn’t need….and were missing things that we really *really* did need.
Sleep is few and far between at the moment – we’re lucky if we can manage to get 5 or so hours a night. We’ve been told it gets better. I really hope so. I now truly understand why sleep deprivation is used as a torture device. She’s getting better…but some nights are worse than others. The length of time between her feeds can be as short as 2 hours or as long as 6. She likes to keep us on our toes! Our nights and days are all turned around and we barely know what time it is, let alone what day…
We’ve been out and about a bit, just in our local area – the our local coffee shop, to our local shops and to the local shopping centre. She loves the car. *LOVES IT*. She’s also a fan of her pram as well. Anything with movement. It’s our last-ditch effort when we can’t get her to sleep. I’d rather not rely on it, but sometimes you just have to do what works for your own sanity.
We’re learning her personality and the things that make her unique – like the fact that she *loathes* having a wet nappy but couldn’t really care less about a dirty one. That she loves being held upright, but hates lying in arms, unless she’s passed out. That she doesn’t mind having a bath, but hates having her hands and face wiped down when she’s not in the bath. Just little things that make up her personality. We’re starting to see more and more of it each day.
There are things that have changed for me as well. I know that my personality has shifted – I’m slightly more relaxed and calm and patient…unless it’s 2am in the morning and she’s spending all her time trying to consume either her hands or her bib rather than latching onto the bottle. Things that I cared about before I still care about – but now my tiny hooman comes first. I have barely spent much time on my PC in the last few weeks because I just haven’t had the time! That doesn’t mean I don’t care, just that I’m having to prioritise. And right now, that means that she’s my primary focus and when she’s sleeping, I’m (hopefully!) resting. But I do remember all of you and I will get back to being my sarcastic, cynical, snarky sysadmin self soon!
So that’s it. From pregnancy all the way through to the first month of my lil’ miss’s life – thought I’m sure there are things that I’ve missed and I’ll be making edits to this post for a few weeks to come!
I wanted to say a huge thankyou to everyone who’s helped me through this whole thing: you guys have been awesome. And a massive MASSIVE thankyou for all the gorgeous presents that we’ve received for our tiny hooman. They are seriously seriously appreciated, even if we haven’t said anything to you yet. I promise we will!
We’re using a couple of really good Android apps to keep track of everything, which I would recommend to anyone who’s as OCD as we seem to be:
- Baby Tracker: this lets us document every part of her life so that we don’t have to try and keep it in our heads!
- Wonder Weeks: this gives us an idea of what’s coming next…and what kind of temperament we can expect from her at any given moment!
To finish off with: the biggest piece of advice I can give to new mums is this – advice to new mums is plentiful…and almost half of it can be automatically discarded (including this, if you want!). But you don’t want to offend people, so smiling and nodding while telling yourself in your head “There’s no fucking way I’m doing that” is the safest route. Just do what’s right for you and your bub and fuck everyone else. At least, that’s what I’m doing!