Day One – Mobile again

The day started as early as 05:00 am, tea was brought in and a couple of nurses came in. In quick and efficient moves they removed the drip and the catheter. They took away the padding that protected the mattress from underneath me and the loose pads which couldn’t be kept in place and gave me disposable underwear and yet more pads.

Throughout the last night they must have given me two suppositories, and two doses of pain tablets. My main concern however was, being knocked out and missing out on Robert’s feeding time. I needn’t have worried; the nursery staff brought the little one in every three hours and ordered me to feed him. It was hard lying there in bed with limited range of movement; I kind of managed with the bed lifted somewhere between sitting and lying positions. Robert and I had mixed results in those two or three nursing sessions. He took to the breast and latched one time, and could not be tempted at all on another. The nurses were helpful and patient, and never left me before they made sure the feeding was successful. When Robert went on sucking strike, the kindly nurse squeezed some colustrum and spoon-fed him. Some of these kindly nurses are born for the job, they spoke to the infant and cajoled and soothed him, almost managed to put his drugged mother to sleep in the process.

But even with all this going on the night passed slowly, I could not sleep much. When Robert was not in I read a little in my baby book (What to Expect: The First Year) and then in another boring and verbose piece of literature that I fished out of my read-and-discard bookshelf. I chose it because I thought it would put me to sleep. When all of this failed, I just lay there looking out the window, the night was clear and the full moon was shining through; I kept thinking how wonderful it is, to be alive, to be a mother, and to have a beautiful and healthy baby.

When the nurses came to set me free out of bedridden confinement, they explained to me that I will be able to have a shower. Waooo, what a bonus, and here I was thinking that I will have to do with sponge baths for at least a week. I was champing at the bit to get started. However they needed first to have further preparation and inspection to the wound, and I wanted to hear this verdict from my doctor’s mouth. My incision was sprayed with what they claimed to be a plastic spray (?) and I was asked to move from the bed to the chair. It went kind of clumsy because I still had to pull myself up with my arms rather than stomach muscles, but still I managed to do it and sat on the chair, where they took my blood pressure and temperature for the n’th time. I was also anxious to see little Robert and maybe try to feed him, because I was not convinced that the few little drops of colostrum were enough sustenance for the little fellow. I was ready to walk up to the nursery when a nurse pointed out kindly that I was wearing my hospital gown, and there might be some blood on it. Of course she meant to say that half my butt was clearly visible through the back of the gown and the flimsy disposable underwear, so I wisely chose to abort the attempt, especially since they told me they will bring the baby for feeding later.

In the meantime I decided to wash my face, clean up and change, to be ready for my son. I discarded that awful gown and got back into my track-suit pants and vest (the outfit I was wearing to the hospital) the pants are only a little loose now because I still have a 6-month pregnant tummy. I was just done with brushing my teeth when my gynaecologist showed up. In his usual nonchalant joking manner he boomed: Oh you’re looking good. You look ready for another one already.. Tonight? No definitely not tonight, I laughed. He checked up on the wound and declared it in excellent healing condition, and confirmed that I can shower (and even bath) if I wanted to. So I went into the shower immediately after he left. Boy it felt good, to have my own clothes on, and be nice and clean.

When Robert was brought from the nursery I breastfed him in the armchair between the two beds. People continued to drift in and out; I had a breakfast of omelet and mushroom in between feedings, and the nurses kept on showing up at regular intervals, now however, instead of poking me to check me up, they asked me, how’s the bleeding, how’s the wound etc. In contrast to the boisterous entry of my gynecologist, the pediatrician came in very quietly and reported in a gentle voice that he checked on Robert, and everything is fine. I asked him that I was not too sure about him feeding but he assured me that he looks good, and made a poo already. It means that he is getting something.

As in previous days lots of decisions to make, ranging between the trivial and the very important. Firstly there was a survey to fill, a customer (or patient) relations person, making a courtesy call, forms to be filled for including Robert on Medi-Clinic’s webpage, and birth certificate forms to be filled. Then there was the question “to circumcise or not to circumcise”. In our previous conversations I already told Ron that I would like our son to be circumcised. I was born into a Muslim society, where circumcision is the norm, and I believe that almost all newborns are circumcised in my country of origin, regardless of their religious background. There are almost no uncircumcised males in that part of the world. Ron is also somewhat used to the idea, because the procedure is done almost routinely in North America (60% of newborn males are circumcised), and it was even more common for babies of the baby boomer generation. Still it was one of the subjects that we did not really want to talk about, a difficult decision, like finding a name for a male child. We delayed making a definite decision about it, because there was a 50% chance that we will not have to. But now it was time to make that decision. I spoke to the pediatrician and the gynecologist about getting our son circumcised while we were still at the hospital, and they promised to organize it.

The next person I met was obviously related to this issue, the secretary in the office of Dr. K, Specialist Surgeon according to his card. She explained the cost of the procedure, which our medical aid does not pay for incidentally; it was a little bit more than I expected. She said that Dr. K. will perform the operation tomorrow at noon. So that was settled but, all good intentions not withstanding, Ron and I still have our mixed feelings about the whole thing. I also saw B the breastfeeding consultant. She makes a daily round at nine on all new mothers and answers questions relating to breastfeeding and gives advice for problematic issues of latching, pain during nursing and other things. She gave me a few pointers and assured me that baby will gradually become more interested in nursing by the time the real milk comes in, which should be sometime tomorrow afternoon. Until then I should feed him the colostrum on the schedule set by the nursery, because he does not feel hungry or thirsty yet.

Ron arrived around 11:00, he was wearing a gray shirt, and looked freshly shaven and handsome, albeit somewhat tired. He gave me a quick report about the pictures, the emails he sent to friends and family, and their reactions to Robbie’s arrival. The only message I was able to send yesterday was an SMS to all friends and family, in South Africa and abroad. I got to look at the reply messages on my cell phone which Ron took with him home (to download the pictures from the cell phone camera). Robert was brought in for another feeding session a little bit after that. I nursed him again sitting on the big armchair in the center of the room. Ron took more pictures of us.
We stayed together until lunch, where dad was invited to join us. The steak was good, although a little chewy, but still the pepper sauce was excellent. Along with the steak we had potato salad which was also good. Ron said the food was great, and I agreed with him this time. After my dismal dinner last night, and my very small breakfast I was hungry; I was ready to wolf down one of the emergency chocolate and energy bars which Ron stuck in my overnight bag while I was not looking. This lunch was a welcome change, and redeemed my flagging belief in my ability to survive on hospital food. Because our lunch coincided with Robert’s, dad had to feed mom bites of steak while she was breastfeeding junior. It was funny.
After this family lunch we took Robert back to the nursery and Ron encouraged me to take a walk around the hospital. There are a number of roof terraces and balconies around the hospital wings. The roof terrace closest to my ward overlooks Table Mountain. In the ward across the lobby there is a balcony overlooking the city bowl, very dusty and dirty. Ron and I relaxed outside in the warm spring sun, reflecting on our amazement at this new miracle in our life, and how much we love the little one already. It still brings tears to my eyes when I contemplate the truth that I realized on this day: I would gladly give my life for little Robert. Ron felt exactly the same.
During the course of the afternoon I still got many SMS messages from friends in Cape Town. Jackie had SMS’ed me yesterday to ask whether she can come visit, but I advised her to come on the next day, since I was not exactly a sight for sore eyes, incapacitated for the day and hooked up to needles and tubes. Today she SMS’ed saying that she will come sometime after work. Ron left by late afternoon. He still has lots of things to do, and the house to look after. These days he was also working with our landlord to fit double glass on the bedroom window. We requested it to cut down on the terrible noise from our street. We still had no idea how Robert will react to our noisy apartment, but it is safe to assume that he will be used to it, since he got to listen to the den of traffic while he was still in the womb.

Jackie and boyfriend Mark, along with Jason and his fiancée Fiona came to visit sometime in the evening. Jackie brought the little one some clothes that he will be able to wear at six months, while Jason and Fiona brought us flowers, and a teddy bear for little Robert. At this time the teddy bear is still bigger than its new owner. We chatted a little bit about childbirth, circumcision, etc. Jason and Fiona are getting married sometime next year, so obviously starting a family is something that they are looking forward to, and have many questions about. Everyone agreed that my little angel is cute and adorable; of course I cannot give an impartial opinion on that one. I think he is the most precious little one ever. Before they left I managed to change Robert’s diapers for the first time, and take a look at the diaper surprise, which tonight consisted of the tarry meconium poo, and quite a lot of it. It is very sticky and difficult to wipe off.

The day was a beautiful warm spring day, and so was the night. Robert showed more interest in feeding, and I did not have much sleep. Every few hours I awoke shortly before he was brought up to me for feeding, I walked around in the room looked out the window towards the full moon shining brightly over Lion’s Head, I remember feeling so alive and happy. I was still high on adrenaline. Robert sucked for hours. The nurses were happy with the way he is feeding and it seemed that I was doing it right.