Back At Home

Today has to be a good day, because we are finally going home. I had altered my tea only wake-up ritual and opted for the watery coffee this morning. I also had my fill at breakfast for once, because I ordered corn porridge (mealie meal), muffin and fixings, yogurt and fruit salad. It looks like I had cut myself short in my breakfast orders during the last three days. Never mind, this was my last meal at this hospital, and tomorrow I will have my beloved weetbix biscuits with banana and milk again.

Breastfeeding was going well, and I was feeling elated although I smelled slightly of sour milk and leaked non-stop, but I was prepared with breast pads, and Robert was there to help my get rid of excess production.

Ron and I agreed that he should come today before lunch so that we can get out of the hospital as soon as possible. Obviously my doctor had to see me and approve my discharge and I wanted also to see the pediatrician and the lactation consultant for one last time, to have my last minute questions answered. It turned out that on a Thursday my doctor does his round a little later, as it is one of his regular theater days (Monday is the other one). The breastfeeding consultant Sister B. only came in at about nine, so I had some time to kill and make small talk with the sisters in the reception of the maternity ward.

Ron came shortly after I saw all these people and got my questions and doubts answered. My doctor said that he will sign my discharge paper and give me some instructions for after hospital care. He also said that he will write a prescription for pain tablets and/or suppositories. The tape on the incision can come off on Monday or Tuesday he advised, and apart from that there is only one follow up consultation I need to book with him, six weeks from now.

With all this done, I thought we were all set to leave, but the procedure turned out to be more protracted than we thought. First I needed to get myself ready of course. I had a shower and got into my going-home outfit. The dress that I brought for the purpose was a maternity dress, which Ron bought for me just before we left on holiday to Dominica. It was on sale at the time because it was out of season, and because it is a little summery, it remained in the closet for three months until I discovered it again on the last day of my pregnancy. Luckily it is not a very baggy preggie outfit and can be worn even without a big belly.

Robert had to be checked out of the nursery. The process was lengthy, because it involved bathing him, dressing him in his going home outfit, and checking his records to make sure he had all the necessary shots. Nursery staff also packed his goody bag in preparation for check out, and there were tons of papers to sign, to indemnify the hospital and state that we are taking the correct baby.

For my discharge Ron had to go down to the pharmacy and pay for some hospital medication. I had some left over that I haven’t used up during my hospital stay. Then I had to sign my discharge papers and collect the prescription and instruction of my gynaecologist. All this took almost an hour, then we had to take baby down in the lift in his bassinet/trolley. Meanwhile Ron brought the car to the front, fetched the baby car-seat, and with little help from a nurse we strapped little Robert in. At reception there was then the last matter of signing out and paying for the extras (Thirty Rand for example for a television headphone if I had asked for one). I did not have anything outstanding, so we were given the okay to leave. At the last second, however, somebody said, oh there is still your lunch.. It turned out that the parents are given lunch to take home, so that we will not need to cook as they said. Robert was awake throughout all of this, just sitting quietly in his car-seat, as we waited for the promised meal. The minutes stretched as we loitered around in the lobby and Ron started to get worried. We must have been waiting for fifteen minutes when he decided that he would take Robert into the car. We were just about to head out when a staff member caught up with us and handed me a little carton basket, advising me to be careful because something inside it is broken; I think he meant COULD GET broken, but you never know with South African English. I got the cardboard lunchbox and put it by my feet, and strapped myself into the passenger seat. Ron was already in the driver’s seat and Robert was safely strapped in the backseat. We were all set to drive into the sunshine.

Unfortunately our departure from hospital was just after noon, which is probably one of the worst times for driving in Cape Town. The drive home was long, and the car was hot. We got stuck behind a trailer truck loaded with the late model VWs in front of some car dealership. It got unnerving for both of us because there was no sound from the backseat. I was getting nightmarish images of baby overheating under his blanket or having problems with the sun on his sensitive skin. I opened the window a little but was assaulted with the smell of exhaust, and I thought again of the effect this could have on the little one. By the time we drove into our garage our nerves were a wreck.

Ron handed me the keys to the front door, and I carried up my bag and the lunch, and rushed upstairs to open the doors. He would deal with the car-seat he said. I was upstairs in no time, where I hastily deposited what I was carrying and then looked down from the stairwell window expecting to see Ron with the baby any minute, but he did not show up as quickly as I expected. After a couple of minutes of waiting I got worried and rushed down the steps again to inspect what the problem was. Again the nightmarish scenarios of Ron performing CPR on a suffocating Robert flashed into my brain. I was frantic with worry when I showed up downstairs to see Ron still struggling with the seatbelt around the car-seat. He was so angry and all I could do was rush to his side as he handed me a fully awake Robert and ordered me to go upstairs. He would later describe his experience with the damned car-seat in great detail. When I showed up he was so desperate, he said, he was just about to cut the seatbelt.

Relief was the order of the day as all three of us were finally reunited in the flat. Ron finally managed to free the car-seat without further damages. In the lounge, I saw that Ron had prepared a comfortable armchair for breastfeeding, and set it in the lightest corner of the lounge under the bay windows. I started making use of it immediately; Robert was very thirsty after the hot ride in the car. Meanwhile Ron unpacked lunch and heated it for us, and once again fed me a bite at a time while I was feeding Robert. The baby seemed to have a hard time with his meal. My breasts were the size of bowling balls, and just as hard, and it was such an effort for him to squeeze the nipple into his mouth and get something out. He was howling throughout most of his feed although milk was leaking everywhere. At the time I thought the flow was too much for him to handle.

Robert went to sleep in the car-seat after his afternoon feed, and we retired after that to the dining room, which doubles as our office (computer room). There, I admired the large bunch of flowers on the dining table. It was a beautiful arrangement of yellow, orange and blue flowers; orchids and clivia among others that I cannot name. It took me a few minutes to understand that they were ordered by Robert’s granny and his auntie in Canada. It was such a nice gesture. We made sure to take some photos of Robert with them.

I had lots of email to read and birth announcements to send. I mainly forwarded Robert’s Birth announcement from Medi-Clinic to everyone I knew. The next few days of course I got many congratulations from well-wishers.

I was still on an auto-pilot mode when we came home, and I thought I was over my initial intimidation at handling such a fragile infant. After all, I had changed him a couple of times already at the hospital, and I had the feeding routine down pat. My premature confidence was struck a mortal blow on my maiden attempt at inaugurating the change table in our bathroom. My tiny son was squirming so bad he pushed himself upwards towards the window several times, I kept pulling him towards me, while trying to clean him up; I was all fingers as I tried to wipe up his bum, and his not-yet-fully-healed weenie. In the end he delivered his knock out blow by peeing spectacularly in an arc over his head, enough to make a puddle on the window sill. He was still screaming blue murder by the time I finished. Ron came in after me to clean up the mess.

By late afternoon the day took a turn for the worse weather-wise and Robert got cranky and cried himself to sleep. I had to gulp dinner quickly between feedings and the night was hectic. Ron and I could not get the poor baby to sleep; it seemed that he had lots of gas. We used gripe water which helped some, but still we both had very little sleep as we alternated rocking the crying baby in the cold night. We both hoped this is not the shape of things to come.