September 15th, 2020

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Everybody Lives! (Or: "How Gideon came to be")

11 days ago, at 3:56 in the morning, I got to hold my second child. It didn't happen the way we expected, or wanted, it to. But, as the saying goes "If you can walk away from a landing, it's a good landing. If you use the airplane the next day, it's an outstanding landing" and we walked away from the hospital with everyone alive and in pretty good health, and with Jane at the least up on her feet within hours, so I'm going to rate the overall result "outstanding".

Jane was always going to have to be induced, as she's over 40, had gestational diabetes*, and both of our children moved around a lot less in the last month or two of their uterine imprisonments. Last time we spent the first two days of the induction waiting for either a pessary or a gel to have any effect - with nothing at all happening while we waited, and Jane eventually having to use a Cook's Balloon to get labour off the ground. This time around we told them that the first two days had been fruitless, and they skipped straight to the cervix-stretching device. Which also wasn't hugely effective, but did pass the time for the first 24 hours, as Jane and I went on some lovely walks around the hospital and up to the local castle (Craigmillar Castle - pic).

Eventually, after about 36 hours in the hospital they decided that we weren't getting anywhere, and shifted us along to the labour ward itself, so they could pump Jane full of artificial oxytocin and see if they could kickstart labour that way. Seven hours after that, they had managed to get Jane's contractions to be going as fast as they wanted - but with two drawbacks. Firstly, her cervix was still resolutely shut, and secondly Gideon-To-Be was having heart decelerations - basically every time Jane's uterus squeezed his heart rate would drop. This is fine during the final birth process, but with it happening for hours before that point, it was a sign that his cord was being squeezed every time, which gets unhealthy if it goes on too long.

If the cord was being squeezed but the cervix was opening then we could have continued while we actually got him out through it. If the cervix wasn't opening but his heart rate was fine then we could have continued waiting for a few hours to see if it responded usefully. But with both things being an issue at the same time the medical staff very calmly talked us through our options, and basically made it clear that it was Caesarean time.

We weren't entirely happy about this - losing control of the birth process to a surgical team isn't the ideal we were aiming for. But the main goal remained "Get a healthy baby out", and surgery was basically our only option there, so off we went to surgery. Where some lovely people treated us very well (including an anaesthetist who was very caring and talked us through everything very calmly).

In the end they retrieved Gideon - it was a massive relief to hear him cry when they got him out. Jane and I both burst in to tears from the stress dropping away.** I went with him to the antechamber where they weighed him, counted his various appendages and wrapped him up, and then I got to hold him for a while while they sewed Jane back up. I then passed him to Jane, and we went off to the recovery ward for an hour. He got breastfeeding working literally first go, which was a huge relief, and very surprising***, and then they sent me home so they could take Jane off to the maternity ward, I got out of the hospital at 6am, and headed home to get a few hours sleep. I phoned my dad, posted to Facebook, updated a few friends, and then had a chat with my mother who heard me coming in the front door. I then collapsed asleep for a whole two hours before Sophia woke me up at 9am. At almost exactly the same moment a healthcare assistant arrived at Jane's bedside, showed her how to climb out of it into her chair, and made sure that she wasn't immobile/stuck in bed. This was quite marvellous, as there's a tendency after a caesarean to feel like you can't move, and getting encouragement and assistance made Jane feel much better, and like she wasn't entirely stuck. She ended up having a shower shortly afterwards, which made her feel much better.

So much better that the following day she felt up to being de-catheterised, and then actually made it home that evening! Much praise for the midwives, who although overstretched got her paperwork done in record time, and got her all of the drugs she needed to manage the pain over the next few days.

Gideon was, however, showing some signs of jaundice. Not badly enough that he needed to stay in, but enough that we had daily visits for the next three days to measure his bilirubin levels. They peaked at 260 before dropping to 247 and then continuing downwards, never quite reaching the 270 that would mean going back in to hospital for a session under the UV lights (as Sophia had to).

Sophia has actually coped very well. My mother came up and lived with us for a week to look after her, and was invaluable (pic). Without her doing that there's no way I could have spent really any time with Jane in hospital. Considering how nervous Sophia generally is with people it was a huge relief to see them getting on so well, and she's missed mum since she went back home. She's also adjusted to Gideon living with us remarkably well. She clearly likes him, asking to hold/hug him on a regular basis (pic), and we've only had occasional jealousy - usually around breastfeeding. She'd dropped her breastfeeding significantly, but the arrival of a small person who keeps attaching to "my boob" has meant that she's suddenly shown much more interest - to the point where she actually had a dodgy tummy for a couple of days. This is slowly improving though, and we're finding a new normal. It's definitely not as awful as I worried it might be.

As per point (4) of my advice to new dads I don't feel the same way about him that I do about her. Right now he's a snuggly worm who feeds and sleeps. There isn't much personality there for me to bond with yet. But I can tell that I will do, given time, and him developing a bit. I'm certainly delighted to carry him around and hold him and stare into his eyes while he waves his little arms frustratedly around.

The first few months of a new baby they tend to sleep for 2 hours, feed for half an hour, rinse, repeat. It's basically a fourth trimester - pure growth without much ability to do anything. So my task is to help keep him alive, make sure that Jane gets enough rest and peace to keep her sane, and make sure Sophia doesn't feel like she's a second-class citizen - and other than that it's mostly Tour De France at the moment**** :-)

*happens to a lot of people, has no causal link with non-gestational diabetes, and was very easily controlled during both pregnancies - returning to total normality in-between them.

**I find the last couple of months of pregnancy very stressful. Particularly when they can't move about much in there and so it becomes much trickier to tell if they're still alive. I spend a fair chunk of my time worrying about whether there's still a live baby in there, and intermittently writing posts in my head in which I have to tell everyone that we're not having a baby after all. Getting in to hospital, where they check on Jane every few hours take a big weight off of that, but obviously not nearly as much as actually getting him out!

***Sophia took about 6 weeks to breastfeed, with her mouth being significantly smaller than Gideon's. This meant that we had to go through a pump->feed->wash->sterilise cycle multiple times a day, and we never found a bottle which didn't give her trapped wind. Having it work from day 1 meant things have worked much more smoothly. And when we did hit wind problems we could revert to breastfeeding and try something else. We've now settled on the Medela Calma, which didn't cause any issues at all when we used it.

****I'd love to have you all over to say hi to him, or hang out, if it wasn't for the godawful pestilence we're putting up. I was really looking forward to baby cinema too!


And here's Jane's version.
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