Pine Nut (at birth)

Thursday, 13 March, 2014

(Feel free to skip this post: I'm just going to blather on about my second labour in excruciating detail, which, I realise, will interest some people and not others. But I felt like writing it all down was an important thing to do—not just for me and my processing of the whole event—not just for Pine Nut who might want to read about it in future years—but also because good birth stories are important: apparently a lot of women these days are afraid of childbirth because often just the scary birth stories get shared around when they get pregnant. [NB This has NOT been my experience.] Hence sites like Tell Me a Good Birth Story. [Thanks Annelise for the link!] Also, if you're interested in more about this, this interview with Lucy Perry is fascinating—and not just because she started off not wanting to have children and then became a birth attendant. Finally, apologies for any errors: once again, I'm writing this quickly so I can get it down before I forget.)

I learned from talking to people that your second labour is always different: midwives told me that, generally speaking, second labour is shorter than the first (and is roughly half the time, which I didn't quite believe), but as each child is different, so is each labour different. Here's how it went for me:

Stage 1

I woke up on Tuesday 4 March at around 5:45 am and wondered, “Why am I awake?” Then I realised that I was having contractions and that they were coming roughly 10 minutes apart. I could have been going through this stage last time, but I don't remember it: last time, it seemed like my waters broke first and then contractions began. This time, it was kind of nice to actually know what was going on and have some sort of expectation of how things would go: I knew what a contraction felt like and I knew what to look out for. Ben woke up around this time and asked why I was awake, and I told him and asked if he could work from home that day. (That's the nice thing about working freelance: you can be flexible that way.) Then Astrid woke up and he tended to morning stuff with her and somehow I fell asleep again for about another hour or so.

I kind of thought that things would progress rather quickly from there, but they didn't: the contractions slowed to roughly every 10-20 minutes, much to my disappointment. (The Birth Centre had told me that they didn't want to see me until contractions were roughly five minutes apart and regular, but if my waters broke, then they did want to see me because I had a Group B streptococcus infection [which apparently comes and goes; I didn't have it with Astrid]), so if my waters broke, they needed to give me antibiotics because if they didn't, it could affect the baby during labour. HOWEVER, whatever the case, I was to call them first anyway so that they could assess the situation and whether or not they had a delivery suite available.) But I remembered that this first stage could go on for a couple of days and that everything was going to be different this time around anyway.

So I got up and basically continued with my day: I cancelled going to Bible study (and my group said they would pray for me) and taking Astrid to get her haircut; I did some laundry; I played with Astrid; at one point, thinking that perhaps I could bring on labour, I took her down to the park and we walked around the block for about an hour (with still no change); I told some close friends and asked them to pray; I kept in touch with my in-laws who were excited to be on standby as my mum was in Canberra at the time; and I finished packing my hospital bag. Nothing much happened all day: the contractions were about the same. We all had lunch, my in-laws came in the afternoon as per usual, I had a nap (figuring that that was probably a good idea and I was tired again anyway), I said to Ben, “I feel like I'm putting everyone out and I feel bad about that because nothing much is happening”, and he laughed at me in a reassuring sort of way and told me not to worry about it; it was all okay. My in-laws asked if they should take Astrid with them when they went, and I thought that was a good idea, so they took her overnight bag (which had enough stuff for three days in it) and her childcare bag and she went very happily with them. (Later they told us that she said, “Mummy and daddy won't be very happy because they'll be missing me” and even later, “This is my last day without the baby”, which I thought was quite insightful.)

Then Ben and I had some dinner (leftovers) and settled in for the evening, him doing more work while sitting on the couch (as he had a deadline to meet), me deciding I might as well relax and watching the Academy Awards I had taped the previous night and trying to knit.

At around 9pm, I noticed the contractions coming stronger and more frequently. Then I think my waters broke: it didn't happen like last time (when they were a noticeable “pop”), but it looked the same. The contractions were about 5.5 minutes apart at this stage, so I called the Birth Centre to let them know, I told them that my first labour had been six hours (the midwives had told me to mention that when I called) and I asked what I should do. After asking me some more questions about contractions, my waters breaking, etc., the midwife I spoke to said I should start making my way in. So Ben and I took my bags and drove in, me still having contractions on the way.

It surprised me the number of cars there were on the street when we got there—especially as visiting hours were over. At first, I thought I could walk from wherever we parked, but then as the contractions got stronger, I asked Ben to drop me off. I gave the receptionist at the front desk my yellow hospital card and he buzzed me into the Birth Centre, where several midwives were waiting. They immediately put me in a suite and I got out the things that I thought I would need—including a new pad as my waters were still coming out (and also the midwives wanted to examine the old one to make sure everything was okay in utero). Ben showed up not much later and helped me start running the bath. Then I think there was a shift change because the first midwife I saw was then replaced by another named Jenny, who was basically around for the whole of my labour. She went and got the antibiotics for me and said that because I also had small fibroids (two, I think), they were going to put a cannula in my arm, which she then used to administer the antibiotics and draw some blood. I was really keen to get in the bath at this stage, so was glad when that was finally done and I could change into a tankini and do so.

Stage 2

The bath was instantly a wonderful relief: just being surrounded by warm water made a great deal of difference. The cannula was annoying because I couldn't get it wet, so I had to hold my arm over the side the whole time, which meant that during contractions, I could only support myself with one arm. (For most of it, for some reason, I just wanted to be either sitting upright, or leaning back on that one arm, or slightly elevated off the bottom of the bath in that sort of position. But it was a bit hard to brace myself in the bath and my feet kept slipping. Maybe I should have knelt but I didn't feel like doing that.) Ben sat on a plastic chair on the shower side and, like last time, I got him to time the contractions. (I downloaded an free app that was supposed to help, but we didn't use it all that much.) But there wasn't much consistency to them: he pointed out that they were all over the place, so instead he would tell me when I was 30 seconds through, one minute through, etc. They became more frequent and more intense really quickly.

For a while, I was able to talk in between them. Then they started getting closer together. I asked Ben to buzz Jenny the midwife and ask her for the gas. She brought in a tank with a breathing tube attached and showed me how to use it. She did warn both of us, however, that Asian women tend to get lightheaded when using it. I didn't remember that happening when I was in labour with Astrid, so didn't think much of it. Then the first time I used it properly (breathing in through the mouth, breathing out through the mouth), I started getting lightheaded and realised that I had probably used it completely wrong during my first labour because I had breathed in through my nose and out through my mouth, which rendered the gas completely useless. (It had been, however, a useful thing to focus on during contractions!) I didn't like feeling lightheaded because I wanted to focus, so I basically ditched the gas. I think it helped knowing that I had pretty much done it before (that is, given birth) without the gas, otherwise perhaps I would have been more scared, knowing that there wasn't really anywhere to go from there (short of an epidural, but I think I was way past the stage when they could have given me one, and I didn't really want one anyway). Sorry, I think I am being confusing: what I am trying to say is that knowing that I had done it before gave me confidence that I could do it again, whereas I remember what it felt like that first time when I did not know where I was up to in labour—when things got really painful, but I felt like I was still in control and that I had a plan (the plan being hot water and then gas [even though I didn't use the gas properly]).

Stage 3

ANYWAY, after ditching the gas, the contractions became way more intense and closer together, and the bath was filled with all sorts of disgusting floaty bits (waters, blood, stool, etc.), and I started having trouble speaking in between contractions because there started not being a “between”. I thought, “I have to tell Ben to call Jenny before I lose the ability to speak altogether”, and I ask Ben to call her and tell her that I felt like pushing. She came and sat on the other side of the tub on the toilet (lid down, of course) and basically stayed there for the rest of my labour. At first, she asked me to just breathe through the contraction and not push (I guess to let the cervix dilate more), and then she told me to do whatever I felt like. Within the span of three or four absolutely excruciating contractions, I felt the head crown and then I pushed out my baby, and Jenny said to me, “Quick! Grab your baby!” because the baby was in the water, and I suddenly realised that it was all over: I had given birth to another baby girl, and furthermore, I'd done it in roughly 2.5 hours—in far less time than labour #1 and with minimal pain relief.

Jenny helped me lift the baby and untangle the cord (which might have been around her neck; I can't remember), and we put her on my chest and she looked so pale and quite out of it. Jenny rubbed her arms and shoulders and eventually she opened her mouth, took in air and started crying. Then Jenny clamped the umbilical cord and got Ben to cut it, while I held the baby and sat there in the bath, a little shellshocked. Jenny asked what we were going to call her: I think we had only settled on a name in the car on the way to the hospital. “Saski Aurora Beilharz,” we told her—“Saski” because it sounded like “Satsuki” from My Neighbour Totoro and also because it was a bit like “Saskia Hamilton”, who was the subject of a Nick Hornby/Ben Folds song on Lonely Avenue, and “Aurora” because we both liked the name (and I especially like the Sleeping Beauty connection). Also, we had to find something that matched “Astrid”. Fortunately we both liked “Saski” pretty early; it was the middle name that stumped us for a while because once you choose the first name, you've got to find something for the second name that matches the first and surname, which is tricky.

She looks a lot like Astrid when Astrid was born:

Also, I know this is such a little thing, but I'm rather chuffed that she has my fingernails:

Stage 4

Then Jenny drained the bath, put Saski in a towel to dry her off and got Ben to take her into the other room, gave me a shot of syntocinon (synthetic oxytocin) and then she helped me out of the bath. (I wondered how I was going to do it; the sides seemed so high. But I did.) She got me onto the bed on some large pads to catch the rest of the blood. At this point, I should have gotten myself out of the tankini and dried off; I don't know why I didn't. Anyway, then she tried to get me to push to get the placenta out. But unfortunately the cord snapped. This obviously complicated things and it meant that we were in the delivery suite for a lot longer than we were the first time around.

Here is when I started to appreciate the luxury and convenience of paying to have your own OBGYN. The Birth Centre, being different and operating through Medicare, meant that Jenny also had to attend to another woman who was in labour in a different suite, and we had to wait around for whoever was available. A midwife from Labour Ward came in a bit later and put me on a drip with syntocinon. She also got me to sit on a birthing stool and push, but the placenta did not come out and the syntocinon did cause uterine contractions/cramps. It was really uncomfortable being on the birth stool, half naked, still wet, trying to breastfeed Saski for the first time with a drip in my arm, so after about 45 minutes of it, I asked if I could go back to the bed. Then there was more waiting around, with me continuing to try to breastfeed Saski, who cried a lot (understandably). (Side note: it's weird when you're trying to breastfeed and other people are commenting: the midwife from Labour Ward addressed Saski at one stage and said, “Come on, little one! Other babies would kill for nipples like your mum's!”) I was worried Saski was cold, so at one point, asked Ben to go get my other hospital bag from the car (I had two: one for labour, one for post-labour), and then we dressed her in a onesie and a nappy I had brought, and wrapped her up in a wrap. (Side note: I had forgotten that Ben might need reminding on baby stuff—like how to wrap a baby in a wrap. Somehow that didn't make it to my pre-labour To Do list …) Eventually a couple of doctors from Labour Ward came in (I assumed the other two were students or interns or something), they got me to shift to the other side of the bed (I have no idea why), and the main one apologised up front, squished my stomach very hard and then, fishing around inside of me, managed to get the placenta out. I was so relieved, I thanked her probably more enthusiastically than she expected, but I really did not want to have go to in to the operating theatre, which is what one of the midwives had been saying.

Post-birth things

After that, there was more waiting. I finally got the wet tankini off but realised I couldn't actually get dressed because of the drip. They wanted me to have the rest of the syntocinon on the drip for some reason (probably to make sure that any placenta bits would be expelled as they couldn't guarantee they got it all); I forget why. So I lay there for ages under blankets, breastfeeding Saski (who, in the end, did it for about an hour and a half—45 minutes each side), and then finally Jenny came back to stitch me up as the doctor who had removed the placenta said she had noticed a tear (internal, not external, which was good; my perineum was fine, which was a relief as I did zero perineal massage and didn't even use the EPI-NO this time around). So then I had to shuffle painfully on my back to the other side of the bed where Jenny had placed a board under the bed's mattress and raised the bed: I had to put both feet on the board and make sure my bottom was right up against the end of the bed. Ben took Saski and sat down on one of the chairs in the corner. I tried not to think about being stitched up (not that I could feel much because of the anaesthetic).

When Jenny finished, she went away to sort out the paperwork to get us admitted to the maternity ward. (We were keen to just get there, not hang around in the delivery suite; it was getting to be around 4 am at this point). There was more waiting around, but finally I could come off the drip, have a little shower to get rid of the rest of the blood and mess from my body, get dressed and pack up. When we were finally ready to go, Ben took the bags and I took Saski in the hospital bassinet. We walked across the lobby into Labour Ward—into a little room with a bunch of equipment. There, Jenny measured Saski (51 cm—same as Astrid; 35 cm head circumference [I think]), weighed her (3.127kg—not as much as Astrid, but then Astrid was a week late), checked her hips, and, most bizarrely, put her in this machine called a “Pea Pod” that had its own baby capsule that reminded me that scene in Man of Steel when Jor-El sends his newborn son to Earth. (Apparently it measures body mass and what percentage of it is fat. I have no idea how. It wasn't around when we had Astrid.) Saski didn't like the Pea Pod much. (Can't say I blame her.)

After that was done, we finally went up to the maternity ward and were taken to our room. It was on the opposite side to last time and it was pretty much the same, just with a nicer view of Sydney University. We were introduced to Chloe, who was our midwife on night shift. Jenny did handover with her and then said goodbye. Then Chloe gave us basic orientation of the room and the ward, then let us be. Ben went looking for some linen/bedding stuff, but all he could find was a baby-sized cotton blanket, which mustn't have been very helpful as the air conditioning was a bit full on in the room. Chloe went and got me a Blue Book for Saski and also asked me to try breastfeeding her again before bed. (Saski barely did four minutes on one side, before dozing off.) Then I tried to get ready for bed, but accidentally pressed the emergency button in my quest to figure out how to turn off the lights. (Three midwives came rushing in and I had to apologise to them for my mistake.) But finally we were all in bed and sleeping.

Day 1 (Wednesday)

(Yeah, I know it's technically the same day, but anyway …) The midwives had told me that breakfast would be served at around 7am, so I wasn't sure if I would sleep much. I did, however, manage to get some shut-eye, and then at 7:30am, the staff brought some breakfast and I got up for it. There was a shift change and Chloe came and introduced the new midwife, whose name I've unfortunately forgotten. Ben woke up and I invited him to share my breakfast (he wasn't keen), so I told him to get more sleep and gave him all my bedding so he could be warm. (I was going to eat breakfast anyway.)

Social media was going a bit crazy as Ben had posted a picture of Saski on Facebook just after she was born and I had reshared it on my wall. I posted a new pic and a birth announcement with all of Saski's stats. I think I had emailed my family during the early hours of the morning the night before. Ben had taken care of his side of the family. (My in-laws had requested that we message them, no matter what time it was.) I also emailed childcare to let them know my in-laws would be dropping Astrid off that day, as well as messaging my father-in-law instructions about what he should do with Astrid when he got there. I went outside and discovered that the laundry had been delivered, so I got fresh sheets and a blanket for me. Then I went back to sleep for a couple of hours, which I think was interrupted by a member of staff coming to take away the breakfast tray.

When I resurfaced, I think it was almost lunchtime. I was hungry so had one of the fruit and nut bars I had brought (which were the only food I had brought along, and I felt a bit bad because I had completely forgotten to pack things for Ben for hospital, or to even ask him to do so, so he had no spare clothes, no toothbrush, no food. He didn't care though, and he just went out to get things to eat when he needed to.) A woman selling baby photos came through, peddling her wares (free photo session and if you like the pics, you can buy them!) We sent her away. The attending midwife came by to see how things were going. (Apparently a couple had been through when Ben was awake to take Saski's temperature to make sure that she hadn't been affected by the Group B strep. 12 hours after birth, she was still doing fine.) The midwife asked me if Saski had fed again (she hadn't, even though I had offered, which is normal) and how her nappies were (yucky with meconium). I asked her about early discharge and she said she would check. Then I was given lunch, which I gobbled up. Ben went out to get food, while I kept an eye on Saski, who mostly just slept, though she occasionally opened her eyes and seemed reassured that I was still there (that's one advantage of having a see-through bassinet!) I called my mum, who offered to take care of Astrid on the Thursday and Friday, but she didn't want to drop Astrid at childcare, so I cancelled Astrid's childcare session and swim school class.

After lunch when Ben came back, we put the “Do not disturb” sign on the door and we all had more naps, which was just great. At around 5pm, my in-laws and sister-in-law arrived with Astrid and Astrid's luggage in tow. She was all excited to see the baby, but she wasn't keen to have photos with Saski (fair enough!). She gave Saski her present (which was this—obviously too old for her at the newborn stage, but I thought it would be fun for later, and certainly Astrid enjoys playing with it. It's so funny: with Astrid, I thought such a thing—a cloth book with different fasteners—like a zipper, snaps, buttonhole, etc.—would be awesome but I never found such a thing until I was perusing one of those toy catalogues that childcare centres distribute.) We also gave Astrid her present from Saski (which was a plush dog with a grooming kit and carrier). Astrid seemed to like it a lot! My mother-in-law brought Saski the most gorgeous quilt she had made—all black and white with the alphabet on one side. Then my mother arrived, as well as my father-in-law, who had been off parking the car and had been misdirected inside the building.

That crazy storm was going on outside at this stage, and the pyrotechnics in the sky were quite spectacular. Everyone (except Astrid) got a chance to hold Saski and have photos taken with her. Dinner arrived in the middle of it, which I wolfed down. (I took a picture of all my food for the day:)

Then we helped Astrid get her things together and she went off with my mum quite happily, barely saying goodbye to us. My in-laws also said goodbye at this stage. The attending midwife (a different person) came in and said I was approved for early discharge, but I needed to get Saski to feed just one more time before we could leave. She also suggested bathing Saski, which I thought was a good idea as my memories of how to bath newborns were vague at best and also I wasn't quite sure what to do with the cord stump. So I tried to feed Saski, but she wouldn't have any of it, so we went to bath her in the bath room, but all the midwives were busy. Fortunately we didn't have to wait too long until ours came back and showed us what to do.

After the bath (during which Saski cried as much as Astrid had), I tried to feed Saski again, but she still wasn't hugely keen. She did do a few minutes on one side, and then the midwife suggested hand expressing, so she taught me how to do that and caught the drops in a plastic syringe, and while we were doing that, Saski fed a bit more. When Saski was done on that side, the midwife fed her what we had collected from the other side with the syringe. And then finally we could go!

We packed up, and Ben took the bags to the car and drove around to the area where he had dropped me off, while I carried Saski down to reception and picked up all the forms we needed (for registering Saski's birth, for Centrelink/Medicare, etc.). I waited in the area with the lounges until Ben came around in the car. There were all these people there who looked like they were family members, hanging around and waiting for news of a relative's labour. They all ogled and smiled at me with Saski. I had forgotten how much attention babies attract. One lady asked how old Saski was: “One day,” I replied, and the asker seemed horrified that I was already going home from hospital. At that point, Ben messaged to say he was outside, so I exited that conversation rather hurriedly.

There was someone else wanting to park in the area where we were, so we tried hastily to put Saski in the baby seat. At that point, I realised that we had forgotten to put in the infant insert. The car seat belt wasn't quite right anyway, but there wasn't much we could do about it, so we put her in, fixed the seatbelt as best we could, and drove home.

Just as we reached home, the midwife from the maternity ward called to say that they had just accepted a flower delivery for us. It was from Ben's old boss (who is also a current client). We said we would pick it up the following day.

At home, I had to set up the bassinet. (Good thing I washed the lining before we left, though I probably should have done it earlier; it was one of the things I procrastinated on, despite it being on my pre-labour To Do list.) We had to clean the pram carrycot first so we could put her in that while I set up the bassinet. I gave Saski a final feed and then put her to bed.

That night was a bit crazy because the feeding frenzy began—sometimes back-to-back feeds, or at least feeds every 1.5-2 hours, with each feed taking at least an hour. At one point, Ben took Saski into the lounge so I could sleep. At another point, I just gave up and slept on the lounge. Fortunately she had a decent morning sleep so I was able to catch up.

Day 2 (Thursday)

As much as I love Astrid, I have to say it was a great relief not to have her around: it meant that we could all take the day slowly—napping, eating breakfast, eating lunch, doing laundry and general tidying, Ben working when he could to meet his deadline (which had been Saski's due date but fortunately it got extended). (Seriously, I don't know how people recover from labour, look after a newborn, deal with newborn feeding frenzy AND look after a toddler without good help!) I was glad I had taken advantage of a Priceline sale and stocked up on pads—particularly maternity ones—as I knew I would bleed for a while. Around lunchtime, I had to wake Saski up because it was almost seven hours since her last feed and I was concerned. A midwife named Tracey came for my first home visit in the afternoon. I don't remember what we talked about because there was so much of it and she gave me a lot of information about all sorts of things. She checked Saski over and told me what I needed to do next (i.e. book Saski in for a hearing test as we couldn't do that before leaving the hospital; make Saski an appointment to see a GP before 10 days after birth, etc.) Georgina was in touch on social media about my meal roster, which she had very kindly and generously agreed to organise. Later in the afternoon, my brother-in-law and his family came by—our niece and nephew very excited about meeting Saski. They brought her a present of a temperature gauge rubber duck and some towels (which I had asked for because ours were going the way of the rag pile). We defrosted some bolognaise sauce that I had made several weeks before, and ate that with pasta and vegetables for dinner. Then I tried to go to bed at 7pm, which more or less worked as Saski was awake at midnight and the feeding frenzy continued until the early hours of the morning—every two hours, with each feed taking about an hour and then me sleeping for an hour until the next one. After that, I got Ben to take her so I could get some more sleep.

Just quietly, Ben really likes babies in the baby stage. I don't know why it's taken me so long to realise that. Here's Saski chilling out on him at the hospital:

and here's him doing work with her in the crook of his arm the way he used to with Astrid:)

Day 3 (Friday)

I had been warned that this was the day that my milk would come in, and with it, the hormones that would make me emotional and crazy. (I was reminded of this recently when reading these posts about having three children—not that we are going to have another because we aren't.) I was up for breakfast, but I found it hard to go back to sleep afterwards. Then Tracey the midwife came for her second visit, which was mostly focussed on me and my recovery. She told me to do Kegels, to work on my abdominals using the exercises from the hospital book I had been given (and she gave me this thing that is basically a tube made out of bandage material to wear a bit like a miniskirt/strapless dress but under my boobs to hold me together because my abdominal muscles are so poor), to lie down as much as possible with a pillow under my bottom because standing up too much would put pressure on my wound (also, I should ice that wound), and so on. Again, I don't think I remembered everything she told me, but anyway I guess they have to say it and check that they've covered everything.

After she left, I went back to sleep, then woke for the next feed, lunch, another feed, I had a shower, then there was a bit of time when I could just do whatever, so I rigged the Laptop Laidback that Bec had given me and spent a bit of time writing this post, lying on the couch, before Saski wanted to feed again. This time, I took her out on the balcony so she could get some of that afternoon sun because she had very mild jaundice (nowhere near like Astrid, though; for a while, I was taking Astrid out on the balcony every morning for some sun.)

Then my mum and Peter came to visit, bringing Astrid and a beautiful bouquet of oriental lilies with them. Astrid was glad to be back, I think, but she basically ignored me and paid most of her attention to Ben. I was encouraged to see that she was quite interested in Saski, however. After my mum and Peter left, Astrid was quite temperamental: she refused to do what we asked, she threw tantrums and she cried a lot. (I've been told this is normal for siblings, and to be fair, it was late in the day and she was tired.) It was a bit of a struggle getting through the whole dinner (more defrosted bolognaise sauce with pasta and vegetables)/bath/bedtime routine, but somehow we got Astrid to bed. Georgina also dropped around, bringing me some Lansinoh like a heavenly angel of mercy (as Saski had nicked both of my nipples, which meant that every time she fed, it hurt like hell). George and I caught up briefly before she had to go. Then I fed Saski, tried to sleep, couldn't (because I was a bit anxious about Astrid and her adjustment to being a big sister), got up and wrote some more of this blog post, stayed up too late, persevered through back-to-back feeds, couldn't settle Saski so took her into the lounge room with some sheets because I didn't want to disturb Ben any more than I already had, and I slept on the lounge until morning.

Day 4 (Saturday)

Astrid was kind and didn't wake me up until 7:45 am. She wanted to know why I was sleeping on the lounge and asked me several times about it. I got her dressed, we ate breakfast together and talked a bit about Saski, and then I played zoo and Duplo with her until Ben got up. Then Saski wanted to feed, so I ordered Ben to shower and Astrid to watch TV while I fed Saski.

After that, as previously agreed, Ben took Astrid out to get the mail and pick up my parcel from the post office while I had a sleep. Astrid threw a tantrum and didn't want to go, so it was a bit awful for a while. Then Saski had a bit of a poo explosion, so it took a little time before she would settle and we both had a good sleep. I was worried that Tracey the midwife would come during this period, so left the bedroom door open so I would hear the buzzer. (I didn't.)

Then when Astrid and Ben returned (and they returned bearing gifts: a new pillow for me!), I woke and found that Tracey had tried to call, so I called her back and apologised, and she said she was glad I had gotten some sleep and that she would come in an hour. So I had a shower, Saski woke for her next feed, and then Tracey arrived and did newborn testing stuff on Saski. Saski had only lost 100g from her birth weight (which was pretty good), her hips looked fine and Tracey thought she didn't look jaundiced. Tracey also drew blood for testing (they test for a whole range of different things) and then said she would discharge me from the program if I was happy to do that. (I said I was.)

After she left, we attempted to have some quiet time with Astrid by putting on Cars 2, but it didn't really work: Astrid just jumped around a lot and refused to settle, and I was trying to feed and settle Saski in between, and poor Ben was trying to nap. (I resolved then that we would do Room Time instead from then on.) After the movie finished, Astrid and I played Duplo together (while I was also doing laundry), and then she had a bath while I ordered pizza for us all for dinner. Bedtime was still a bit of an ordeal, but we got there. Then in the night, Saski fed more or less regularly every 3-4 hours. The problem is she tends to snack: she'll do 5-10 minutes on one side, fall asleep, I'll give her a nappy change to wake her up, then she'll do 5 minutes on the other side and fall asleep, but then if I try to settle her back in her bassinet, she often wakes again (sometimes because she's done something else in her nappy and wants a clean one; sometimes it's because she has the hiccups). Sometimes she wants more, so I'll feed her again on the same side. This whole process can take a while. I guess it's to be expected: she's a newborn and won't properly “wake up” until week 6. Also, my milk coming in meant that my boobs were just ENORMOUS, so I was probably dealing with oversupply. (I vaguely remember Tracey saying that, with subsequent children, your milk comes in earlier and there's more of it.) This made me think of the What to Expect When You're Expecting app: instead of saying “Your baby is as big as a … [strawberry/pineapple/watermelon, etc.]”, there should be a version that says, “Your boobs are as big as … [insert fruit of relevant size]”.

Day 5 (Sunday)

The story ends here. I'm not going to chronicle Saski's life forever. But I thought I would include this day because it's the first day I left the house since arriving home from hospital. The night went pretty well: I managed about six hours of sleep around various feeds. I was up at 7:30 am to have a shower. I dressed Astrid and gave her breakfast too. Then I got everything ready that we would need for the morning because I wanted to attempt going to church, but I needed Ben's help. I carried Saski, Ben carried the nappy bag and the carrycot and we all went down to the car. We strapped Astrid in and got Saski in—this time with the carseat insert—but the seat belt was still being stupid for some reason. I removed the other seat on the pram and put in the connectors for the carrycot, then tried to pump the pram tyres (but didn't get too far with that without Ben's help. Ah, sleep deprivation!) Saski started crying because she didn't really like the car, plus it was almost time for her to feed. I kind of ignored her and told her to be patient; we'd feed when we got to church. Finally everything was ready and we set off for church. I still had my mobility parking pass, so parked in the weddings/funerals space, which is right outside the building. Fortunately another mum from church happened to be going past as we arrived and she helped me: it was good having another set of hands to assemble the pram/carrycot and get both Astrid and Saski out of the car with the nappy bag. And it was lovely being at church: people were so helpful and stepped in unasked to distract Astrid while I was trying to feed Saski, taking her to and from Kids Church, and so on. Many were surprised to see me (fair enough; I didn't expect I would be back so soon, but I wanted to make a go of it for several reasons: 1. The next day I would have to take Saski back to the hospital for her hearing test, so I wanted to know that I could go out alone; 2. I figured that the worst that could happen was that it just wouldn't work and then I'd turn around and go home; 3. Church is a good place to be if the worst happens (and not just because of the number of health professionals who are members); 4. I wanted to give Ben a little break). Saski was pretty content throughout the service. I was so tired, I kept nodding off during the sermon, but apart from that, it was just really lovely to be back at church and to see people from my church family.

Ange was on the meal roster for that evening and because we were at church, she ducked home and got her meal for us. Then Steph helped carry things back to the car, and assisted me with the stupid carrycot (which I hate but it works with our pram and fortunately we will only need it for six months while Saski is small) and putting the kids back in the car. Then we drove home and I rang Ben to come help us upstairs. He had the manual for the carseat and finally worked out what was wrong with the seatbelt. We all had lunch together, then had compulsory rest time (well, Room Time for Astrid), which Astrid was not pleased about, but we made her, and it was so good for our sanity because Ben, Saski and I managed to nap for a couple of hours. I'm not sure if Astrid napped, but she played quite happily in her room. Then Ben took Astrid out to do the grocery shopping (again, she threw a tantrum about going) and I had a bit of time to myself until they returned and Saski wanted to feed again. We did baths for both girls rather efficiently (I thought)—Saski first while Astrid was in the tub, then Astrid while I dried Saski off. Our neighbour knocked on the door and gave us a meal and some old things for Saski, which was lovely of her. We ate dinner while Saski slept, then did bedtime things for Astrid, who was still a bit temperamental and sad, so I hugged her extra tight and told her I was proud of her. Then Saski had another feed and another half feed, I put her to bed in our room, I had a warm bath to try and help my stitches to dissolve (and to help me relax a bit too), then wrote a bit more of this post.

And now it is several days later and Saski is a week old. She still hasn't really settled into a routine: feeds can be anywhere from two to four hours apart, and she will feed 5-10 minutes each side and sometimes be difficult to settle. (Believe me, I am using all the settling techniques I know!) I find the days go very fast, what with being up in the night and trying to get enough sleep throughout the day so that I don't completely lose it. (I think the most frustrating thing is wanting to sleep and being unable to.) I miss the downtime: I don't get that much of it. I miss being able to do things like watch television (and movies! I miss movies) and knit. (I don't like watching the television in the middle of the night during feeds, and anyway, the feeds are too short to do that, so I read Twitter instead.) I find myself wanting to do creative things but don't really have the time to do so.

I know this is all a phase—that in a couple of months, life will look very different and perhaps things will settle a bit and get easier as my body recovers from labour and (hopefully) Saski gets into more of a routine. I know this won't be forever—that Saski will grow up, that on-demand feeding will cease, that in a year or two, hopefully I can return to having a day or so a week to concentrate on writing. I just need to hang in there in the meantime and try to enjoy these days.

Easier said than done, of course!


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