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Mum's the word

MOTHER AND CHILD: Davina and baby Ella

HELLO READERS. Having received such wonderful feedback from my three installments of Pregnant Pause, I promised faithfully that I would deliver a follow-up article when baby was born... and here we are! 

As I type, my daughter is sleeping (you have to grab these opportunities where you can), so I decided this would be the perfect time to type up the continuation of my journey, from the end of pregnancy to motherhood; preparing for the birth, labour, baby’s arrival and getting to grips with parenthood. Enjoy...

The day of reckoning: heavy load

Due to my complex medical history (blood-related issues), it was decided by my medical team that I would be induced in week 39 (a week earlier than your average full term pregnancy) so that the birth could be, to an extent, controlled.

So, on the appointed day (October 2), my husband and I travelled to the hospital, with a number of bags, one of which contained snacks I’d packed in preparation for the long day ahead. With my other half on bag duty, he moaned at the heavy weight of my bag of food and drinks!

Waiting game

After being settled into a hospital room, the time came to be induced. Without being too graphic, let’s just say a gel was inserted you-know-where to kick-start my labour. Then came the wait, as we were informed that it would be six hours before the midwife could check to see if the gel had taken effect.

As the hours rolled by and hunger set in, my husband was forced to admit that my bag of snacks was a good idea. In fact, he and I both laughed as he heartily scoffed the bun and cheese I’d packed for the occasion!

No pain, no gain

Around six hours later, my contractions began and the pain set in. It was like experiencing the most intense and excruciating period pain for short bursts of time. As time went on, the pain became more agonising and I made full use of the gas and air, sucking it in like my life depended on it. Rather than providing pain relief, inhaling it was more of a distraction from the pain itself. But as I was bawling my eyes out in agony, I was grateful for any distraction.
How much longer?

When the time came for the midwife to examine me, she discovered I was only 1cm dilated (the diameter of the opening of the cervix). As a woman in labour must be 10cm dilated before she’s ready to start pushing, I still had a long way to go.

Oh, the relief

With the pain becoming more intense, my midwife – a wonderful no-nonsense Nigerian woman that I’ll never forget – said to me: “Your pain is only going to get worse so you should take the epidural. Don’t be a hero!” With that, I agreed to go for the next stage of pain relief, and almost as soon as the epidural was done (a pain-relieving injection is given in your spine), I no longer felt the pain of the contractions. It was fantastic.

The benefits of technology

No longer in any pain, I decided to pass the time by sending messages to friends and family. I jumped on my BlackBerry and sent a mixture of instant messages and emails, including one to my beloved Voice colleagues to inform them of my progress.

It was really nice to be able to communicate with friends and family; sharing jokes with them helped to keep me going. Meanwhile, my other half was doing the same and he made me laugh when he told me he was making bets with his family on how much baby would weigh!

The end is in sight

Almost 24 hours after I was induced, I finally reached the required point of dilation. I then had to wait one more hour to allow baby to continue travelling towards her exit – and then came the time to start pushing.

I have no idea where I found the strength, but with each contraction – which I could now feel again, but nowhere near as intense as they were before – I took a deep breath in and held that breath while I pushed. As time went by, it became tiring. But with the encouragement of my lovely new midwife (new day, new shift, new midwife), and the support of my husband (whose hand I almost crushed as I squeezed it), I pushed and pushed, and remarkably, I didn’t scream once. 

I can see the head!

With the midwife telling me she could see baby’s head – and my husband taking a peek to verify this – I knew I was almost there. And with a few more pushes, out came my baby girl   – Ella Blossom Hamilton – at 5.52pm on October 3, weighing five pounds, two ounces. I was in a complete state of shock and it was a while before I stopped crying when she was placed on my chest.

Frightened and overwhelmed

Having built up this idealistic notion that new mothers instantly fall in love with their baby from the moment they’re born, I was panic-stricken when I didn’t immediately feel that way. As I looked at my little girl, all I felt was shock and disbelief; it was as if I couldn’t believe this little baby was mine. I felt truly overwhelmed by the enormity of the whole experience. 

Getting to know you...

The first thing that struck me about my baby was her eyes. I found it almost mesmerising how alert she was even though she was just a few minutes old.

As the visitors arrived – first my sister, then my parents –  there were also conversations about who baby looked like, and most (including me) concurred that she looked far more like her daddy’s side of the family than mine!

Getting to grips with motherhood

In retrospect, I find it almost unbelievable that new mums are so quickly left to their own devices. Within hours of giving birth, I was moved to the maternity ward, where other new mums were tending to their newborns.

As is so often said, parenting doesn’t come with a manual. So getting into the swing of motherhood – knowing when to feed baby, knowing whether you’re breastfeeding properly, working out whether baby might be too hot or too cold, etc – required both guesswork and common sense.

Time to go home

On October 5, baby and I were discharged from hospital. As we arrived home with our “new tenant who doesn’t pay any rent” – as my husband playfully described our daughter – we realised that life as we knew it would never be the same again. We were now a family. 

Sleepless nights

I had been warned by so many people that having a baby would mean kissing goodbye to sleep, but nothing really prepares you for the dreaded sleep deprivation.

Week one at home with baby was really tough, as she refused to settle at night. Constantly getting up to feed her or try and hush her meant that we got very little sleep. This, combined with general post-birth hormones – and the physical discomfort I experienced as my body healed – made me very emotional at times. 

The dreaded ‘A’ word...

There’s obviously something about having a baby that makes people around you want to offer it whether you want it or not: advice. In some cases, it was helpful, in other cases, it was annoying. But what I found most frustrating was that much of it became conflicting.

When elders are insisting you wrap your baby in layers upon layers at night to keep them warm, but medical advice suggests that a major cause of cot death is babies being overheated, what are you supposed to do? 

Our way of dealing with the endless tips and suggestions was to take what worked for us, ignore the rest and apply our own common sense. As a new mother, it was important for me to find my own feet without too much intrusion, no matter how well-meaning it was.

The benefits of family

One thing we quickly learned to appreciate was family who were all too willing to take Ella off our hands. Going to my parents’ house, I’m guaranteed a break once the doting grandparents get their hands on their new grandchild.

My in-laws are also fantastic, particularly my mother-in-law who stepped in to babysit a few weeks back so my husband and I could enjoy our first post-baby evening out together. It’s lovely having such great family support.

Highs and lows

Motherhood has sent me on a rollercoaster of emotions, from the relentlessness of breastfeeding when it seems that baby is constantly hungry, to the occasional boredom that sets in after a few weeks of the same daily routine (feeding, changing, more feeding, more changing).

But then came those gem-like moments when Ella started displaying new developments, like following our movements with her eyes; making her first baby noises; and smiling for the first time. And with her weight increasing steadily, my husband and I feel proud of ourselves for working together to get to grips with parenthood, and for doing a good job of nurturing our little girl thus far.

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SUMMARY
Having given birth just 10 weeks ago, I’m by no means an expert mum – but I’m learning to be an expert at being Ella’s mum. I consider my daughter a real blessing and I pray that when she grows up, she’ll say her mum did a good job.

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