One of the original reasons I wanted to start blogging about fatherhood was the experiences Sara and I had when Robert was first born. As well as being born by emergency caesarian (an impressive 3 hours between waters breaking and the cutting of the cord!), Robert was just 6lbs 2oz at birth, and also had difficulty ‘latching’ on. Subsequently, the three days Sara had to spend in hospital were a fairly fraught time for both mother and son.
During that period and in the subsequent weeks and months, a number of things inspired us enough to actually start a list – “Things we’ve learnt”, the intention being to be able to pass along some tips to other future parents in our friend group. I was hoping Sara might feel inspired to write a book and earn us a bit of extra nappy money, but alas she wasn’t keen. Hence this blog!
The list still exists on the back of a council tax envelope, though we’ve past select versions of it along to a few friends to date. But I’m now going to attempt to commit a few of the better tips to (electronic) paper. Here’s the first one…
Midwifes, and the midwifery profession (I love that word!) is a noble thing – I bloody love midwives. But the thing we learnt about them very quickly after Robert’s birth was this: They all have different opinions. Sometimes infuriatingly so!
After Robert was born, he struggled to latch on to eat – he did it once, and then pretty much never again. This presents you with a bit of a problem – not so much later on, as expressing machines are pretty souped-up these days. But in the first few hours, it’s quite important that the new baby gets the Colustrum (the cloudy, yellow first-milk which contains everything they need for life outside the womb) so the midwives are understandably keen that the latching happens.
Robert absolutely refused to play ball – something which one of the midwives on our ward was fairly relaxed about, but which others thought was a total disaster. One even told us – in so many words – that if he didn’t latch on soon, he was ‘for it’…! Eventually, we resorted to taking the expressed Colostrum and feeding it to him with a little plastic syringe. But the stress and anxiety caused by the disagreeing midwives was a bit of a roller-coaster, especially for Sara.
It wasn’t just the breastfeeding either – though that continued to be a bone of contention between MANY subsequent midwives, including the ones in the breastfeeding clinic. None of them seemed to agree on the best way to feed him regular breast milk either. Or how best to sterilise the equipment. Or when we should be allowed to go home.
The conclusion we came to, and probably a sensible thing to know going in to a birth of your own, is that midwives, like doctors, are all entitled to their own opinion. If you’re lucky enough to just have one midwife for the duration of the experience, that shouldn’t be a problem. But if you’re not, be prepared for a bit of confusion. And remember, the one thing they all agree on: Ultimately, your gut instinct is probably right most of the time!
Later on, we also learnt that the midwives / health visitors who visit you at home can be a mixed bunch too. Unless you live in a picturesque rural visit, you’ll most likely get a different one every time they visit. They were all nice enough, and it’s probably just a reflection of the area we live in more than the profession, but they didn’t set our world ablaze with advice or words of wisdom either.
But once again, gut instinct probably got us through a lot of those early days too.
I should probably end by saying that without exception, all the midwives we came in to contact with were absolutely lovely, devoted to their jobs and ultimately wanted what was best for us and the baby. It’s just a shame they didn’t do a bit of a huddle and agree on a few things before giving us advice! : )