Well, the first shall be last and the last shall be first, or something – is that a quotation? And El is my first child and only daughter. She’s admitted that, when I was expecting the third, that she was hoping for another brother…to keep her status! That’s my girl – I’d have been rather horrified if my mother had had another child to supplant me. As it is, Ro was a most loved little boy by both his older siblings. I asked him, a couple of years ago, if he remembered ever having a row with either of them; and he couldn’t.
Anyway, I was not all that well during my first pregnancy. Nowadays, the fashion is against offering iron supplements routinely; then we were all dished out an iron and a folic acid tablet daily. It wasn’t enough for me, and I became more and more anaemic. This made me exhausted and depressed – the Sage must have reckoned that married life wasn’t all he had hoped for. Eventually, after my iron rations (see what I did there?) had been upped, it was decided that I should have iron injections. Straight into the buttock, darlings, alternative side each week and, hard as the nurse rubbed it in, after a few weeks I had brown stains each side of my bum, which lasted for several years. I had 20 of these injections, after which I felt considerably better.
The fashion for starting babies off varies as time goes by; my obstetrician was rather keen on intervention and decreed that the baby should be induced at a week over the expected date. Now, of course, I’d question that, but I was only 20 and had been pregnant for 41 weeks, which seemed rather a long time, and I didn’t object. I was put on a hormone drip and not allowed to move. Now, in labour, the most painful thing to do is to lie on your back and it’s boring and uncomfortable in any case after a few hours. When, unable to resist, I shifted slightly, the needle did too and labour started to subside until they realised and reinserted it. Eventually, they broke the waters, and that started things off extremely abruptly and painfully. Unasked, I was given a pethidine injection, which made me woozy without diminishing the pain by much.
Eventually, the obstetrician decided that I was all right for a couple of hours and left for his dinner. Shortly afterwards, El (that’s my girl!) decided that the time was right to put in an appearance and he was sent for and returned. I rather wish he hadn’t, because he, obviously concerned that he was not demonstrating sufficient professional expertise to earn his fat fee, performed an episiotomy – just in case I tore, he explained. It’s since been decided that most tears heal better than most cuts. I didn’t tear or need a cut in subsequent births, incidently.
Anyway, El was born at 8.30, weighing 6 1/2 lbs. She was not very large, but then nor was I – I’d only gained a stone and a half and weighed 10 stone, even though I had a 40 inch waist!
She was washed, given briefly to me and then whisked away to the nursery. I’d been asked ‘breast or bottle?’ and they seemed pleased that I wanted to feed her myself, but this was so rare that none of the nurses actually knew anything about it, so her first meal, before I saw her the next morning, was a bottle feed. She wasn’t that bothered about suckling, so I was given bottles of supplementary feed. I can’t remember how long I was in hospital, but it was far longer than was good for us. I felt quite helpless; I loved her but was afraid to do much for her myself in case I did it wrong. When my milk suddenly came in, I cried with the pain and discomfort and the baby bounced off these hard and unresponsive protuberances.
Finally, we went home. Now, you may have noticed that I am stubborn and bloody-minded. I did not have bottles or formula; it did not occur to me that we might have to give up on breastfeeding. We had a tearful and uncomfortable day, both of us, but by the end we had both learned how to do it, and we didn’t look back.
No, that’s not entirely true. They didn’t know, either, that breast milk doesn’t necessarily keep a baby satisfied for as long as a bottle, so when she cried it didn’t occur to me that she might be hungry, only an hour or two after feeding. She and I both were less happy than we could have been in those first weeks. But she was such a darling little girl. Before we decided on a name for her, we called her ‘Rosebud’ because of her dear little lips. I used to hold her for ages when she was asleep, because I couldn’t bear to put her in her cot.
Is it apparent that I don’t always think that much of the medical world? I’ve observed it so many times, that both nurses and doctors think that you have to be ill to be in hospital. They want to intervene, even if you are having a healthy normal birth and simply need encouragement, kindness and some space. It’s still the same; I saw it with Dilly after her first baby was born, when they kept making her try to feed the baby, not believing her when she said that Squiffany had already been fed; just because they hadn’t seen it for themselves.
Sorry to sound so negative here, but honestly, it’s a good job that El and I are both tough. We went through a lot together, in those early days!