The days after…

Read about my pregnancy, childbirth – part 1 and childbirth – part 2.

Day 1 (the day of the delivery, Monday, 27 Feb, 2012)

Back in the room, I tried to make Ashwin hold the baby. I had given him enough training with my life-size baby doll at home. Some of my friends were also kind enough to trust Ashwin with their babies. But all these went down the drain; he refused to hold the baby. Fear was written all over his face. So I gave up and he just kept hovering around instead.

I did not want to use the Indian toilet after delivery. I was scared of the stitches coming apart. Since we did not have a western toilet in our house, it was decided months ago to use the in-laws’ new house instead of making any adjustments in our place. In-laws were shifting in June and since the new house would be empty until then, it could be used for the confinement period. The shifting was planned for later that week but since the baby came early it had to be done before I was discharged from the hospital. So leaving my mom with me at the hospital Ashwin left to do the shifting work. The next two days kept him busy with the task and I only saw him when he came with our meals thrice a day. In all the chaos there were no photographs taken except for a single shot of the baby. I’m not sure whether I regret not taking a picture with him… But then, the times that I have held him were so excruciatingly beautiful that I don’t think a picture would have done justice to it.

Meanwhile my mom called the agency with whom we had booked the nurse for the confinement period. This agency is called “We Serve” and is managed by a guy by name Chandrakanth Puttur. When we had booked their services back in October, and later during a routine follow-up call in January, he was like, “Don’t worry at all. We’ve 20-25 experienced nurses and whenever you require one, we’ll send one over”. But now he started to act funny. He started saying that all his nurses were away, this was way earlier than we had booked for, etc, etc. We were shocked. I mean, if you were going to arrange for a nurse for this situation, you might as well have one ready from 8.5 months or so. After all, very few babies arrive exactly on the due date and my baby was only 12 days early. After some discussion it was finally settled that he’ll have a nurse come to our place on Wednesday, which was fine for us since I would be in the hospital until then.

With that settled my mom tried to make me have lunch but I still could not eat anything. After Ashwin left, I kept watching my sleeping baby who was now swaddled in a length of muslin and looked warm and comfortable. After a while I fell back, tired, trying hard to sleep. But childbirth is so harrowing an experience that one cannot get out of it just like that. The entire episode kept replaying in my mind in a loop. On one side I was thankful to have come out of it alive, relieved that it was over, but on the other side I kept thinking how the whole thing could have gone differently.

I was told to wake the baby every two hours and feed him (the two-hour rule has two benefits – one, to prevent the baby from getting dehydrated and secondly, to encourage breast milk production – this I got to know during my confinement period :P). I just could not bring myself to wake a sleeping baby (or anyone else, for that matter unless urgent) but since I was told repeatedly by the nurses to do it, I set the alarm for two hours later. And then promptly fell asleep. I only woke when the baby woke three hours later. I always feared, being a tight sleeper, that I would just sleep through my baby’s wails. Quite a few dreams during my pregnancy were also along the same lines. But I was surprised to see that I was woken up by his “sniff sniff” just before he started to cry louder despite being so tired. Some relief!! On the flip side, I was aware that the sleepless days and nights had officially begun. But I wasn’t complaining. Because I always maintained that, if I were to get through childbirth, the rest of the things I would somehow manage, the sleepless days/nights I would deal with. But what I had missed to consider then was people’s sheer stupidity and insensitivity. And when it hit me, it was too late.

In the meantime I was learning quite a bit about my baby’s nature. For one, he hated being swaddled. Within five minutes, or less, of swaddling, he would start wriggling and squirming and manage to bring his one hand out of it. Seconds later his other hand would be out too. Even after this if he were not satisfied, he would kick, and kick, and kick, until the cloth had slid down and his legs were out. So we did the next best thing- put a blanket (or rather a thin cotton sari folded many times over) over him. Now, he mastered the technique to remove this one too. He took exactly 3 seconds to push it away. The technique he used was the same one I used to do as a kid!! I still can’t help smiling.. Who knew blanket-throwing techniques would be transferred by means of genes. πŸ™‚

The nurses had suggested to keep him warm and to not place him directly under the fan. But my baby had his own wishes there. When he refused to be swaddled, and refused to be covered with a blanket, we put off the fan. It would always be followed by his wails. My goodness, so loud that cute little thing could be!! Put on the fan and he would go silent. Put off again and ungyaaaaae… This too was exactly like how I was in my childhood!! So I decided to let him be. Out of his swaddle and with the fan on. Two different nurses caught us on three different occasions and scolded us for letting the baby under the fan without anything much covering him.

Around 5:30 the nurses came to wash and change me. This is also quite painful because the stitches need to be cleaned and an antiseptic applied before it is dressed up again. Moreover the blood-soaked cloth that they had wrapped around me earlier had to be replaced also. The nurses also left me painkiller tablets to be taken after dinner. They reminded me, once more, to wake the baby every two hours for a feed. By dinner time, the baby had slept for about 5 hours, woken up twice and spent a little more than one hour feeding, each time. In between he had also passed stool (the stool will be black in color and greasy, and will be so for the next couple of days) and played a bit (just kicking his legs actually).

The baby’s cradle was near my bed and it was easy for me to reach for him, lift and bring him close to me for breastfeeding. Although my mom was staying with me in the hospital she had her own set of health issues to be of much help during the night. This was expected and so I was mostly on my own. This was a risk we took. Thankfully I was fit enough to take care of myself and my baby so quickly after birth. Baby kept waking up every two-three hours all through the night. I was tired and sleepy. All the fatigue and lost sleep was finally catching up.

In the middle of the night I had to get up to use the toilet. Again, I was quite surprised for the energy I had still and suddenly I loved my body so much, respected it so much more. In less than 10 hours of childbirth, I was able to walk on my own without any support.

Day 2 (Tuesday, 28 Feb, 2012)

The nurse came in the morning to leave painkillers for me to be taken after breakfast and also asked to take the baby for a bath along with baby soap and baby powder. That’s when I realized that I had marked it as “to buy” and asked Ashwin to get them, and both of us had completely forgotten about it. The nurse took our soap and used the powder that was there asking us to buy the baby soap/powder for the next day. When mom had gone out to get this, the pediatrician came to administer BCG and oral polio vaccine for the baby. He also explained about colostrum and its benefits. He also said that my baby had a mild case of jaundice and I only need to continue breastfeeding him; no other medication was necessary. Later I repeated all this to whoever would listen without knowing how big a fuss this would be made out. Like, going to another pediatrician for a “second opinion” which was totally unnecessary.

When I started getting visitors, many were suddenly asking me if I was happy. I found the question strange. “Heard that you wanted a girl… Now that it’s a boy, are you happy?” Huh!!? Where did that come from? And one of them went as far as asking “Now that it’s a boy, are you feeding him well?” As if I would starve a baby!! I had no idea how everyone concluded that I wanted a baby girl. Because from the start I was telling everyone that I did not care for the gender as long as the baby was healthy. I only got to know later how this misunderstanding came into being. It seems once during a conversation during my later pregnancy I had mentioned that a friend predicted I would have a baby girl as per the Chinese calendar!! I was also asked, after every scan during the course of my pregnancy, if the doctor had revealed the gender of the baby. For this, I always answered with “No, the doctors are not supposed to. It is a crime to reveal the gender beforehand…” Since everyone in the family was wishing for a baby boy, all these things I said was somehow understood to be my defense/excuse for bearing a baby girl.

On knowing it was normal delivery, and that I had requested for C-section, I was told, by more than two people…”Oh no, good it was normal…women are meant to have the pain… one should know the pain of delivering a child…that’s how you bond, you know… and it’s god given for a reason..but then girls these days…” This infuriated me. Because I don’t believe how much you love your baby depends on how much pain you had while delivering the baby. The thing about “women meant to have pain” was plain crap. I believe that when there are ways to decrease the pain, why should one not use it?? And just because someone were to opt for C-section for whatever reason becomes less of a woman/mother, is it?? And the crap about god-given, puhleeez.

Next suggestion was, “don’t stop at one, go for the second.” Umm… would you mind… I just delivered a baby less than 24 hours ago. And finally “you should see that you are always happy now. Because whatever you think, good or bad, will affect the baby”. Well, if you would just shut up maybe I could try to be happy…

On a normal day I would have either laughed or argued about these things, maybe even sympathize with them for actually believing what they said. But right then I was dealing with the childbirth experience along with sleeplessness and fatigue. I was not finding the comments/suggestions amusing and I just had no energy left to argue with anyone. On the other hand I had expected that few people would support me at these times. Not only did they not support me but went on to encourage such crap. Meanwhile, the respect I had for all these people was slowly diminishing. Some people just knew how to seep the happiness out of any situation. I should have taken this as a trailer for all that was to come yet.

In the evening the nurse came to say that the doctor was going on her rounds and would be in to see me in some time. By this time, though, I was so angry with everyone for creating a problem where none existed and I had to take it on someone. My mom was handy. I was so angry with the whole drama that I just shouted “How many times do I have to say… My milk is FINEEEEEE” and a second later, the doctor entered. The doctor and I exchanged a look and I guess she understood the problem. She explained that actual milk will take a couple of days to “come in” and we need not worry. If the baby has passed stool, all was well – with the baby and my milk. After asking and answering a few other questions she said I could leave the next day.

At the end of the day I was so exhausted, more due to frustration than anything else, that I started questioning myself if I did the right thing about so many things. Perhaps the baby realized my exhaustion too because he slept for 5 hours straight that night. But I still had an interrupted sleep since I kept waking for his every moan and every whimper.

Now, I had thought breastfeeding was going to be easy. I was realizing only now that it wasn’t. For one, my baby had problems latching on. He took a little more than a minute each time he wanted to latch. If he were to unlatch in the middle of a feed for whatever reason he took just as long, and sometimes up to five minutes, to latch on again. And as he kept trying to latch on he would get tired and frustrated, and start to cry. After the first one of two tries I got the hang of it. But what I was not prepared for was the number of times I had to change his swaddle. During the course of the feeding, he would urinate at least two times. Just as the soiled cloth was changed, he would urinate again. And feed again… Now this feed, urinate, change, feed, urinate, change…is a never-ending cycle. This was more tiring than lack of sleep, for me.

Day 3 (Wednesday, 29 Feb, 2012)

The day went almost the same way as the previous day with one small change. We got a call from Chandrakanth saying the nurse was not available at the moment and will come on Saturday. Some words were exchanged but there was nothing else to do but wait.

In the evening I was discharged. We went to the new house. There was a quick trip to the pediatrician for “second opinion” on the jaundice. Here I was holding a two-day old baby, walking two flights of stairs praying my stitches won’t come undone, only to hear the same thing repeated as the first pediatrician. The things you have to deal with when “elders” are not convinced!!

Once back home, I was left alone with the baby while my parents went to our place to shift some stuff from there. Since the baby was sleeping, I did not mind. Just as they left, he woke up and started to scream. Feeding did not help, neither did my other attempts of consolation. As I was walking around the house I was suddenly aware of my clothes being drenched. The milk had “come in”.

As I sat for dinner that night, I realized that I could not eat spicy food for some time to come. Later that night Ashwin left for Bangalore. It was just my parents, my baby and me in the house. The confinement period had begun. And I felt as if I was waiting for a storm without realizing that a cyclone was headed my way.

To be continued…