I’ve mentioned in earlier tomes that we received much conflicting advice on a variety of things while we were in hospital in the first few days following the birth of Arthur and Henry, but never actually got round to elaborating on this. Given that we were new parents, with a multiple birth, and having had a planned C-section, I had mistakenly thought that the support would be put in place right from the get go. But no, the breast-feeding coordinator saw us on the day we were leaving hospital, which was six days after they were born. We kind of needed that help a bit sooner. By the time she turned up the babies were starving.
The nurses and midwives had helped as best they could, but they all had a different answer and we soon established from the morning shift team that 10-15 minutes on the breast was a good feed. From the afternoon shift we learned that 30-45 minutes was about right, unless it was a weekend, when exactly 25 minutes was a perfect amount of time for a baby to be breast feeding.
Arthur was over a pound lighter than Henry when he was born and had his blood-glucose level checked three times in the first 24 hours with a heel-prick test, which was rather distressing for him, not to mention us. This determined that the blood-sugar levels headed from just over 2200 doohickeys to just over 2300 wotchamacallits, which was going in the direction and over the levels they should be. Everything was fine and there were no need for any further tests. Until Monday that is, when a new shift took over and 2600 wotsits was declared the minimum level and the (unnecessary) stabbing of Arthur’s feet began all over again.
And then we have the feeding methods – I think I mentioned before that Arthur and Henry lost a little more weight than perhaps they should have – the hospital allowed 10% before special feeding plans might be put in place and our little guys were just under 12% loss, a figure above which would require special feeding plans. Our boys went on a special feeding plan. Depending on to whom we listened, this should be done via a syringe or via a 30ml cup with a tiny spout. Yep, definitely a syringe, no a cup, no a syringe, no a cup, syringe, cup, syringe, cup… Until the night shift starts when under no circumstances should a syringe be used, nor a cup, but the baby should go out into the woods and start foraging for itself like a baby squirrel would. Probably. It was only overseeing the survival of the twins that gave me the will to live, but I’d definitely switched off and stopped listening to a lot of the things that were being said by then.
And then there was the tongue tie incident. Arthur and Henry were both checked out in the hospital and declared to be free of any tongue ties. Then a volunteer breast feeding coordinator who visited once we were home noticed something not quite right with Arthur’s feeding and with a simple digit inserted under his tongue, immediately referred us to Stepping Hill, where a couple of weeks later it was confirmed that he did indeed have a tongue tie and set about performing a procedure to remove it. This looks brutal – there is nothing quite as traumatic as seeing your seven week old baby being held down while someone is cutting his mouth apart with a pair of scissors. After a bit of a whine, Arthur was fine and the whole incident was more upsetting for us as parents than it was for him. But it was also something else that could have been sorted sooner.
On the subject of breast milk, it is supposedly the stuff of the gods; a cure-all for everything. I thought this was bollocks, but against my better judgement, I let Mrs Aitchworld persuade me to let her pour a couple of drops into my eye. I should explain – I have suffered from a recurring infection in one of them for a couple of years now. Every now and again it flares up and then just as quickly disappears before I can get to the doctors and sort it. I had it in the other eye before this and a course of steroids sorted it. I got a repeat prescription at the same time as there was a world shortage of these drops and it never got sorted. Mrs Aitchworld convinced me there were special antibodies in the breast milk that would cure me. I am sometimes the sort of person that believes gullible rhymes with orange, so I have deprived the boys of a bit of their food and squeezed a few drops into my eye. It’s early days admittedly, but at the time of writing my eye isn’t glowing red like Arnie’s at the end of Terminator 2 as it has done for the past couple of weeks!
I sound like I am giving the NHS a hard time here and I really don’t mean to because overall the level of care we received was so good that by the end of the whole experience I was like Debbie, the girl in the dating video who wanted to hug every cat (if you aren’t familiar with it, you should look it up on YouTube), only I wanted to hug every nurse and midwife. I couldn’t though, and I would well up just thinking about all the nurses and midwives without people to hug them. I ended up so pro-NHS that I fully justified the need for parking charges at hospitals. It was a hot topic locally recently as they were planning to introduce parking charges at our local hospital and people were whining about it, saying NHS should be free at the point of use. Well to my mind the point of use is actually once you get through the hospital doors. During our stay at the maternity unit, they were working on building more car-parking and repairing the car parking they had, all of which would have cost money that will come straight out of the NHS budget, one assumes. God knows the insides of the hospitals must cost enough to run so anything outside of this should be self-funding as far as I’m concerned. Of course, it is easy to take that point of view when you have been given a free seven day parking pass and you don’t have to fork out several hundred pounds in parking charges, but I stand by it and would argue the case to the death. Well, loudly and firmly, at the very least.
Things settled down once we returned home – when we asked the community midwife what we should be doing on a variety of matters, she gave us a little advice on some of them, but ultimately told us that they are our children and (within reason) we could do what we liked. She (or a colleague) would pop in as often as we needed for the next 28 days, but it we were on our own now. It was weird not having a health care professional coming into our room every few minutes. All through the first few nights at home I was expecting someone to wander into our room at night to check on us all. Even without that level of interference, there is still a whole new set of conflicting advice to deal with from all sorts of sources.
We have been given hundreds of books on parenthood. At first I thought they had been very well looked after as the spines haven’t even been cracked. I love a well-cared for book. There aren’t many things worse in life than lending someone a book only for it to be returned dog-eared and bent with a cracked spine, the book falling open randomly at the reader’s favourite passages, or where they’ve laid it face down and open. But there is a valid reason why baby books get passed on in perfect condition – time. No parent in the history of parenting has ever read a parenting book. No-one has time to read a book on how to be a parent once their children are born because they are too busy being a parent. It’s just as well really because every book tells you something wildly different from the next one on how to deal with any given situation. We know this because very occasionally we will Google something and the replies to whatever it is we have googled will range from one extreme to the other. Mainly these replies are to be found on forums, which can be both the best and the worst places to find help. In fact googling anything to do with child rearing problems is probably a stupid thing to do because you end up finding that most of the forum posts thrown up will refer to one or more of the un-read books that are still in pristine condition in the rapidly expanding library.
The one piece of advice that no one has given us, which is the one we really needed, is to just dress small babies in vests and baby grows. Short sleeved vest underneath; long sleeved baby grow on top. Ditch the vest in summer. Don’t be tempted to buy a load of fancy duds for them like we did. Anything that doesn’t fasten and undo with a series of pop-studs is incredibly time consuming. No one tells you how much babies wriggle. Like swaddling them, it would be easier to try dressing the cats up. And that’s just dressing them. When a baby shits itself, and I mean violently, you want to get it changed quickly. Anything that involves taking socks off, then trousers, or taking off an entire bodysuit that doesn’t unfasten with pop studs, is a complete waste of time. And don’t even get me started on socks… Oops, too late.
Who thought socks on a baby was a good idea? Seriously, get items of clothing with built in feet covers because socks are a waste of time. I’m sure there will be someone who has just read one of the preceding sentences about undressing a baby after an explosive shit and thought to themselves “Why wouldn’t you just take the trousers off over the socks?” Oh yes, you are so much clever than I, spotting this over exertion; this un-necessary effort of undressing. Wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong. You will only try it once. To be honest, socks rarely stay on a baby anyway, but if for some bizarre reason they are still located where you think they should be following an explosive shit, I can guarantee that once the trousers are off, there will be wriggling. A foot will end up in the filled nappy as you are trying to remove it and nothing soaks up an explosive shit like a sock that has been through a boil wash a few times to have its fibres realigned. Nothing.
I used to think onesies were the biggest fashion faux pas of ever and look ridiculous. Actually the biggest fashion faux pas of the moment is these people wearing huge beards that make them look like a Victorian bridge engineer (or Conchita Wurst). They really are one of those things that the wearers of are going to wonder “What the f**k was I thinking?” in a couple of years’ time when looking back through their Facebook photos. I digress; to wear a onesie you must have something wrong in the head or have taken far too many recreational drugs at some point in your life. Or so I thought. But now, after seeing how happy Henry and Arthur are in their baby grows, and knowing how practical they are, I am having second thoughts about this stance and I may have been converted. I’m not sure I am quite ready to buy one, but I’m getting closer by the day.