Postnatal Without A Baby

Once you’ve given birth in hospital, you’re usually transferred fairly quickly to a ward called postnatal where midwives look after you by providing regular monitoring of your blood pressure etc, help you establish breastfeeding if you’ve chosen to feed that way and make sure baby is okay too.

First time round, I spent 11 days between postnatal and labour wards after the birth, with Dylan allowed to stay most nights because of how poorly I was. Whilst it was tough and I was in horrendous pain – not just from the stitches and general soreness of giving birth but also from the clots and pneumonia that had decided to join me for the post partum experience – we met some genuinely lovely people there, healthcare assistants, midwives, cleaners and doctors.

The second time round, I was taken to postnatal (I gave birth in a different hospital this time) where I spent six days. But the key difference this time was I didn’t have my baby with me. He was downstairs in NICU and was really quite poorly at the time.

I know how severely under funded the NHS is right now and that you’re lucky to get a bed and some meds! But I so wish the money was there to provide a separate ward for all the NICU mothers before they’re discharged. Having a baby in intensive care is a pretty harrowing experience anyway, but to come back on to postnatal every night and hear the (healthy) cries of everyone else’s baby who is right by their side on the ward is awful. I remember hearing one baby cry while I was waiting for them to intubate Max for the first time because he was so unwell he needed a ventilator – that was probably one of the lowest moments of the whole process. Especially as I knew I wouldn’t hear my baby cry until he was well enough for them to take the tube back out.

I missed most of my regular checks because I was downstairs with Max and only popping back up to express, eat and sleep. I’m sure it was frustrating for the staff me not being there (although I’m assuming most NICU moms do the same?) but it came across in the tone of some. Like I was inconveniencing them or being a nuisance. Some of them would happen to catch me a few times during my shift and never even ask how my baby was doing.

Generally I felt fine. I coped with all that NICU life threw at us. But every time I was on postnatal or thought about it, I felt upset and angry. I dreaded going back on the ward and I couldn’t wait to be discharged. Everyone told me the parent accommodation I moved into for the rest of Max’s time on NICU was super basic and lonely but I breathed the biggest sigh of relief when they finally let me leave postnatal. I think I skipped off the ward at the thought of no more checks, no more stern words from some of the staff and mostly no babies crying.

If I suddenly became a billionaire I would love to fund special private wards for NICU moms where they could come and go as they pleased, chat to the other moms in the same situation and get some support from midwives trained to deal with how they may be feeling. It’s an ordeal but there are ways to make postnatal life easier for those who have sick babies.

Harriet, Alexandra and Max x

Men on Maternity Wards

Alexandra's blissfully unaware daddy's gone home and mommy's in charge!

Alexandra’s blissfully unaware daddy’s gone home and mommy’s in charge!

I’m on a parenting forum (not THAT one!) and very often interesting discussions come up about all sorts of topics relating to babies, parenting and more. A few weeks back (I write down ideas for posts and then tend to sit down and pen a couple in one go so as a result I’m sometimes massively behind the times!) there was one which got me thinking hence deciding to write a post on it.

They were talking about the rights and wrongs of having male partners staying overnight on a maternity ward. Personally my experience is the two nights after I had Alexandra I was in a four-bed bay and Dylan had to go home overnight. Once I became unwell, I was moved into a private room and we were then given a camp bed for him to sleep on and he stayed every night until our discharge 12 days after Alex was born, even on the nights we were moved back up to the labour ward.
Personally I couldn’t have coped without him at that point, especially as I was becoming so unwell it was often up to him to do the lion’s share of the childcare. If he hadn’t been there I would have needed much more input from the midwives and healthcare assistants who were already speaking a disproportionate amount of their time with me due to the extra needs I had compared to most women they see.
I completely get that it’s not practical to always allow men to stay on the wards, especially when their partners are on a ward rather than in a side room. After all, the other women might want their privacy after having given birth themselves. But from a mental health point of view (and a physical one too where it’s been a traumatic birth) I think there’s a real argument for men being there.
It’s one thing a woman who’s had a straightforward birth and is likely to be out after a day spending that one night on her own with the baby (although to be honest even the thought of that while I was pregnant scared the hell out of me) but quite another if they’ve had a section or something go wrong or they or the baby are unwell. Having a partner there to support you, get up and see to the baby or even just to calm you when you’re worrying about something in the middle of the night is pretty essential in my books.
Of course in an ideal world we’d all be back at home super quick and have that early time to bond as a family, but we all know it doesn’t work like that! Also in an ideal world they’d be enough midwives to go round and all the rooms would be private rather than shared bays. But now I’m really getting into the realms of fantasy!
Harriet and Alexandra X