It’s been one week since you looked at me…

9:30 am, Wednesday April 18, 2001

What a week. I’m just waiting for 10:11 today to give B a happy one week birthday kiss. He’s sitting on my lap right now, replete with milk and kicking idly about. He has is own distinctive personal smell, like nuts and roasted grain, which drifts up at me from time to time.

A week ago now, I was being prepped for surgery. I was very nervous – they were going to cut into me! – but the anaesthetists, theatre assistants, and midwife in the pre-surgery preparation were so matter of fact, so humourous, and so calm that by the time I was numb enough to be taken in to theatre I was no longer frightened at all. This despite the fact that I needed 2 doses of spinal anaesthetic to go numb, had a dramatic drop in blood pressure, and could still wiggle my toes when it was time for the C-section. (The anaesthetist, an Glaswegian Indian named Bob, was agog at this last. The spinal was supposed to give me complete numbness and immobility from mid-chest downward. He sat around theorising about physiological differences and wishing he had an excuse to do an MRI scan.)

The birth…how can one describe the birth? So strange to see the source of all those prenatal kicks, to meet the heart of all our hopes and the goal of all our efforts for nearly two years. It was too much to assimilate. I went into the emotional version of shock, I think, and am only now coming out of it.

I am astonished to discover how quickly one recovers from abdominal surgery. By Thursday, I was on my feet and able to go for a shower. By Saturday, I was ready to leave the hospital. My stitches got taken out Monday. I am still weak, and in occasional pain, but over the counter painkillers are adequate to control it.

B is being breastfed, which is apparently a slightly wild and crazy idea here. Only half of Scottish mothers choose to breastfeed at the start, and many give up on it within the first few weeks. This is alien to me, coming from the Californian culture, where bottle feeding is rare. The NHS is desperate to improve breastfeeding rates, for all kinds of health reasons. I’m fully in favour of this, but I found the midwives a bit…overbearing on the issue. B turns out to be a strong feeder, with really good instincts. No tuition was required. Still, the midwives all insist on giving me the same lecture on how to get him to “latch on”, even seizing breast and baby to show me the “orthodox” position if I am foolish enough to nurse in front of them. I just ignore them – we’re doing fine, and it’s good practice for them, so that they have their lines down pat for mothers that need help.

It is impossible to describe the impact B has had on our lives. It’s not just the late nights (for Martin) and early mornings (for me), nor the actual work involved in keeping him going (soothing, diaper changes, endless laundry, and – for me – a round the clock feeding schedule). There’s the same vertigo, the same exhaustion, the same lack of confidence that we’ll cope that accompanies every dramatic stage in personal growth.

And B? Well, he is the ultimately selfish creature – he literally has no idea of the existence of other people. On the other hand, he isn’t that clear on his own existence either. He’s got the hang of “I need”, but is very far from any concept of “I want.” When he gets difficult (crying in the middle of the night, for instance), it’s hard not to think it’s deliberate. But ascribing volition to a kid that small is a serious mistake, one we have avoided making. Irrationally enough, however, we tend to give him credit for his seriously cute and charming moments.

And the name? Alexander, from his great-grandfather in the paternal line. Still not sure which variation of the name we’ll use – Alex, Alec, Xander, Sandy, Lex, Leck…His aunt and uncle Sutherland have tended to use Alex. Beowulf from the great epic poem, which we have read in the Heaney translation. Based on this, my mother refers to him as the Monster Slayer.

We still call him B.

Here it comes

The baby’s birtday will be April 11, 2001. How strange to know it already.

We just went into the doctor’s surgery to speak to the consultant. The scan last week showed that the baby is oblique breech, meaning it’s diagonal in the uterus, with its bottom and feet down. (This is not normal – babies at this stage should be head down). The appointment was to discuss what we should do about it.

The consultant poked around my enormous belly and stated that it was now breech, meaning that its bottom had settled into position to come out first. This change is a good thing, since if it were still transverse, they would want me to come into the hospital and wait for it to be born. With a due date 2 weeks away, that just sounds horrible.

As things stand, there are a number of options.

  1. Try to turn the baby by external manipulation. This has about a 60% chance of success, but there’s also the chance of foetal distress and an emergency 1 Caesarian section right then. Although the doctor didn’t discuss pain, I have looked into it, and the procedure is uncomfortable at the very least. If the baby went head down, and stayed that way (some do shift back), we could have a normal birth.
    Further web research by M has just revealed that in cases of Rh incompatibility, exernal manipulation is not recommended. There’s too much chance of foetal bleeding, which is A VERY BAD THING INDEED.

  2. Since the doctor thinks it’s breech (I’m not sure, based on where the kicking comes from), just wait on things and try a standard delivery. Now, I know from talking it over with mothers of breech babies that this is not fun, not even by the standards of childbirth in general.
  3. Book us in for an elective 2 section.

Option 1 really didn’t grab me. If it were that or go through a breech birth, then I would have jumped at it. But it failed the Guilt Test…if something went wrong, and we found ourself rushing for an emergency section, and (God forbid) the baby was in distress, I would blame myself terribly.

Option 2 was right out.

So we’re scheduled for a C-section on Wednesday, April 11, 2001. The first choice date, medically speaking (Friday April 13) was ruled out because it’s Good Friday, a bank holiday, and the hospital will be (relatively) lightly staffed (can’t say I mind skipping surgery on Friday the 13th). The second choice, Thursday April 12, was booked solid already.

So in a week, I have a baby. Wish me luck.

  1. An emergency section is generally done under general anaesthesia. This presents a risk to the mother (as all general anaesthetic does). It can also affect the baby.
  2. An elective section is done under spinal anaesthetic, usually an epidural. That means I will be awake for the whole experience, and that the baby will not be affected by the anaesthetic.

B’s Profile

So here it is, by popular request: B’s profile. You can see the forehead, the nose, and the mouth (the first three bumps under the central text). We’re fairly sure it had its hand up by its face at the time the shot was taken.

Now, had it been a movie shot, you could have seen that it was moving its mouth while we watched. Practicing for nursing, perhaps? Or talking to itself?