“We’re going to pull the alarm now and a lot of people will come into the room but don’t worry.”
A year ago, I held an exhausted E’s hand as consultants, doctors and midwives gathered around C on a Resuscitaire. It’d been two days since E’s waters had broken and what little sleep we’d had was punctuated by my clumsy timing of contractions. It was a time of being offered choices, desperately trying to understand Cochrane systematic reviews and ultimately making decisions I was in no way equipped to make.
I listened to the mundane counting as they performed CPR, each new round of “1, 2, 3, 4” steadily filling me with dread.
Eventually, a mewling and a hubbub as C urinated on several members of staff. They began bickering among themselves as to what had happened to him with the most commanding person in the room repeatedly insisting “there was no meconium on the vocal cords”. As they finally beckoned me over to properly see C for the first time, the lead midwife jostled to show me a clear tube with something cloudy within, “see, look at the mucus!”
Bewildered, I did as I was told and followed as he was wheeled to the neonatal intensive care unit (the “NICU”). He was soon covered in dressings with teddy bears and the 3M logo on them. I quickly began misspelling the word “cannula”.
As I watched him through the plastic, I turned to the nurses and, masking my panic, asked “erm, is it OK he’s pulling his breathing tubes out?”
I returned to the labour ward to find E eating a bowl of bran flakes.
Later, after being told parents shouldn’t be present for the procedure, E and I would sit in a small room off the NICU as C had a lumbar puncture. I stared at a noticeboard, trying not to think about what I’d read about “bacterial meningitis” the night before.
Eventually, we’d make it home after the most careful drive of my life. There’d be a trip to the children’s ambulatory care unit to deal with C’s cannula which we were told had “tissued”. We’d watch as two people struggled to fit another and I distracted myself by staring at some morning TV show about how a teenager had gone blind from a diet that consisted exclusively of chips.
There’d be a red book and a course of benzylpenicillin and gentamicin. I forget which one stings.
There’d be tearful debriefs with our community midwives. I’d grow resentful and then angry at how polarised the NHS and NCT were and how that might have affected what happened. I’d reluctantly share our “birth story” with our NCT class and immediately regret it.
I’d think about sharing what had happened more publicly in an attempt to order my own thoughts and feelings but nothing would come of it.
Instead, after nine weeks, I’d start writing weeknotes.
Happy 1st birthday, C.