Tuesday, 12 June 2012


Bang on his due date, Liz gave birth to Kaleb, our son. 

I'm almost at the end of my paternity leave now, so thought I would write about the whole experience of the last two weeks, and the new arrival in my life. I've already done a couple of small updates on Google+ and Facebook, but nothing as substantial as this post (as with before the birth, I add more to an opt-in list on Google+, so let me know if you want to be on it to hear more updates, I think it defaults to emails if you're not on Google+). 

We had prepared as much as we thought we could have beforehand. I had always thought that we could never be completely prepared (and that it is foolish to think that we could be as it is a substantial change to our lives), but we prepared as much as we could. Liz was reading a lot of articles and leaflets (and joining a lot of parent clubs that shops have), and initially most of my preparation was listening to her talking about it :-) 

Closer to the due date I started doing some preparation of my own; I got a book aimed at Dads (there are not that many as I found out) and read a couple of research articles I found on the British Medical Journal website. 

We also went along to the bump2babe ante-natal classes in Luton. I missed one session due to illness, but Liz said it was mostly about pain relief during labour, so I don't know how useful it would have been for me. 

I was also able to go along to all of the midwife appointments after the initial one Liz had at home, which was nice as I could find out more about what was all going on. The last one we went to was on the 25th May (my birthday), two days before his due date. We had my parents and brother around for dinner that evening (as it was also my Mums birthday), and everyone was treating Liz as a ticking time bomb, wondering whether Kaleb would be born that day (and be the third generation to share the 25th May as a birthday). The evening came and went without event, however. 

Saturday, Liz had started to feel a couple of small cramps low down every now and then. Throughout the day we kept an eye on them as they started getting higher and larger until it was the late evening and they were getting closer together so Liz called the delivery suite for advice. They said to make our way in, but as we didn't drive we didn't have to rush, so I called my Dad to see if he would be able to give us a lift up there. 

Labour & Birth
Dad arrived at ours just before midnight and gave us a lift to the maternity unit at the Luton & Dunstable hospital (the midwife led birthing unit). We stayed there for an hour or so, but were told that while Liz had started labour, she hadn't progressed enough to stay and we had the option to either go home, or Liz could stay in the post-natal ward, but would have to stay alone (so I would be going home either way). Liz wanted to stay, but not on her own, so agreed to come back with us as my Dad agreed to stay at our house for a while until we went in again. We left with Liz having had some pain killers and instructions on when to come in again. It was now the early hours of Sunday, 27th May. The due date. 

Back home, Dad had a lie down on the sofa, and me and Liz went to bed to try and get a little bit of sleep. I was noting down the time of each contraction so wasn't sleeping much at all. After about an hour of this, we decided that we weren't getting much sleep anyway so Liz went to have a bath. Soon after doing this the contractions get a lot more painful, so Liz called up again to come in. On the way there, the contractions started speeding up so we concluded that we should be staying there this time. 

When we arrived again, the midwives confirmed that Liz would be staying there. My Dad sent a text to my Mum saying what was going on and then left. It was about 5AM at that point, and Liz started using the Gas and Air for pain relief. Initially not realizing that it should only be used during a contraction, she swayed around saying she felt woozy before breathing normally between contractions. Liz had wanted to have a water birth, but a midwife with extra training needed to be there for that, so we couldn't use the pool until they came in, which they did after a shift change, so at 8AM (ish) we went into the room with the pool. 

I think the pool helped Liz while in labour. She has always liked having baths, although this was a lot bigger than the bath we have at home (and no bath bombs or bubbles this time!). Sitting up in the pool, the water came up to about her neck, so a fair bit deeper than a usual bath as well, which we found out early on when during a contraction her body jerked and she almost slipped under the water. Handily there were some hand rails around the edge of the pool, so she started holding onto these a lot more, to avoid slipping again. My job at this point was to hold the tube thing for the Gas and Air for Liz, and to occasionally try to pour some water down her mouth. 

Wish I Knew 1: One thing I wish I knew before all this was that it is a good idea to bring straws along to hospital, as it is a lot easier to get someone to drink out of a cup using a straw than trying to pour something in their mouth yourself. 

Liz spent most of the time in the water, but did have to get out once for the midwife to check on her progress (they have to do this every couple of hours). She stayed out for a little bit before we convinced her to go back in (we asked if she wanted to go back in and, upon her saying no, asked if she only said that because she didn't want to move from where she was; that was the case so we gradually convinced her to get back into the pool). 

Around midday, Liz started the final stage of labour, so a second midwife was called in. One of the bonuses of the water birth is that a midwife has to be in the room at all times (whereas otherwise there can be one midwife looking after two women in two different rooms, even in the midwife led birthing unit that we were in). The one midwife only applies to the pain relief during the initial labour, but a second one has to be there for the final stage. 

Unfortunately for Liz, at this point she had to stop using the Gas and Air she had quite happily been using for some time now, as she couldn't use it in the pushing stage. Me and the second midwife had to hold down Liz's hips as they had started spasming, and it was very important that the baby's head didn't leave the water until delivery was complete. The pushing stage lasted about 20 minutes or so, I think the head came out after two big pushes (which looked a little odd), and then the top half came out and floated around a bit, at which point the midwife took the baby out of the water and give him to Liz. I had a bit of a moment watching it, but was able to compose myself and remain focused on supporting Liz. The midwife then quickly moved the umbilical cord as it had wrapped loosely around the baby's neck (at this point we still didn't know the gender).

Liz cuddled in the water for a bit while the umbilical cord stopped pulsating, then it was clamped and I was invited to cut it. It was weird enough to look at, but cutting it was even stranger. Kind of like rubber tubing I guess, very strange. 

After a minute or so of cuddling, we did lift the baby up to see what gender it was (a boy), but we were there for a few minutes just not knowing. 

Wish I Knew 2: Babies can look a little grey when born, especially when delivered in water; we were a little worried initially, but assured that it was normal. Luckily, his skin pinked up quite quickly for the most part

The baby was taken out of the pool first, followed by Liz who sat down while the various checks were done. The baby was wheezing a little bit, so one of the midwives called a doctor to check quickly. I went outside the room to see what the doctor was doing. They checked that oxygen was going to all the limbs (it was) and then poked a little tube down his nose (I felt a bit bad for) in order to use the suction. They had suspected it was just some mucus that needed removing, and he stopped wheezing as much afterwards, so they were right. He was also given the Vitamin K injection, at which point he actually started crying a little (he hadn't up until this point and was initially quite calm). 

Back with Liz, we had some time to spend with Kaleb. 

We had discussed names beforehand, so were ready when the day came. Liz had a couple of girls names she liked that I didn't object to so that was fine, but it was a little trickier finding a boys name. We did find "Caleb" in a small book of names that came with a baby magazine Liz had, which we both liked, but I said I preferred it spelt with a K. 

I then had the task of phoning our immediate family to tell them the news. I also got to check my phone where I had a text from my brother (I had sent him a message early in the morning saying we were in hospital and had gotten an inquisitive reply some hours later). We also had a bit to eat; it was lunch time and someone going around with patient food had a spare dinner which I had some of. Kaleb was also weighed and measured (33cm head circumference, 3760g)

We then moved back into the first room we were in when we initially arrived as Liz needed a post-birth check up. I was in the corridor calling grandparents while that was going on. 

Liz was to be taken for minor day surgery, so I was going to be left with Kaleb while that was going on. I had started to try and hold him myself by that point, but was a little worried about doing looking after him on my own while Liz was away. 

Once Liz was wheeled away, I was then taken with Kaleb and our bags to the surgery recovery room, to wait for Liz. Even though I was left alone in the room (well, me and Kaleb), things seemed to be going OK as he was mostly sleeping. I picked him up a couple of times to stop him crying, and tried to read a couple of research papers I had printed and brought along with me. Being 4 in the afternoon meant that I had been awake for over a day and a half, so wasn't able to completely concentrate on reading that much. 

After a little while, Kaleb woke up and started crying a lot. My efforts to calm him down weren't working as before, but luckily a nurse came in to help out. We decided that he was probably hungry as he hadn't been fed since being born a couple of hours ago, so she took him off to Liz to see if she could feed him while being operated on (she was numb from the waist down so was still awake of what was going on and able to feed him). 

Wish I Knew 3: Initially at least, if Kaleb was putting his hand in his mouth, it probably means he is hungry. 

Liz was eventually wheeled out into the recovery room where I was, with Kaleb. We waited here for a little while; Liz had another dinner brought to her as it had been some time since lunch while she was monitored. 

Our plan had always been for Liz to stay overnight at least once, as she would get additional help from Midwives there, so I asked about when we would be moving to the post-natal ward, and what the visiting hours were (and to see if my family could come and visit). We discovered that we should be in the ward during visiting hours, so I told my parents so they could come and visit. 

Up the lift to ward 33, where we would be staying for a while to come, Liz was wheeled into one of the bed areas. 

My Dad arrived first, with my brother and his girlfriend. My Mum was still on her way (she had decided that, because the 27th was his due date, Kaleb wouldn't be born then, so had gone off to see an air show, but was rushing back as fast as she could). 

Chris held Kaleb first; Dad had decided that he didn't want to until he was a little older. My brother is a bit bigger than me, so Kaleb looks tiny in comparison. His feet don't look as small, which would explain why Liz was complaining about being kicked in the ribs while pregnant. 

My Mum had arrived at this point and started crying when she came in and held him. 

Soon after Dad had changed his mind and decided he did want to hold Kaleb after all. 

I got a lift back with everyone that night. Liz didn't want me to go but knew I had to. Back at home I got a couple of things sorted before going to bed and getting a very good nights sleep. Up early I got ready and called a taxi to go to the hospital, where I went back up to find Liz. 

As it turned out, Liz was to stay in the hospital for a couple of days, and with me being inside for 12 hours a day as well it all turned into a bit of a blur. While there both Liz and Kaleb got checked a couple of times. Kaleb's first check was going well (he was sleeping) until the doctor needed to check his eyes; he got one open to have a look, but that caused Kaleb to start crying, so we needed to calm him down a bit to continue. He thought he heard a slight heart murmur, so later that day I went down to the special care unit with Kaleb for him to be checked there (they had the equipment required that wasn't on the ward I think). There were some tiny tiny babies there. That check was fine though, and when checked again later they couldn't hear anything, but it was good to get it checked all the same. 

Liz was having trouble giving blood that was needed for various reasons. She had wanted to donate cord blood as that is good for helping sick children, but they weren't able to get the non-cord blood from her in time to check that everything was OK unfortunately. A more important check for Liz was how she was coping post-surgery. A couple of people tried unsuccessfully, so they had to call in the senior doctor to do it (the midwives joked that the doctors cheat because they have special needles and syringe it straight out). This was fine until we were trying to find out the results; one group thought that Liz hadn't had any blood taken since just after giving birth and they needed a "fresher" sample. After some checking and chasing up, one of the midwives discovered that Liz's sample had been left to be taken down, but for some reason it hadn't been taken down to be checked and they would have to do it again. Not a great thing to do to someone who has a lot of trouble giving blood as it is. 

At the hospital we did get additional visits; my cousins visited on the Monday:


My family also visited again each night, much to my delight as it meant I could get a lift home. One day someone from Bounty came around to hand out gift packs to women who had just given birth. Sounds nice, and there were a couple of nice free things in there, but some was trial versions of things, and there was a lot of leaflets advertising various things; it seemed to be more a massive advertising campaign than actually giving something nice to a new mum. There were two packs - one "newborn" pack, and one "For Mums" pack, but a lot of the "Mums" pack had stuff for the newborn in it anyway (and more advertising), so they may as well have just had the one pack. From the large array of adverts in the pack, I concluded that people really like taking photos of babies as there were at least three different companies offering to do so. 

On the Monday night, after spending a day of not feeding that much, Kaleb decided he wanted constant feeding which kept Liz up most of the night. 

On Wednesday, Liz had hoped that she would be able to go home as the second lot of blood had been taken for testing, but the doctor said her iron levels were borderline. While it meant that she might have to stay another night to have a transfusion, she had the option of going home and taking iron tablets for a while. She opted to go home as while the hospital was nice, she wanted to settle in at home. 

We got Kaleb bathed by the nursery staff, and wrapped him up so we could wait until we could all go home. All that we needed to do was wait for Liz to have a quick check over by a doctor, to ensure that she was ready to go home. She had been walking around at this point and one nurse had commented that she didn't look like her iron levels were as low as they were, so we were positive that it would all be fine. The issue however wasn't with Liz, it was with actually getting her seen. It took about 4 hours until Liz got the 10 minute or so check that allowed us to go home. At this point Kaleb had started to wake up after being put into the car seat, looking hungry. This was 11PM and at the point where we really should be heading back; we couldn't feed him and then go as he would probably feed for an hour or so. My main issue here is that we didn't know how long it was going to take. If we knew it was going to be a 4 hour wait, we could have fed him beforehand, but the doctor was always in a state of "will be with you shortly". 

Late night road works meant that we had to take a round-about route through Luton, instead of the quick smooth motorway, going over various bumps until we got home, where Kaleb started to feed quite quickly. 

In general, I was happy with the staff at the hospital; they are very knowledgeable and helpful. I just wish that there were more of them. 

Back Home
This was the first night I got with Kaleb in the room. Not a normal one as we had arrived home so late, but it went OK for the most part. I had to get used to changing him on the floor instead of the cot bed he had in the hospital at waist height. 

The next two days, we had a visit from the community midwife, to check on Kaleb and Liz. His initial weight had gone down a minor amount (expected, but notably not as much of a drop as sometimes happens). A second weighing happened for day 10, and he had gone up to over 4kg, so had gained back to his birth weight and then some. 

Throughout the week, we had various visitors, including Liz's sister dropping their Mum off to stay a couple of days. Liz noted that we had someone visit (either family or professional) everyday apart from one day last week, but it was nice to see people. 




One of the bonuses of the double bank holiday was that I got some more time to spend with Kaleb. I get ten days paternity leave, which is usually two weeks, but I get almost two and a half due to the double bank holiday last week. 

We also put together the pram that my Dad got for us. Well, Chris did most of it. It has meant that we could get out and about, which is a nice change for Liz having spent a couple of days not leaving the ward, and a couple of days staying at home. 

We are settling in very well with Kaleb at the moment. There have been a few nights where we have been up a lot, but for the most part we are doing well, with only two or three times of waking up in the night to feed him, and we are getting good at waking up when he is starting to wake up, to get him ready to feed before he fully wakes up and starts crying because he is hungry. 

Its great that we got to have him back home with us; I've been able to spend more time with him that I could at the hospital, and do some bonding before I go back to work. He is a lovely, content little baby. He seemingly only cries when he wants something, and spends the rest of his waking hours just laying looking at the world around him. 



We've just got back from the registry office to register him and pick up his birth certificate. So welcome to the world, Kaleb George Baldwin!