[The bulk of this post was written two days after Keiki was born. Please forgive any discontinuity or lack of clarity.]
For some illogical reason, I expected Keiki’s arrival to follow the same set of steps as Humuhumu’s. As in: be lying around an evening of the 39th week, switch on the television looking for some manner of trash to watch, be confronted by Jeremy Clarkson’s face, stand up, Niagara Falls of waters breaking.
Of course that didn’t happen this time. Instead, I spent Wednesday morning looking after a friend’s toddler, pootled around on the internet after she had departed with her mother, did some chores, and received a large delivery of grocery shopping.
After the shopping had been brought in, I started to put it away. Unusually, this took me almost an hour. I had to keep sitting down. “Braxton-Hicks”, I thought. “They’ll go once I’ve finished.”
An hour after that, the bloke rang to say he was on his way home. I started to make supper. Also, to suspect that the contractions were getting stronger and closer together. “Braxton-Hicks,” I thought. “It’s too early for them to be anything else, surely.”
The bloke and Humuhumu came home. We had supper. We started Humuhumu’s bedtime ritual. Well, the bloke did. I mostly sat on the side of the bed and wheezed.
I rang the delivery suite at the hospital. They agreed we should expect to be coming in sometime later that night or the next morning.
At 3 AM the contractions ramped up to the point where it was agreed we should go in. To my disappointment, they began to subside not long after that, probably because I was so tired. We returned home again to wait another few hours. Early on Thursday afternoon, we drove again wto hospital and hey presto, seven centimetres dilation (waters, amazingly, still intact). The delivery suite was full and they had to put us in a waiting room for about 15 minutes. There was some poor woman in there clutching her green notes (the standard NHS colour for pregnancy/pre-delivery notes), clearly not in labour yet, who got to watch me walking up and down and clutching the door frame while I breathed through the contractions. Goodness knows how she must have felt until I was finally whisked into a room to be examined. Even I still had enough awareness to realise that the situation was awkward.
I was puzzled by the lack of screaming this time. Maybe it was knowing what was coming. Maybe it was the battle-axe midwife talking me through a bout of hyperventilation and forcing me to focus on my breathing. Maybe it was the late application of nitrous oxide. While remember howling through a good proportion of the second stage of labour with Humuhumu, this time I didn’t need to do much shouting until the pushing bit, which was much faster as well. I seem to recall five or six bouts of pushing - and thinking, ”How on Earth did I manage to forget how much this hurt?! Oh right, if I hadn’t, I would never have agreed to have another child.” - and then the midwives saying, “Give a gentle push this time, so we can catch the head.” So I put half my energy into shouting and half into bearing down, and, well. They had to catch the whole baby. They put him on my chest, where his shrieking quickly subsided as he rootled around looking for food.
We spent the night on the maternity ward with the other new mums and babies. The woman in the bed next to me was a chronic bell-ringing type so sleep was pretty broken, although I tried not to stress about it. I popped Keiki inside my shirt to enable maximum skin-to-skin contact, and mostly left him there until morning apart from nappy checks/changes. He did quite well with feeding, so I was surprised the next morning when a student midwife examined him the next morning and informed me that he’s tongue-tied. It’s enough that he’s damaged one of my nipples despite regular application of Lansinoh (dammit). We didn’t hear from the midwife who deals with tongue-tie in time to get it corrected before Christmas, but it will be done soon so he doesn’t have to struggle to latch.
On the plus side, I’m healing, Keiki is gaining weight, the bloke is being a star with the cleaning and toddler care, we’ve had several people bring over nice food for us to eat and Humuhumu is very excited about Christmas and her new role as Elder Sibling. Also, she’s decided that now is the ideal time to begin the “Why?” phase. I’m not sure the bloke and I can object too much, given that we’ve made lifelong careers out of the “Why?” phase.
On the first day after we returned home from hospital, we had to wait for the midwife to turn up to examine Keiki and me before the bloke & Humuhumu could go for a walk. This made her rather antsy, as she’s an outdoorsy sort of person and doesn’t like being cooped up. The midwife came at about midday and stayed for an hour. As soon as she left, Humuhumu took her bib off (she had been eating toast and making adorable faces at the midwife) and marched out of the room. We heard some rustling, and a short while later she returned, wearing coat, hat and wellies.
“Daddy,” she said seriously. “Walk now. See pub.”
The bloke looked at me. “This is cute now, but it’s going to get embarrassing when she goes to primary school, they ask her to write about her favourite thing to do and it’s, ‘Go to the pub with Daddy.’”