Saturday 17 March 2018

Amanda Brunker on giving birth: 'My tirade of abuse soon wiped my husband's smile'

Amanda Brunker with her sons L to R: Setanta (8) and Edward (9) McLaughlin
Amanda Brunker with her sons L to R: Setanta (8) and Edward (9) McLaughlin

How long can a baby survive out of the womb before being fed? Five minutes, half an hour, two hours?

This was the question that gripped me with fear in the time elapsing after the birth of my first child. Yes, this week, I want to talk about what it’s like in hospital after you have your baby. Are you excited?

Looking back to when I was facing my hospital stay, nobody told me anything of what to expect. It’s as if no one thinks it an important part of your parenting journey. The thing is, it is. It’s the very start of your parenting adventure, and for the new mum, a truly terrifying and monumental time in their lives.

And while everyone will have their own experiences, today, I will share mine. A word of warning: I’m not going to paint you a rosy picture. I’m not going to tell you the staff were wonderful and caring. I can’t even say the hospital was hygienically clean — on either of my births. But remember, some women end up having babies in the back of cars and sometimes tragically in toilet cubicles all alone, so don’t sweat it too much. Once you’ve got someone to hold your hand and talk you through it, you and baby will be fine.

So, let me take you back to one night in March in 2006. After a particularly long labour of about 24 hours, I was wheeled into a dark ward, disturbing five other women and their infants with my new son in my arms. I was given a bed in the corner, which was nice, and left there. When I say “left”, I mean by everyone: the midwives, the ward nurse AND the father of my child. Like a firework, they were all there and then gone. Disappearing to god knows where.

Patiently, I waited for someone to return. Ten minutes, half an hour — at 50 minutes, I panicked. My baby was too quiet. After one hour, I had convinced myself that my baby was too weak to cry as I hadn’t fed him. Nobody had shown me and I didn’t know how.

After about 90 minutes, my husband returned. Having rang everyone he knew, he was full of the joys. My tirade of abuse soon wiped his smile.

Once dad was on the case, someone was located who half-heartedly showed me how to breastfeed. I was a huge inconvenience — as I seemed to be to most of the staff during my stay. Except for two trainee midwives who had sat with me during my labour — they were saints.

The following 36 hours in hospital was torturous. My baby cried and shrank as he was constantly hungry. I lasted two weeks breastfeeding. The moment I stuck a bottle in my son’s mouth, he stopped crying — as did I.

Back on the ward, whenever he was quiet, you can guarantee the people around me were not, so don’t expect sleep while you’re there. As soon as they’re happy to release you, GO, and take haven in your own bed.

While Dettol wipes made me more comfortable in using the communal toilets, and fresh juices made it easier to use the toilet, I learned that 90 minutes is not too long to not feed your child. So please, don’t panic like I did.

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