There is a lot about this whole ‘having babies’ malarky that is covered in infinite depths by the textbooks and the trash TV I religiously watched on crap channels like ‘Discovery Babies’ or whatever it was. There are other bits that people JUST. DON’T. TALK ABOUT. Unless of course, having been through it yourself, if you mention it to other people, they suddenly go ‘OH YEAH, ISN’T THAT WEIRD/ANNOYING/TERRIBLE/ETC? THE EXACT SAME THING HAPPENED TO ME’. HELLO! Might have been useful to mention this to me BEFORE.
So, in a bid to save someone else hard work and frantic googling at 3am, I’ve got a few blog posts in my head that pick up where ‘One Born Every Minute’ finishes – the first of which covers the Japanese water torture that is…maternity wards.
Despite my best attempts to avoid them, following Billy’s arrival, I ended up with a 24 hour stay on the maternity ward. This bit ended up being far more stressful than the birth was, and a lot of things that happened surprised me.
TMI warning starts…..Now.
1. The heat
I’m now entirely convinced that the NHS budget deficits are due to the heating bills from our local maternity ward. It was as hot as actual hell. At one point, I remembered the thick socks and cardigan packed neatly in to my (abandoned) hospital bag and had a chuckle as I sat there, sweating cobs, wearing a nursing bra and not a lot else, desperately trying to regain enough function in my legs to reach the water jug on the table next to me.
If I had my time again, I would have taken a whole lot less clothes and a couple of 2 litre bottles of water. And a fan.
2. Other people
Remember the bloody woman in the bed next to me at the maternity assessment centre? Guess who was in the bed next to me on the maternity ward? Oh yes. What are the bloody changes? And this time, she had a baby. A baby that she cradled and shushed when it was sound asleep, and largely ignored when it screamed for 3 hours straight from 1-4am as she was far too busy on her bloody phone.
3. Post partum bleeding
Its not something that’s covered in the books, so I was genuinely surprised to find that the most eloquent solution to post-birth blood loss is for a midwife to press an NHS issue sanitary towel between your legs and plonk you on an absorbent bed pad with a sheet over you. This is largely fine when you have no use of your legs, but as soon as you need to change position, pick the baby up out of the crib, change a nappy, sit up to breastfeed etc, this solution quickly becomes problematic.
I begged anyone who came within a 10 meter radius of my bed to take my catheter out and let me have a shower, but it wasn’t until lunchtime the next day that my wish was finally granted. BEST. SHOWER. EVER.
4. The food
Now, I love my food. And I love the NHS. Largely, I think that people that complain needlessly about the NHS need to take a cold, hard look at themselves and think of the bigger picture. THAT said: You’ve got a ward full of women who are likely to have suffered with anaemia throughout their pregnancy, and a lot of women are likely to have recently given birth. Would it not be a good move to serve some greenery or veg to help with the old iron count?
Exhibit A: Beef casserole with vegetables, mash, potato croquette and ‘fresh fruit salad’
Exhibit B: Chicken and vegetable curry
So, if you find yourself lucky enough to stay on the maternity ward, bribe your nearest and dearest to bring you something tasty with nutritional value to get you through. And biscuits. Don’t forget the biscuits.
5. Pooing to order
When you have some pretty serious stitches after you give birth, the midwives want to make sure you can do a number 1 and 2 without problems before they will discharge you. Sensible idea, I hear you say.
It is, until you realise the only thing between you and your own bed is a poo that doesn’t seem to be making an appearance any time soon. If you’ve gone in to labour yourself, you’ll know that the body has its own way of ‘cleansing the system’ to prepare for birth, which for a lot of people, involves sitting on the loo for much of their early labour. That, the fact that I’d not eaten for 24 hours, the stitches and the fact that I had a nurse coming to see me once every 5 minutes to ask if I’d ‘done a poo yet?’ caused me to do something I probably shouldn’t.
I told them I’d pooped and they ordered my drugs so we could go home. Just like that. They didn’t want any proof or anything (thank heavens). Off they sent me with my stool softeners and my laxatives and I trundled off home with our squidgy little baby, with a niggling thought in the back of my mind that I might just have seriously under-estimated how bad this poo was going to be.
The next morning, I found out. You know what? It wasn’t all that bad. And it was a damn sight easier for not having someone in uniform watching my every move and avoiding a second night next to my maternity ward nemesis.
So, there you have it. Five things I wish I’d known about maternity wards. In hindsight, there’s probably a bloody good reason people don’t talk about this stuff, because sweating, bleeding and pooing is not the most glamorous of subjects, but it is very good preparation for the glamour of parenthood.