Yes I know the title is obvious when we’re talking about a baby, but when Andrew turned 1 year old last weekend, it made me think back over the year, and how much he (and we!) has developed. I can remember the first week of his life almost like it was yesterday, and there are many other memories from the 12 months that particularly stick in my mind, for example the milestones he reached like smiling, crawling and walking. As I hadn’t braved it into the world of blogging when he was born, I didn’t share our birth story on this blog. So I thought I’d do a ‘then and now’ post – first look back at his actual ‘birth day’, and then contrast it with the same day a year later, his first birthday.
A birth story might not be every reader’s cup of tea, so I’ll try not to waffle on or get too gory, but if you’re not in the (what might be quite a small) crowd of birth story fans, please feel free to skip this section.
On the morning of Tom’s birthday, we woke up as usual at 7am, and Tom went off to work. I had been on maternity leave for two weeks already, and was 4 days over my due date, getting bored of being pregnant, and wishing ‘Baby C’ would put in an appearance. But I’d had no signs of labour. The midwife came (as planned) at 12 noon to give me and baby a check-up as we were overdue, which involved having a membrane sweep (as I promised no gory details, you can read about this on someone else’s website here). She told me I was already a few centimetres dilated, so baby should be on the way soon.
At about 2pm I had what I think was my first contraction (I say ‘I think’ because it wasn’t as massive and painful as I had been expecting, bracing myself for the worst pain ever). It was short and I didn’t feel anything again for about half an hour. From then until about 7.30pm, I had irregularly timed contractions that were quite painful, but not so bad that I couldn’t bake Tom a birthday cake to take my mind off them. I emailed Tom to say that I was having irregular contractions but that there was no need to rush home. He turned up at home earlier than usual, because he couldn’t concentrate knowing what I had told him, and it was his birthday anyway. But we were losing hope of baby and Daddy sharing birthdays, thinking that this could be a long haul (my first baby, not having had any signs of labour until now etc.)
At about 6.30pm we decided to get a take-away curry, rather than go to the restaurant itself just down the road. Curry had become our staple diet that week, trying (along with pineapple and raspberry leaf tea) the old wives’ tales for natural labour induction. We sat down to eat at 7pm; half an hour later we were about to settle in front of a DVD, with me perched on a hard dining chair, arms over the back of it. Just as I sat down, I felt and heard a big splash beneath me and lots of kicking from Baby C – my waters had gushed all over the chair and floor! In antenatal classes, we’d been told to phone the hospital as soon as my waters broke. So Tom did, and they told us to come in for an assessment, even though we might get sent home again if all was OK.
My contractions were still irregular, but as we got in the car, they suddenly got much stronger, more like what I had braced myself for, and more close together. We arrived at the Midwife Led Birth Unit (MLBU) in the Rosie Maternity Hospital and were promptly shown to a room. I was so pleased because I’d heard that it quickly gets full, though I knew we might not be staying. The midwife assessed me by asking when my contractions were and taking various swabs; the outcome was that I wasn’t properly in labour yet, and because we lived so near the hospital, I could go home and be in a more familiar environment. I wasn’t too keen on moving very far, because just as the midwife was filling in the paperwork, my contractions suddenly got even more intense and more close together.
The next thing I knew, the midwife was going through my ‘birth-plan’ (more like guidance notes than a plan really) and asking her assistant to fill up the birth pool. I was on all fours on the bed, answering questions and asking for things like a drink and help in taking some layers of clothing off, in between the contractions. Just as I was about to ask for the gas and air to be set up, the pool was ready, so I got in for pain relief instead. Not long had I been in the pool when I felt the urge to push – this was a completely instinctual feeling, and my head was saying ‘this can’t be right, it’s too early in labour to push’, but my body was just doing it. The midwife was lovely and said if I wanted to push I should push, and that I knew what I was doing far more than any examination she could do of me would tell us. I liked her faith in me, but still thought it was crazy to be pushing already.
After a few more contractions, I started to believe it more, and thought I might as well go with it rather than resist. I carried on like this for a while, until the midwife made a bet with me (well, no money was involved) – if I got out, baby would be delivered more quickly than if I stayed in. She could see that I was ‘relaxing’ a little too much in the soothing water (it was hardly what I’d call relaxing, but I saw her point), and I wasn’t pushing as effectively as if I were ‘on land’. So I got out, and no more than 10 minutes later, out came our little baby; we soon confirmed my gut feeling that it was a boy, as he was lifted up and placed directly onto my tummy. Timings are all a bit of a blur to me as, needless to say, I wasn’t clock watching, but the one thing I know is that he arrived at the very memorable time of 22.22.
A few minor procedures later (cord cutting, stitching and cleaning me up etc.), and we were enjoying those amazing first minutes as a new three person family. We decided that the names we had chosen before birth were still a good choice now that we’d met him, and so we named him Andrew James. Whilst we were sitting tummy to tummy, he did the very instinctual thing of climbing up and lunging towards one of my nipples, then latched on and started what turned into a very good first breastfeed (you can read more about this here).
After a while I started to feel sick, and placed him in Tom’s arms to give them some bonding time, before I was actually sick. Unfortunately this was a reaction to the injection I’d had that helps deliver the placenta more quickly and less bloodily (stopping gory talk now), which is quite common, apparently, though I’d not heard of this in all the antenatal literature I’d read. I had a shower, which helped me feel a bit better, whilst my boys bonded some more. We then dressed Andrew up warm in some tiny cute clothes that the midwife picked out of our bag for him, and headed across to the post-natal bay for the night.
Tom made sure we were settled and then headed off home until the next morning. Andrew was fast asleep, so I laid him in the ‘fish tank’ which was right next to my bed, and lay down myself at the edge of the bed, close enough to put my arm in and hold his little hands and stroke his little head. I couldn’t sleep a wink, I just lay there watching him and holding him. All he was doing was sleeping, but somehow it seemed absolutely amazing. For me that night was a (long) moment in which I couldn’t stop thanking God for His incredible generosity in giving us this new little life, a perfectly formed miniature us with mini limbs and mini organs all working together to sustain life.
A year later, our day started much earlier; gone are the days of lie-ins – the 7am start of the year before seems like an absolute luxury! After trying in vain to settle Andrew back to sleep with various things like feeding, rocking and head stroking, I decided he must be so excited about his birthday that getting up and playing was our only option. I did the early shift until breakfast, and Daddy took over after that, allowing me an extra hour in bed to regain some energy for my cake-icing extravaganza. Andrew was also persuaded (with not much effort) to have a much needed nap, otherwise I was fearing a lunchtime meltdown.
After our naps, my boys went out to a Dads’ event at a local Children’s Centre, and left me mixing up copious amounts of butter and icing sugar, to ice the cakes that I’d baked the day before (if you haven’t spotted my creations yet, see here). Icing aside, the fact that my littler boy and I could go for a few hours without each other is very different from the year before, when we spent all of the time he was outside of me cuddling and feeding. Although I miss him when we’re apart, I find that I really appreciate some me-time, especially if I know he’s having fun and bonding with Daddy.
Whilst I was in the middle of cake creating, my parents arrived, just in time to help with the washing up and other bits of cleaning. Not much has changed there in a year! When Tom and I had left for the hospital, the kitchen was messy with washing up, which all disappeared and didn’t reappear for a few days after the birth, thanks to our parents. That still seems to be one of their main occupations when they visit.
Back to the birthday celebrations, we headed off to a local pub for lunch. I love the fact that Andrew is such a good eater that we don’t have to worry about taking baby food out with us for meals, because he’ll happily munch away on a small(-ish) portion of an adult meal (it’s amazing just how much he can pack away into his little tummy!) He only has 2 teeth, but that doesn’t deter him. This time he tucked into a bowl of scrummy pasta with tomato sauce and cheese – much bigger than his first ever meal of breastmilk the year before, but on a similar scale of scrumminess, judging by his enthusiasm on both occasions. Sitting still has never been his strong point, and the interesting sights of the pub were soon beckoning him down from his highchair. He walked from table to chair to table and even brushed near the bar. Gone are the days of holding him like a newborn babe in arms, except when he wants to feed, then it’s acceptable to snuggle up to mummy. But that hardly ever happens anywhere other than home, and even then he’ll often wriggle and get into all sorts of funny positions when still latched on.
A brisk walk back from the pub was followed by a present-opening-athon at home. Not that he had any idea of what was going on, and was more interested in playing with the wrapping paper, gift bags and packaging, with the occasional glance at the goodies within them. Daddy enjoyed sharing the limelight with his (relatively small compared to Andrew’s) pile of presents too. It occurred to me that here our toddler was, making up his own mind about what he wanted to do. Even though we had decided to open presents, because that’s just one of the things you do on birthdays, he wasn’t going to sit still and do it orderly, and why should he, it was his birthday after all. This independence was such a change from the utterly dependent on us newborn who arrived the year before.
As the signs of the dreaded ‘overtiredness’ started to make an appearance, we skillfully (after a year of getting to know the signs) averted a meltdown moment by whisking him out in the buggy for a nap. Like sitting, napping has never been one of his strong points, though I do remember just how much he slept just after he was born. They say babies get worn out from labour just as much as mums – how they know that I don’t know, did they ask the babies?! His sleepiness didn’t last long.
The day wouldn’t have been complete without the consumption of the aforementioned cake, but not before we sang Happy Birthday To You (once for Andrew and once for Tom). This year we actually got to eat the cake on the birthday, whereas the cake I’d baked last year for Tom, as a distraction from contractions technique, didn’t get eaten until the day after. Andrew joined in too this year.
Bathtime and bedtime (mine that is 😉 ) drew closer, and family made a move homewardbound. The action this year was definitely centred more around the middle of the day, not like the quiet daytime and sudden action-packed evening featuring the birth. The little fella was zonked and (without precedent) went straight to sleep when his head touched the mattress after a short feed. I wasn’t too far off a state of zonkedness myself, so Tom and I decided that staying up til 22.22pm to mark the official year of Andrew living un-umbillically-attached to me was probably not wise. Again I ended the day by thanking God for the blessing that Andrew is in our lives, and that he (and we) survived the year and is thriving. Then my head hit the pillow – at least I got more sleep that night this year than last.