The last few days (since Friday to be specific) have been incredibly busy for Katie and myself. Rather than attempt to recount the amazing newsworthy events of this time on this blog at this late and sleepless hour, I shall just copy and paste an email I sent in to work this morning. Here it is.
It is with the greatest pleasure that we proudly announce the arrival of Annie Cecilia Walsh-Smith. At 11am on Saturday, February 13, Annie was forcibly evicted from her one bedwomb place into Operating Theatre 7 at Canberra Hospital. She took it in stride, however, and has gladly made the entire maternity wing of the hospital her home.
The basic information
At time of birth:
Length: 52.5 cm
Weight: 4.00 kg (8 pounds 13 ounces, apparently)
Head circumference: 36.5 cm
Hair: Thick, black hair
Eyes: Blue, but of course, subject to change
Verdict: Most gorgeous baby ever
The Labour (skip if squeamish… really)
The gory details of the actual labour aren’t pretty… even as labour goes. It began at 2am Friday morning, and didn’t end until 11am on Saturday… an epic 33 hour ordeal.
Katie laboured like a chain gang convict: it was hard yakka with no pain relief and no end in sight. For thirty hours (of predictable contractions) she did her best to give birth completely naturally without pain relief. She spent hours in the bath at the birth centre, but alas, a water birth was not to be.
After thirty hours (8am Saturday morning), about halfway through second-stage labour, Annie became stuck. Essentially, she was facing the wall instead of the floor, and wasn’t budging. At this stage, an unassisted birth pretty much became an impossibility. So after Katie received a spinal block, Annie was manually rotated and delivered with forceps at 11am. Katie suffered some quite serious tearing, but it is all healing very nicely now.
In the attached photo, you can see the bruise the forceps left on poor Annie’s face. That bruise has pretty much faded away by now, which is nice. She took it all in stride, however; she didn’t once seem distressed during the birth, and not so much afterwards either.
I got the first long cuddle, as Katie was being stitched up, and it was just brilliant. Just holding her and cooing in her ear was enough to stop her afterbirth screaming, which made me feel like a Godlike father for, like, five seconds (nappy changing has since brought me back down to Earth, though).
A while back, I read about this hormone that gets released when a woman gives birth. Basically what this hormone does is flood her with so many happy endorphins that they actually alter her memory of the labour experience. It doesn’t feel like 33 hours to her. And afterwards, she might say something like, “Oh, labour wasn’t so bad,” even while the surgeon is still stitching her up. Katie got a double-dose of this one, I think – don’t be surprised if/when we announce a second pregnancy toward the end of 2010.
Getting to know her
That Saturday and Sunday were magical days. We spent our entire time in the postnatal ward, in a double room (though we were the room’s only occupants). Although Annie showed no interest in feeding (and still has difficulty with the idea) she loved to cuddle, and we spent the entire time marvelling at her. I even got to sleep in the room on Saturday night, though unfortunately have had to return home by myself every night since then.
We thought time was distorted enough during the pregnancy, but I’ve found that it doesn’t compare with the couple of days immediately following birth. I’m writing this email on Monday night, but it feels like it’s three weeks after the birth… or maybe just three minutes. I’m still working on that.
When we look into her eyes, it feels like we’ve known her forever – almost like she’s an old soul who’s popped back down to Earth for some reminiscing.
She is incredibly placid and gentle. She responds to touch from Katie (and from me, to my surprise), and will only calm when one of us is holding her or touching her hair.
I always expected to enjoy fatherhood. But I wasn’t expecting Annie to enjoy my fatherhood. Who knows, it could just be the silly happy hormones talking (who knew dads get them too, how cool is that!), but being a dad now feels almost like a calling to me.
On Sunday night, though, the doctors and nurses became concerned that Annie still hadn’t fed, and ran a blood test. Some protein marker indicated possible infection from the birth, so up to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit she went (for you public servants who love acronyms, I shall refer to this as NICU from now on).
In the attached photo, Annie can be seen with drip and feeding tube. An incredibly trying thing to witness – the helplessness that we feel is just crushing sometimes.
This was an incredibly scary time, though we shamefully drew comfort from the fact that Annie was about five times the size of all the other babies in the NICU. All signs point towards positive, however: she has started to respond to food (though not breast yet), and she’s on a preventative course of antibiotics while we await detailed blood results.
We have a couple of jokes that we whip out when telling people about this.
The first is that Annie is determined to try every aspect of the public health system. Just as she seemed to give Katie a little bit of every single pregnancy symptom out there (just to see what they were like), she seems to be just as curious about the wider world. Since arriving at the hospital on Friday night, we have spent time in the birth centre downstairs, the delivery suite upstairs, the operating theatre, recovery ward, post natal wing, and now the neonatal intensive care unit. This one is my fault, I think: I wanted her to have a curious mind.
The second is that Annie wants to hang out with other babies. When Katie was a little girl, she always used to find her way to the baby room in the child care centre, and ask to help look after the babies (which to a small child, translates to playing with them). We suspect that Annie has smuggled herself into the NICU to play with the much smaller premature babies in there!
It’s hard to believe she’s only been in there 24 hours. Today has been without a doubt the longest of my life (not all bad, but definitely intense).
I am sorry for having written so much, but some of you did want details and photos (you know who you are). While the photos in this email are not of premium quality, we have got some good ones (taken by my mum) and will have access to digital copies of those soon.
If/when we crash a section morning tea, we will bring them along.
We are looking forward to bringing Annie home, though it probably won’t be for another week or so. In the meantime, I am attempting to spend as much time at the hospital as possible, with Katie and the baby, and try to maintain the household as well, including a needy puppy.
As these two priorities are a 45 minute drive apart, it’s safe to say that I’ve effectively put my sleep schedule on hold for the moment. I expect to be able to resume it in about twenty years or so. It will be nice.
Thanks all for your (anticipated) well wishes. Hope to see you soon, and introduce Annie to you. If there is a morning tea scheduled in late February it might be nice to bring Katie and the baby in, if it’s convenient (also, I can touch base professionally). Just let me know.
The last few days have stretched on for months, but I have enjoyed (almost) every moment immensely. I suspect Katie would say much the same thing, which still strikes me as kind of odd, but hormones are weird like that. Our lives were far from empty before, but everything suddenly makes a lot more sense now. At times it’s like the entire world has just turned into a giant green M&M; others can most optimistically be described as lessons or life experiences.
But it’s all been an incredible journey, and we’re just three days in.