We've had Jasper for more than two weeks now, and I have so many thoughts about the first few weeks that I'll need to break this up into several posts. But I want to do one on the first day, because this was one of the best days of our lives. It deserves its own post.
The first thing that surprised me about his birth is that I wasn't overwhelmed with emotion like I thought I'd be. People have described the moment you meet your first child as this extraordinary, life-changing moment where time stands still and you marvel at this little wonder you've created, or something like that. But it wasn't like that for me. Don't get me wrong, I was delighted; happy tears streamed down my face and I laughed with disbelief that he was actually here. Liv did that half-laugh-half-cry that comes from the combination of exhaustion and joy. We were just so happy it was over and that after nine long months we finally had our little man. But I just didn't feel like I expected to. I wasn't immediately transformed, is what I mean. I felt much the same as I did before he was born. But here's the thing that surprised me the most: I didn't love him.
I've read other people describe being overwhelmed with love when their first child arrives. But I really didn't feel that. To be honest, it kinda of felt like we had a baby to look after now, but it wasn't ours. It could have been any baby! Who is this stranger? That's what it's like. It's weird and I never would have expected to feel like that. Even now, nearly three weeks in, I'm, not attached to him yet. A friend told me the other day this can take months, and that makes sense. Obviously I do love the little guy and I'm just so glad he's ours, but I don't feel a bond with him yet. It'll come, I know. Right now I'm just enjoying watching him change with each day.
Anyway, back to the first day. So as soon as he was born Jasper was brought up to Liv's chest, where he stayed for an entire hour. I loved how relaxed things were. There was no hurry to get us out – in fact, we were encouraged to take things nice and slow and spend a few hours bonding with our baby before thinking about leaving. I'd expected to be ushered out the door pretty quick, considering how busy the hospital is. But we stayed at our leisure and enjoyed this precious time with J.
I fired off a few quick texts to family members to let them know he was here. After half an hour or so I popped down to the coffee kiosk to get a latte, as I'd been up most of the night. I was tired, but relaxed and happy at the same time. When I got back I took off my shirt and had some skin-to-skin time with him. It was lovely, holding this warm little baby on my chest with some towels over him to keep him warm. He was awake at this time, his big, dark eyes exploring what little of the world he could see, looking up at me. Only an hour old, he was already holding his head up. Strong little guy.
We spent a few hours in the delivery room, slowly getting ready to move on. The midwives spent time with Liv helping her get breastfeeding established. At some point they did some checks on J and weighed him – 3.8kg – and we clothed him for the first time.
We were planning on heading to the Pukekohe Maternity Unit, but needed to wait until Liv had the use of her legs back after the epidural. Slowly she got the feeling back and I helped her shower and get dressed. I was eager to get us out of there and get set up at the Maternity Unit. The hospital was great but after ten hours in the same room, I was a little over it.
We put plenty of layers of clothes on J and strapped him into the pram. I adjusted the back so it went right down, so he was lying down completely, thinking this is what I was meant to do. But half-way to the car he had his first spill. A bunch of white stuff came out of his mouth and he coughed and I freaked out actually had no idea what to do. It seems so simple – get a cloth and wipe it up! It was fine, just a little spill, but I didn't even have a cloth to clean it up. So unprepared! I found a tissue and wiped his face and that was it, and I made a mental note to always have a spill cloth ready.
We got to the car, strapped J into his car seat (this was freaky – he was so small the straps pretty much covered his whole body!) and left the hospital about 11am. It's a strange feeling, driving with a newborn in the back. Liv sat back there with him. I was extremely careful going over bumps and such, being mindful not to rock him too much. We pulled into Wendy's for our first post-baby meal. God it was good! Liv was especially ravenous, as you'd expect after doing the equivalent of running a marathon.
About midday we got to the maternity unit and got things set up in the room. It's wonderful to have a facility like this just down the road from our house. There are about 10 rooms there, with at least two midwives on at all times, and nurses who come and go. It's just a nice transition between the hospital and home, where we will have to do everything ourselves. Each room has just a single hospital bed, so no room for partners. But they told me I could stay til about 10 each night if I wanted.
That afternoon was spent in giddy togetherness. Liv and I beamed at each other, unable to believe that this cute little guy was ours to keep. Feeding him was proving a challenge, though. He just wouldn't quite latch properly. One of the midwives noticed he had a pretty bad tongue-tie. This is a problem that's becoming more prevalent, apparently, and there is talk that the cause is too much folic acid. Yeah, that thing that prevents spina bifida. The link is unproven, however, and even if it is proven, I'd rather he had a tongue tie than spina bifida! Anyway, they had a woman there at the maternity unit who could cut the tongue tie for us. It was hard to watch, someone going at my little boy with a big pair of scissors! But it wasn't as bad as I thought it'd be. He didn't cry much worse than for his vitamin K injection. I was just glad to get that out of the way.
In the early evening, Liv's mum and step-dad also turned up for a cuddle for a while. J was pretty chill through all of this. He didn't cry too much, but also wasn't getting much food, so he got a little more cranky as the day went on. We quickly learnt that our little boy has a massive appetite, and with Liv's milk (or even colostrum) yet to come in, he was getting more and more desperate for food by night time.
The midwives suggested we try giving him a bit of formula. We had decided fairly early on that we'd be happy to give him formula if he needed it. Neither Liv nor I had any pretensions about the use of formula. Some people decry it as unnatural, but we'd rather our baby was fed (also, you know what's natural? Infant mortality. It's amazing we have a food product for him that's safe and nutritious and can keep him going). Meanwhile, Liv was spending a lot of time on the breastpump to get the milk flow going.
As the night wore on, I knew home time was looming for me. I was beyond exhausted and Liv seemed to be well looked after by the midwives. By 9pm I made the difficult decision to leave, as much as I didn't want to. I felt like I never wanted to leave either Liv or J ever again. But I also knew a good night's sleep was essential. So I said goodnight, went home and collapsed on the bed.
This was one of my best days, possibly second only to our wedding. It was just so fun. We felt so good, so euphoric. Jasper was cuter than we could have ever imagined and we already enjoyed him so much. As I drifted off, I smiled with relief and excitement. Our baby is here, healthy and safe, and we are all OK. And we now have a lifetime ahead of us as a family. A lifetime of fun and laughter and cuddles and kisses and holidays and swimming and books and games and music and cousins and aunties and uncles and grandparents and Christmases and beach days and playground adventures and school trips and all of those things that I enjoyed so much about being a kid. I faded away, my heart filled with the hopefulness of new life. There were no anxious thoughts, no worries. Maybe it was the exhaustion, but I felt like everything was all right.
Reading – Meet Me In the Bathroom: Rebirth and Rock and Roll in New York City 2001-2011 by Lizzy Goodman.
Watching: Apple Tree Yard
Listening to: Add Violence by Nine Inch Nails