Consent, babies and nappies, oh my!

consent

You might have read the article that’s going round lately. You know, that one about babies and consent.

This is a nice, even-handed view of it, but many papers and websites aren’t quite being so nice. I’m finding a lot of the comments about it to be quite upsetting.

Maybe you saw it when someone shared it on Facebook, along with a witty comment like “PC gone mad, I’m glad all this crazy stuff wasn’t a thing when I had my children!” Or maybe it was the punchline on your local news, or you heard someone laughing about it in the shop.

Well, it’s not funny.

My daughter is six months old. And yes, I ask for her “consent” before doing anything to or with her. No “expert” told me to. I just do it because she’s a human being and she deserves that level of dignity.

Let’s make this clear.

How it does not look

“Baby, it’s time for a nappy change. Do you consent?”

“No, Mummy.”

“Okay then, we’ll leave you in your dirty nappy.”

“Thank you, Mummy. Now let us continue destroying society with our crazy liberal ways!”

How it actually looks

“Nappy change time! Want a nice clean nappy-noo?”

“Yaaaaabahhhh! Aieeeee! Flurg.”

“Okay then, let’s get this old nappy off. And iiiiin the nappy bin it goes! Now we’ll give you a little wipe. And now a nice clean nappy!”

“Maaaaaa. Yaaa.”

“All done! Here’s Sophie the Giraffe!”

I’ll let you work out which person is which!

I usually do the sign for “nappy” as well, which we’ve learned in our Sing and Sign class.

So that’s how our “consent” looks. Does anyone object to that?

I narrate and explain everything we do throughout the day. She gets to hear my thought process as I choose her outfit for the day, as I dress her, as I put her in the car seat… It goes on.

And it’s not just the things that pertain to her. I keep up a running commentary of unloading the dishwasher, hanging the washing on the line, the traffic we see on our walks, everything. She’ll probably learn to speak early just to tell me to be quiet!

Just to be clear on this: baby Yaya does not have the option of refusing a nappy change, but I want her to understand what’s happening.

Consent in the future

I might be unusual (I know some people think I am) in that I refuse to change her nappy in front of a group of people. She is a person and deserves dignity. I wouldn’t take my pants off in front of a large group of grandparents, uncles, etc., so why do people expect me to remove Yaya’s?

It all comes down to her bodily autonomy and dignity. People who are mocking the idea of consent, I assume, believe that their babies don’t have that or deserve it. (Let that sink in for a moment. Ouch.)

But at what point does it develop? Teenagers and adults, everyone agrees, can and should say no when they feel uncomfortable. But small children can be abused too, and have the right to speak up and understand when things are wrong.

I want Yaya to be able to refuse touch from anyone. It’s one reason that we’re learning signing. I want her to be able to communicate NO to hugs and kisses, even from family and friends.

(I’m not saying that I’d let her be rude about refusing a hug or a kiss. I don’t want her to run from Nice Safe Family Member, but if she doesn’t want to hug him, it’s fine for her just to say hi. There’s a middle ground.)

Because the moment you force a child to be touched and accept physical affection they don’t want, you’re teaching them a costly lesson. You’re teaching your child that sometimes, you have to be quiet and let someone touch you. That people who are older/in a position of power/your relatives (delete as appropriate) have the right to touch you. And there’s nothing you can say or do about it.

Is that really what you want?

 

Introducing rabbits to a baby

introducing rabbits to a baby

When I was pregnant, I was really worried about introducing rabbits and baby to each other. I needn’t have been, because it’s gone really well. They love each other!

The three rabbits absolutely adore the baby, and we’ve not had any trouble yet. She really enjoys them too and squeals happily when she sees them. She’s learning to stroke them and loves how soft their fur is.

They knew that I was pregnant. Barbara fussed around me a lot. Gingee used to enjoy putting his ear to my stomach. Ned just wanted extra cuddles!

Preparing during pregnancy

Before we even started to think about preparing them to meet the baby, we wanted to give them the chance to have a support network. They used to all live in separate rooms, but over the spring (baby was due in November), we worked hard at bonding them and getting them to share one bedroom. We knew this was going to be important both while I was in hospital, so they weren’t alone for too long, and when baby arrived and we had a bit less time.

Before the baby was born, we got them each a little plastic baby doll. It gave them a chance to sniff at something new, nuzzle it and chin it, and for us to remind them to be gentle.

I spent time with them in early labour, before I went to the hospital. I was on all fours on the floor, and Gingee kept stretching up to nuzzle the bump. They knew something momentous was happening, I think.

I had a long labour (38 hours!), so my husband and I were in hospital for a while. Fortunately, our hospital is walking distance from our house, so he was able to pop home a couple of times to check on them. We left them with lots of extra water and hay.

Actually introducing rabbits to the baby

We introduced them on the day she came home from the hospital.

She was in her bouncer and the rabbits got extra fuss and food. They ignored her for the most part. We had to pick them up to even get them to look at her!

She was so new but wanted to stare at them.

Introducing rabbits to the baby

(She was so tiny! She’s grown a lot even in six weeks!)

But, if you know about bonding rabbits, you’ll know that it’s a good sign when they ignore someone.

Their growing relationship

Since then, we’ve just brought her into our routine.

Three times a day, we say to the baby, “Shall we go and play with our friends the rabbits?” She responds happily to that now!

We bring her with us whenever we feed them so they associate her with good things. She usually gets to lie on the floor with them while they eat and they’ve started leaving pieces of food for her, which is adorable.

Gingee has put his head down to ask for grooming from her a couple of times. She’s not quite got the hang of how to do it, but I’m sure she will!

When she cries, our leader bunny, Gingee, goes to patrol the area while Barbara comes to nuzzle and check she’s okay. (Ned is deaf, so doesn’t really respond to crying!) 

We worried a bit about Gingee at first. He is so attached to my husband, and has been known to be jealous. We’ve been careful to make sure that my husband treats Gingee like the special bunny he is, and I often get to hold the baby a bit more while Gingee gets extra fuss. If anything, he seems happier than before!

They all like to get attention from each other. Baby loves it when they come up and nuzzle at her, and sometimes she cries when they move away. They like it when she touches them – Ned in particular. He’ll sit and look really proud, as if he’s saying, “Look, the baby is playing with me! Me! I’m the chosen one right now!”

The rabbits have their own bedroom, so they have somewhere to escape to where baby doesn’t go. They have their door shut most of the day, but we have three long sessions of food and playtime each day, so they don’t feel neglected.

I was really worried about how it would work out, but while they were a bit wary at first, I’ve never seen them binky as much as they have in the past few weeks!

She’s only seven weeks old and they’re already all so close. I’m so excited to see how their relationship develops as she gets older.

Recovering from childbirth

Recovery from childbirth

I was so, so worried about childbirth. I tried to put the thought of it out of my mind for a long time. We had some success with a hypnobirthing-style class (Wise Hippos), which did help me accept that I couldn’t control everything. On the day I actually went into labour, I felt quite at peace with it all.

Although the reality of giving birth was pretty grim, and maybe I was right to be so worried!

But quite honestly, my recovery from childbirth has so far been really easy. It’s almost made up for the rough pregnancy and awful labour!

Having this one to cuddle certainly helps!

she makes recovering from childbirth better!

I must warn you: I’ll be talking about the after-effects of childbirth here. If you’re squeamish, don’t blame me if it offends you!

Immediate recovery

When she was first born, I was not in good shape. Not at all. I remember this tiny slippery purple baby being dumped on my chest, a midwife barking at Adam “You want to cut the cord, Dad? Here, quickly!” before they whisked her away to be checked.

We had wanted a lovely long leisurely skin-to-skin session, and I’d hoped to deliver the placenta naturally. As it turned out, we couldn’t do either of those. I remember being jabbed in the leg and the placenta coming out, baby coming back to me briefly and my gown being whipped off so I could do skin to skin, having a tiny little hold and then having to hand her to my husband because I was about to pass out.

The next thing I remember, she was already dressed. I came round and asked the first person I could see if I was dead, much to everyone’s amusement! But I felt so woozy and it had been such a surreal morning.

I spent much of that first morning and afternoon passing out. Even sitting up for a bed bath was too much for me at first. So I guess my recovery didn’t look overly promising there.

Also, I couldn’t walk as my epidural hadn’t yet worn off! Transferring to a different bed so I could be moved to the postnatal ward was rather funny.

But by the end of the afternoon, I was able to walk myself to the loo (still needed a wheelchair on the way back!), and took a deep breath as I prepared myself to pee, having heard that it was going to be horrifically painful. It wasn’t. Yes, it stung a little bit (I’d had an episiotomy and a fair few stitches), but it hardly hurt at all.

The immediate bleeding was nowhere near as bad as I’d been expecting, either! I’ve had heavier periods.

I felt exhausted and sore, but honestly, after how bad I’d felt during labour, I felt pretty wonderful.

Longer term recovery

I left hospital in the evening of the day after she was born. (Not long at all, really! Less than 36 hours!) Walking to the car was difficult, sitting in the car was painful (my mum drove us home and had brought a pillow for me to sit on!), but I felt a lot better once I got back.

The bleeding continued to not be that bad. By two weeks after the birth, it had pretty much stopped, although there’s still there very occasional bit nearly a week later. I had two packs of 24 maternity pads which lasted me nearly 10 days, and since then I’ve been using my cloth pads. Before the birth, I even bought black towels and bath mats just in case! No need for them.

The mythical first post-partum poo was scary but didn’t actually hurt. I’d built it up in my head as this very scary thing. My husband was waiting outside the bathroom anxiously for me after I’d complained so much about the idea of it, but it was all fine!

I had a very tentative bath the morning after we got home. It stung the stitches a bit, but the worst part was trying to get in and out! I’ve had showers ever since.

The midwife checked my stitches at our 10-day discharge appointment and said they were healing beautifully. My uterus has also gone back to the right place, apparently.

I definitely feel that my belly has pretty much gone back down. It’s rather baggier than it used to be, but I don’t mind. I’m proud of that! It achieved something wonderful.

How I helped myself

I know I’ve been really lucky with my recovery. I can’t really say that I did X, Y and Z and that’s why it’s gone well. But there are a few things I’ve done that have helped, I think.

I rest a lot. My husband and parents have helped a lot. They pretty much did everything for me in the first few weeks. I just had to sit and feed and cuddle! Ignore the vacuuming!

I drink a lot of water. Diluted urine is much less painful to go near the stitches! Also, lots of fruit, for the fibre intake.

Eating plenty, and sleeping when possible. My husband and I took shifts in the first few days so I could have some proper sleep to get over the trauma of childbirth.

No visitors, unless they’re helpful. My parents are great and can come round whenever. I’m keeping everyone else to a minimum right now!

In general, pregnancy was rough. Childbirth was horrible. Recovery and adjusting to being a mum – pretty good! I’m loving it.

 

What did I need in the hospital bag?

packing the hospital bag

I posted before the birth about what I’d packed in our hospital bag, and I did say I’d update! It’s all very well to say what we took, but what we actually needed is far more useful to know.

So, my labour was long. You can read our birth story if you’ve not already. But basically, 38 hours of labour and then we stayed in for another night. We only had one real “sleep” night, but we were there for a while!

We massively over-packed. One of the midwives told us off for how much we’d brought! But we’d never done this before – we weren’t to know!

So, here’s how it went down.

What I needed

  • Nursing bra x 2 – the second one was invaluable, as baby pooed all over the first one on her way out!
  • Pyjamas with button top – I didn’t wear the pyjama bottoms in the end, but instead wore the top with maternity yoga pants which felt a bit looser. I wore the pyjama top from the time I got changed after my bed bath after delivery until going home. (Actually, I think I wore it home.)
  • Black maternity yoga pants – see above.
  • Black knickers x 4 – I probably could have coped with only two spare, but yes, definitely needed these.
  • Disposable maternity pads x 20 – I didn’t use the whole pack as my bleeding was fairly light, but it was easier just to have the pack there.
  • Travel size toiletries (shower gel, shampoo, toothpaste, etc) – yes and no. I used the toothpaste, but wasn’t well enough to shower while I was in hospital. I got given a bed bath, but they provided the equipment for that!
  • Toothbrush – obviously.
  • Lip balm – oh yes. The midwives actually encouraged me to use this during labour. My lips got so dry!
  • Hair bobbles and brush and comb – I didn’t pay any attention to my hair during labour, but I really wanted it tied up afterwards.
  • Deodorant – labour is hard work.
  • Fun size snacks – very necessary for after! My parents also came by with loads of food after the delivery which was great.
  • Carrier bags for any washing – my husband did all the arranging of this, but very useful.
  • Phone and long charger cable – the long charger was invaluable. Hospital beds are not always right up against the wall!
  • iPad – we could have done without this, but it was nice to be able to Facetime my in-laws after baby arrived.
  • A bottle of blackcurrant squash – I was very dehydrated.
  • Camera – very necessary! My husband got some beautiful pictures that he couldn’t have done with just a phone.

What I didn’t need

  • Tens machine – this thing was a waste of space. Stupid thing!
  • Black vests – I thought I’d be getting dressed more than I did.
  • Dressing gown – we had a private room as I was quite ill, so I didn’t feel the need to be too covered up. Also, it was insanely hot in there!
  • Socks – because I was bedbound for so long, they had me wear compression stockings.
  • Old slippers – I wasn’t able to walk around, so these weren’t necessary.
  • Button down nightie – I was in a hospital gown while labouring, due to the epidural, and then wanted something with trousers.
  • Disposable pants – I haven’t found that my after birth bleeding was that bad (no worse than a very heavy period). I was absolutely fine wearing black pants and maternity pads.
  • Breast pads and nipple cream – my milk didn’t come in until about day six or seven. This is quite normal with an extended labour, from the sounds of it, but it did mean that I really didn’t need them. I do now though!
  • Black towel – my blood pressure wasn’t stable enough to have a shower. The hospital put puppy pad type things on the bed so it didn’t matter if I bled there, and obviously they used their own stuff for my bed bath.
  • Water spray – I guess this would have been for labour? Didn’t use it, anyway!
  • Ear plugs – we were in a private room, and also I was so out of it I was just drowsing away anyway!
  • Sports water bottles – I remembered that I had this mid-pee. The first pee stung very slightly, but not too much. I hydrated myself so much (IV fluids and drinking) that my urine was so diluted and it was hardly an issue.

What baby needed

  • Babygrows and vests x 3 – I think we only needed two of each, but we could have done with them in a smaller size! We had everything in newborn and 0-3 months. At nearly two weeks, she’s still in tiny baby sizes. We were definitely expecting her to be a bit bigger!
  • Cardigans/little fleecy jackets x 2 – we only needed one of these on the way home.
  • Hat – they were so strict about making sure she had a hat! Definitely needed this.
  • Blankets x 2 – probably could have got away with just one!
  • Nappies x 1 pack – we certainly didn’t use a full pack, but we did need nappies!
  • Water Wipes x 1 pack – definitely necessary.
  • Swaddle wrap – this thing is magical and we really needed it.
  • Bag for any soiled clothes – self-explanatory!
  • Car seat – yes. We needed to bring it out of the car to take her downstairs in it, in fact, as the midwives wanted us to prove we had one.

What baby didn’t need

  • Muslins – I don’t think we used any of them. We mainly used wipes in the hospital.
  • Snowsuit or other weather appropriate coming home outfit – we just used the sleepsuit she was already wearing with a fleecy jacket.

What daddy needed

  • Phone and charger – same as me. He was also in charge of keeping my frantic parents in touch!
  • Flask of coffee – he had to stay awake for a very long time!

What daddy didn’t need

  • Change of clothes – I don’t think he changed once; he was too distracted!
  • Loose change/money for vending machines – the hospital gave him a voucher for a free meal. He was able to take some time away when I was happy with my epidural and come back well-fed!
  • Sketchbook and pencils – there wasn’t really much downtime where he wasn’t comforting me or sleeping.
  • Hypnobirthing books – yeah, we could have thrown these out of the window!

So that’s how it went down! I don’t think that there was much (or anything?) that we felt we should have brought that we didn’t.

I hope this list helps someone! What was your hospital bag like? Anything big missing, or too much included?

We had a baby! Our long birth story

Recovery from childbirth

We had our baby! She arrived safely the day after her due date. It’s not necessarily a pretty birth story, as pretty much nothing went as we would have liked it, but our baby girl is here and lovely and we are so happy.

If you’re currently pregnant and feeling anxious about the idea of childbirth, know that I was so anxious going into this labour. I was terrified, actually. But despite everything I’ve written in this birth story, I still feel really positive about how it all went.

Our hospital team supported us every step of the way. We are so grateful to them. It wasn’t a pleasant experience, but it was wonderful at the same time, if that makes sense.

Our ideal birth story

We had wanted a quiet, serene birth with no pain medication, just a water birth and gentle breathing. Limited monitoring. We wanted delayed cord clamping and immediate skin to skin.

Didn’t get any of that. Two epidurals, constant monitoring, lots of howling, immediate cord cutting. Episiotomy.

But what we wanted more than anything was healthy baby and mum. We wanted to feel listened to and supported. And we got all of that. We are so happy and feel so lucky.

Birth story: short version

I started having regular contractions on Night One. We went into hospital on Morning Two. My water broke, baby’s heart rate only stayed stable in one exact position, constant monitoring, back labour, gas and air is useless, one failed epidural, one successful one, I started running a fever, meconium everywhere, three hours of pushing, episiotomy, Baby was born on Morning Three – that’s 38 hours later, if you’re counting.

Birth story: long version

About seven o’clock, we realised I was having to pace around the living room to cope with the tightening feelings. So after we’d eaten I went for a nice long bath to see if that quietened everything down or started it up properly. By 9pm it was clear something was definitely going to be happening!

We called the hospital around 4am. Contractions were every 3-4 minutes apart. As we live so close they suggested we wait until they were closer and longer. Fine by us, so we held on until about 6am when they were every two minutes and lasting for nearly a minute each.

At our first check, I was only 1cm dilated but they kept us in as I have a heart murmur and Baby had some decelerations on the monitor – we thought these were probably due to my movements, but no one could be quite sure. Then my waters broke anyway at 8.30 so we were there for the duration!

By about midday I was really struggling with the contractions, especially as I kept on having to lie down for monitoring. We tried all the “gentle” methods of pain management and getting things to move along like gas and air, breathing, various aromatherapy techniques, etc. When it was getting on for 1.30pm and I was begging for death, we asked about an epidural. I’ve got quite a fear of needles but by that point I’d have allowed someone to cut my foot off to make the pain stop.

By 2.30 the wonderful anaesthetist had done his work and I was only feeling pressure, not pain. Fantastic! I felt so spaced out and it was wonderful.

Birth story - epidural

I was now lying on my left side constantly as Baby’s heartrate plummeted whenever I moved. But I was able to get some sleep, as was my husband, which was great as we hadn’t slept all the previous night.

I had an amazing button which let me give myself a bolus of epidural every 20 minutes or so. But by about 10.30pm it wasn’t working and I was suddenly back up at a 8 on the pain scale (with 10 being “cut off my foot now, please!”). By the time the on-call anaesthetist was back, I was at a 10 again.

It turned out my epidural had come unsited somehow and needed to be entirely redone. The time it took to take everything out and put it back in and then have the drugs take effect was probably the longest 40 minutes of my life. I didn’t know it was possible to howl so loudly. It felt like an out of body experience. I kept apologising to the staff and my husband when contractions finished because I knew this wasn’t me.

Overnight things got a bit more worrisome because Baby’s heartrate kept going weird. Then I started running a fever and there was some concern that she also had an infection. I was about 7cm dilated by this point so they were able to get a blood sample from her to check she was fine – if not, it would have been an emergency c-section.

As they were doing this, the registrar on call was ever so excited by Baby’s hair. “I can’t wait for you to see how much hair!”

The night went on and on, and by about 5-6am I wasn’t comfortable at all anymore. The epidural was completely gone. But everyone kept pointing out that they couldn’t do anything more as it was back labour and I was now at 10cm. Still on my side, not allowed to move.

It got a bit more scary when suddenly a load of meconium came flooding out. At this point I asked about a c-section. Begged, maybe. Screamed. But Baby was in position and they wanted me to try!

They started me off pushing. It felt like a lot of work at first and after about two hours felt like it was going to kill me! I think I may have begged them to do just that, actually.

Then at the shift change, 7.30, Jackie the midwife came on. We’d seen her a bit the day before, and she was like a sergeant major. She was going to get that baby out!

By 8.08, I’d pushed a bit more, had an episiotomy, and this tiny slippery purple alien was suddenly on my chest. Oh my god.

In all of the pain and the fear, I’d honestly forgotten there was a baby involved. I just kept on repeating, “We had a baby, oh, we had a baby!”

Our hospital was amazing. Even though it was a bit urgent to get her checked out, they still had my husband cut the cord and put her on my chest for a second or two. She was absolutely fine – but tiny – only 6lb4oz despite being born at 40+1.

Our birth story

Everything then went a bit haywire with me. We couldn’t do skin to skin. I spent most of the first day passing out, even after being taken up to the postnatal ward. I don’t actually remember a lot of that first day. My husband did all of the dressing and cuddling and snuggling with her at first. I’ve had to ask him a lot of questions while writing this birth story as well. But I was much better by the end of the day.

We did it!

She’s a delight. She loves feeding and clinging on to thumbs. Hates any kind of having clothing removed and not being cuddled! We also think she’s absolutely gorgeous, although of course I’m a bit biased.

It was a pretty rough experience and I’m certainly not sure I’ll be doing it again, but the hospital staff were all so wonderful and made it bearable. I feel very lucky.