Friday, July 26, 2013

My Un-Royal Baby Birth in London

My son Daniel was born in London, at the University College Hospital, almost 13 years ago. And though my birth experience wasn't so royal, from the first moment I held him in my arms, my son was my little Prince.

Of course, I was fairly high on Entonox when I first held him in my arms, so when my midwife handed my newborn son to me, my little burrito of a boy, wrapped in his blue blanket, I truly felt that my heart was going to burst out of my chest cavity with joy.

Did you know that Entonox, a.k.a. laughing gas, is the pain med of choice for births in the UK? When the assistant midwife wheeled in what looked like a scuba diving tank and told me to take a few deep breaths of it whenever I felt strong labor pains, I thought she was crazy. It was too late for an epidural, but a tank of laughing gas? Of course the first heavy contractions started rolling in and like a distressed scuba diver, I sucked whatever gas I could from that breathing apparatus.

Later, I came down to Earth. I was wheeled back to a recovery room. I desperately needed some rest, but there was the question of this wriggling baby in my arms. 

Hospitals in the UK are nothing like the fancy ones here in the U.S., and giving birth to my daughter 10 years later at the sparkling Prentice Women's Hospital here in Chicago was an altogether difference experience. My UK hospital experience had me parenting 100% on my own from the get-go, which was alright by me because a. I didn't know any better, and b. there was no way I was letting go of my brand new baby boy. Babies are roomed with their moms, and, in my case, my baby and I were roomed in a ward with about 20 other moms, separated only by curtains, curtains which were drawn during the day so we could all chitchat and compare birth stories over the drone of crying newborns. 

My son was born in the wee hours of early morning. By the time the sun rose, a cheery but overworked nurse told me to help myself to breakfast. She pointed to a table set up with toasters and tea kettles in the middle of the room. Too nervous to leave my son in his bedside crib I performed my first balancing act as a mom: Getting to my feet, preparing a hot tea, and buttering toast.

Then a nurse beckoned me to the baby bathing room. She drew a baby bath for my son and gently guided me on how to bathe a baby on my own. 

My husband arrived and before I knew it, it was time to leave the hospital. A midwife would be visiting my home every day for two weeks afterwards, so I felt comfortable leaving so early. I packed my small duffel bag, and hobbled away from the maternity ward, supported by my husband, who was also holding our son tightly in his arms.

It was raining outside. And since there was no limousine or police escort to  accompany us home, my husband handed me our son, and stepped onto the curb to try to hail a cab. Cabbie after cabbie refused: we lived on the far east end of London (I often remind my son to be proud that he's an East End boy), and no one wanted to lose fares by taking this poor couple so far out of central London, where there would be little chance of taking a fare back into the city. Finally, one kind cabbie agreed, albeit grudgingly.

There is one similarity between Kate Middleton and I: neither of us bothered to disguise our post-partum baby bumps the day we left the hospital with our newborns. 

Mine was an un-royal birth, but a wonderful birth: I wouldn't change a thing.


1 comment:

  1. I couldn't refrain from commenting. Perfectly written!

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