I can still remember the drive to the hospital, last nights drinks had me stragely relaxed. I was taking photos of the sunrise along the motorway as we drove, more photos out the hospital window where we waited for the plan of attack. I guess at this stage it still felt like we were just going to be sent home, we were 34 weeks and I still had a couple of big nights up my sleeve and our OB wasn’t around, neither was his back up so here we are with option number 3 in his casual morning attire. This isn’t the plan. Turns out it is.
Although Hunter was still chilling, Oscar has decided he’s had enough and kicked his way out of his spa sack and wants to get the show on the road. The OB informs us casually that we are all on and he’s off to scrub in and he’ll see us in the operating theatre. The boys are coming out through the sunroof. Heavy. I’m still calm or hungover, maybe still drunk, either way I’m calm, Anna is too. We meet Anna’s parents just before heading in, Mary, Anna’s mother ups the tempo, she is a world of energy, linear, never lateral, she’s pulls things forward and this is where I realize that up unitl this point I have been oblivious to the ‘click click click click‘ as we climb up that initial incline on the birth roller coaster, things are speeding up. I’m given scrubs and meet Anna in the operating room, along with the full cast of every televised operating theatre, notably the OB who’s running a set of standard issue freezing workers white gumboots, I’m guessing it could get messy. Our anesthetist, a young guy monitors 6 different displays while engaging us in some random chat about identical twins playing each other in tennis.
A sheet is up across Anna’s chest so she can’t see what’s going on. Those that know me will attest to my fondness of a dress up, I love the way a change of clothes changes your perception of yourself and currently I am a cast member in Greys Anatomy, not usually one for the blood and guts side of things, I watch as the first cut is made across Anna’s stomach, straight, clean and purposeful. It reveals the adipose tissue below the skin, blood runs down her sides and on to the bed, the second cut goes through the lower abdominal muscles and at this stage the swabs can’t contain all the ambiotic fluid and blood, the bed sheet resembles a Pollock. I have never told Anna this, secrets out now. Feet first (he was in breach position) and fire trucking (Anna here translating Jay speak if you don’t know what it means – Fire trucking = weeing) his way into the world is Oscar, he’s little, really little, resembling a skinned rabbit and silent. Anna is asking me a million questions to which I don’t have answers, I have the camera shutter wide open, he starts to cry. Funny how we wait with such anticipation for the escape of a sound that you later wish you could escape. Two incubators are stationed at the foot of Anna’s bed awaiting the boys, Oscar, gets checked over and given the green light just as Hunter leaves the security and comfort of Anna’s body. As a guy you can’t even attempt to fathom that side of pregnancy. The carrying, the lifestyle changes, the discomfort, the sickness, the changes to your body then all of a sudden your incubation role is complete. No chance for reflection, the next painful phase, with different discomforts, sickness and changes to your body. There is no real point in trying to understand, your empathy levels no matter how finely tuned are oceans away. Just know women do it tougher than we as men could ever know. Hunter is here now, same entrance, silent, wildly urinating, I’m proud. He needs help though, he is struggling to breath and we all need to leave Anna. I remember the feeling, walking out of the theatre after giving Anna a kiss and telling her what a great job she did, it was all gonna be okay and that I’d see her soon. She did do an incredible job but I had no idea if it was going to be okay and how long it would be until I saw her.
It was 4 hours before Anna got to see her boys, from a wheel chair. Tiny and red, tubes and leads running to and from their fragile bodies in NICU. It proved to be too much for her, on a combination of pain and surgery meds, body awash with birth hormones, this isn’t what she had planned, not how she thought it would go. We went back to her room, it was late now and she needed rest. The boys needed food. Anna semi conscious would squeeze her breast until a little droplet of colostrum would arrive on her nipple and with a syringe I would draw them up. After every squeeze she would fall asleep sitting up, I would wake her up and encourage her to go again, and again, and again until we drew 10ml off each breast. No body is in NICU for fun, it is reserved for situations that don’t go to plan. A part of the hospital charged with the most incredible individuals you could ever dream of having by your side. They care, they care seemingly as much as you do and even more so, they know what they are doing. I spent hours sitting, staring and contributing nothing more than a proud loving vibe to my little men. Skin to skin time was the best/weird thing ever. I would sit there shirtless in all my 110kg splendor while the boys would be put on my chest in just wearing nappies and covered in blankets like a stranded land whale. Things get primal, your instinct as a parent really kicks in, this is the stage where you would destroy anything or anyone that would harm your child without thought.
There is the perfect mix of young and older more experienced neonatal nurses, the perfect mix because the older nurses had a firm hand ushering you in the right direction with years of knowledge and experience while the younger nurses rally around you as a surrogate hospital friend. I can’t actually put into words or express how amazing this group of women are. In the scariest moments of my life to date, fighting an invisible foe and I had an army behind me.
Over the course of the week we learnt everything from how to hold a newborn, change nappies without being pissed on, what a marconian poo is, how to bath, change clothes, how many layers they should have, swaddle, you name it, the crash course to parenting is no mean feat. I would come in first thing in the morning, leave in the afternoon to do my radio show, return for the last couple of visiting hours get home around 10pm, then repeat. We had this parental foundation laid with a gigantic safety net under and beside us the whole time. We were given breaks from feeds during the night so Anna could sleep for more than a 2 hour stretch, help with the daily routine of new born life, family and friends visited. Everyone was in love with our boys, Anna was incredible even though she was still puking her guts out 2 weeks later, things were starting to look up we thought. It seemed doable. It was time to go home.
If you missed part one of this series you can read it here.