Call The Midwife (But Make Sure It Is The Midwife)


It suddenly struck me, at 3.54am this morning, that I had committed an enormous oversight for which I can only apologise. I have a story that I can't quite believe wasn't top of the list when it came to constructing this blog of oversharing and TMI. Anyway, as I stood there holding a screaming baby last night with tears streaming down both of our faces (oh yes, I lost ALL perspective), I remember thinking that I should rectify this wrong. If you've had a baby you'll know that a midwife will come to visit you at your house on the second day, the fifth day and the tenth day. You never quite know what time they'll turn up, but in your post-birth craziness you'll bake cakes, put coffee on, have a shower, clean the house believing that if all these things aren't done she'll call the social.

On day two and day five I did these things. By day ten, the novelty had worn off. I was knackered, my boobs were covered in bloody blisters and my stitches felt like they were going to pop open every time I blinked. I was in bed with greasy hair, smelly pits, potent breath and jammies covered in various baby emissions. And I didn't care.

First though, a little context. In our infinite wisdom complete idiocy, my husband and I had decided that it would be an awesome idea to complete on a house six weeks before my due date. We also decided it would be marvellous to rip it all to shreds and renovate the whole thing 'in time for the baby'. Ha! Inevitably, we had bitten off FAR more than we could chew. Thanks to the wonders of Facebook, we sent out the SOS and boy did our friends respond. Every day people traipsed into our house building site and helped us scrape wallpaper, sand floors, plaster walls, paint walls and paint floors. In return, we provided beer, pizza, tea, curry and genuine, heartfelt, desperation-coloured thanks.

So, when I was just over two weeks away from my due date, I looked around and realised that we still needed more help. So, I called around for a plumber - more than anything we needed running water. I found a lovely woman called Helen, who also did handy man jobs and was available the following week. I booked her, hung up and sighed a breath of relief. Let someone else do the siliconing, the drilling, the boring stuff.

What is that they say? Something about 'all good plans..."?

We finally got the house to a livable state (i.e. we had a clean kitchen surface we could put a kettle and a toaster on, we had running water and we had a bathroom) on the 12th November 2013. My due date was the 31st. It was my first. I wasn't going to go into labour early, was I? I was probably going to be pregnant until Christmas. We had PLENTY of time to get it all ready.

Except that we didn't. We moved in on the 12th and I went into labour on the 14th. I gave birth on the 16th and returned to the house building site on the 17th with The Small. At that point, obviously, everything came to a standstill. My old self, my old life, my old worries, my old concerns, my old priorities were all out of the window. What was left was a jumbled, messed-up, hormone-addled exhausted, flabby mess.

So, that's the context.

Fast-forward ten days and here I am, in bed, soggy, smelly and slightly unhinged and waiting for the midwife.

The doorbell rings. All we know about the midwife is that her name is Helen. There's no consistency in London so it isn't the same midwife that has visited us previously. My mum answers the door. A woman stands there. My mum invites her in. Jimmy comes out of the kitchen and tells her that I am upstairs in bed. Helen wanders up and stands in the doorway looking at me slightly weirdly. I realise that she is noting the lack of cakes, coffee, clean house, clothes. She thinks I'm a terrible mother.

As she stands there, I'm wrestling with the Small trying to guide her uncooperative mouth onto my blistered, bloody nipple and saying, "I'm so sorry I'm not up. I've had a rough couple of days with mastitis, and these blisters. The fever has gone and the mastitis is better but I'm still feeding her 50% blood." I point to the offending nipples, even thrusting my bare breasts towards her so that she could see more clearly. I go on to explain that the antibiotics have given me a thrush infection in my breast and it's like someone is hacking my nipple off with a bread knife whenever she feeds.

I ask her if she can check my latch.

"I do remember the pain when I was first breastfeeding," she said, somewhat distantly. Still she stands in the doorway. "It's a long time ago, but I do remember it not being very easy."

"Yes," I say. "Would you mind coming to help me out with this latch thing?"

"I'm not sure I'd be much help."

"Oh," I query. "Are you not a trained breastfeeding person?" I don't really have the energy to find the words to dance around the issue with this slightly stand-offish midwife. "I just need some help with this fucking breastfeeding bullshit."

I was 3.2 seconds away from saying, "Also, I'd really appreciate it if you could check my stitches..." when Jimmy burst through the door.

"Stop! Wait!" he shouted, breathless from steaming up the stairs.

"What on earth...?" I exclaim but before I can finish my sentence Jimmy says, "You're not the midwife are you? You're the plumber! I just seen your bag of tools by the door."

Looking mightily relieved, she gushed, "Yes, I'm here to do some work in your bathroom."

I'm instantly mortified. "," I stammer. "You're not here to check my stitches, or inspect my bloody, cracked nipples or watch me try and force my baby to breastfeed while I lie here naked, stinky, sweaty and smelly, covered in shit and piss?"

"No, I'm not, sorry. I'm just here to fix your plumbing."

All I could think was, "Thank god Jimmy put it all together before I flung back the duvet and revealed my plumbing."