Rachel had been a bit weird with me, I wasn’t sure why but I left her to her own devices as I was very busy with my work, a little stressed about various aspects of my business that I was neglecting due to being busy and, well I didn’t want to get into any sort of argument – there was something up though.
It was Friday the 29th of May 2011 and I was sat at my desk in the office, Rachy came home from work, didn’t speak and went straight upstairs, I racked my brains on how I was going to approach her, what was wrong, moreover I was scared that due to running my own business and the scale of my workload was getting to her. I was unable to change my workload, I have to manage that but what if she was sick of it and going to leave – what then?
A few moments later I heard the toilet flush and Rachel came downstairs, a tear in her eye and a smile on her face – all became very clear, Rachel presented me with the ClearBlue pregnancy test – we were expecting a baby. I wouldn’t say it was unexpected, we were not particularly trying for a baby and had discussed that if it happened, it happened – it had only gone and bloody happened !
I can’t really explain my emotions, I think this is a sentence you are going to read an awful lot during this ‘journey’ delighted, extatic, scared, elated – fucking terrified !
I thought about people I was dying to tell of course the Mothers, also my Dad, Fred passed away a few years back now, I wouldn’t say we were particularly close but he was my dad, I wish I could have shared this news with him. He sadly didn’t get to meet any grand children, he died the day before his first one, Chloe was born.
Rachel and I discussed who we should tell, goodness me what is the etiquette ?
We duly made our phone calls, Mum’s were told, tears were shed and the – oh my, we can’t tell anyone else until the scan, Jeeeeez, how hard is it to not tell anyone!
Rachel got booked in at the doctors and as she had done 4 Clearblue tests, he said it was safe to assume that we were really, truly expecting a baby. We got booked in with the midwife and she went through the process and booked us in for our first scan. At 9.34 on the 24th August 2011 we saw our baby for the first time, it was doing little backflips, I think we are growing a real little wrigley one – it was the most amazing feeling seeing baby for the first time and something I will never, ever forget.
Days and weeks went by, Rachel became acquainted to Becks Blue at parties, looked longingly at me while I munched on seafood and blue cheese all the while rubbing her little pregnant tummy. Luckliy so far there has been no real sickness although the aching as her body goes through the changes has got her down a few times.
Our second scan was booked for Wednesday 19th October and luckily for us the Helme Chase unit at Westmorland General hospital were trailing a new scanning machine, bang up to date and the resolution of the screen was simply amazing, once again I struggle to find the words, baby had an enourmous stretch right in front of us, rubbed its eyes and kicked its leg straight out – tears, oh yes, what a stunning little soul!
Ok – babies nursery, I had a spare room from when I lived alone at the house, umm spare room meaning a room full of junk that I had accumulated over the years thinking it ‘would come in handy’ I now know that things that ‘may come in handy’ probably never will and it is a right old pain in the ass to get it shifted – take heed!
Terry, Rachel’s dad had promised to decorate the nursery for us and as we didn’t know what flavour of baby we were getting it would be neither pink or blue. I trusted Rachel completely with the choice of wall coverings and was delighted when I first saw the lovely browny colour with white spots, it looked amazing once on the wall.
Terry and Pat came up and stayed in Staveley for a few days and while Terry spent time in the nursery, he is a perfectionist, Rachy and her Mum spent quality time together, it was great spending time with Rachy’s family and also sampling some of the Eagle & Child’s finest! We are delighted with the nursery and really looking forward to getting the cot and furniture installed.
I am not just sure what date it was, I know it was a Saturday and I was participating in my favourite pastime – procrastination, when I felt the phone ringing in my pocket. As anyone that knows me well will attest that I am a bugger for not actually answering my phone, in fact often not even looking at it when it rings it is normally face down on my desk even! Today I did though and it was Rachel, umm, as she is a hairdresser for her to be ringing me on a Saturday was very unusual. I could sense the distress in her voice as she said….
“I don’t want you to worry – but………………….”
Luckily I had driven into town so was able to get in the car and get round to the salon quickly, Rachel was in quite a bit of pain and the midwife had said to bypass our local unit at Kendal and head straight for the Royal Lancaster Infirmary – lets just say on the way to the hospital we ‘made progress’ arriving in Lancaster shortly before leaving Kendal.
We were seen straight away and lots of checks, on mum and baby assured us that all was in good shape and baby had probably just been naughty and been stood on something it shouldn’t have been.
In all honesty that was the only ‘blip’ we really had during the pregnancy and Rachy progressed really well, baby was a real little wriggler in Mummies tummy.
I have since realised that falling asleep with my hand on babies bump at night was one of the most special experiences that started us on the journey to meeting him.
I am a photographer and as such I have a need to take photographs, I love taking photographs, it is my living, my passion and how I pay the mortgage so there was a need to get some maternity portraits for Rachel, well for both of us but ‘of’ Rachel.
We both wanted some really classy art images of baby bump in an outdoor location and I had built up a mood board with all the colours and textures we wanted in the images, baby due 5th March so we were hoping to get Spring, springing into the images – sadly though it was deepest darkest Winter and it was out of the question to expose her to the elements in all her glory!
We did get started on some images as bump was getting bigger and used the opportunity of an amazing sunset to take some images to show our child when it gets older, we ended up at Sandside where they have the most amazing Sunsets and where I grew up as a child, actually a place that holds many special childhood memories for me and somewhere our child will spend a lot of time as he is growing up.
Our baby bump was still quite small and I know Rachy did have some ‘bump envy’ as her friends seemed to have enormous bumps but we loved the images we took of her that day in deepest darkest coldest January!
We had a routine midwife appointment and it was noted that perhaps bump was a little on the small size. Rachy is small and I was a small baby so we were not too concerned. First appointment went well and confirmed baby was a little on the smaller side of average and another appointment was made for two weeks later.
We made our way to Helme Chase, went straight through for our scan and baby was kicking away. We went through to see our consultant and Rachel was sent through for a Cardio Tacograph (CTG) scan and we were told the news………
It was possible that baby would be making an appearance, this was Monday the 30th January – baby not due until 5th March – shit, shit, shit, shit. Obviously we had gone for a routine scan, baby and consultant had different ideas…… I had to cancel a meeting in Manchester with a client that afternoon and make various calls, to say I was flapping would have been a very large understatement, in fact I had to stop the car and have a quiet word with myself, it was a kind of hysterics without the crying.
An ambulance was called and Rachy was on her way, I shot home and grabbed a bag that she had started to pack for her and baby (and some camera kit) - of course Rachy had a long checklist of what was yet to be added to the bag, lots of really important things if you are staying in a hospital, like toothbrush, knickers pyjamas, I managed to add the grand total of one item from her list – Vasaline lip balm, I was not a popular person!
Cutting a long story a little shorter…..
Monday morning – Helme Chase, Kendal.
Monday late morning – Blue Light Ambulance transfer to Royal Lancaster Infirmary – (Delivery Suite, shit, shit, shit, shit)
Monday afternoon Ian comes down from the ceiling.
Monday night – Ian has to leave Rachy at RLI
Monday night – much, much later, Ian has a little can of beer.
Tuesday early morning – Ian waits for coffee in bed, forgetting Rachy was in hospital.
Tuesday morning a bit later - Ian heads back to RLI, having completed the list of ‘stuff’ that was missed from the bag the first time.
Tuesday – scan, meeting with consultant, sent home.
Tuesday evening – Rachy turns into a Tasmanian Devil and whizzes round the house with the Dyson. Ian drinks a little can of beer.
Wednesday early morning – Ian has still not had a cigarette, it is now over a month.
Wednesday morning – we head back to Helme Chase for some more beepy test things.
Wednesday afternoon – home.
Thursday morning – Head back to RLI, with bags!
Thursday afternoon – Ian you need to go home dude, rather a large day tomorrow!
Thursday night – Ian has a small can of beer.
Friday – Ian has not slept for most of the week, yet is really quite alert.
Friday – here we go, I awoke to a beautiful day in Kendal, so on my way to see Rachel and the morning of the day I would meet our baby I took some images of Kendal, I am a story teller, I tell stories with photographs so this is all part of that story………
Its actually all a bit of a blur, family descended and wished us well and we were set, Rachy was hungry as she had fasted ready for the anesthetic and the Cesearean Section, we set off for the delivery suite with Vicky and Gemma our midwives, wow, what a weird set of emotions.
Dr Wood was given his ‘Scrubs’ and hat ready for theatre and we were go – this is it.
All the way through the pregnancy we had avoided finding out what flavour child we were getting, it couldn’t be avoided for much longer. The anesthetist asked us if we had name choices, we did and she wrote them down. Wow, a theatre is a busy place, we already knew our baby was going to be small and as such we had been shown around the Neo-Natal unit, or Special Care Baby Unit as its can be known.
We had pediatricians on standby in the theatre with a unit called a resucitaire which is like a tall warm cot with all the paraphernalia that may be needed with a small, possibly unwell baby. In what seemed like 2 minutes I heard a faint noise, like a cry, no, surely it can’t be, so quick?
I heard it again and as Rachy was still awake she heard it this time, we both started to cry. We did it, we had our baby, lots of activity from behind the screen and a happy voice shouted it is a boy – Freddie Joseph, I think although could not be sure that it was Gemma, one of the midwives, whose job it was to receive baby from the surgeon and deliver to the baby doctors.
Freddie was taken to the resusitaire and some checks were done before he was brought over to us for Mummy and Freddie’s first cuddle.
This photograph below is the most special one I have ever taken, technically it is dreadful – sometimes the best camera in the world is the one that is with you, thank you Apple!
I asked his weight and was given it in metric, but a quick (wrong) calculation gave me 3 pounds 5 ounces, this was later corrected to 3 pounds 9 ounces when people who knew how to convert properly did the sums
Rachel and I had discussed whom I should go with, should Freddie have to be taken to special care and I let her decide, she sent me to be with our Son. He was wired up to all the things that we were told he might be the night before and everyone seemed happy.
Rachel was sewn up and recovered and brought through to meet her son, we were together at last, not an hour before we didn’t know if baby was a boy or girl, now we had something we never want to be separated from.
In Freddie’s first week he has made some great progress – he has satisfied the staff that he can breath alone, in fact he has had no oxygen at all since he was born. He is now off all his monitors and only the feeding tube remains. – clever Freddie.
I am writing some of this blog post in the family room of the baby unit on Rachel’s birthday 12/02/12 somewhere I have spent quite a bit of time – it’s the coolest place on the unit, obviously the special care unit temperature closely resembles that of a pizza oven!
I have spent nearly every waking moment with Freddie and Rachy since he was born, he is developing such a great personality and so far his stay in the Neo-Natal has been a lot of things, certainly emotional but also very educational for Rachel and I and on this journey we have learnt an awful lot about how babies work, obviously some of this is instinctive to us but it is great to be able to use the collective knowledge of the nurses on the unit about the development of premature babies.
Policy means that no question goes unanswered, well actually that can bite you on the arse if you are not careful, like when you find something in the notes, ask a question and the nurse actually bleeps the Doctor to come and answer the question – heart rate rose a little bit that day!
Today is Valentines day and I had a text message from Rachy telling me where my card was stashed, a great planner that girl and the words were really quite special, little did she know when she wrote the card that our little man would have made an appearance already! I of course had to stop off and get a card from me, a card from Freddie and a card from Rosie, who had been very kindly taken in by our friends Freda and Vince when we first knew that things were in motion, we are hugely grateful!
As of this morning the staff seem very happy with Freddie’s progress and the acclimatisation has started so he can leave the comfort of the incubator and move into an ‘hot cot’ which is simply a cot with a bit of added warmth through the mattress and not the enclosed atmosphere like the incubator. When he first went into the incubator, or Isolette the temperature was set at 36 degrees, it is now down to 28.5 degrees.
He is such a sweet little boy and seems to recognise my voice when I arrive at the hospital in the morning and even if sleeping he appears to open one eye to greet me!
What a great day – Freddie has behaved so well he moved into his cot, even better though is that overnight he was weighed and is back at his birth weight.
Freddie continued to behave himself in the Neo-Natal unit, so well in fact that he was allowed to ‘room in’ with Rachel, no more tubes, no monitors, just mummy and baby, perfect, apart from they were still in hospital.
Up until now Freddie had only had a bath by way of cotton buds and olive oil, yup, official NHS olive oil and while he wasn’t smelly it was time he had one. Premature babies are not bathed that often due to the loss of temperature it may bring on and while they are kept clean, it really is a privilege to have a bath – he wasn’t best chuffed to be honest!
Bathtime Freddie – Uhhhh?
It was Monday the 27th February and as it was Monday it meant a ward round by the doctor, this week was Dr Cade and his sidekick and bloody nice man Dr Shetty.
“Would you like to take Freddie home?”
What amazing words to hear, we were hoping for middle to late that week so his words took us by surprise and I hightailed it back to Kendal to work out how to get the car seat in the car, oh and to tidy the house a bit moreI swore a lot at the car seat, also its ‘Tiny Traveller’ attachment which ‘pads’ out the car seat, making it safe for little Preemie babies. Ultimately my frustration was entirely down to male failure and as always just one rule applies RTFM.
So, we are home, I am sat at my desk properly for the first time in nearly five weeks, 1st of March today and Freddie is officially due on the 5th, I am sure we will have a little bit of cake on his one month birthday!
Early on in Rachels pregnancy we dreamed of being able to have our baby at our local unit, Helme Chase at Kendal Hospital, although not the same unit, I was born in Kendal and I am passionate about Cumbria, obviously it wasn’t to be so the next best thing was to register him at our local office, so Freddie Joseph Wood is now officially registered in Cumbria – although they send the paperwork to Lancashire, never mind, perhaps one day our ‘local’ unit will be back to the full strength of a ‘proper’ hospital.
Rachel and I would really like to thank all the many staff that looked after us, both at Helme Chase during the pregnancy and then the various departments at the Royal Lancaster Infirmary, especially the Neo-Natal unit, otherwise known as the Special Care Baby Unit. We were looked after by quite a few different nurses on the SCBU so I will not name them all, suffice to say though they are some of the nicest, warmest, compassionate and caring people I have every had the pleasure to meet. They are looking out for the parents as well as the babies and we couldn’t have wished to be under better care, it was also great to get our bag full of information and goodies from BLISS.
The RLI and UHMBT are getting some seriously bad press at the moment, people, especially the press always look for the worst – obviously not all departments are made the same and these guys need praise and lots of it, working under tough conditions with the littlest lives in their hands, just wonderful and should be applauded, yep applauded just for doing their job.
We will be back to see them at the Scoobies club with Freddie and when the dust settles look into some fundraising for the Special Care Baby Unit Trust, I am sure you will all hear about it when we get something sorted but it seems lots of people I know have had their babies pass through the SCBU so I am sure between us we can do some things to help, I have some ideas but would need to pass it through the official trust.
Last but not least, we have both been completely blown away by the kind words of encouragement, both on Facebook, texts, email and in the many, many cards we have received for Freddie Joe, as yet we have not got around to thanking people as we wanted to leave a lot of the opening until Freddie was home, he is and we again are blown away by the generosity of our friends and family.
PS: Freddie now has his first piece of Ducati merchandisecheers Sharpy!