You were small, they said. Tracking on the 1st centile. Healthy, but tracking along the smallest of the small babies here.
So we decided to welcome you early to the world, and Mummy and I packed our bags and headed towards the hospital, where they would help open up the door a little so you would come out a bit earlier.
We arrived in the dark of the night, and the doctor comes in. He feels for the opening of the door, and he is a little surprised, but it is already ajar. ‘Come back tomorrow morning,’ he tells us. ‘Sleep in your own bed tonight.’
We are a little bemused and somewhat relieved, and we head home with both our luggages – a big one for Mummy and Daddy, and a little one for you.
We get to sleep in our own bed as a couple for one more night before you come barrelling into our lives.
Back in the same hospital room the next morning, and the doctor comes in and puts a drip into Mummy. They start a medicine that will massage the outer bag holding you, and he reaches in and makes a little hole in the inner bag holding you. A gush of water comes out, the warm pool you have been swimming in for the past 9 months quickly empties.
Come out of the pool, we say. It is nice and warm out here in the world, we coax you. It’s lies, but hey, you don’t know better – you weren’t born yesterday.
Mummy starts to feel the pull of the bag inside her. It is pulling and twisting inside her as she tries to help bring you out into the world. It is painful, as promised, but she didn’t expect how painful it would be. She sucks on some laughing gas from a tube, but she is not laughing. Another doctor is called and he runs a plastic snake up her back where more medicine goes in, helping her with the most painful thing to happen to a lady.
Daddy sits there, and he is helpless. He holds Mummy’s hands, and he cheers her on, a powerless supporter on the sideline. He massages Mummy’s back, and a list of his favourite songs is playing from his phone on the speaker behind Mummy.
And so 4 hours later, Mummy really feels the need to push. Daddy asks the nurse to check if you were almost out. Oh no no no she smiles it’s far too early. Could you please just humour me and check, Daddy asks. Sure she wears a smirk as she puts on a glove, and feels inside Mummy. Her smile quickly fades as she is surprised by your hairy head. Okay, some nice deep breaths! she says as Daddy hears the nurse’s own breathing become quicker and more shallow. I’m going to call your doctor.
The trolley comes in with the cloths and equipment he needs to help you come easier into this world. They put a machine on to hear your heartbeat and it becomes slower. The doctor knows it, the nurse knows it and your Daddy knows it. Mummy is totally focussed on pushing and bringing you out, so Daddy leans over and says to her – hey, Mummy, with the next one you really need to push.
The next moment goes quickly, in slow motion. As Mr Bon Jovi sings in the background, ‘I will always love youuuuu….’, Mummy gives one final almighty push, and your slimy head pops out. The doctor puts his finger around your neck ‘Ah, here’s the problem!’ and frees you from the cord that is coiled around it. He invites Daddy to come and deliver the rest of you, and then passes over the scissors for me to cut the cord, your own personal vending machine for these past 9 months.
You are quiet when you come out, and a little purple. Everyone is a little worried, it seems like we’ve all held our breaths together. We wrap you in a towel, and the nurse starts to rub you vigorously. She puts your whole being against Mummy, and finally, you let out the tiniest of coughs, expelling the fluid in your little airways, and let out a small cry. The whole room exhales in relief as your cries grow stronger, and everyone welcomes you with a little more confidence into this world.
We wrap you in an old colourful spotted cloth provided by the hospital, and rest you against Mummy. Both of you are tired from all the morning exertions it has taken to help your escape from the womb. Both of you take a little nap. Daddy is in the corner, having just passed out from all the excitement.
(Kidding, Daddy’s quite strong and awake actually. He just needs to rest his eyes for a little whzzzzz……)
Mummy takes a shower and finally gets to eat. She is starving from having Tough Mudder-ed you in to existence, and gobbles up the hospital lunch. As she waddles to the toilet for a shower, she feels a little sick from all the medicines flowing through her, and sees her lunch for a second time in a vomit bag.
She showers, we sleep and by some miracle you sleep too.
Having a baby’s easy, Daddy thinks, on the first day. Asleep most of the day, just lying there looking cute, and surfacing for the occasional feed. Even your nappies are fairly small and empty. We’ve got this, Daddy thinks.
Daddy has no idea.
We move to another ward of the hospital away from the birthing suite after a day. Mummy’s going well and you are going well, so they are happy to watch us a little less. We are told that the whole hospital is pouring out of its ears with babies, and joke about how people always seem to assemble their babies around the Christmas holidays.
The second day was mainly sleeping, and having some nice friends of Mummy and Daddy bring food over, because the hospital food in this new room, is well, hospital food. But then the night comes, and with it, your loud protesting cries. We are not sure what’s going on, because Mummy and Daddy are new at this – we check the diapers, we put you to Mummy’s boob (henceforth the Milk Maker ™) and we try and sing you to sleep. Nothing works.
Keep putting her to the breast, the midwives say, as they dance in and out of the room. You lose weight with each passing day and turn a little more yellow than your Chinese heritage allows, and they keep telling us to put you to the Milk Maker ™.
The next few days are a whirlwind of smiley faces of family and friends bringing food and gifts, everyone so excited to say Hi! and welcome to the world, and please be nice to Mummy and Daddy.
And then they leave, and it is quiet, and it is just you and Mummy and Daddy. And every night you cry almost every half an hour to an hour, and you lose weight and turn more yellow.
Mummy and Daddy are almost at their wit’s end by the third night, and this male midwife walks into the room. Let’s try a bit longer on the breast first, he says. We are trying to listen but we are distracted by his leathered skin and the ear-ring on his left ear. If it doesn’t work, we’ll just give the baby formula, because she looks hungry and Mummy needs a rest as well.
Formula? Mummy and Daddy thought. It seemed to be an ‘F-word’ (Erm… go ask your Mummy) around these parts. We try once more and you are still crying every thirty minutes, and so we ask for help.
He walks in with a bottle of formula milk, picks you up in confidence, and gives you your first full feed in your first few days here on earth. You finally go to sleep and we also finally get to go to sleep as well. Your yellow colour goes away each day and you start to put on weight as we feed you the formula while Mummy works on filling up the Milk Maker ™.
The male midwife is your unexpected saviour, a voice of reason amidst the army of midwives who cannot see beyond the breast. You are now happy, and soon a rested Mummy’s milk comes in, and you start to put on a bit of weight and look a lot less yellow each day. We feel less guilty and confused, and almost a little angry at how no one showed us in the first couple of days what you really needed.
We bring you home on the fourth day, a new adventure awaits us now as a family. More tears and laughter awaits us outside the hospital doors.
And so welcome to the world Alexa Jia Xuan Cheok. In case you were wondering, the name Alexa means ‘Defender of Man’, not because we want you to become a lawyer (haha! How Asian parents of us!) or Lexie Warrior Princess. We hope that you will be part of the solution to making the world we live in a better place, defending us against cynicism and destruction, sowing hope and life instead.
And Jia Xuan means Good News, which you have already heralded with your healthy birth despite all the things we were told when you were still in Mummy’s tummy, and may you continue to bring good news into a world that so sorely needs it.