So the Bold Joff was here and the docs looked him over in the delivery room. He had good Agpar scores so there was nothing immediately obviously amiss. I needed a few stitches after and as the doctor attended to that, he told us a funny story.

Just a room or two along the corridor, there was a lady who had elected to give birth on the 8th as her husband was a submariner at Faslane and was due to go on extended tour. This way he could see the baby being born and spend a day or two with his new family before his tour.

Except he never turned up.

The doctor was an older gentleman and a veteran obstetrician of the Queen Mother’s. As you can imagine, the kind of language he must have heard over the years from labouring Glaswegian women wouldn’t have been for the faint of heart. The language coming out of that particular abandoned woman was the worst the doctor could remember and said he didn’t care for the husband’s chances once he turned up. It only occurred to me quite recently that that wee baby is the exact same age as Joff, all being equal. I wonder how the reunion went?

So we went back to the main ward, Mr Effie and I feeling a bit sorry for the livid bruising around his face from the forceps, such a bonny chubby baby he was! I tried breastfeeding him, but he wouldn’t latch on. I wasn’t entirely surprised as I hadn’t had a great deal of success with breastfeeding Miss Effie Senior and put this down to my own lack of confidence and technique.

He slept on and on, not waking for a feed. Nurse said to give him a bath and then try feeding him again. When I was bathing him another doctor came to do his first checks, count fingers, toes and check his hips, reflexes etc. She shone a penlight in his eyes and she seemed dissatisfied with the result. She did it a few times. I told her he hadn’t fed since birth and seemed lethargic. He had a raised temperature – probably from swallowing meconium during labour. So they decided to send him up to the special care ward to fit a NG tube to feed him and I was given a breast pump to express milk for him.

It was so strange to see him on that special care ward. All the wee babies we could see there were preemie; tiny wee scraps of life whose hand knitted hats and cardigans dwarfed their tiny heads and bodies, wires and tubes all around to support their start to life. And here was Joff, all 8lb 4oz of him, filling the incubator-style cots and looking like a whale in comparison. Most people walking down the corridor did a double take looking at Joff as much as I was looking at all the wee tiny babies.

Because of the range of problems of these preemie babies, there were consultants aplenty on the floor, including an ophthalmologist who came into our room to re-check Joff’s eyes. The test the doctor did downstairs with the penlight was to look for the red reflex. This is a quick test to check the retina…you’ll likely have seen it yourself as the “red-eye” you get on some photographs. But this reflex was completely absent in Joff because his cataracts were clouding his lenses and stopping light getting into the retina.

More prodding and poking and then the pronouncement, “he has cataracts and low muscle tone”. If you held him up at the shoulders and bum, his head and limbs all hung down helplessly like a little rag doll. So the doctor proposed to operate on the cataracts soon and a physiotherapist was sent in to assess and begin exercises. Mrs Frietag. One of many people who’ve supported Team Fisher.

We didn’t feel too despondent. Yes, there was a problem but it was being addressed, it had a solution. We put a wee picture of a duck up against his cot wall, something for him to “look at”. But that began to get to me, my wee baby not being able to see things. We asked the registrar how Joff’s eyesight would be after the operation. I distinctly remember asking “Will he be able to read?” because I am a voracious reader, I couldn’t imagine life without text. He replied “Oh yes, he’ll maybe need a low vision aid, but he’ll do fine”. With hindsight, the doctor should have said, let’s wait and see, as the real extent of his problems made themselves known.

The operation was scheduled for when he was a week old.

More about that next time….

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