In the first couple of days after birth the baby goes through a series of standard tests and checks. This is no different in Norway, however, I find that Norwegian Maternity staff rarely tell you what they are up to.
As soon as the baby arrives the midwife will check over the baby – breathing, movements, reflexes, mouth obstructions, umbilical cord, skin colour – jaundice, pulse/heart beat etc. She will do this so fast you are likely not to notice as she wants to get the baby to you as soon as possible. Sometimes the baby might need to be taken out of the room to a special observation room if there are complications and your birthing partner can accompany while you are finishing labour.
I had planned for a natural birth which included natural expulsion of the placenta but because of my pre-eclampsia condition the midwife quickly gave me an injection of Ergometrine/Syntometrine into my leg. This prolongs the last contraction to expel the placenta quickly and reduces bleeding. The midwife will check over your placenta to make sure it is healthy and complete. You are welcome to see it but you don’t have to if you don’t want to. I’d advise you to at least ask if everything is ok with your placenta (or at least write the question down in your birth plan if you know you won’t remember). Just knowing will give you peace of mind that everything is normal.
After a few cuddles with your new born, the midwife will quickly wash off any blood or after birth from the baby, as well as weigh, measure (length and head) and dress him. There is no need to bath the baby – you don’t want to wash off the vernix as it acts like a moisturiser. There will be a time soon enough when you can enjoy giving your baby his first bath. At this time, Moose watched our midwife do some more checks such as counting fingers and toes, checking facial features, the bottom and if back is straight. The ID tags will be put on with your name and ID number.
During our short two day stay, we were asked if we could allow Lil’ Red to be taken to a university lecture so med -students to examine a healthy new born baby. I said sure for after having four babies I don’t have that new mother separation anxiety. The doctor turned up early and Lil’ Red had just puked on himself so I was in a rush to get him cleaned. I was amused at how awkward the doctor seemed with my baby and waved good-bye as he rolled him away. I wanted to call Moose but I suddenly remembered… I had left my phone in the roller-cot when I was changing Lil’ Red. Ooops. An hour later the doctor rolled back the cot, baby still inside. He handed me my phone and said, ‘I called you to tell you we were going to be a little late. Then the baby started ringing!’ Lil’ Red must have made an impression because for the next series of tests, all the interns and med-students assisting recognised him – he was certainly a little star.
In the next days you and the baby will have the regular checks for after birth. The baby will have a general examination about 24 hours after birth to check: head, eyes, neck, heart, chest, arms, hands, abdomen, genitals, hips, legs, feet, nerves and muscles etc. It is good for you to be present at this so the doctor can chat with you and you can ask questions. Your baby will be given a vitamin K injection (as babies can’t make vitamin K) and a hearing test.
One test that always makes mothers uneasy is the ‘Følling test’ better known as the PKU test. Ivar Asbjørn Følling, a Norwegian biochemist, discovered the følling disease that can cause mental retardation in infants if untreated. Your baby will be given a blood test via a prick in the heel. This sounds simple but the doctor has to gather enough blood to fill four circles on a card. I started to get a little emotional when the kept on doctor squeezing and squeezing my baby’s little foot like a tube of tooth paste. The doctor could barely fill the circles with blood. Most babies cry but Lil’ Red just grunted his disapproval and I was almost bawling (the drop in hormones causes you to get weepy at the best of times).
The midwife will check how your uterus is going back to regular size by feeling your abdomen. She will also check your stitches, if you have any. You will be ask about your lochin and if you have passed any stool. If you are breast feeding you will get special help and instruction.
A day after coming home we were called up by the midwife – the doctor hadn’t got enough of Lil’ Red’s blood and so we were asked to go back to the hospital for another test. I was very annoyed. I had to suffer through watching more squeezing for blood but Lil’ Red didn’t cry no matter how hard the doctor squeezed. This time blood was getting every where. I was getting anxious about all the blood that wasn’t ending up in the circles. The doctor had to make a second prick as the first one dried up. My heart and head couldn’t handle it any more and I had to sit down. Luckily Moose was with us to ‘hold the fort’.
And that was the last of the hospital test. Next, we wait for the six week check ups – me at the doctors and Lil’ Red at the midwifes.