Part 3: Complications

Catch up on Part 1 and Part 2 of my birth story.

Apparently, I had some hemorrhaging. After they get it under control, I’m wheeled into a recovery room, and we get about two hours of restless sleep (there’s always someone coming in every 20 minutes to take my blood pressure, temperature, etc.) before a nurse comes in and informs me that they don’t think that they got out all of my placenta, so I need to have a D&C. They’re going to scrape out my uterus. I ask Nurse Ratched, “Will this affect my ability to have more children?” She answers, “We hope not,” shrugs her shoulders and leaves the room. Wow, they really know how to put a patient at ease! I want to ask more questions but I just want this overwith so I can sleep. I kiss my husband, and they wheel me into surgery.

On the table, they put the dreaded oxygen mask on me again, but before I can argue, I’m out. Waking up from surgery is a whole ‘nother nightmare. I become aware that I can’t breathe, and I can’t move my arms and legs. I start to hyperventilate in panic. I can see that there are nurses in the room, but none seem to notice. I try to speak, but all I can get out is a small “Huhhhh…” It’s all I have, so I concentrate on making noise. My soft moan becomes a loud one which becomes louder still. Finally, a nurse says, “You’re in recovery. Just breathe.” Breathing is the problem, lady, I want to say. Still unable to move, I try words. “Can’t. Breathe. Can’t. Breathe” I attempt to say, but all that comes out is “aah, eeeh.” I keep at it, in full panic now. I start to cry and feel like I’m going to die. No one seems to notice how frantic I am. God, this is awful. “Can’t. Breathe!” I keep attempting, until finally the actual words come out. A nurse says, “You’re fine. Just relax.” That bitch has no idea. I keep arguing until someone finally takes the mask off my face. I try to breathe slowly and communicate. I still can’t breathe. I realize that I’m flat on my back, a position that I haven’t been in in months (when you’re pregnant, you can’t sleep on your back because the weight of the baby cuts off some artery and the blood supply to you and your baby. There is no more baby, but there is still a lot of weight pressing down on me.) I still can’t breathe and am fully freaking the fuck out. “Turn me on my side,” I tell them slowly. “I can’t breathe.” They continue to argue with me, telling me I’m fine and to relax. I argue right back, getting louder. Nurse Ratched says, “We can’t turn you, you’re too heavy.” “Then get my husband!” I shout. “You’re just going to have to turn yourself,” she says.

Fucking hell?! I will turn myself. I start the process of trying to fling my right arm and leg over to the left side. It takes some time and a lot of effort on my part, but I eventually get it. My arm and leg are hanging over the left railing, and I’m lying on my side. I can now take a deep breath. Relief at last! I take deep, glorious breaths into my lungs. It’s heaven. I was naked under the sheet and am now hanging out, my nude body in the open for all to see. I so don’t care. “We can’t wheel you through the hospital like that!” says an indignant nurse. “I don’t fucking care,” I tell her. “I need to breathe, so you’re going to have to just wait a moment!” I’m beyond angry. How can they treat their patients like this?

I get a few minutes to clear my brain and relax, hanging off the side of a bed. When I am righted, I raise the bed so I’m in a comfortable sitting position. I aplogize to Nurse Ratched. “I’m sorry for my behavior. I honestly thought I was dying.” She laughs — she laughs! — shrugs it off and walks away.

I’m told they got out all of the placenta, so I should heal just fine. But the horror show isn’t over. During a check to see how my uterus is doing, a nurse presses heavily down on my stomach. I’m not exagerating when I say a fountain of blood comes out of me. It shoots up and comes down with a splash. “Oh my,” she says. “Holy shit. Is that normal?” I ask. She doesn’t answer, just begins to clean me up and switch out the bedding.

I ask for my husband and eventually he is brought in. I whisper to him, “I just went through the most awful experience of my life.” He can tell I’m very upset and tries to comfort me as I tell him what I’ve just been through.

He shares with me that when I was wheeled off to surgery, he sat in the room and tried to sleep. Hours passed, and he had no idea how I was. He was stuck in the room with a bloody bed to wait.

Eventually, a doctor came into the room and told him that I was in recovery and doing fine. Then he left without telling DH where I was. So he continued to wait. Eventually a nurse asked him, “What are you doing in here? You know you can wait with your wife.” “Where is my wife?” DH asked in frustration. And he was brought to me.

Seriously? Is this is a typical hospital experience? I can’t wait to get the fuck out of here! I have a huge headache and get some Tylenol with codeine. People keep commenting on how pale I am and continue to monitor my blood pressure and take more blood. I have no idea how my baby is and frankly, I’ve barely given her any thought throughout this, something that I’m very ashamed of now. I’m wheeled into our old room and a nurse asks me if it’s OK if they feed C formula. In my adled state, I tell her yes. I wish she would’ve instead said, “Your baby is hungry. Can I bring her in for you to breastfeed her?” Because that may have made a connection in my brain: Oh, right. I have a child that needs to be fed, and I want her to have breastmilk, not formula.

Eventually, C is brought to us, and I’m given my first chance to look and really see her. My God, she is tiny and perfect. I try to breastfeed finally and stare in awe at our beautiful creation. She is amazing. And healthy – thank God she’s healthy and all the complications were with me, not her. We see a lactation consultant and get tips on proper latch and technique.

Note for moms-to-be: Use those lactation consultants at the hospital as often as you can. Breastfeeding is a lot harder than it looks, and with birth complications like I had, even harder. If you don’t get a proper latch and practice right away, it’s a bitch to try to fix later.

Later that day, or maybe it was the following day, I’m told that I’ve lost too much blood between the placenta fiasco and the surgery, so I need a blood transfusion. I turn to DH and say, “It just never ends.” I want to cry but joke instead. “Well, I’ve donated lots of blood over the years, it’s about time I get some back.”

Seven hours of getting blood. Then two hours of an iron IV because my hemoglobin count is a 5 and is supposed to be a 12. I’m so swollen from all the fluids, I’m barely recognizable.

This is not me.

Here’s some TMI: Going to the bathroom is a huge undertaking that involves a nurse’s help. I’m wearing 3 giant pads and giant disposable underwear. I have to squeeze a bottle of water on my hooha while I’m peeing. (It actually feels amazing and I finally understand the French’s bidet thing.) When I start to feel a little more human, and I can stand without fainting and without help, I take a shower. I use a hand mirror and take a look at my nether region. It looks like a hotdog – in a bun! That was a mistake.

Note for moms-to-be: Don’t look down there. It’s not pretty, so spare yourself the trauma.

We stay in the hospital until Tuesday night when we’re told we can go home. A nurse asks me when my follow-up appointment is with Dr. B, and I tell her that I didn’t know I needed one. She says because of my surgery, he’s going to want a check up in two weeks. She seems perplexed that he didn’t schedule one with me, but I’m not surprised. I say goodbye to the recovery nurses (who were terrific, unlike the labor and delivery and surgical teams) and flip off the hospital as we drive away.

My 2-week checkup with Dr. B goes fine. Physically, I’m healing. Mentally, not so much. I have daily breakdowns, and I really have trouble putting this experience out of my head. When Dr. B asks me how I’m doing, I tell him that I’m still struggling to deal with how awful it was. He looks surprised and says, “But you had a vaginal birth.” I say, “Yes, and I’m grateful for that. Thank you for denying me a C-section. But it just wasn’t how I pictured it, and I feel guilty for having the drugs and everything.” He says, “It was a successful delivery. We just had a woman come in who refused the Pitocin and nine hours later got an infection and needed a C-section.” Yeah, I get his point, but still…

It’s been 6 weeks now, and I struggle to make enough milk because of what happened. The theory is, when pieces of placenta were left behind, my body thought it was still pregnant, so my milk didn’t really come in. I never got engorged but didn’t know that was a red flag. I also didn’t know that the milk usually comes in by the third day. Not knowing that my milk production was virtually nonexistent, we struggled to keep C consoled in the early days home from the hospital. We assumed she was gassy and tried every trick in the book. After two nights of misery, we saw a pediatrician who told us that our baby has lost too much weight. She wasn’t gassy – she was hungry. (Cue one of many Mommy breakdowns here.) We had to feed her formula. Now she gets that as her main staple and has breastmilk as a supplement. I’m doing everything I can to build up my milk supply, but nothing is working. I’ve seen a lactation consultant a few times, I’m taking supplements and a prescription drug, but still only pump about 20 ml in a good session. It’s very frustrating and makes me very sad. All I want to do is feed my baby. Another disappointment on top of so many.

Seriously? Giant boobs and all I get is this??

To my wonderful husband: I’m so sorry. I messed up. I am working on forgiving myself for my decisions but I don’t know if the regret over how I gave up will ever go away. My heart breaks for what I put my baby through, and I mourn the birth plan that we dreamt of together. Thank  you for being my Superman, my rock, my cheerleader and partner in crime. You’re an amazing husband and father, and I count my blessings for you every day.

Heart. Melting.

I don’t know if I will ever have the courage (stupidity?) to have another child, but things will be different if I do. If I’m not allowed to attempt another home birth because of my placenta issues (Dr. B’s theory is that my fibroids may have contributed to the placenta not coming out), I will choose a different hospital. And a different midwife. I will have a doula, and I will try harder to be a team with my dear husband.

I’m very thankful that my darling baby is healthy. She charms us with her squeeks and grunts and smiles, and we fall more in love with her every day. We are doing our best to enjoy this time, sleep deprivation and all.

Photo by Michael Wilsker

Note for moms-to-be: Do your research on your hospital. Since ours was a Plan B, we didn’t spend as much time as we should’ve on that part. Find out what their normal birth routines are and whether you’ll really get what you want. Fight hard for your birth plan. And lastly, learn all you can about breastfeeding and proper latch before the baby comes. It’s a lot harder than it seems.

Are you dealing with a bad birth experience? Here’s a helpful article here on getting over it.

8 thoughts on “Part 3: Complications

  1. My God, Mary, this blog practically put me to tears. I am so sorry you went through all this. The surgery story especially infuriated me. How can nurses, who are supposed to care about people, be so utterly awful? What horrid women. And poor DH, being stuck alone with no idea how you’re doing. What an AWFUL hospital. I’m so sorry to hear it! Your daughter is beautiful & healthy, so don’t linger on mistakes you think you made. You did your best amidst severe trauma. I’m just really relieved you both got through this healthy. I had no idea it was this bad…

  2. Cried over this one cause it’s just such a difficult situation and could have been made better if the people who cared for you at the hospital had any idea what it was like to walk in your shoes. No wonder hospitals scare people! Dr. B sounds a like like my O.B…clueless of the trauma of surgery to everyday people. Anesthetized to the reality of being treated as a something instead of a someone.

    I love that you write like the Bloggess, harshly self deprecating, but also so real, raw, and heartfelt that it immediately feels like we have known each other forever. And that photo of Charlie at the end is amazing!

    Even going through all that you have the humor to look back on it and recognize it for what it was, a learning experience and a path to bring you, your husband, and child together as a family shows in your writing. What a beautiful conclusion to a difficult journey on the way to Motherhood.

    Also, I so agree with the breastfeeding advice, how I wish I had handled it differently. Although I’ve made my peace, there are times when I am snuggling with my daughter, when I wish I were able to nourish her more directly.

  3. Please, please stop beating yourself up over this. You did not mess up. You did not give up. You should be proud of yourself for NOT sticking to your original birth plan — especially since you had all those potentially life-threatening complications. I’m so sorry that you had such a horrible experience at that hospital — the same hospital where I had a wonderful birthing experience. I think I lucked out by having amazing nurses. Unfortunately, some of those who work in the healthcare industry focus too much on health and not enough on “care.” I have a feeling your next birthing experience (Yes, I’m predicting you’ll have another child) will be a walk in the park compared to this one. As far as breastfeeding goes, I’m sure the iron deficiency didn’t help with your milk production. You’re a great mommy, and every little bit that you’re giving her counts! She’s obviously very happy and thriving, which means you’re doing a fantastic job. Pat yourself on the back — you deserve it. (p.s. Not to get too gory, but my first trip to the bathroom post-delivery looked like something out of a slasher movie, so I could totally relate!!!)

  4. Thank you, ladies. I’m feeling much better about it all and am making peace with myself. Writing has helped tremendously, as has getting feedback like this. I only hope that soon doctors and hospitals in this country start to adjust their birth routines and the way they treat mothers in labor. It’s enough to make a girl want to move to Canada…

  5. Hello My dear friend. I am glad that you were able to express your story and most of all your feelings. What I have seen in you through all of this is strength and determination. I watched you tackle the childbirth idea with avengence, reading every book, researching, planning, strategising. The “Plan” may have changed but the outcome was such a success! You are the mother of a daughter and I am proud of you 😉

  6. You pushed an entire freaking person out of you. That is amazing, and something to be so proud of. After just the initial 17 hours of labor, I would have grabbed an x-acto knife, myself. You did amazing. And the things your body did were not in your control. And the choices you made, even though they weren’t officially the ones you had wanted going into it, brought you a baby. No matter how you did it, you freaking did it. A million hugs and high-fives to you, woman. Also, I would have peed on all those nurses on purpose for being complete dicks. What the shit.

    Your daughter is BEAUTIFUL and I hope you have an easier time breastfeeding, going forward. But if you don’t, it’s a-okay. I was formula fed and I am awesome. So there’s that.

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