I haven’t told my story – the story that continually haunts me. I haven’t told my story. Not to me. Not to anyone. Not completely. Little snippets here and there, but not in its entirety. It took me a long time to gather the memories. Many of them were blacked out.
I haven’t told my story, but in order to completely heal. In order to move on. In the case that someone else has a similar unique story, I need to tell my story. I need to tell my story. For me. For other women out there who have felt so alone in their postpartum journey.
Beautiful water birth
Amazing little boy with
His grandfather’s eyes and face
Daddy’s hair and
Postpartum was a different story. I know that the first fews days home with a newborn are a blur. Nursing. Sleepless nights. Healing from pushing a human out of a small warm space into a great big world.
Mine was different. Unique. Traumatizing.
Healing wasn’t going right three days postpartum. Too much pain to use the bathroom. Diarrhea. Vomiting. High fevers.
It was time to feed my baby. I just couldn’t. I didn’t have the strength.
“Mom, will you please feed him,” I groaned. “There’s some sample formula in the cabinet and a bottle in a plastic tub in his room. It needs to be washed,” I said barely able to lift his 7 pound body up to her.
I was very much looking forward to exclusively breastfeeding for a year. Whatever it took. He would be nourished by the best baby food that ever existed. The nourishment God created that women, from the beginning of time, gave their babies. I didn’t have the strength and I didn’t care. I barely remember those first four days because they ended abruptly.
The morning after his birth my dad drove me to the eyeglass shop to replace the pair – my only pair – that I dropped then promptly stepped on the night before I went into labor. I labored either in a blur or with my prescription sunglasses. We laughed.
I had given birth at 3:32 pm the previous day. It was about 9am when we arrived at the store. Almost 18 hours postpartum.
The trip to the shop was a bit much for me but I hastily picked out a pair with my blurry vision, then went straight to bed as soon as I arrived home.
Around 24 hours postpartum I saw the midwife after swinging by to pick up my glasses, still walking around in a blur. Visually and mentally, my world was blurry. I felt like I had been hit by a mack truck. The birthing center is warm and inviting.
“You are doing well,” she said.
I was weak. And light headed.
“This is normal,” she said. “Drink some apple juice,” she said.
“My baby needs to eat.”
“Here. Lay down in the room,” her assistant encouraged, handing me a cup of apple juice. “Feed your baby. Take as long as you need,” she told me as she helped me encourage my son to nurse.
It was cold in there. My apple juice was filled with ice. Even colder. A small blanket helped. But it was cold in there.
At about 36 hours postpartum I nearly passed out at my son’s first pediatrician appointment.
“You need to lie down,” the pediatrician urged in his rich southern drawl. “Sit in this chair,” as he helped me into an office chair and rolled me through the office, the nurses staring, to a room with a long red table. There were dalmatians scattered on the walls. It was bright. Sterile.
Doctor took my vitals.
“You need an IV. You must not be drinking enough. It’s so important when breastfeeding”
“My baby needs to eat.”
“That’s fine. I will give you some privacy while I look for a needle big enough….Find the biggest IV needle you can,” he calls out the door to a passing nurse. “We really only have small needles for children, but we will make do. You are dehydrated.”
I layed impatiently while the fluid drip drip dripped into my stinging arm.
Is my baby ok? He hasn’t even seen a physician since his birth. I need to know if he’s ok!
Finally the doctor examined my boy. Healthy. Perfect in every way.
“Keep up the good work, Mama. And check in with your midwife,” he encouraged in his booming rich southern drawl. His energy extending to all four corners of the office.
We finally made it home. I went straight to bed and slept. Grandparents came and went. Cuddled my cooing son. I developed high fevers. My husband stayed up all night. He took my temperature. Made sure I had acetaminophen or ibuprofen every 4 hours. Made sure I drank water. Electrolyte drinks. Handed me our son so that he could eat. I slept fitfully.
I spoke with the midwife on call the next day. 3 days postpartum.
I was feeling worse, not better. She gave advice. Suggested it was a stomach bug and, “What tough luck!” Afterall, I had a healthy birth, a healthy baby, and I was healthy at my postpartum check-up. My symptoms were exactly like that of a stomach bug. Vomiting. Diarrhea. Fevers.
“But keep in touch. Call tomorrow with an update. Call anytime if you have more questions. You can go to an urgent care if you want, but all they will likely do is give you another IV. Keep getting as much fluids as you can.”
I would soon get used to so many IVs. Except that no one ever really gets used to IVs. But how was she to really know what was formulating in my internals?
I called the next day. Day four of my realized dream to be a mother.
“I’m worse. Yes, still high fevers. Yes, but it’s green.”
“Go to urgent care.”
My husband brought my baby downstairs and handed him to his mother. I was too weak to carry him. I had only gone up and down the stairs once or twice each day. I needed my stitches to stay in place and the tear to heal. This time I was really weak. I could barely make it down. Clinging to the railing on my right. Everything was in pain. My abdomen, my arm, everything I used to push and strain to deliver my little boy from the cradle of my womb.
This is normal, right?
We took the truck. Every little bump set the sensitive suspension jumping. Every jump was filled with pain.
“I’ll try to drive carefully,” he assured me.
We pull up to the urgent care. My husband helped me out of the car. We walked up to reception.
“How far along are you?” asked the receptionist as she stared at my round swollen belly.
“My baby is 4 days old,” I responded quizzically, “He was born on Wednesday.”
“Oh. Ummm. Ok…here, fill this out,” handing my husband a clipboard.
“I feel really dizzy.”
“Ok. Umm…Can we get a wheelchair over here, please?”
I was brought straight into a room. White. With a little blue. Cold. Sterile. I was helped onto the bed.
Vitals. Hushed voices.
“Ok, we need to put you in an ambulance. We can do some testing here, but you need immediate care and they will do it at the hospital, anyway. You are just too unstable. I don’t feel right caring for you here. We’re just a walk-in clinic.”
My ever practical and budget conscious husband asks, “How much will that cost? What if I just drive her.”
There was some discussion. My husband finally asked (because this is what he would do to help clients make decisions about car repairs), “What would you do if this was your wife.”
“If this was my wife,” he said seriously, “I would get her in an ambulance. I wouldn’t even think about the cost. You can deal with that later. She needs medical care right now.”
In no time the EMTs were rolling a gurney into the room. Though they gently transferred me into the gurney, it still hit every painful nerve in my body.
“I’m so sorry, ma’am,” one of them empathized. Just as before, every tiny bump radiated pain. My abdomen, my arms.
No, it was just one arm.
“Uuugh-ohh, my shoulder,” I moaned weakly.
In the ambulance and heading towards SR-408, the EMT went quickly to work, securing an oxygen mask. Setting up an IV.
“I’m just trying to find a vein. Your arms are so swollen.” I don’t recall, but I’m guessing he poked me several times before he hit one. That seemed to be the theme in the weeks to come.
His work was done and he sat down on the cold steel bench beside me. I think he was talking to me. The world became scarce.
Bump. Bump. Jolt.
Pain. Shooting. Radiating.
“My shoulder hurts. My shoulder hurts,” I moaned again. And again. And again.
“I’m sorry,” was all he could say as he massaged the soft tissue. It barely helped. More of a comfort that he cared, but it still hurt.
We arrived downtown and sirens blared.
They put on sirens. For me. These cars and trucks are parting like the red sea. For me. Am I really that bad off?
I was glad no one could see me in the confines of the ambulance.