For part one of this, click here.
I’d been on magnesium for almost twenty-three hours at that point, and I felt like I’d been bodyslammed. Everything was hazy. My husband took our daughter to be weighed. She was stretching out on the warmer, like she was sunning herself on the beach. They had told us that because of the magnesium, she would need to be on observation for six hours after her birth. I fed her for the first time, then they took her out of the room. I vaguely remember my husband telling me he was going home to get our dogs fed and make sure things were ready for his brother and his brother’s family to come stay at our house that night, since we were at the hospital. After that, I was exhausted, and I don’t know that I actually passed out, but it felt like I might as well have.
Some point after that, the nurse came in to take out my epidural. I sat up to let her do it and promptly passed out.
I woke up and saw five nurses staring at me, while a doctor waved an alcohol swab under my nose. They decided I probably passed out due to low blood sugar – I hadn’t eaten in about 27 hours at that point. It’s funny, but I honestly hadn’t even noticed. They got me some Jello. I dozed until my husband returned. I still had magnesium going – it would stay in for twenty-four hours after her birth. I also stayed in the delivery room because of this. I was a prisoner of the bed, unable to move because the magnesium made me a fall risk.
Around 1:30 am it was like a switch flipped. I was awake. And I wanted my daughter. I asked about her, and was told her observation time should be up around 3 am. It was agony. I couldn’t move to go see her, I didn’t know how she was doing, no one could give me more information. I know what I dealt with is minor compared to people who see their babies wheeled off to the NICU, and to those parents I say, you have my utmost respect, because I knew my daughter was relatively healthy and I was still frantic. When the door opened and they wheeled the bassinet in, I was all but bouncing in the bed. I held my sweet daughter and just looked at her sweet little face. It was hard to even give her up for my husband!
Waiting to Go Home
Naturally, everyone wanted to come meet the baby. My husband got some fitful sleep in the recliner that was in the room – I don’t really remember sleeping once I had my daughter back. I was still on the magnesium, still feeling like I’d been hit by a bus, and that combined with the whole “just gave birth” thing, but I didn’t care. I was happy to observe the small creature I’d brought into the world – look at her perfect, tiny hands, her blue eyes, the way her little mouth would open in a yawn. We had a steady stream of visitors – my parents, my in-laws, my husband’s brother and his family, my stepson and his mother (that was slightly awkward – we don’t exactly have a great relationship). My brother-in-law brought me my requested lunch – sushi. I’d had to give up the good stuff for nine months, so I took the first opportunity I had to get some. An Alaska roll had never tasted so good.
At one point, Abby fell asleep against me. As I cuddled her soft little body, smelling her sweet scent, she jerked awake with a cry. “Did you have a bad dream?” I said gently. “What can you even have bad dreams about?” Then I remembered the whole “six hour observation” thing, and the fact they were still routinely coming in and checking her blood sugar, pricking her little heel with a needle, and I felt instantly guilty. Even though none of it was my fault, I felt like I was letting my daughter down already, and that was rough.
Honestly, I felt like I was in a haze, most of the day – probably due to the magnesium more than anything else. I was so grateful when they finally came and shut the IV off. They left the IV in – I’d been a hard stick and they wanted it there, just in case. It was in the back of my left hand, and it hurt.
My best friend came to see us, and helped move all of our stuff to one of the recovery rooms. We finally escaped the delivery room! I was ecstatic, because it meant we were closer to going home, and I ached to be home. We got settled into the new room, my husband got some food, and then he stretched out on the hospital couch and went to sleep. I watched his chest rise and fall – watched our little daughter’s chest doing the same thing – and I sobbed. I was just so happy. I couldn’t sleep. I tried to put the time to good use, watching the videos they make you watch before you get released. I made that first, terrifying trip to the bathroom. I picked my daughter up when she cried, and nursed her, marveling at how natural this all seemed (thanks to a class I’d taken beforehand – that helped me know what to do!). Finally, I got a few hours’ sleep.
The next day, I waited impatiently for them to release us. We’d been there for nearly 48 hours after her birth, the hospital standard, and I just wanted to be home. My husband left to go take care of our everyday responsibilities. I watched as the hospital’s pediatrician examined my newborn, declaring her to be perfect (thank you, I know). I helped keep her still for the hearing test. I paced impatiently when they took her away to do labs, and snatched her up to feed and cuddle the moment she came back.
Then, somebody – I’m not sure who she was, I think a NP – came in and told me that because my blood pressure was high, they would be keeping me another day.
I am a strong person. I’ve handled a lot. But in a flood of postpartum hormones, I sobbed.
“Has it ever occurred to you people that my blood pressure might be high because I’m in this place, being stabbed with needles, unable to sleep because it’s nosy out there, and every time I do get to sleep someone comes in to check my vitals?! I just want to go hooooommmmeeee,” I howled. The NP escaped the room quickly. I sat in the bed and sobbed. Then, Abby cried, so I stifled my sobs, cuddled my newborn, and mentally screamed at how unfair it all was. I sat in the bed and sulked. When the nurse came in, bless her heart, I vented to her. “I’m sorry I know you don’t have anything to do with this and I’m really trying not to take it out on you but I’m just really tired and I don’t want to be here anymore and this sucks and I want to go hooooooommmmmmeeeeee,” I wailed.
She didn’t bat an eye. She told me a little bit about what could happen with my blood pressure, and preeclampsia, and what they were looking for.
In the midst of our conversation, I told her about my experience the first time I’d come to triage. She frowned. “You need to let them know about this,” she said. “Especially since it caused you to delay getting treatment when you actually needed it.”
Then, she found out what the criteria would be for me to get to leave the hospital. My blood pressure had to be below a certain threshold, and my lab results had to come back with the right numbers. They would draw my labs in the morning.
When the night shift nurse came on, and they did their hand-off in my room, I had her promise me we would get the lab results done first thing in the morning. She promised me that when the lab techs came on at 5 am, she’d make sure I was at the top of the list.
In an attempt to keep my blood pressure down, my husband spent the night cuddled with me in the hospital bed, our daughter sleeping on my chest. And as much as the whole situation sucked – I love that memory. We both slept better that night than we had the entire time I’d been there. When the nurse took my blood pressure, she shrieked in disbelief. It was normal. “This is awesome!” she said, regaining her composure. “Keep it up!”
True to her word, when a phlebotomist came on duty, I was her first stop. I gleefully gave my arm up to be poked, and I prayed the results would be what they needed to be.
The Great Escape
“You’re looking great,” the night-shift nurse said, as she did the hand-off to the day shift – the same nurse I’d had the day before. “She should be going home today,” the night-shifter told the day-shift.
It didn’t take long to find out that this was, in fact, true. I was ecstatic. But I had one thing I had to do first.
“Who do I have to talk to about filing a complaint?”
I wound up talking to the second-in-command of the Labor and Delivery department. I let her know what had happened – that one thoughtless remark had caused me to delay seeking treatment. I told her that I was used to working in corrections, where we had very similar attitudes to nursing, and we treated our co-workers as a team. “But that remark shouldn’t have been made where it was even possible for me, the patient, to hear it. I was just trying to protect my daughter, and that really made me second-guess myself when I shouldn’t have,” I said. The woman in charge agreed. “I’m going to make sure we put a memo out about this,” she said. I have no idea if they did or not, but I hope so.
They finally released me, and never had fresh air felt any better than when I got to go outside for the first time in days, and get in my car to go home.
What I Would Do Differently
The physical recovery of this whole experience was a piece of cake compared to the emotional recovery.
I struggled with postpartum anxiety. I still do. It took me nearly five months to realize that is probably, at least in part, tied to the poor physical shape I was in and the time away from my daughter after her birth. Not knowing what was going on with my daughter was difficult.
Next time, I’m going to aggressively pursue anything that looks like it might be an issue. I’m not going to just assume that it’s fine because the doctor didn’t bring it up. I’m going to make sure I advocate for myself and my child and ask questions. I don’t care if the doctor is busy – the doctor is busy because of people like me, the patients. Without patients, they’d have no job. If it concerns me, I will ask.
I’m going to try to make sure I get clarification on anything that concerns me – and I’m going to try to get it while someone else (my husband or anyone who’s clear-headed) is present. I’m intelligent, but trying to comprehend something that isn’t my field while I’m in poor physical shape – that’s rough.
And I refuse to let anyone make me feel bad for being overly cautious. My child is dependent on me to do that. I’d rather be in every week with false alarms than ignore something potentially life-threatening.
Thank you for putting up with this novella of a post. I don’t normally write things like this – it goes against all the best blogging practices – but this is going to be the foundation of several other posts I’m currently planning, so I figured I’d better put it out there. And I want women to know that it’s important to be your child’s advocate.
Please remember – every birth is different. Every experience is different. I’m not trying to scare anyone. I want to educate. Hopefully, if you’re a first-time mom trying to figure out what she’s in for, your experience will be different – I pray it goes much more smoothly!