Friday, April 20, 2012


Like my labor and delivery, my recovery after birth was no walk in the park.

The night of the birth was pretty much a blur. I was so exhausted and there was still a lot going on, but I really didn't have any idea what was happening or why. I was hooked up to tons of tubes, IVs and monitors - IVs in both arms, a blood pressure cuff that went off automatically every 15 minutes, a catheter, I still had my epidural hook-up in, cuffs on my legs that massaged my ankles, oxygen mask, etc., etc. I tried to sleep as much as I could but the night nurse was coming in constantly to check my vitals, my kidneys, ask about my pain level, tell me to breathe deeply into the oxygen mask, and so on. At that point, I really didn't know what all the fuss was about but I was just too tired to ask for full explanations. I was pretty out of it. I do remember that the nurse kept asking me to send my baby to the nursery so I could just get some rest, but I just didn't want to be apart from her so I refused. I didn't see the point anyway, as I was exclusively breastfeeding so they would bring her back whenever she was hungry anyway. She was such an angel in the hospital and really only fussed when she was hungry, so the nursery wasn't much help to me.

The next morning, in the light of day after some rest, we started to fill in the blanks a bit. There were concerns about my blood pressure (hence that obnoxious cuff that squeezed my arm every 15 minutes), my kidneys (they were checking output hourly), and that I was not oxygenating my blood properly (so, the oxygen mask). I felt like I was covered in tubes and was so frustrated that I couldn't even cuddle with my baby without tubes sticking out of me everywhere. Whenever it was time for her to eat, I had to have Eric help me position her (careful - don't pull on any IVs!) and get her to latch on because I didn't have the freedom of movement to do it myself.

That afternoon we had a very negative interaction with a lactation consultant - the only negative experience we had with anyone at the hospital. Despite everything that was going on with me, the one thing that was going right was Ellie. She was perfectly healthy and breastfeeding was going so smoothly, which was such a pleasant (and very, very welcome) surprise. When the lactation consultant stopped by that afternoon to check on us, we told her how well things were going, but I did ask a question - something about how you know when the baby is finished or just fell off, because sometimes she would come off and I would try to get her to relatch and she would just cry. To be clear, this was after 15-25 minutes of eating, so I was trying to make sure she was getting enough.  Now, please note that this was also less than 24 hours after Ellie's birth, so "sometimes" meant maybe twice. However, that part of my question was all the consultant would focus on. After watching Ellie latch right on and eat for 25 minutes, she tried to force her on the other breast for 10 minutes, which caused Ellie to freak and brought on the loudest cries of her life to that point.  The consultant then took Ellie away and claimed she had a "soft suck" when she tested with her finger. The consultant seemed to think I needed a nipple shield and tried that for a bit. When Ellie was still having none of the forceful pushing of her mouth onto things, the consultant left for a short time. When she came back a bit later, she said, although she hated to do it, she wanted to give Ellie formula because she was afraid Ellie wasn't getting enough to eat. Eric got forceful himself at this point and gave a very firm, "absolutely not." He told her that Ellie had peed three diapers and passed meconium prior to birth, which seemed to be in line with the consultant's prior-stated goal of one each within the first 24 hours. We had been having no trouble with breastfeeding and the baby seemed to be otherwise happy and healthy (at least, until the consultant got involved!). Given how nothing else had gone well to this point, we were not going to let go of this one positive. We refused the formula and kept on as we were without the consultant's help, and lo and behold, we have a very well-fed, happy, weight-gaining little girl on our hands. That whole encounter was just a stressful situation we did not need.

Speaking of those dirty diapers, this is Eric changing Ellie's diaper for the first time!

Eric really took care of his family in the hospital, and since.

Friday evening brought another stressful situation as well. Our day nurse had been very eager to try to get some of my IVs and monitors and such removed so I could get out of bed as soon as possible. I didn't make it out of bed that day, but she did remove several things, including my catheter, before she left for the day. It really felt like we were making progress. Then, the night nurse returned with instructions from the doctor to reinsert the catheter, hook me back up to oxygen and continue all sorts of monitoring. Again, Eric stood up for me and fought against this. It just felt like such a step back after we finally made some positive progress, but it was a no-go. That night felt like a huge backslide. They were still monitoring my kidneys, so the catheter went back in, and they were also still so concerned about the blood oxygenation. That night brought more blood work (by this point I had so much blood work done, my arm was green and bruised and they were running out of spots on my arm to even poke and started using my hand instead), a visit from a respiratory doctor, chest x-rays and breathing treatments. They were concerned that I might have blood clots in my lungs and were trying to rule that out. We were starting to get discouraged that I might never be able to be just a normal c-section recovery - there was so much else going on! Of course we were glad the doctors were checking into everything, but we were just so ready to be done with all the extra attention.

Saturday was a much more positive day. All my respiratory stuff from the night before was looking much better, and that afternoon I was finally able to have everything removed so that I could get out of bed (painfully, but I did it!). I still had to do breathing exercises and treatments, but at least I wasn't tethered to all sorts of medical equipment anymore. I also was able to eat my first solid food since coming to the hospital on Wednesday, so that was very exciting! That evening I also took a shower for the first time in days (with lots of help), which was painful but glorious. It's amazing how much a little soap can do to make you feel human again.

Breakfast! My first solid food in days.

Check me out - I'm out of the bed!

That was also the day when all my doctors kept coming by and saying things like "you're looking so much better" and "you seem to have turned a corner." I had known there was lots going on, but I was sort of like, "uhhh, I didn't realize I was around the corner in the first place?" I guess it was good that they kept the serious nature of their concerns pretty well-concealed in the moment, honestly. The last thing I needed was a major freak-out.

Overall, the hardest part of my recovery was not being able to care fully for Ellie. Of course I still got to feed her and be near her, but I couldn't lift her or go to her because I was bedridden and in a lot of pain. Eric did everything else for her - diaper changes, swaddling, soothing her when she cried. It would just break my heart that if she would cry while he was out of the room for a moment, I would just have to lay there and listen to her until he got back. I couldn't get up and go to her and comfort her like I wanted to. I really hated that.

Eric did take really good care of Ellie, and she loves her daddy!

My baby girl

By Sunday, however, I was back to being a normal c-section recovery patient. I was still doing my breathing treatments, and would continue to do them until we left the hospital, but I was unhooked from all the various machines and the nurses were coming into my room much more infrequently. That afternoon we even got ourselves moved to the postpartum unit! After five days in Room 208 in L&D, we were finally promoted to postpartum. Our new room had a view of the Manhattan skyline and we felt like we were really making progress. That night I took another shower (this time Eric helped me wash my hair, which was wonderful) and we ordered in food from a local Italian place instead of having hospital meatloaf for dinner. That baked ziti was the best baked ziti ever, just because it was finally something real. I was really starting to feel like maybe there would be an end in sight and someday I would feel normal again.

A last look at our L&D room. I spent so many hours confined in this room.

Our new postpartum room! It was much smaller, but it sure did feel like a step up in the world.

View from our new room

The pain was still very bad, of course. I was pretty much taking any pain meds I could get my hands on, and getting up and out of bed was quite a process that involved lots of psyching myself up mentally, deep breaths, and grimacing. But, I could do it.

Monday was the big day to finally leave the hospital. Ellie got a clean bill of health from the pediatrician and was okay-ed to leave (although we're told the nurses didn't want her to go because she was such a good baby!), and then I got the go-ahead shortly after. We finished all our paperwork (including birth certificate stuff!) and by early afternoon, we were in a cab on our way back to Hoboken. Farewell, Palisades Hospital!

Eric and Ellie testing out the car seat before it was time to go. You gotta be ready!

On our way out of the hospital!

Free at last! Finally on the other side of those L&D doors!

Ellie asleep in the cab on the way home

Welcome home, baby girl!

The whole family was happy to be back together! Well, I think the jury is still out for Achilles re: Ellie.

My recovery at home continued to be painful and it continued to break my heart that I couldn't just leap out of bed whenever Ellie would fuss or cry. Eric continued to do more than his fair share of the work around the house, taking excellent care of both Ellie and me. He did basically everything for Ellie short of feeding her (for obvious reasons) and took great care of me - administering pain meds, cooking meals, getting me whatever I needed, taking care of the house. He really went above and beyond. I don't even have words for how grateful I am for all that he did. I like to imagine that every husband would do that for his wife, but sadly, I don't think that's the case. I'm so lucky.

Not only did Eric take great care of us, he also had these beautiful flowers sent to the apartment so they'd be waiting for me when we got home!

After about a week my pain started to subside enough that I could go for small walks. A week after Ellie's birth, we took her to the pediatrician (she was already above her birth weight!) and I saw my doctor to get my staples out. It was my first outing since her birth and it felt so good to be out. Walking was still painful and I was still very slow, but hey, I did it!

Look at me, out in the world like a real person!

As days passed, the pain really subsided quite a bit and I was finally starting to feel normal. I was looking forward to last week, which was to be Eric's last week of paternity leave, thinking that I would feel up to daily walks and doing more of the work taking care of Ellie. Then BAM, another setback: the worst kidney infection of my life, complete with all the normal symptoms as well as fever, the shakes, the chills, the sweats, nausea, etc. It was brutal. I could barely get out of bed and I felt like death. Once again, Eric went above and beyond - on the night that I was at my worst, he even kept Ellie out in the living room with him all night (she slept in her Pack 'N Play bassinet) and would just bring her into the bedroom to me when she needed to eat. Then he would take her right back out so I could sleep. I got on antibiotics quickly, but the first prescription wasn't strong enough so we had to try another. My doctor was also concerned about my fever and mentioned that if it didn't get under control, I might be looking at re-hospitalization for some IV antibiotics. Luckily, that wasn't necessary, but from Tuesday through Friday I was pretty useless and miserable. I finally started to feel better over the weekend, but Eric took another week off work just in case I still needed more help. Honestly, he's a saint.

What was even worse than the discomfort of the kidney infection was the frustration at another complication coming into play. I had many a pity party breakdown, moaning through tears that I had been in pain every day for three weeks straight, and would it ever end? I was not mentally cut out for another setback.

But now I'm finally feeling almost normal. I move around pretty easily now, although I'm still a bit slower than I used to be. I can do just about everything for Ellie now, so I'm finally starting to get my feet under me as a mother. I may not be 100% yet, but I can see a light at the end of the tunnel and that is really all I can ask for.

Nope, I take that back. This little munchkin is all that I can ask for:

My sweet girl

One of my favorite pictures of her so far.

A little Glo-worm asleep in her crib

Mama and Ellie!

She was worth every last second of labor, every twinge of pain, every setback, every frustrated tear I shed, every single moment of the last four weeks. Definitely, definitely worth it.


Dad/Grandpa said...

Only a few more days and I get to see the entire family!!!!!!!!!!

Sara said...

Megan she is seriously so so so beautiful!!! makes my heart melt!!