Monday, November 2, 2020

A Series Of Unfortunate Events: Part Two


After 14 hours (which felt like 14 days) in the hospital with endometritis, my fever was back, and any chance of being discharged disappeared.

“When can I see a doctor?” I asked the overnight nurse.

“The doctors don’t come in at night,” she said.

“When can I get off this floor?”

“When your coronavirus test result comes back.”

“When will that be?”

“I don’t know.”

The nurse was affectless. She may as well have been a robot. I felt like I was somewhere between jail and daycare. I thought I had experienced despair before, but this was on a whole 'nother level. At times in my life, deluged in depression, I wanted to end it all. But now I had so much to live for – and so little control over how this turned out.

“I don’t want to die here,” I said in a small, scared voice.

The nurse turned and stared at me. She’d heard me. She just chose not to respond. I couldn’t tell if that was a good sign (“Die here? Don’t be ridiculous!”) or a bad one (“That does seem to be happening a lot here lately.”).

Unable to read the nurse and terrified out of my mind, I paged the after-hours number of the OBGYN practice that was supposed to be overseeing my care. I got a call back from the biggest dick on the planet.

“Why are you calling me?” he asked. “Why aren’t you talking to your nurses?”

“Because they are incompetent,” I said. “I’m having OB problems and they are not OB nurses. I just want to know what the treatment plan is.”

“IV antibiotics.”

“But my fever came back, so they’re clearly not working.”

“Yes, they’re working,” he said.

“It doesn’t feel that way,” I said.

He started rattling off other potential treatments. Then he interrupted himself.

“Why am I talking to you?” he said. “I should be talking to the nurses.”

Then he hung up on me.

I asked for another nurse from the postpartum floor to come help me express milk, but the one they sent had a whole different approach from Angel (the kindest nurse I’d encountered so far who had helped me earlier). Between the two of us, and two pumps (she insisted we try a manual one), we didn’t get more than a few drops of milk. At this point, my breasts were grotesque: huge, hard, and misshapen. It was painful just looking at them.

“You’re so engorged!” the nurse said. “I feel like I’m hurting you more than I’m helping.”

She was right about that.

“I’m this close to giving up on pumping,” I admitted through my tears. “It’s too much to deal with in addition to this infection.”

“I don’t want to interfere with your breastfeeding journey,” she said. The phrase “breastfeeding journey” made me want to punch a pillow. People (especially women) push breastfeeding so fucking hard – without acknowledging that it doesn’t work for everyone all the time. I felt like I had given it a good go and now I wanted to give up.

“If you want to stop, we can switch tactics,” she said. “We’ll do cold packs, compression, and pain relievers.”

“All they want to give me is ibuprofen,” I told her.

“Nuh-uh,” she said. “You need narcotics.”

“Would you tell them that?” I asked, nodding toward the dark hallway that led to the nurses’ station. “I’ve asked for narcotics twice and they don’t want to give them to me. They don’t get it. I’d appreciate any advocacy you can do on my behalf.”

The nurse sheathed cold packs in pillowcases, situated them on my breasts, then wrapped towels around my chest to hold them tight. She must have sweet-talked the staff, because soon a nurse stopped by with some Oxy.

I would have preferred Percocet (which I used after the births of my first two daughters until I got breastfeeding figured out), but I wasn’t about to argue. The Oxy made me feel dopey, though, and on it, I had the strangest thoughts. I also kept hearing my baby crying and my cat meowing, even though I knew neither of them was there. Still, thanks to the drug, I finally got a few hours of relief from my throbbing breasts and was even able to sleep a little.

By Saturday morning, I felt better. I got up and washed all the pumping equipment. I ordered some baby clothes online (since none of the newborn clothes fit the baby). A new, nice nurse arrived, saw my makeshift breast compression contraption made of towels, and wrapped fresh cold packs around me with an Ace bandage instead.

Oh, and my coronavirus test result came back: negative. (“Told you so, assholes,” I wanted to say.)

An OB finally came to assess me. “I don’t know about this endometritis diagnosis,” she said, perusing my chart. “Maybe you had mastitis and that’s what caused the fever. Or maybe it was the engorgement. In which case, we’re overtreating you.” (Where was she when I checked into the ER?)

And yet, she said the “cautious approach” would be to stay one more night and leave on Sunday morning.

“I really need to go home and be with my family,” I said. I’d cried so much in the past day that my eyes were rimmed red and swollen. I was out of tears.

“Is Dad having a hard time with the baby?” she asked.

“No. I’m having a hard time being away from the baby.”

“You could go home tonight,” the OB said. “The risk, of course, is that you’d spike a fever again and have to be readmitted.”

It was a risk I was willing to take…but then I talked to my husband and my mom, who both thought I should stay the night. I also checked my insurance benefits and after confirming the stay would be covered (I hit my out-of-pocket max with the birth), I decided it was better to be safe than sorry.

That afternoon, I was transferred to a new room on the non-coronavirus side of the “medical floor.” The space was brighter and seemed cleaner and less intimidating. There was a curtain to pull over the door (the coronavirus ward room just had an absorbent pad on hooks) and a shower curtain (also absent in my previous room). There was no PPE required other than a face mask, so the nurses were more amenable, and faster to respond, to requests.

After a shower, I felt refreshed and ready to engage with the world again. I did a little work. I put a grocery order in. I bought bottles and pacifiers off Amazon. I shopped for some cheap, forgiving, breezy summer dresses from Gap (just in case I was still as fat as I felt). I did a 10-minute chair yoga video.

There were multiple places to sit in the room, a sad reminder of how things might have been if coronavirus didn’t exist. My husband and newborn could’ve camped out here with me, my teens could’ve visited, my mom could’ve come for a meal. I wouldn’t have been so alone. To counteract the emptiness of the room, I made it my goal to sit in each of the chairs, from the pleather armchair to the rickety rocker, before dinnertime.

I started watching Workin’ Moms, a Canadian sitcom steaming on Netflix. It wasn’t laugh-out-loud funny, but it did perfectly depict the life stage I now found myself in: an “older” woman with a baby.

At 7 p.m. I Skyped with my family. I didn’t cry and neither did anyone else, which was an improvement from our call the night before. Our house looked so welcoming with its open windows and the sunlight streaming in. I could even hear birds chirping. I hadn’t breathed fresh air in almost two days and I really wanted to be outside, walking with them all.

After hanging up, I binged more Workin’ Moms until I started to feel tired. Then I took another Oxy and it was lights out. I fell asleep praying to God for help and healing. Maybe I would come through this OK after all.

But around 2 a.m., I woke up for no apparent reason. A few moments later, my phone started chiming. Text after text after text. It was my husband. Something was wrong with the baby…

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