Thursday, November 5, 2020

A Series Of Unfortunate Events: Part Three

It was around 2 a.m. on my second night in the hospital with endometritis when my husband started blowing up my phone.

“If these nighttime cry and scream times continue, I’m going to have heart attack,” he texted. “I don’t know what she wants. It always happens at night. I try the bottle and no. I get a burp then no. She only takes the nook for a little while and then starts up again.”

I could feel his anxiety through the screen, so I called him. The baby was indeed howling like I’d never heard her before and my husband was crying, too. He was at the end of his rope. Apparently, this had happened the night prior but he didn’t mention anything about it because he hadn’t wanted to worry me.

I gave him my best suggestions: change the diaper, try skin-to-skin, hold her in a face-down position, take her temperature to see if she had a fever. Nothing worked, or maybe it would have but my husband was so rattled he couldn’t take direction. He was not good in a crisis, or at least not this crisis.

Soon the baby’s cries grew so loud that we couldn’t even hear each other on the phone.

“You need help,” I said. “I’m going to call my mom.”

She answered right away. I explained what was going on and she said she would go over to our house immediately.

I had remained calm up until this point, but imagining my baby suffering was too much. I started bawling.

“I wish I could be there,” I said between sobs.

“We wish you could, too,” my mom said.

I was wide awake with nothing to do but wait and pray that everything was OK. I checked in an hour later, and it seemed like my mom had calmed the baby down. She was staying until morning so my husband could sleep. As for me, rest was elusive. Nurses continued to come in and out of my room every couple of hours, taking my vitals and changing my IV bags. Lights blinked – on the bed, on the IV pole, on the nurses’ computer screen. The clock ticked. It was like everything was conspiring to keep me awake. When I did fall asleep, I had a nightmare. I woke up soaked in sweat.

By Sunday morning, I was raring to go home. The hospital was not a place for rest or healing. I really didn’t feel that much better than when I arrived more than 48 hours before. My fever was gone, as was the cramping, but my breasts were still painfully engorged (a problem I didn’t have when I went to the ER). 

I had breakfast, took a shower, and packed all my things. My IV was removed. I assumed the OB would be coming around 8 a.m. to discharge me, but no one showed up. I bothered the nurse. I waited. I watched Workin’ Moms. I dozed. I bothered the nurse again. I paged the OB practice. The nurse reprimanded me for doing so. (Good times!)

Meanwhile, around every half-hour, an alarm sounded across the hall, followed by the hurried footsteps of a nurse.

“Roger!” the nurse would belt out. “We agreed you would watch TV in bed until your wife comes for you!” I would hear a loud, gruff baritone respond, but his words were indecipherable. The nurse would resettle Roger, leave, a little time would pass, and then the alarm would sound again. The whole charade would repeat. I lost track of how many times this happened.

“I feel you, Roger,” I thought. “I want to break out of here, too.”   

Finally, just before noon, the OB swooped in, fresh from a C-section. She gave me discharge instructions and a nurse wheeled me down to the main entrance of the hospital. It was steamy and sunny, like summer had snuck in while I’d been out sick.

My bathrobe, the same one I was wearing when I arrived at the ER over two days before, was now insufferably hot. My hair was a mess and I had no makeup on. Despite my appearance, when my husband pulled up to the curb, I stood up on my still-wobbly legs and hugged him hard. We both started crying. There were people scattered around us and I could feel them staring. I didn’t care; there was a small part of me that thought I might not leave that hospital, and here I was, finally, going home. I hesitate to call it a near-death experience, but it was the closest confrontation with my own mortality that I’d had so far. 

Back at home, I gathered the baby in my arms and didn’t let go. I just wanted to stare at her and hold her and love her. She didn’t fuss at all – it was just eat, sleep, and repeat every two to three hours. She took the formula without issue.

While there was a part of me that grieved losing the opportunity to breastfeed because of the hospital’s coronavirus policy, I began to feel the same way about formula feeding as I did about getting an epidural at the birth – it was a huge relief. Not having to breastfeed or pump allowed me to really cherish the time with my baby, rather than dread the next feeding. Formula feeding also meant I could hand the baby off to my husband when I needed a break. 

Sure, breastfeeding is ideal, and if you can do it, more power to you. But not everyone can – and some women just don’t want to – and that’s fine. There’s no need to feel ashamed about it. A phrase I later learned (and could’ve really used during my breastfeeding struggles) is “fed is best.” It doesn’t matter how you do it as long as mom and baby are happy. The only downside to formula, in my opinion, is the financial cost. (Then again, breastfeeding is costly in terms of time, so maybe it evens out.)

The next couple of days were magical. We read to the baby, played with her on an activity mat, sang along to Raffi, and went on short walks with the stroller. The baby even made her social media debut (though I only showed the back of her head because I was trying to be protective of her privacy). 

“Thank God for a return to normal,” I wrote in my journal. “Life feels so good. What a busy, beautiful day!”

At one point, I wondered aloud why the baby had had such big freak-outs while I was in the hospital; she seemed very settled now. My husband said, “I think she missed you.”

Aw. I hoped that we were attached enough already for that to be true.

Of course, bliss isn't a permanent state of being. And they don’t call it “the fourth trimester” for nothing…

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