Friends, has it really been a month since I wrote last? Time has become elastic, pulling and snapping and bending into shapes unrecognizable. I’ve fallen behind on reading your updates, and completely neglected commenting. Someday soon (I hope) I’ll get back on the bandwagon and become more active on here. In the meantime, know that I have managed to read posts here and there, and have cheered from afar when things have gone well, and cried with you when they haven’t.
Ellie lay on my chest for what felt like seconds and hours at the same time, but all too quickly she was whisked away. All I heard was “baby isn’t crying,” and then she was gone, lifted up and away. I told Tammy to stay with Ellie, so she followed her across the room as the nurses poked and suctioned Ellie until she started to scream…and scream…and scream, which she would do nonstop for the next three hours.
Looking back, I think I was in shock. I didn’t feel high, but I did feel detached, like I was watching this happen to someone else. I simultaneously felt like I was floating and pressed heavily into the bed. Physically, I had just undergone an extreme trauma, and emotionally I had just experienced one of the most important moments I’d ever experience.
Meanwhile, I delivered the placenta in one big schloop and I remarked to the doctor that I wished delivering the baby was as easy. The doctor kept up a running teaching commentary to the med student (something about a compound cord, and second degree tearing).
When Ellie was finally brought back to me, I tried to nurse for the first time, completely unsuccessfully. Ellie was too busy screaming, and before I could object, she was whisked away again. We were on our third shift of nurses at this point, and unfortunately the nurse assigned to our room was our least favorite. Her name was Edith, an older lady with bad breath. She kept muttering to herself about Ellie’s screaming, and my weakly stated opinion that “babies cry” was ignored outright.
She took Ellie across the room to stick her heel for a glucose test (way to make her scream more, genius) when a new nurse came into the room. Tammy and I had never seen this nurse before, but she walked right up to Edith and Ellie and asked Edith if she could pray over Ellie. Edith immediately said yes, and the new nurse began. Walking with the Lord was mentioned, the blood of Jesus was mentioned, and Tammy and I sat there with identical expressions of shock and horror. During the prayer, we looked at each other, shaking our heads furiously, mouths moving soundlessly, until Tammy finally found her voice and turned to the nurses and said, “please don’t do that.” The nurse completely nonchalantly, said “oh, ok” and turned and left. We never saw her again.
Eventually I was allowed up and attempted to use the bathroom (also unsuccessfully) and we were transferred from the L&D room to the postpartum room. The L&D room had been spacious and airy, but unfortunately the postpartum room was tiny, and stiflingly hot with a broken thermostat.
I tried to nurse a few more times, again unsuccessfully, but I was totally not concerned about the lack of success. For some reason, I thought she wouldn’t need to eat for a few days (?? No idea what I was thinking there but I’m guessing I was still in shock) so it was not a big deal that she wouldn’t latch on. The nurses eventually dissuaded me of that idea, when she lost close to 10% of her birth weight and didn’t have a wet diaper in the first 24 hours. We ended up supplementing with formula until I got my hands on a nipple shield, which saved our breastfeeding relationship. (I have a whole other post percolating on breastfeeding, so more on the nipple shield later.)
Physically, I was in a lot of pain. I managed to last 24 hours on ibuprofen, until I got a doctor to write me a prescription for Percocet (now Percocet is something I would pray to). I had stitches in my perineum, as well as my vaginal wall. I walked around in an old lady shuffle, something I would keep up for days, and sat on ice packs. My stomach was truly, truly horrifying to look at – people say you still look pregnant after birth, which is sort of true, but only if you were pregnant with a giant bowl of jello.
We stayed three days in the hospital. The world shrank for me during those days – only the hospital room existed. When we left the hospital, the hallways seemed enormous, bright, and threatening.
Part III (on coming home, breastfeeding, and recovery) coming soon.