Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Birth story Act III: Twenty-four hour parenting

Cast of characters
(see Act 1)
Kelly: another fantastic nurse

I had prepared for this mentally, but it was more grueling than I had imagined. There was nothing else I could have done to prepare for it. It just was what it was. Those first few days were insanely exhausting and I felt stretched beyond my limit. Luckily, I was so head over heals with my baby that it helped give me stamia. But yeah, if that first 24 hours wasn't intense enough for me, I sure found satisfaction in the following 3 days in hospital. And the following week (but that will be recounted in Act IV and Act V).

Scene 1
So, Act II ended here (Or, minutes before, in the adjacent room):

curly hair - still wet from being in amniotic fluid

After an hour in the recovery room, the three of us were taken back to our room to settle in for the night. Gummy was nursing and it was delighting me to no end. It was awkward for sure. I ended up having a huge hickey on my right nipple from an improper latch and turbo sucking on her part (she came out having sucked off a patch of skin on her hand - and was promptly named the barracuda by the hospital staff). 

I was insanely thirsty after the birth and so drank my weight in fluids. I was also permitted a light supper, which I inhaled. After some phone calls and texts sent to our family and friends, we all went to sleep. Pretty soon gummy had to nurse again. I remember there was a nurse who came in needing to check on me. I was sitting up, trying to nurse and quickly realized I was going to vomit. The nurse just yelled at Mr. A to "take the baby, TAKE THE BABY!" I threw up everywhere in bed.  The nurse, bless her heart, changed all the sheets somehow without me having to get up (I was catheterized at this point). And Gummy was spared, thanks to Mr. A's quick reflexes.

Scene 2
It's now Friday morning and the flow of hospital professionals is descending upon our room. Gummy has low blood sugar, which is often the case after mom takes labe.talol. Gummy is on the protocol, which is something like 3 low blood sugar readings in a row and she has to be in the nursery. The lactation consultant comes in and helps us with breastfeeding. Since Gummy is voracious and nearly blind at this point, she has trouble finding the right place to get her food. The lactation consultant suggests we use drops of sugar water on the nipple and on her lips to help her focus. This works beautifully. She also helps me with the latch, but the damage is largely done. My nipples have started to tear to shreds. At this point though, and to my immense delight, I am producing colostrum.

The day is spent with Gummy getting poked in the heal to test her blood sugar (and otherwise being gazed at adoringly by her parents). There were many frustrating things about this protocol (e.g. tearing her off the breast after finally latching on because her blood needs to be tested RIGHT NOW), but I won't go into it. By 7pm, she has failed 3 in a row, and they are taking her away. Noooooooo! The effing nursery is 300 km away - or so it feels like at that moment. The plan is to give her I.V. glucose. Mr. A takes her to the nursery himself and argues that her blood should be retested, since it was taken before a good feeding. The nursery staff get a normal reading and decide that I can continue to breastfeed through the night at precisely 3-hour intervals, but that I have to do it in the nursery. So at 9pm, midnight and 3am, I am wheeled (I.V. pole, catheter and all) to the nursery so that I can be observed while breastfeeding. By 6am, the nurses are bringing her to me. And because she is doing well at this point, we get to keep her in our room. It feels like a big victory.

my tiny bundle

Scene 3
The in-laws had wanted to be there at the birth. A categorical NO had been issued, and I frankly said that they were welcomed to visit us once we got home (and not at the hospital). Of course, once I saw this beautiful girl, I softened. The plan was for them to come on Saturday late morning for a brief visit and take their son out for lunch afterwards.

Gummy slept from 9am to noon that morning. My catheter was removed (yeah) and I was instructed to take a shower and remove the bandage on my incision. That sounded scary, but it all went well. A shower did wonders to my morale.

The in-laws arrived. They took about 100 pictures of gummy, of Mr. A with gummy, of themselves with gummy. Exactly zero pictures of me were taken. I admit I must have looked like hell. But come the eff on, people.

They all left shortly after noon, and Gummy started a feeding marathon. From noon until 4am, gummy was at the breast, with short 15-30 minute breaks here and there. From about 10pm on, she became increasingly distressed. We then heard shrieks like we hope to never hear again. She was inconsolable.

Finally at 4am, Mr. A says he'll take her for a walk. The mother of all sobbing sessions ensues for me. I have failed my child already and she is merely 2 days. A nurse comes in and empathizes. But I just want to sob my eyes out and fall asleep and wake up when things are better. As she was leaving, she notices the sugar water the lactation consultant had given us to help with the latch. This nurse clearly disagrees with the practice and wants to discuss her point of view with me. I snap and tell her I'm not going to discuss this with her at 4am. She leaves.

In the mean time, Mr. A is sitting down the hall, not far from the nursery. The staff in the nursery hear our girl scream blue murder and come to talk to Mr. A. They offer to give her some formula and let her sleep in the nursery for a few hours, just so we can recover a bit. Mr. A, bless his heart, makes the executive decision to go with it. He comes back to the room and hops into bed with me. We weep together and fall asleep.

Scene 4
It's 7am on Sunday. A lovely nurse walks in with Gummy and says that she is hungry. She also says that this baby has sucked me dry (yes. in those words), and that it's time to consider supplementing. She instructs us on how to put a small tube at the breast to deliver formula as gummy suckles. I also start pumping to try and stimulate my milk to come in.

Our dear day nurse Kelly comes in after 8am and talks with us about how things are going. She says that we are welcomed to go home today if we feel ready, or go home tomorrow if we prefer. At this point we are shaky. Gummy's shrieks were frightening and we are not certain we can keep her alive if we go home. We decide to give it all day and see if the new plan works before we go home. Not surprisingly, Gummy resumes being a very content and sleepy newborn now that she has access to food.

We decide we can go home after dinner time. It takes us a while to get organized, of course, and the woman who has just had a c-section isn't moving very fast. Nurse Kelly goes over a million things prior to discharge. But not what to do about my meds. I forget to ask.

We make it out of there by 8pm. We go home via the Thai take out place.

It feels like a miracle to be walking out of the hospital with our daughter. A take home baby. Our baby.

It is a miracle.
floating in her bunting - ready to go home



  1. She is incredibly cute, your daughter.

    So sorry about the in-laws and their photo decisions, and the feeding problems. I'd have been devastated. It sounds a bit like infertility -- the one thing you're supposed to be able to do "naturally" as a woman, and then it fails. (When I read "noon to 4am" I was hoping I had gotten it wrong, but no... poor you.)

    1. Thanks so much for your comment, CC.
      breastfeeding was just a whole recapitulation of infertility for me.
      I'm glad that the alternative option wasn't as difficult as fertility treatments. Formula feeding is actually quite easy, once I accepted that this was ok for us.

  2. Oh, what a picture!

    Just wanted to let you know I'm reading.

    Hope the writing it down is helping. I have a piece on LG's birth I never finished and it was much less traumatizing than what happened to you.

    1. thank you for reading, Gwinne.
      It is helping me to write out this epic story. I'm starting to feel lighter by putting all the details down in words.
      And your and everyone's comments are generous and so appreciated. Thank you.

  3. Reading along, and so SO happy for you! Welcome to the world, gummy!

    1. Thank you, Mo. I appreciate it very much.

  4. Christ, this is really hard stuff. Some of it is familiar, too. The shredded nipples, the supplemental nursing, the being separated from baby because I couldn't take it any more...makes my heart ache because it takes me right back to those feelings of inadequacy and terror. (Also the part where my inlaws visited and went on and on and on about how Bun Bun looked so much like Mr. Bunny and yeah, took loads of pictures of themselves.) And then there's the huge pile of terrifying stuff I didn't have to face. Oh, my poor Augusta. Noon to 4 am. OH MY GOD. I wish I could have been there to give you a hug when that epic sobbing session (my lord, how did you keep it at bay that long?) began.

    It's incredible how much difference a good nurse makes. Or how much difference a bad one makes I guess. There were some who were insanely good, and...some who brought on the sobs. Blech. Those gorgeous gummy photos (oh, that sweet little bit of face in that GIANT bunting!) keep me grounded in the reality that you are okay, but this is still harrowing.

    1. Thank you so much for reading and commenting, Bunny. I think that those first few days are difficult for most women (with the few exceptions of those who deliver on a rainbow and go home riding a unicorn.)
      Thank you for the virtual hug, my friend.

  5. I cried at this. Fresh from those same feelings. You have to draw blood effing right now? RIGHT NOW. I think, I would have blown at the in-laws and the pictures. My salvation was that visit happened two weeks later. And yet, that crying, I know it. I did that. I felt so much the failure in being able to feed the little one. It's worse than the feeling of infertility in that you are gutted with love and anguish at the same time. Unbelievable.

    The Mr. was peeking over my shoulder and emitted the sweetest "aaah" at the bunting bundle. It seems he was also openeing a darling package from someone up north (aka YOU!). Your mom has delightful taste and you will see this outfit forthwith. I think the book might actually be about me. Did you know? Okay, enough hogging of comments. Love from your peeps in PA.

    1. thanks so much for reading and commenting, Misfit. Yes, it's even worse than infertility to not be able to feed your beloved, vulnerably tiny baby. Gutted with love and anguish indeed.
      Glad you like the outfit and the book. For some reason, I felt like the book had to go to you (It was at first meant for another dear friend, but it was calling to me and saying it had to go to PA. I obliged).

  6. Wow. What an amazing story and such a beauty!! Truly a miracle indeed. Your story gives me so much hope. xo

    1. Thank you for reading, Suzanne. You have reasons to be hopeful, but I'm glad my story can give you a bit of hope.

  7. Those first few days and weeks are so hard. Stay strong!

    1. Thanks for your comment, dspence.
      those first few days felt so intense, so difficult. I'm glad things feel more settled now. I don't think I could have kept going at this intensity for too long.

  8. What a beautiful story and what a beautiful little girl. You did good mama!!!

    1. Thanks, J.J. Looking forward to reading the story of the birth of your precious girl.

  9. In retrospect, vomiting + high blood pressure = bad, right?

    Also, about the breastfeeding, I seem to remember you saying you had some kind of adrenal insufficiency or something or other hormonal. Also in retrospect, it doesn't seem entirely surprising that the hormones were just not cooperating. It also sounds frustrating and heartbreaking and really difficult.