Monthly Archives: April 2017

Postpartum Complications Scene 10: Emotions & God

(Scene nine is here.)

I am someone who loves to feel clean. I wash my hair everyday even though I know how bad it is for your hair. I put on lipstick even if I’m not leaving home. I swear lipstick makes me more productive. These are things none of the hospital staff know about me because day after day at the hospital has made me look wildly neglected. My hospital gown is awkwardly soaked with breast milk and I have no motivation to put on a new one. My hair is so greasy it doesn’t look blonde anymore. I haven’t brushed my teeth in days. My eyes are bloodshot from the lack of sleep. My skin is sad and severely lacking in vitamin D.

With tears I tell Nathan, “I feel like someone took my body away from me.”

My picture of the future is erased: colorless, blank, and unknown. These complications are ruining me, hollowing me out and leaving me breathless. I want to be with my baby, but feel like there is no me left to be with him.

I’m honest with God about how I feel. Most of my prayers are composed of elegant demands like “Get me out of here” and “God, I hate this” and, most often, “Help me.” God is patient with me through it all. He doesn’t need me to be strong. He just wants me to come to him. (more…)

Postpartum Complications Scene 9: Bladder Procedures and Lung Aspiration

(Scene eight is here.)

Thus begins the long process of figuring out what happened to my bladder during surgery.

First, I need to have another CT scan. But this scan is different from my other ones. They fill my bladder through my catheter until it is completely full. As I slide in and out of the CT machine, I pray that maybe this procedure will give us some answers. The urologist wants to know if the fluid leaks out of my bladder and into my abdominal cavity.

The test results confirm that my bladder is intact and no fluid appears to be leaking out of it and into my belly. But because they cannot rule out a previous bladder injury, one that already healed on its own, I need to have a surgery-like procedure in which they will take internal x-rays of my bladder and ureters. My imagination is failing me as to how they are going to do this but I’m too scared of what they might say to ask. All I know is I will be put to sleep for it. Anesthesia sounds like paradise.

Before the procedure I lay waiting in a room so small that it holds just my bed and space for a person to stand on either side of me. A nurse brings me a heavenly electric blanket and I snuggle in with all my various tubes: my IV, my catheter, my wound vacuum. In the quiet and warmth, I fall asleep.

The next thing I know I am coughing uncontrollably and gasping for air as they wheel me down the hall to a large, communal recovery room filled with people waking up from anesthesia. (more…)

Postpartum Complications Scene 8: My IV Vein and a Sweet Nurse

(Scene seven is here.)

In the midst of all the chaos about my kidneys failing and my bladder possibly being injured, my IV vein is not doing well—it hurts so badly that I have to put an ice pack on it whenever my medicine starts flowing.

“It stings,” I tell my nurse as she hands me a new ice pack.

“You know, I really think the IV team should come and look at it. I don’t want your medicine leaking out of your vein.”

The image of my medicine leaking into my arm horrifies me. I imagine my body as some kind of chemical dump yard—far from the healthy person I was before I gave birth.

“Call the anesthesia team first, please. I cannot be awake if they need to give me a new IV. I really cannot handle that right now,” I blurt out irrationally.

“You have to be awake if they give you a new IV. They have to confirm that they placed it correctly,” she tells me, hesitantly.

“No, really, I cannot be awake if they give me a new IV,” my anger explodes into sobs. (more…)

Henry is six months!

I think we need a lighthearted pause in the middle of sharing about my postpartum saga.

This is mostly to help jog my memory in years to come, but enjoy!

I created a little photo collage film set to music, but when I tried to upload it on to the blog it was too big. It was kind of cheesy anyway, so that might be for the best. So, in lieu of that little film, here’s Henry laughing:

When did he start smiling? Call my crazy, but I remember the day: Sunday, November 27th, when Henry was exactly a month old. My friend, Amy, was visiting us and Henry starting really smiling. My heart could burst. (more…)

Postpartum Complications Scene 7: Wound Vacuum, Suspected Bladder Injury, and Kidney Failure

(Scene six is here.)

On Monday, they decide to do another CT scan. The hope is that the scan will come back clear and I will go home that afternoon. I cannot wait to go home and snuggle with Henry and make an exciting cup of decaf coffee and live in maternity leggings and do all the normal postpartum things I expected to do.

But first, two nurses from the wound specialist team come to put a wound vacuum on my opened cesarean incision. They take measurements of how wide and long and deep it is. Then they cut out a sponge that mirrors the size of the wound and begin to stuff it in my incision. It feels like my body is breaking again. I close my eyes and practice the calm breathing I used when I was in labor. Once the sponge is in my wound, the nurses attach it to a machine that continuously sucks my wound shut. The machine hurts too, but I’m too overwhelmed to say anything out loud.

After they’re done setting up my wound vacuum, I am wheeled off to have the CT scan.

I maneuver my unstable body from my hospital bed onto the narrow table. Then I follow the instructions given by the computerized face above the CT scan—the face tells me when to hold my breath and when to let it out. My body slides in and out of the scan as the machine magically takes pictures of the inside of my body. The semi-naturalist in me can’t believe how technological my life has become. I once ate an entire roasted bulb of garlic in college to get over a cold.

Once I return to my hospital room, I begin the long process of waiting to hear the results.

And waiting and waiting. Hospitals are filled with people waiting.

I pester my nurse about when I’m going to know the results. Leaving the hospital today is dependent on these results and I want to leave.

She’s sorry that she has no answers and I know it’s not her fault.

While I’m waiting, one of the doctors I saw during my pregnancy comes in to visit me. She asks me how I’m doing.

Predictably, tears come uncontrollably streaming down my face.

“Oh, let it all out. It’s good to let it all out,” she says as she hugs me.

As we begin talking about how I’m doing physically, I explain how I feel like I cannot pee normally anymore.

She listens carefully and I can tell she’s thinking. Then we look at pictures of Henry on my phone. She loves seeing pictures of him and for a few minutes I forget how sick I am and feel like a new mom.

After she leaves my room, she orders some more tests.

Soon my nurse comes in my room with new IV antibiotics. Why, why, why are they starting me on new medicine? I panic. (more…)

Postpartum Complications Scene 6: Early Morning Blood Draws

(Scene five is here.)

It doesn’t take long to figure out how things work at the hospital.

First, there are the early morning wake ups. It usually starts around 5am when you’re finally deep in sleep. Someone tabs on your door and introduces himself by saying, “Lab.” Such an odd way to introduce yourself, I thought the first time it happened. In walks a phlebotomist with an unfriendly cart full of tubes and blood. I would have paid them to leave me alone.

Then he says, “I’m here to get your labs,” by which he means, “I’m here to draw your blood.” My sister-in-law has spent a lot of time in hospitals and she calls these morning phlebotomists vampires in the night. I couldn’t agree more.

Next they ask where I want them to draw blood. When you’ve just woken up at the hospital and hate needles, this is a traumatic question. My usual go-to strategy is to suggest my hand because they can never get blood from my inner elbow. I try to relax and fall back asleep the moment they leave me alone.

There have been a number of these early morning “lab” experiences that went south:

  • The captain obvious phlebotomist who takes one look at my arms and says, “Wow, you’ve been poked a lot.”
  • The lady who talks to me for so long that she has to wait and redo my tourniquet because my veins have been squeezed for too long.
  • The lady who can’t get blood out of my hand. After multiple pokes, I start sobbing and freak her out.
  • The time they forget to order my labs together and I have two different phlebotomists come in back to back. The only thing worse than one blood draw is two.

The bad ones teach me who the good ones are: the ones who stay quiet, keep the lights low, and let me pretend to keep sleeping. (more…)

Postpartum Complications Scene 5: The First Tube

(Scene four here.)

After spending all night in the emergency room, I’m desperate to shut out the chaos with sleep. But sleep is interrupted almost before it starts with more blood tests. My nurses wheel me up to my hospital room and hang a “Falling Hazard” sign on my room because of how weak and unstable I am.

I’m told I’ll be getting a tube placed in my belly to drain the infection. I cannot eat or drink anything prior to getting the tube in me, so the hospital gives me a bag of bright pink sponges on short sticks. They deceptively look like lollipops and I fall for them. I’m allowed to dip them in water and put them in my mouth. Water sounds amazing.

“Rub them around your mouth when you feel thirsty,” my nurse says.

So I try it.

The sponge holds no actual water, but gives just enough of the illusion of water to make you lose your mind. Never again am I sucking on a fake lollipop sponge.

A transport nurse wheels me off to radiology to get the tube put in me. As I roll down the hallways and through elevators, I watch all the doctors and nurses making their way to patients’ rooms. I watch elderly patients much sicker than me shuffle through the hallways on their mandatory daily walk. I watch family members from the real world on their way to visit loved ones. People look at me with pity. I am in denial that it is actually me they are looking at. This cannot be my life. How did I, a healthy, twenty-eight-year-old with a low risk pregnancy, end up here? It is a question no one answers.

The radiologist gives me papers to sign. He asks me many questions, but his last question stuns me. “Do you want us to do everything we can to resuscitate you if you have problems?” (more…)

Postpartum Complications Scene 4: The Results Are In

(Scene three here.)

My doctor swings back the white sheet that is functioning as a makeshift door to my emergency room.

“Melanie!” She says with a mixture of excitement and concern. “I’m so glad you came in!”

“Karen!” I shouldn’t call her by her first name but it burst out of me. I’m happy to see a familiar face—and one who knows my birth story. We nearly give each other a hug.

The results of my tests become known to me little by little. Besides the obvious infection in my cesarean wound, I hear I have a bad urinary tract infection—and they immediately start me on strong IV antibiotics. I’m so dehydrated from the constant throwing up that they start me on IV fluids, too.

My doctor begins examining and opening my incision. Let me just say this: feeling someone pull stitches apart where your own baby was cut out of you is a million shades of scream. I try to relax and not think about the pain, but I keep wrinkling my face and holding my breath.

“We need to give her something,” my doctor says to my nurse. “Let’s do Fentanyl.”

“Is that a narcotic?” I ask.

“Well, yes.”

“Just give me ibuprofen.”

My doctor looks at me. She knows how much I dislike pain medicine.

“You know, I really think a low dose of Fentanyl will help—it’s fast acting. Ibuprofen is not,” she encourages.

I know I need something to relieve the pain quickly so she can open and clean my incision, so I let them hang a little bag of Fentanyl on my metal IV pole. (more…)