Postpartum Complications Scene 2: Denial

(Scene one is here.)

On Monday, our first full day home from the hospital, a home health nurse comes to our apartment to check on how Henry and I are doing. I explain how I don’t feel well but reiterate like I had a dozen times already to Nathan that I’ll feel better once I get some sleep.

She seems to agree as she puts her blood pressure cuff back in her bag. My vitals are normal.

“It’s healing wonderfully. It already looks like it’s a month old,” she says as she checks how my incision is healing.

I’m relieved to hear that and convince myself that I’m recovery well despite how I feel.

But by Wednesday, I start to get worried. I feel weak from throwing up the night before. My body is in so much pain—to the point where I cannot lift Henry or even stand up while holding him. It’s hard to differentiate the pain I feel from the sadness and the exhaustion. I’m still sad about the cesarean. I’m still so tired I can barely think. I love Henry with everything but my everything looks pretty small right now.

I decide to send a message to my doctor to get her thoughts on the situation. Everyone tells me that it’s hard to recover from a cesarean, but is this a normal recovery?

A short while after I sent the message, a nurse at the clinic calls me back. But now I feel a tiny bit better and I’ve stopped throwing up, so I make the mistake of telling her I’m fine now.

Friday morning comes and we have a newborn appointment for Henry. I have been throwing up again the night before and feel particularly horrible this morning. Nathan and I debate as to whether or not I should even go to Henry’s appointment. I feel guilty for wanting to stay home. What new mom doesn’t want to go to her newborn’s appointment?

But I remind myself that the fresh air will be good for me and decide to ignore the pain and go to his appointment. Nothing sounds good to eat, but I grab a protein bar and a banana and try to force feed myself while Nathan drives.

While we are still in the waiting room, I decide to go to the bathroom. It’s there that I notice something odd: my cesarean incision is leaking onto my clothes. I leave the bathroom feeling panicked and decide to ask Henry’s pediatrician if I can quickly see someone after his appointment.

She promptly asks a nurse practitioner to come see me.

“Normal temp,” says the nurse with a smile.

Normal. Everyone keeps telling me I am normal. I want everything to be normal. I want a normal recovery. I want to move on. But I begin to wonder if this is not normal, if they’re all wrong.

The nurse looks at my incision, “Well, it is leaking, but you don’t have a fever so don’t worry about it unless it starts bleeding—then you should go to the emergency room.”

Unless it starts bleeding, did she really say that? I’m both horrified and confused as we drive home.

A few hours later, my parents arrive from Texas to meet Henry and spend a long weekend with us. My anticipation of a fun weekend in Minneapolis with my parents and new baby are met with the reality that all I can do is lie on the couch and sip soup. My parents’ sad expressions when they see me say everything.

After my parents leave to go to the hotel for the night, I become completely overwhelmed with pain. I try sucking on some ice cubes, but I throw up even those.

Nathan continues suggesting that I call my doctor again, and I finally relent.

“Melanie! What’s going on?” I hear my doctor’s voice on the other line.

I try to describe how bad I feel and state deliriously, “But I really think I’ll feel better if I can keep some water and food down, so can you prescribe me some anti-nausea medicine that I can take before I go to bed?”

“You’re throwing up? And in pain?”

“Yeah, I don’t feel great.”

“You know, honestly, I don’t want to prescribe you anti-nausea medicine. If I knew you were coming into my office early tomorrow morning, I might, but it’s the weekend and I don’t feel comfortable prescribing you anything unless you’ve been seen by a doctor. I think you need to go in.”

“Like,” I pause, hesitant to say it, “the emergency room?”

“Yeah, your symptoms really concern me. You should be feeling better—not worse.”

“Can I just wait and see how I feel in the morning?”

“You can do that. But really you need to start feeling better—otherwise I want you to go in.”

“Okay, well, I’ll see how I am in the morning.”

I’m disappointed she won’t prescribe me anti-nausea medicine. I’m scared. I try to convince myself that I cannot be sick enough to go to the emergency room.

I’ll feel better in the morning, I tell myself.

(Scene three is here.)

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