WARNING: this post is a little grody. Sorry about that. I try not to be as explicit as I could be, but I’m not at all offended if you skip this post. I probably would if I were you. I’m writing less in an effort to gross you out and more to tell the story in case this happens to anyone else and they’re looking for info on it; when I googled it, I couldn’t find much.
I just want to *briefly* chronicle things I experienced in the first five weeks postpartum.
The first 48 hours (all in the hospital) were marked by serious joy, exhaustion and a state I can only describe as dazed-and-delirious. What the hell just happened? We slept off and on a lot, but never for more than two or three hours at a time. If that. I was most excited to be able to sleep on my stomach again, but every time I fell asleep I had horrible nightmares and felt all sorts of non-existent discomfort. I felt as though I still had the blood pressure cuff around my arm and the IVs in my hand. I would wake up startled to find that not only were there no foreign objects in me, but my baby girl was sleeping quietly, peacefully six inches from my head, and my sweet husband was sleeping (somewhat loudly, but cutely) on the couch six feet away. All was good in the world. Except, of course, when I went to stand up. Ouch! When asked to rate my pain on the pain scale, I always hesitated. I was so relieved not to feel labor pains that I felt a smidge whiny complaining about postpartum pain. Anyway, I was given Ibuprofen every four hours, stool softeners every twelve and Vicodin every now and then. More info than you wanted? I know. You know what was more information than I wanted? When I was told that it was a second-degree laceration that they were stitching up on me post-placenta delivery. Ew. That whole idea of a cut down there has always been something that is almost more than I can stomach. Ew, ew, ew. Alright, moving on…We had some visitors during this period – special thanks to my mom, Aaron’s mom, Heather, Lucy, Gwen and Steve for stopping by with your smiles and good wishes. The hospital stay was nice enough — and the nurses were unbelievably nice and kind and knowledgeable and sweet and amazing — but we were ready to get home on Sunday. As much as I was sad to give up the call button, I longed for my puppy, bed and home.
Once we were home, I would say the spectrum of emotions expanded. While we still felt joy, exhaustion and the dazed-and-delirious state, we added in frustration, crankiness, and desperation. I can only speak for myself, of course, but I had moments of, “What the hell did we do? This is FOREVER!” and a lot of “This poor, sweet, precious baby girl is stuck with me and I feel terrible for her” and, from time to time, “Oh no! She is going to have to go through middle school – why would we do this to her?” Goodness. Then, of course, are the moments when the tears of love just came pouring down my face – tears of fear but also of insane devotion. The range of emotion was almost unbearable. In fact, I would say that it was unbearable expect there is no choice but to bear it. Aaron and I were snappy with each other, but also very grateful for one another. I worried I was neglecting Gracie, but she seemed more interested in sleep than attention. I worried Baby Sweet Potato was unhappy with us. And then, as you know, Dear Reader, came the plethora of weigh-ins at the pediatrician and the ultimate instruction to supplement Baby Girl with formula. Thud.
But we did it and she grew. And, I’m pretty sure, she continues to grow. And we continued to supplement.
And then mastitis struck. Ugh.
And then that got better so we continued on our way. Feeding by breast and bottle, introducing and using the pacifier, mastering (sort of) the cloth diapers, doing more laundry than I thought possible (she’s so small – how could there be so many loads!? oh – see cloth diaper comment; cloth diapering means laundering them about every three days), Aaron going to work, me being at home, Gracie settling into things, Sweet Potato sleeping for some semi-decent stretches of time, Sweet Potato’s first trip to Costco and open houses (two of our favorite hobbies), and things seemed to be maybe getting to a more manageable point.
On Monday, April 2, things were ok. I had some discomfort in an area I won’t get into, but it was something I figured I could cope with. Molly and Gracie and I met Aaron downtown around noon to take Graceface to her haircut at Tabby & Jack’s on the Square. It was actually fun to walk Grace to her appointment with Molly in the stroller – I felt so family-oriented. Hee hee. After dropping Grace off, the rest of us took a walk down State Street and bought some lunch from carts and sat in the April sunshine in Library Mall listening to UW undergrads give high school students and their parents tours of campus. All was well. We were even treated to a run-in with Molly’s great-uncle (in all possible meanings of the term) Steve as we headed back up to the Square. Steve was kind enough not to brag about how he had just returned from a trip to Puerto Rico. Sigh. A pretty blissful day.
Tuesday, April 3, started off normally enough. Molly was up off and on from about 3 am and was breastfeeding off and on most of the time until about 9 am, when she finished and I was about to get dressed. The three of us were going to head out to check out a day care (because our first choice, for which we have been on ‘the list’ since last September just told us it was unlikely we would get a spot there this September). As I was searching for some clothes, I noticed some blood on the floor. And then more. And I realized it was coming from me. I was startled. My postpartum bleeding had ended about five to seven days earlier and I hadn’t seen this bright red blood since … well, probably before I was pregnant. It scared the crap out of me. After a trip to the bathroom during which I could feel clots passing through me, I called the doctor. I was told it was probably my period, but that I should call back if it continued. I thought that was so weird, but ok, I could deal with that, right? After things seemed kind of under control, we went off to the day care. I admit I was a wee bit distracted during the tour, but I tried to concentrate on Baby Girl in my arms and the kids in the center who looked happy and bright and like they weren’t being beaten. After awhile, we left and headed to Walgreens to buy pads for my bleeding. I needed something more serious than anything we had in stock at home. While at the store — AO and Molly stayed in the car — I was checking out the options. You see, I hate wings on pads. I feel like they never work as intended and instead end of sticking to my leg or curling up on themselves, which really annoys me. So, I’m looking around trying to find ‘super’ pads – as directed by the nurse at the doctor’s office – without wings. As I’m looking, I see blood on the floor. Again. Blood is dripping down my leg. Oh my God. I’m mortified and horrified and scared and embarrassed and supremely disgusted. I grab something from the shelf, walk as quickly as I can to the check-out counter and, of course, have to wait an eternity for the clerk to hand the woman in front of me two hundred dollars in pennies, while counting out each individual penny. Or so it felt. I run to the car, speed home (taking care that I have a beautiful newborn in my car), and park in the garage. Our neighbor comes out, “Is the baby in the car with you?” “Yes,” I say, “but I have a bit of a medical situation,” and run off to the bathroom, leaving Aaron and Molly to fend for themselves. More blood, another clot. Holy what is going on?
Ok, this is gross and annoying and I’m sorry. The doc still thinks it’s just my period and this seems more plausible when, the next day, things seem to subside down there. Phew. Now, the only thing I have to worry about is, you know, the baby, the other side of my health problems (minor, really) and the fact problems keep cropping up with some of my cases at a work.
Thursday begins normally with Baby Girl awake and asleep, eating and fussing and whatnot. We begin what turns into a marathon breastfeeding session late morning. Shortly after it ends, while I’m still sitting down on my bed, I feel blood pour out of me, along with another clot. I can feel it. So. Gross. I rush to put Molly down and race to the toilet. My fear is confirmed: there is blood everywhere. I am dying of grossness at this point. And also maybe dying. I call the doctor’s office again and relay the information. When I get the return call, the nurse tells me that they need me to come in. Aaron comes home from work and I head to my 2:40 appointment solo. The doc I see (not my doc but a partner of hers) orders blood work and an ultrasound, telling me it’s possible that part of the placenta was left in my uterus, but he still thinks the blood is most likely the result of my period resuming. He thinks that the supplementing has brought about my period (since I now sometimes go more than four hours without boob-feeding her) and that the breastfeeding was causing my uterus to contract and forcing out the large amounts of blood. This explanation seems plausible, but it sure doesn’t make me want to keep breastfeeding. Anyway, I’m sent to the lab for blood work and then back to the doc’s office for a transvaginal ultrasound (ugh), which is supremely uncomfortable at this point postpartum and extremely embarrassing given the amount of blood involved. Then I wait and wait and wait. Finally, shortly before 5:00, I get the call to go back and see the doc again. He tells me, sadly and with kind emotion, that he can see that there is residual placenta in my uterus, which was also confirmed by the blood work. I am just devastated. “No!!!” I scream. Ok, I didn’t really scream it, but I said it. The doctor is super nice about all of this, handing my Kleenex and patting my leg. He tells me that I need to have surgery and that there’s no reason to delay it. A D&C. I immediately think how strange it is to have an abortion procedure after our baby has joined us, but then my mind quickly goes to what a D&C really is and I get super grossed out (not because I am not pro-choice, because I vehemently am, but because I think the human body is mostly gross and the gerunds ‘sucking’ or ‘vacuuming’ have no business getting near it). And I tell the doctor so. This gives us some levity as I now pretty much do scream, “Gross!!!!!!!” The doctor tries to assure me that all of this is not a huge deal, while having me sign a consent form and talking “risk of death” and “do not resuscitate” and all that colorful language.
On Friday, April 6, the doctor’s office called and told me to head to the hospital because my surgery was scheduled for 11:30 am. So, exactly five weeks after joyfully greeting Molly O’Neil, I am forced to leave her in the loving care of my mom and Severa, while Aaron and I head back to the hospital of her birth to have what I hope are the last physical pieces of pregnancy taken out of me.