Thursday, February 01, 2007

Adriana's birth story, part 4: Recovery

I was being wheeled back into the labor and delivery room where I'd spent the night when I woke up. Marsha was there, but Brian wasn't back from the nursery with the baby yet. Marsha and Barbara began getting me settled. I couldn't stop shaking and they wrapped me in heated towels while I faded in and out.

I was a little more alert when Brian returned with Adriana, or maybe it was their return that woke me up a bit. He placed her beside me on the bed. Marsha used our camera to take a few photos, and Brian said that the baby's blood sugar was low, something common in large babies, and they had wanted to give her something in the nursery, but he had convinced them to let him bring her to me to try to nurse. Marsha was also encouraging me to try to nurse, which I wanted more than anything, but Barbara was reluctant. She wanted to make sure I was okay first. But when it neared eleven, she let us try, because that was when Brian had promised to have the baby back in the nursery. They helped me turn to my side, and Marsha tried to help the baby latch. We were fairly unsuccessful, but we'd at least tried. And when Brian got back to the nursery and they checked Adriana's blood sugar again, it was well within normal range, and he brought her back again soon.

At some point, my friend Becca called from London, checking on me because I hadn't answered email in a couple of days. Marsha answered my phone and let me speak to her for a couple of minutes. I told her briefly what had happened and how big Adriana was. Becca exclaimed over the size of the baby--only three ounces less than her daughter had weighed at her six-week check up the week before. I was hurried off the phone, but it was good to have announced the baby's birth to someone.

There was talk of something being wrong with one of my ureters, a tube that connects the kidney to the bladder. The doctor wanted to make sure that it hadn't been damaged during the surgery and wanted me sent down to x-ray for an intravenous polygram: they would run some sort of dye through my system and take x-rays to make sure everything was all right. When it was time to go, Brian and the baby were sent to our room in the maternity ward, and Barbara accompanied me down to x-ray.

As we waited for the radiologist, I asked Barbara about VBACs. I think she was amused that three hours after a c-section I was already wondering about the possibility of having a normal birth in the future. She advised me to find a good, open-minded OB well in advance of getting pregnant again, as many midwives, including the ones I had been seeing throughout my pregnancy, wouldn't do VBACs.

The radiologist finally joined us and while the technician was asking me various health history questions (I was of the mind that if I had no idea what the condition was that he mentioned, it was safe to say that I'd never had it), I heard the radiologist telling Barbara that the dye they were going to use would get into my breastmilk and I would be unable to nurse for 48 hours. I tuned out the technician's next question and stared at the doctor.

"What?" he said, looking surprised.

"I heard what you said." He looked at me blankly. "About breastfeeding." He seemed unconcerned, but I could tell Barbara understood. She came over to me as I asked the doctor if there was a different dye they could use. He said there wasn't another dye, wasn't another test. I had a feeling there were other questions I was meant to ask when faced with the need to consent to medical procedures, but I couldn't come up with them. I thought about declining the test, but then I wondered what would happen to me if something really was wrong. I talked with Barbara for a few minutes, and we decided that we could syringe-feed the baby formula for two days while I used a breast pump to get my milk to come in. I hated the idea, but I didn't know what else to do. I dreaded telling Brian--I knew he would be as disappointed as I was.

It took about ten minutes for the dye to run through my system, and then they began taking x-rays. The x-rays seemed to go on forever, with long pauses in between, but my concept of time was fuzzy, and I kept dozing off. I was there long enough that there was a shift change and a new technician took over toward the end. It was a relief to finally be wheeled back up to the room where Brian and Adriana were waiting for me. I was right about Brian being disappointed, but we had the nurse bring us a syringe and some formula, and he got to feed Adriana for the first time, while I sipped some cranberry juice, relieved to finally be allowed to have something other than ice chips.

Various people were in and our of our room, including the attending physician and a resident and medical student that he works with. The resident found out the name of the dye that was used during the IVP, so that I could ask the lactation consultant when she came in the next morning. They brought me a breast pump to use during the night while Brian continued with the syringe feedings. I was given antibiotics because I was running a fever, and two units of blood because I'd lost so much during the operation. I did try pumping once, and I intended to do so throughout the night, whenever Brian was feeding the baby, but he let me sleep for six hours straight, which I probably needed to do after the long couple of days I'd just had.

In the morning they removed my epidural. It wasn't until afternoon that I'd regained all the feeling in my legs, at which point the nurse came to help me to the bathroom, I was shaky but okay, and spent some time sitting up in a chair. That afternoon the lactation consultant came rushing into my room, declaring that the dye used during the IVP hadn't entered my GI tract and had a short half-life, so breastfeeding was fine. It was fine all along, which made Brian and me mad--we felt that we'd lost valuable time establishing nursing. But I realized that there wasn't really time to be mad, I just had to start now. The lactation consultant helped get Adriana latched for the first time, which was a relief.

The next couple of days were a long blend of people coming in and out of the room, taking my blood pressure and temperature, checking the baby, giving me more pills to take. Adriana and I struggled to figure out nursing, and I dealt with getting my body back to normal. The first night after the epidural was out, Brian headed home to pick up a few things, and I had to call a nurse to help me get to the bathroom while he was gone. It wasn't that I couldn't walk okay on my own; I just couldn't figure out how to sit myself up and get out of bed, given the pain in my abdomen from the surgery. The nurse showed me how to pull myself up to a seated position and then turn my body to get my legs on the floor. After that I was fine on my own. On Saturday, I even felt confident enough to pick Adriana up out of her bassinet on my own a couple of times, rather than asking Brian to bring her to me.

We'd been told we would be discharged on Monday, but on Sunday someone said to us, "So, you're going home today?" Confused, we corrected her, but the nurse checked our chart and the doctor had written the day before that we could be discharged on Sunday. Nervously, we decided that was a good thing, and got ready to go home.

My real frustration with recovering from a c-section began once we were home. In the hospital it was easy to let Brian and the nurses do things for me, but once I was back in my own house, I hated feeling like an invalid. If I wanted something and Brian wasn't in the room, I talked to him through the baby monitor. At first I couldn't manage the stairs, so we ate our meals upstairs in our bedroom. It wasn't until two days after we came home that I went down the stairs for the first time. I made Brian carry the baby, but it wasn't as hard as I thought it would be. I took prescription pain relievers for the next week, feeling guilty as I wondered how much codeine was getting into my milk, but accepting a reminder from a nurse friend that pain would interfere with my milk production. Nursing was slow and frustrating at first, but Adriana and I were learning, and now she eats like a champ.

I'm still tired a lot of the time, but that's the normal tiredness of caring for a newborn, I think. I still think a lot about how the labor and delivery went. Recovering from surgery is something I wish I weren't dealing with at the same time as dealing with a new baby, but I try not to dwell too much on it. I know, after 8,000 words you don't really believe that I'm not dwelling on it, do you? It's actually easy not to focus on all of that too much, as I'm awfully busy dwelling on how overwhelming my love of Brian and Adriana is.


eva said...

You're an amazing woman. And now, an amazing family. I'm so happy you've shared your story with everybody. And now I can't wait to keep getting to know little Adriana!

Jennifer said...

I'm very impressed with your strength at dealing with every hurdle that came your way along the mysterious labor and delivery road, and I'm thrilled that you've shared all 8,000 words! Good luck with the coming weeks and I hope your recovery gets easier and easier.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations once again! You are amazing; Best wishes for a great life ahead with Adrianna... A smooth road awaits...

Anonymous said...

You guys are really inspiring, you and your husband`s love and dedication to each other is amazing.
This is not an easy start to parenthood, but you are not alone. Many of us have planned and hoped for things to go one way and its all gone the way we least wanted it to after all. I know you only have this experience to compare it to, but the early postpartum period is very tiring & recovering from pregnancy itself is very strenuous. Sleeping when she sleeps can help your healing a lot. Even in cultures where the majority of babies are born at home make the new mother lie down for a month to get her strength back.
It sounds like you have wonderful people supporting you.

Anonymous said...

ICAN is a wonderful place. You should come and join,

Congratulations on your baby! I hope your recovery is as smooth as possible. I know, myself had a c-section w/ my first for basically the same reasons as you. I went on to have 3 VBAC's at home.

Good luck!


Anonymous said...

Congratulations...I read your story and I can relate to the disappointment you feel. It's not that rational, and it's a guilty feeling when you have a healthy baby. I didn't want the epidural (had it when I went from 10 and pushing back to 8), didn't want to be induced...she was posterior and finally pushed her out when they were on the brink of demanding a c-section. I hope you know that you're not alone in your feelings. 11 months after my baby's birth, I still feel sad.
-a friend