It occurs to me that I really should have written this when it was more fresh in my mind, because now I’ve been home for 10 days and I’m fully immersed in baby bliss-dom. A.K.A., I’m not as distraught as I was when we were stuck in the hospital. However, I would like to try to record everything that happened, if for no other reason than to have it for myself for later.
It’s funny…I used to get annoyed at the new moms who stopped posting. I used to think, “What the hell are they doing, anyway? Home from work… sleepy newborn…good God woman, just give us some snippets!” I vowed to never become one of them. I vowed that I would blog more often on maternity leave, not less often.
And then I had a baby.
I can’t believe how much of my time I spend doing nothing of record. Breastfeeding is so time-consuming. When she sleeps, I usually throw her in the Moby wrap and rush around trying to keep up on chores – dishes, laundry, etc. A simple trip out to Target has become a carefully orchestrated event. And by the time Eric gets home from work to help me, I’m usually too exhausted to blog, plus I want to spend a couple of hours of time with him (at the moment, that means slogging through the 120 episodes of LOST. I mean, it’s a great show, but I didn’t realize the level of commitment it required when we started!).
So anyway. The thing that sucks is that I have so many posts in my head. Posts about breastfeeding, about our time home and our routine, about how my husband has stepped into his role of new father so well that it makes my heart hurt with happiness to think about it. That said – and I’ve said this before – I think this blog is going to be different from here on out. Not that I’ve forgotten where I came from. I’m still carrying these scars of infertility, and I always will. When it comes time to try to expand our family, we’ll need to contact New Hope and pay a few thousand dollars for another FET, not just go on a date that ends with a roll in the hay. That’s the painful truth. But for the near future, the things that I’m going to talk about will have to do with navigating the world of being a new mom, hopefully with a sense of gratitude and joy and a healthy dose of humor. So if you find that you need to stop following me for your own sanity, I totally understand. I just wanted to forewarn that baby-centric topics will most likely be the norm now.
And if you’re still with me… good! I have so much to say. I’m going to try to cram it into the next 30 minutes before it’s time for Molly’s sponge bath, because once again she smells like sour milk and we have a visitor coming in an hour. Apologies in advance for typos.
We left off right after the birth, when I was exhausted beyond belief, yet wishing I could bond with the baby. At that point it still didn’t feel like she was really mine. Unfortunately, that feeling would continue for the next few days.
Day 2 (Tuesday)
After a C-section, after your catheter is removed, they encourage you to get up and go for a walk. This is nice because for all the time you’re stuck in bed, they put these large cuffs on your legs to discourage blood clots, and the constant inflation of the cuffs every 10 minutes is super annoying. So being released from bedrest definitely comes as a reprieve (though I must admit, tired as I was, the catheter was actually a welcome apparatus. Not getting up to pee = the ultimate in lazy living).
For my first walk, Eric took my hand and gingerly led me to the edge of the bed. Together, we eased my feet onto the floor and I stood up. And I felt…good. Like, surprisingly good. I slid on my flip flops and started walking at a good clip down the hall. “How about you slow down a little?,” he said. “No, no, I feel really good!,” was my reply. I couldn’t help but wonder why people made such a big deal about C-sections. I felt like I was healed already.
Little did I know that I was still feeling the effects of really good intravenous pain medication (Morphine? Yes, please!). And that by the next day, I’d be downgraded to nothing but Percocet and Motrin. I had not made a miraculous recovery. I was just drugged out and didn’t even know it.
On the breastfeeding front, Molly was doing pretty well. She made good attempts at latching, but would detach often and never got a good flow going. She was still having lots of wet and poopy diapers, so I wasn’t very concerned.
Friends came to visit. I got more morphine. I only have vague recollections of our conversations, as I desperately tried to sound normal while feeling like my head was floating way above my body. The good news was that I felt no pain at all.
Day 3 (Wednesday)
This was when things started to go south with breastfeeding. Despite all the progress we had made, things seemed to get worse instead of better. She would attempt to latch, get frustrated, and scrunch up her little red face and scream at my breast. I cried. She cried. I’m pretty sure this is when she had her first low blood sugar reading, and coupled with her small size, the hospital staff started to get concerned. The lower limit for blood sugar range is 45, and her reading was 44. So it wasn’t yet a 5 alarm situation, but again… they were definitely concerned. People started showing a lot more interest in my feeding record and it seemed a nurse was always “conveniently” present when I attempted a feeding. Of course, the more they watched me, the more stressed out I was, and the worse we did. Eventually our hospital pediatrician insisted on supplementing with formula. Mama was not happy.
Here I should mention the pediatrician fiasco. Our family doctor is equipped to do pediatrics, and all along we had assumed we would just go to him rather than search for a separate pediatrician. I’ve been seeing him since I was a little kid. He knows me, my history, and my entire family and their history. Since Eric and I have been married, he’s been seeing Eric too. It was really a no-brainer. The problem, then, was that the hospital only had a limited number of pediatricians who visited the hospital and checked on the new babies, and he wasn’t one of them. Despite the fact that he would be seeing Molly once we were released, I was forced to pick one of their providers from a list, at least for the duration of our stay. I chose a group that another mom I know had highly recommended. Little did I know this would be the biggest mistake of my stay (cue ominous music here).
From here on out, we’ll call him Dr. Satan.
I can’t really blame him for insisting on the formula supplementation. Low blood sugar for newborns is no joke, and if left untreated it can lead to things like permanent brain damage. Was I upset that she’d be having formula? Of course I was. But in that moment all that mattered was getting her a stable reading that made everyone happy.
Here’s a fun fact about me: I am really good at producing colostrum (or as they call it, liquid gold!). While some women pump and pump and only get a few drops (which is usually sufficient, since it’s so packed with nutrients), I was somehow able to produce an ounce per pump session. The nurses all expressed their surprise and awe over this apparent miracle of my breasts. In this case, it was a real plus, because I got to mix my pumped colostrum with formula rather than just give her straight formula. When it was all said and done, she only received one ounce of formula total in her entire stay. The rest of her feedings were pure colostrum, delivered to her hungry belly via a combination of finger feeding and SNS (supplemental nursing system).
My pain levels were finally what they were supposed to be since my morphine prescription had run out. It hurt to bend forward, to walk, to sit, and to lay flat. It felt like my abdomen was way too short and they had stitched me too tightly. Plus, I found out that rather than stitches, my doctor preferred staples. The thought of seeing my lower abdomen all stapled up like Frankenstein’s monster was enough to make me glad for my big belly to hide it. I couldn’t bear to look. And it hurt just to exist. I’m officially not a fan of C-sections.
I’ve taken Percocet in the past when I got my wisdom teeth out, and all I remember is that it made me pass out into a deep sleep – HARD. I didn’t want to sleep like that because I knew I had this baby to take care of, and on top of that she was having issues. So I requested the Motrin. A few hours later, crying from the excruciating pain, I caved in and took one Percocet. When that made absolutely no dent in my suffering, I went for two. It did not make me fall asleep, but it did take the edge off enough so that I could function. For the rest of the time I found the perfect mix was to alternate between Percocet and Motrin every 4 hours.
Day 4 (Thursday)
Going home day…
…or so we thought.
Dr. Satan came into my room fairly early. He went over Molly’s stats… good, good, everything looked good. But then. Because of her low blood sugar, there was no way he could let her go home. He also couldn’t tell me when she might be able to go home.
This news was delivered nonchalantly, and I, in my incredibly hormonal, sleep-deprived, overwhelmed new parent state, immediately started hysterically crying. I mean, full on, borderline hyperventilation, uncontrollable sobbing. Did Dr. Satan offer a sympathetic pat on the shoulder? Did he try to explain further why they were keeping her? Did he even take a break in his spiel and acknowledge my distress? No, no he did not. He kept talking. When he finished, he stood, and without a backwards glance, exited my room. I was left alone and confused.
I immediately called Eric, who probably had a hard time trying to figure out what the hell I was trying to say as by that point I was totally freaking the hell out. At the time, he was busily loading up my car with the car seat, with every intention of bringing us both home in the morning/afternoon. But alas, it was not to be.
He came to the hospital and really just having him there calmed me down immensely. My nurse came in and immediately assured me that since I had a C-section, my insurance would cover the extra day, so no need to worry about that. We found out through her that every single feeding should be 30 mL minimum (1 ounce), and since it wasn’t, Dr. Satan was displeased. That along with those low blood sugar readings (though at this point she was back within range) and the fact that she lost 10% of her weight (within limits, but on the high side) made everyone nervous. So we were stuck.
This 30 mL thing came out of left field. I knew that for the one supplemental feeding that was the goal, but no one ever explained that every single feeding was supposed to be that much. As it was, she would sputter and choke if I tried to feed her too much. I mean, she was tiny. Her stomach was the size of a grape. It seemed logical that she wasn’t eating a ton.
The rest of the day was not fun. Eric was mad. I was sad. Molly was still being a fussy eater, and as much as I tried to breastfeed, she just wasn’t into it. Each time I fed her felt like a mini science experiment – I had nipple shields and SNS tubes all hooked up for every feeding. As soon as I was done feeding her that way, I’d pump and pump to assure I wouldn’t need to supplement any more with formula and that I’d always have an adequate amount on hand. I prayed desperately for my milk to come in, assuming this would make everything better.
The hospital allows you to keep your baby in the room, provided you put him or her in the plastic bassinet whenever you’re in the bathroom or sleeping. All night long I held her and cried, drifting somewhere between sleep and delirium. Every time a nurse came in, I faked being wide awake so they wouldn’t make me put her down.
Day 5 (Friday)
Pretty early in the morning Dr. Satan came in and made the call – he wanted to keep Molly another day. Since I was no longer covered by insurance, he talked about having her transferred to Pediatrics.
This time I was openly hostile. I explained that her blood sugar was still good. I explained that all of her feedings the previous day had been 30 mL, or pretty damn close to it, just as he had prescribed. Her weight had gone up, from 4 lbs. 14 ounces to 4 lbs. 16 ounces. I demanded to know why he was torturing us like that and making us stay. Again, rather than explaining anything, he simply said, “She must stay,” and left the room.
I think this is the point where I legit went crazy. I called Eric, hysterical again, and told him that this man was trying to steal our baby and keep her forever. In that moment, it really felt that way. The nurses (I seriously cannot say enough good things about the entire nursing staff at this hospital) came in and tried to calm me down. They promised that no one wanted to keep her, he was just being thorough, and that I would not have to leave her side, even if we were transferred to Peds. Unsure of what our rights were, we asked for a second opinion.
At some point Eric arrived. My head was pounding, my face was puffy, and thanks to clinging to my baby all night and nonstop feeding and planning for feeding, I’d slept a total of 2 hours in the past four days. To say I was a hot mess would be an understatement.
Our second opinion ended up being the hospital’s neonatologist, a woman who we shall call Dr. Angel. She had a soothing voice, a competent nature, and a calming bedside manner. While she essentially drew the same conclusions as Dr. Satan, she took a good hour to explain in-depth exactly why they wanted Molly to stay. She had charts and research to back up her decision. She commiserated with us. She also promised that Molly could potentially go home later in the afternoon or first thing Saturday morning if we kept doing what we were doing. I really should write her a review or send her a note and thank her – she managed to take me from crazy deranged mother who thought a pediatrician was trying to steal her baby to calm and determined mother who could form rational thoughts and sentences.
We kept feeding her and hoping that we would get discharged that night, but one of Dr. Angel’s colleagues came by the room a few hours later and said he would rather err on the side of caution and evaluate her first thing in the morning. He promised that her chances of going home Saturday in the AM were “very, very good.” For once I was not devastated to receive the news because at least it was coming from someone on Dr. Angel’s team and at least there was an end in sight.
Luckily, the maternity wing was quiet and mostly empty, so even though I was discharged as a patient, we got to stay in the same room. The nurses even encouraged me to quickly order myself dinner from the cafeteria and have a last dose of pain meds on the house before I was kicked out of the system (see, told you they were all awesome). That night I met a nurse who really helped me with the whole breastfeeding thing. I gave up on the SNS contraption and the finger feeding completely and just focused on her feeding with the aid of the nipple shield and nothing else. By this point my milk had come in, and feedings began to last longer and she managed to stay latched for the duration. I was still pumping just so I could keep an accurate record of how much she was getting, but it seemed like overkill. I was pretty sure we could switch to just breastfeeding by the time we went home.
Day 6 (Saturday)
The neonatology team checked on Molly early, at 7 a.m. This time her weight went up again – she weighed 5 whole pounds! Woo hoo! We got the all clear to go home soon after. I excitedly called Eric and told him to bring the car seat…for real this time. A few hours later and we were finally on our way.
Since coming home, things have been much, much, MUCH better. It’s only been 10 days since we left the hospital and already we have a great little routine going. Molly is still stuck on the nipple shield, which felt a bit like failing at first, but yesterday we had a lactation consultant come by and she assured me that some babies just need a little extra help at first. She said Molly has such a small mouth, and sometimes latching comes harder for smaller babies. She said she was confident that soon she wouldn’t need it at all.
I am happy to report that she is definitely getting enough to eat, and she’s growing! Yesterday was also her two week check-up with our actual pediatrician (family doctor). Babies are supposed to at least be back up to their birth weight by 2 weeks old, and Molly succeeded – she was 5 lbs, 8 ounces. She poops all the time (like, literally every diaper change) and has plenty of wet diapers too. It appears that our rough start in the hospital was just an adjustment period, and not an indication of things to come.
What else can I say? It’s still utterly surreal and magical. I still can’t believe she’s mine. I think I’m handling it all pretty well, and the only thing I do that I know I shouldn’t is hold her all the time. I really dislike putting her down if I don’t need to. When she’s sleeping and it’s just the two of us at home, she’s usually nestled against my chest in her Moby wrap (a new mom essential, as it turns out). When Eric comes home from work, he gets his turn. Even though we have swings and papasans and rockers and baby loungers, I find myself reluctant to put her down in any of them. I’ve just waited so long to hold my baby… I don’t want to waste a single second of it.
I’m sure there’s more to say but once again, this post is very long. I promise to post more updates soon. This weekend we’re going camping (yes, camping with a newborn!) and we’re also counting down the days until our family beach trip at the end of the month.
In the meantime, I’m just going to hold her.