I’m back. I sent in my “shopping list” for therapeutic sensory items for my FASD kids, I was “granted” $1000 INCLUDING shipping and handling, taxes – and my shopping cart total was (I’m pretty proud of this) $999.97. Yeah!
Back to Cora Beth…
So our first night, I really don’t remember well. I was nauseated (and throwing up ice cubes), using the PCA a lot (seriously didn’t expect the after pains to be so bad) and I don’t even remember trying to nurse Cora Beth AT ALL during that night (although I know I did). Dear Husband had to leave around 2 or 3 am (the hospital “cot” for guests is not compatible for people with fused spines FYI). I’m pretty sure that a nurse must have been checking on Cora Beth and I every hour or so, but I really don’t remember any of it. I do remember thinking I make ugly babies though – that she looked like an old man with funny ears. Funny enough ears that I was concerned about the two glasses of wine I had the night before we took the pregnancy test (one of the physical FASD signs is railroad track ears) and thinking that her ears should not have yet been developing that early on in the pregnancy.
By the time my Dear Husband came back to the hospital in the morning, I had seen nurses, lab techs, the maternal fetal medicine doctor (the surgeon who performed the caesarean), the paediatrician, and a plethora of other people. All of my IVs had been removed and my incision and fundus checked (seriously, I JUST had abdominal surgery and you have to PRESS THAT HARD on my belly!?!). Later in the day the physiotherapist came in and I was able to astound her with my ability to WALK without my walker! I was in lots of surgical pain, but my pubic symphysis pain was GONE!!! Joy! Relief! Recovery to begin!
Cora Beth was undergoing routine checks during this time. Because I have been in SO much pain I have been taking hydromorphone (dilaudid) for the last 6+ weeks of my pregnancy. It’s a narcotic. It crosses the placenta. The baby gets it. As well, I take an anti-depressant, citalopram (celexa), for my anxiety and depression. When I was pregnant with Claire, I had tried to halve the amount I was taking (in order to go off it altogether – both of our pregnancies were surprise “not-ever-supposed-to-happen” pregnancies so there was no pre-conception prep) and ended up in a very bad, severely clinically depressed state – in which a psychiatrist explained to me (even with all my education in social work and FASD and babies exposed to violence in utero) that my increased cortisol levels from high anxiety was more detrimental to the baby’s brain development (in some cases they have found prolonged high-cortisol levels in momma while pregnant as bad as alcohol). That the risks of taking an anti-depressant (and there are some that are much safer to take) were NOT comparable to the risks of the cortisol on her brain (let alone if my suicidal thoughts became stronger). All that to say that the psychiatrist UPPED my antidepressant with Claire’s pregnancy (increased blood volume needed increased amount of medication) and even though I tried to go down to my original dosing with this pregnancy, the bed rest depression and anxiety made it even MORE profoundly important to stay on top of with Cora Beth’s pregnancy.
Between the narcotic and the antidepressant medications, Cora Beth was in danger of spending a bit of time in the NICU coming off the medications. My heart wrenched. I spent my afternoon in fits of sleep and attempts at nursing (milk takes at least a day longer to come in when a baby is born via caesarean) watching Cora Beth’s jerking movements, listening to her fits of rapid breathing and sneezing, and her shrill, high-pitched cries. She was having problems maintaining a consistent temperature, she started to turn yellow.
After Dear Husband left and I was alone for my second night with my brand new baby, I asked the nurse on what schedule I was to wake her if she didn’t wake on her own to feed. Two-and-a-half hours. So, I un-swaddled her at 10pm after about 3 hours of total napping for me during the day, to start the feed. At midnight, I had her re-swaddled after a full two hours of being a baby soother. My nipples were sore. Her latch was not deep enough and I was having difficulties remembering exactly what the “nose” had to do with the nipple line up (and my nurse that night was telling me the exact opposite of what the day nurse was telling me) so I didn’t really know what I was supposed to be doing, doubting my own instincts, and then the nurse came in to do the vital check. Cora Beth was in a nice deep sleep, I was physically too sore to get up and put her in the bassinet, but I was getting myself positioned to do so when the “very on time” nurse came in to do her check. And woke her up. Inconsolably.
By about 2am I started to discover that not only is Cora Beth’s hearing VERY acute (every baby crying in nearby rooms would wake her, the other patients’ calls for help) but what the “weepiness” that I’d often heard of connected to the hormone changes post birth felt like. It seemed as soon as I calmed her, the nurse would come in and turn on the lights and leave the door open to all the hallway noise to give me medication or do a vital check on Cora. Because she was under NAS surveillance (neonatal abstinence syndrome – drug withdrawals) they had to have lights on and long checks on respirations and heart rate every few hours. I also had to be checked continually. By 5:30 am I was in tears, sobbing, tweeting and Facebooking my agony. My pain. My heartache in causing my baby so much struggle. Why couldn’t I have just toughed it out (oh, I tried – but my emotions were NOT connecting to my logical brain at this point) and stayed narcotic free? Why couldn’t the nurses come in WHILE Cora Beth was feeding and alert – instead of “on the dot” and wake her when I just spent the last two hours getting her to fall back to sleep AFTER the last time they came in?
Around sixish I did finally fall asleep. I let Cora Beth fall asleep on my chest. I was sure I’d be yelled at by the nurses for “co-sleeping” but I was in too much pain to get up and put her to bed gently – and I LOVE cuddling my babies to sleep. Besides, I wasn’t at much risk of rolling over – I was in TOO MUCH PAIN to roll over without waking up.
At some point in the middle of the night I’d texted Dear Husband begging for him to send my mom in right away (a delivery of a surprise loft bed for my 7yo, new mattress for my 5yo and a transition of ALL the littles beds scheduled for first thing in the morning, and Dear Husband needed to be there). I was awoken by lab tech poking me AND slicing my sweet (once sleeping) baby’s heel for bilirubin testing. My mom was already on her way. My mom had a pill stuck in her throat on her way down the freeway that caused her to start vomiting while driving 100km an hour on an unfamiliar freeway, with nary a shoulder, but somehow she managed to vomit into a shopping bag strategically placed on the steering wheel. And she took care of me. And I cried. More and more. (My mom is a hero).
The paediatrician came in and said to me “Cora Beth read the book.” She did exactly what she was supposed to do – the second night IS the hardest he said. That is the night, after a c-section, that baby sucks ALL NIGHT to stimulate the breast for milk to start to flow. Cora Beth’s bilirubin was up (meaning worse). Her jerks were worse, her high pitched screams were more frequent. I was very upset. The paediatrician was gentle, encouraging, told me how beautiful she was. I felt like a failure. A huge, undeserving F.A.I.L.U.R.E.
MFM (maternal fetal medicine) was pleased with how things were going with my symphysis recovery. My fundus was receding nicely (and my uterus contracting hurt like heck while Cora Beth stimulated that milk flow). But the nurses were very concerned about the bruising below my incision. Which of course, added to my “what now” mentality. My weepiness. More tears. They re-taped my incision. They looked at horror at my bruising. I spilled tea on my brand new computer. I cried. And cried. And cried. Sobbing hurts when your tummy muscles, unused for months, have been stretched to squeeze out a baby.
The younger children came in to see me in the evening (the eldest had been invited to a boy friend’s house for dinner) and took turns holding their little sister. Sean-man got spit-up on. Evidence that my milk had really started to come in. It was a joy to see them kiss and love on their newest sister. Sean was interpreting her noises “I love you. I want Sean to hold me. I’m hungry.” And to have kisses and hugs from my little girls who are gifted in the art of perfect snuggles.
My mom stayed the night. Armed with avocado. Coffee Haagen-Dazs ice cream. Potato chips. THANK YOU MOMMY.
That night I had my beloved Nurse Jo from the antenatal unit for the first part of the night. She helped with latch, congratulated me on my massive breasts (already? that is great!) and between her and the nurse who she was covering for later in the evening, they did vitals WHEN I CALLED them to say she was awake, feeding – instead of “on the dot” causing me grief. I don’t think my mom slept. She did the walking around singing to her. But I was put in a much better mood – able to face the weepy hormones much better. And knowing that was the issue, instead of my failure as a mother.
By Sunday morning, although her bilirubin was still up, because my milk “was in” and she was starting to gain her weight back, there was little concern about her needing to go into the NICU (yes!). She was getting better. Her jittery jerks were much less. She stopped high pitch screaming. She was un-yellowing with each feed (and after I started to trust my instincts about my body again, I was able to let her feed for less time, with lots of burping, instead of “forcing” her to drink for 20 minutes per side and having her puke up everything she swallowed). My nipples were very sore, but I knew that my body was working properly. I was cleared to go home on Monday, and if Cora’s bilirubin dropped, then we could be discharged on Monday. My entire day was focused on making sure she gained weight.
The kids went to the Celtic Festival (St. Patrick’s Day Parade) downtown with Papa John, went out for lunch, and I had a couple weepy breakdowns in the midst of their visit – but after a long talk with Dear Husband, and a “restart” with the kids (instead of coming in asking for something to eat after they had just gotten back from a restaurant – they could come in and see their sister and kiss their mommy) I balanced out a bit.
Dear Husband came back in the late evening to sleep at the hospital with me. A decision that was rather selfish on my part, and that caused me a great deal of grief for a chunk of the night – but I was so glad to have him there, because at some point in my tooth brushing (after attempting to lower my hydromorphone dose) I suddenly had INTENSE chest pain in my lower left ribs. I’ve broken ribs before SNEEZING, and tweaked ligaments and cartilage enough times in that particular area to KNOW that I was going to be useless. We added back the hydromorphone. The nurse brought me hot packs throughout the night. Dear Husband didn’t sleep. He held and fed his little girl (I had pumped to see how much she was getting – and she easily downed 60 mL and nursed for 5 minutes on each breast – so she was eating WELL for a 3 day old baby). And we waited all night for a resident to come check out my ribs. I was in enough pain with breathing alone to wonder if one of my ribs had cracked during the delivery (mack truck pressure) and the movement of my hands above my head caused it to dislocate a bit. But the resident was busy with lots of deliveries that night – and I did NOT want to make a big deal of it. I wanted to go home on Monday if Cora was released – so in the end, when the MFM doctor came in, she wrote me my prescription with a follow up for the ribs with the family doctor in a week.
Cora Beth’s pediatrician was HAPPY and QUICK to discharge her as soon as they received her bilirubin results back, and by looking at her he was sure they would be fine (especially because she had started to gain weight). I was miserably sore in the ribs, I could barely pick up Cora Beth (I could hold her, but not move her) breathing was difficult in certain positions… but I was GOING HOME. And after 27 days at BC Women’s Hospital, Dear Husband could NOT load the car fast enough.
I came home to streamers and spring all over my front lawn because of my eldest and youngest daughter along with Mimi and a trip to the dollar store. Claire took my hand to lead me into the house to see the decorations (and she said “decorations” which made me weepy again – how much I missed of her growing up in the last month). I was able to slowly climb stairs. To sit in a chair downstairs WITHOUT TOO MUCH PAIN. Eat fast food (I had been french fry deprived for way too long). To cuddle my girls in our living room (which has NOT happened in the last six months).
I had dinner with my entire family. At the table. I even had a tiny bit (1-1/2 oz) of wine with my steak, roasted potatoes and asparagus (Dear Husband’s cooking has become rather incredible this last half year)!
And the verse that keep coming back to me, that kind of kept me going from Friday night on…
weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.
– Psalm 30:5 (KJV)
The six months in bed is OVER. Recovery IS beginning. Already (just a week post surgery) I am on a lower dose of hydromorphone, up more than I have been since I found out I was pregnant, AND able to eat dinner with my family. I’m actually going to go OUT to the in-laws house for a big birthday celebration tomorrow! The rejoicing in the everyday baby steps has begun, the pain and soreness is acute – but the strength is returning! Thank you for all your prayers – for lifting me up in those times when I needed “peace that passeth all understanding – Philippians 4:7, KJV.” You are a treasure to me.
Cora Beth saw the paediatrician on Friday and was “released” to be seen by the family doctor- she’s gaining weight (just a chocolate square less than her birth weight) and beautiful. Our prayers have been answered in regards to her NOT needing to be in the NICU or be put on narcotics in order to have a less severe withdrawal.
I was able to go out with my husband after the peds appointment, to the baby store to buy a bottle brush (which they didn’t have any in stock, neither did the grocery store !?!) and meander slowly (I was in the wheelchair) and think about baby shopping in person FOR THE FIRST TIME SINCE I GOT PREGNANT! Then we went to a coffeehouse and a gluten-free bakery. I walked into the bakery ON MY OWN and got cinnamon rolls – or buns if you are Canadian – and a GF apple fritter (it has been eight years since I’ve had an apple fritter).
So many things to rejoice in. I am grateful for so much. And looking forward to getting back into my “thanksgiving keeping” on Mondays again. Thank you for your prayers and notes of encouragement over these last long months!
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