Welcome to the word vomit version of my most recent birth story, well, more birth recovery. Buckle up. We all envision that perfect, blissful, according-to-plan delivery and recovery, am I right? But, more times than not that isn’t the reality. Many times things happen quickly and without warning, and look nothing like what we had envisioned in our minds. Expectations out the window. What happens in the aftermath? We’re left with a lot of big feelings, coupled with crazy hormones, and I for one have spent a year burying such feelings deep in the depths of my soul. So much so that even our immediate family, my own mother, has never heard this birth story.
I had an uneventful pregnancy. It was my second twin pregnancy. Our fourth and fifth babies stayed put, albeit breech, clear to my scheduled C-section date at 38 weeks and five days. My husband and I, now pros since this was my third C-section, strolled into the hospital one early, cold February morning excited and very ready. I hadn’t slept much the night prior, but I was fresh-faced and prepared. All the normal, routine things happened. Monitors were hooked up to each baby, my blood pressure was great, we snapped a few last minutes bump pictures, a game-time selfie, and off we went back to the OR for their birth.
Other than having to be stuck twice for my spinal, the C-section itself didn’t seem any longer or shorter, or any more uncomfortable than my prior two. There were the usual waves of nausea from the anesthesia, but it was well managed. It was my second time opting for a gentle C-section (more on this in a future post, highly recommend). After some tugging and pulling sensations, I was instructed to look down through a clear drape and saw both of my babies be delivered. Amazing. Baby A and Baby B came out crying. They were good in color, and healthy. Relief, along with the ability to take a nice full breath now that my insides were no longer squashed, washed over me.
Great! Phew! The worst was over. Everyone was here and healthy! We were off and running – latching, skin to skin, snuggles, rest, pain management, tiny sips of fluids to test the stomach, bites of crackers, the usual postpartum drill. All of my vitals looked great and we spent the day marveling at these two perfect miracles that were safely in our arms. Then it was time for me to stand up for the first time. Remembering times past I knew it would be a little ouchy. That first stand-up is always a doozy, but I was mentally prepared and very ready to slip into my own postpartum gown that I had brought along.
My hospital bed was only about fourteen feet from the sink in the bathroom, maybe not even that far. Our incredibly sweet nurse eased me up and helped me shuffle to the restroom while my husband checked on the babies. The nurse and I took care of a few things – if you know, you know – and then, with my confident reassurance that I was good, she left me in front of the sink so I could freshen up and switch into my own gown that I had brought from home. The timing is really fuzzy, and I mean REAL fuzzy, but I think I probably only stood there for about 30 seconds before the words, “I think I need to sit down,” squeaked out of my mouth. Then it was lights out.
The next thing I knew I was on the floor of the bathroom. I couldn’t really see anything, but I was aware of the fact that my husband was directly behind me and the nurse was to my left side. I learned later that the nurse had sprinted across the room and broke my fall, shielding me from smacking my head on the toilet and/or door frame, and my husband had hurdled the hospital bed to cradle my head as it neared the floor. The emergency cord had been pulled and alarms were going off everywhere. Very abruptly the room filled with people. This all happened before I was conscious. I can vaguely remember a manual blood pressure cuff being wrapped around my arm. Someone said, “that can’t be right, get the blood pressure monitor.” You know, the one on the pole that sits next to your hospital bed. There’s probably a technical name for that piece of equipment, but you know what I mean. They put the new cuff on, someone said, “58/28, still the same,” and it was then that I started to become slightly aware of the severity of the situation.
The on-call doctor asked for an EKG immediately. At this point, I was trying to open my eyes. There was a mix-up with the respiratory therapist. She wasn’t aware of the urgency of the situation and announced to the room that she was unable to read the EKG results on site. The team went on to locate the anesthesiologist who had done my spinal nearly 12 hours earlier and he was able to read the results then and there.
Someone propped my feet up on an upside-down trash can. I can remember asking if my husband was okay. If the babies were okay. I asked if I could still nurse them. I could hear my son crying from the hallway. Our nurse from labor and delivery had come over to help. She moved the babies to the hallway to try to calm them after the sudden commotion in the room. The anesthesiologist administered epinephrine, and then a second dose. I was the color of the hospital bed sheets. I’m not sure what happened from there.
As I mentioned, the timing is incredibly unclear to me and equally jumbled for my husband. I think it was probably around an hour total by the time I carefully rolled to my side, then pushed up to my knees, and was helped back onto the hospital bed that had been rolled as close as possible. I was too weak to cry. Too weak to talk. But, with a lot of people standing close by and a whole lot of propped pillows, I slowly and carefully nursed both babies, one after the other, because by the time the whole ordeal was over, sure enough, it was time for them to eat again. I was just thankful to be able to feed them. I was quiet.
I don’t know how I survived those first couple of days. I don’t mean that literally – I was in very good care – but in the sense that the level of physical exhaustion I was feeling was something I had never experienced in my life. I would nod off while simply trying to read a text on my phone. In the days following delivery and the subsequent collapse my hemoglobin tanked. Two blood transfusions slowly helped bring color back to my face, along with a little strength. Steadily my pulse came down and my blood pressure rose to a normal range. By the time we were being discharged I had acquired a fall risk bracelet, a bed alarm, a gold star on my door, and constant supervision wherever I went, bathroom included. Incidentally, I was actually terrified to go home. With three very excited, young siblings anxiously awaiting our arrival, I feared that I wouldn’t have the strength to even manage a smile, let alone any kind of care, affection, or attention.
Generally, I try to write blog posts with a point. I even strive to make them insightful, at times. This one doesn’t have a point. It’s just another birth story. I know I’m not alone in my not-to-plan, perhaps traumatic birth (or recovery, in my case) experience. I guess I share this story, one, selfishly as a means of healing for myself and, two, to say that if you happened to of endured a less than sunshiny birth, and are left struggling with some feelings you can’t quite understand, you aren’t alone. For a long time, I choose not to talk about my birth story, at all, to anyone. I would occasionally and very tentatively ask my husband a question about what transpired. This was me trying to put the pieces of the puzzle together in my mind. But, most of the time it was (and still is) too much for me to think about. For better or worse I just moved forward.
PS I did get on the postpartum gown that I had brought from home prior to my collapse. Laying naked through the whole ordeal definitely would’ve added insult to injury in my mind. Trivial, obviously, but thankful nonetheless.