After I had Kate, I was uncomfortable. But I wasn’t withering in pain. So when I started moaning and crying, my nurse knew something was wrong. She checked my swelling, and I didn’t look worse than after delivery. But my pain level was escalating.
At this point, I could barely speak, the pain level was at an intensity I’d never experienced. My nurse wisely left my epidural needle (which had been turned off after I delivered Michael) and IVs attached and called my OB to come back and take a look at me.
I spent the next two hours in agonizing pain. I can’t even explain it. I wished I would become so overcome with pain that I’d just pass out. I started shaking. Crying. Begging for pain meds that no one could give me until they got a hold of an anesthesiologist. My nurse stroked my head and tried to get me to relax while she re-paged my OB.
Dan came up to check on me and give me the update on Michael only to find me in distress. I can’t even imagine how Dan felt. When he left, I was fine. And he came back, I was shaking in pain. With Michael down in the NICU and me in agony, the whole morning went from totally fine to not good.
My OB finally arrived, checked me out, and determined I had a softball-sized labial hematoma that needed to be drained immediately. She tracked down an anesthesiologist who gave me a dose of morphine that almost immediately alleviated my discomfort. I signed a surgery waiver, and a team of doctors and nurses wheeled me into the OR.
As the doctors rolled my numbed self onto the operating table and hooked me up to various monitors, I thought this wasn’t how this was supposed to go. I had an easy labor and delivery, no worries about him being too big and damaging his shoulder on the way out. It seemed we avoided trauma only to find me in the OR and Michael down in the NICU.
But fortunately my immense relief at being out of pain and my post partum adrenaline helped me put on a brave face. My OB said labial hematomas are so rare she’s only seen about a dozen in her 30-year career. She said they are mostly associated with a violent birth – which wasn’t my case – but somehow the way Michael came out pulled a blood vessel and led to an expanding hematoma.
My surgery took about 30 minutes, and Dan came to find me in the recovery area. They held me for an hour to make sure I got feeling back in my legs and all my vitals held steady. Dan told me Michael was fine but needed an oxygen mask because he was working hard to breathe. But he was strong and showing steady vital signs.
After an hour, the recovery nurse discharged me to my room. When Kate was born, she came up to my room with me. My heart was heavy as I was wheeled through the halls of the recovery rooms, passing all the moms holding their new babies in their arms while my baby was down in the NICU. After we got me settled in my room, Dan wheeled me down to the NICU to check on Michael.
I’ve never been to the NICU. I wasn’t sure what I thought it would be like. But I remember feeling overwhelmed as Dan wheeled me through a maze of beeping machines. I just wanted to hold my baby. But I had to settle for holding his tiny wrinkled hand as he slept under a mess of wires and oxygen face mask.
Michael never stopped breathing on his own. But he was working hard to breathe, so he needed the CIPAP machine to provide pressure so his lungs wouldn’t have to work hard to expand. Seeing his sweet face masked under the tubing made my heart ache.
That evening Dan went home to be with Kate, and I tried to sleep and recover. But all I could think about was my baby down in the NICU. I felt guilty. Like I had done this to him. Even though I logically knew my water broke on it’s own, I still felt responsible. I knew there was nothing I could have done (or not done) to hold him in a few more days. But I still felt at fault.
My OB came back to check on me that evening to make sure I was healing from the hematoma surgery and found me teary. She held my hand and told me this would all just be a memory. That Michael was not in danger. That nothing about this situation was my fault.
After dispensing emotional support, she checked out how I was healing and couldn’t believe how well I was recovering. She instructed me to rest and told me she’d be back tomorrow to check on me.
In the morning my mom came over to meet me and bring me down to the NICU. Michael’s doctor came to speak to me and explained that he suspected Michael may have swallowed some amniotic fluid, hence the reason why he was working hard to breathe. He said he needed to see Michael improve his respiratory rate and start to eat well before he could be discharged. I felt tears prick behind my eyes when he told me Michael needed to stay for seven to ten days. That meant I’d have to leave the hospital without my baby.
Dan and I spent the day going back and forth to the NICU, with me pumping in between to try to produce as much colostrum as possible for Michael. Later in the afternoon my OB came to check on me again, and she was shocked when I told her I’d been up and walking. And that I thought I was ready to go home. She checked me out and couldn’t believe how quickly I had healed. She told me she could get me another day if I wanted to stay. And a huge part of me did. I didn’t want to leave the hospital without my baby. But I thought about Dan and Kate at home – two of my other important people who needed me – and I figured I’d get better rest at home in my own bed, so I decided to go home.
While I packed up my things, a couple tiny onesies fell out of my bag. The onesies I carefully selected and folded into my new diaper bag when my water broke and I realized I hadn’t yet packed. I cried as I repacked those onesies, knowing I wouldn’t be putting them on my baby and bringing him home today.
Leaving the hospital without a baby is the worst. I sobbed my way from my room to the car and all the way home. Seeing Kate at home helped take the sting out of leaving the hospital. And it was good to take a shower in my own shower, get out of the hospital gown and into my pjs, and sink into my own bed. But I felt so empty inside. I was pregnant, then not. And had all the postpartum yuckiness without a baby to hold.
I spent about two days crying. Feeling hollow inside. Unable to tell anyone Michael had been born because I knew I wouldn’t be able to talk to anyone without breaking down. So I gave myself those two days to cry, pump, travel back and forth to the NICU, and heal as we waited to bring Michael home.
Look for part III, Michael’s stay in the NICU and homecoming, on Monday.