How giving birth was secondary to the real issue. (part two)

19 Oct

(fair warning, there is gross medical detail ahead)

I remember waking up. Sort of. I remember waking up to someone trying to put an IV into my foot. I tried to see what time it was, it was either 8 or 10. I passed out again.

The next time I woke up, I was told I was being wheeled to the ICU, shocked, I asked why. “For observation” I was angry, I thought they were overreacting.

A nurse said, “You’re never wearing a bikini again!” The incision was from pubic bone to belly button. I asked if the baby was ok. “Oh, yeah, baby’s fine!” Good. At some point Horrible came along and said, “she’s got your hands and feet!” DAMNIT IS SHE OKAY?! WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED?!

Princess Petit Four. Born 10/19/09, 5:34pm. 6lbs, 2oz. She was sent up to the NICU and was put on precautionary antibiotics. She caught none of my sepsis, thank God.

As for what happened, I only know what I was told. My surgeon hung out for the c-section part, though he didn’t need to be there, yet. He doesn’t get to see babies born that often. He told me later that when they cut into me, my uterus was basically floating in a sea of puss. My bowel had ruptured in a bad, bad way. He said once you got the uterus out of the way, it looked like a grenade had gone off. Petit Four was born with an APGAR of 2, and then 8. When she came out, she was knocked out by the anesthesia as well, she didn’t breathe on her own for 4 minutes. They got her to the isolette, gave her oxygen, reversed the effects of the narcotics, and wheeled her up for the NICU to take care of and Horrible got to see her fairly soon after.  Thank God, she was ok.

As for me, I had severe peritonitis (a very dangerous infection of the abdominal wall) and had around three-and-a-half feet of small bowel removed, the ileocecal valve that connects the small and large intestine, and a few inches of large intestine.

Back in the ICU, Horrible brought down some pictures of Petit Four that a helpful nurse had taken and printed out, with “Get well soon, Mommy!” across the bottom. They put her stats on the white board in my room so I’d see them, along with the pictures. I noted my much-deflated belly, and the wrongness of not having the baby with me. At some point my in-laws got there, and my mom. I didn’t realize, at the time, what bad shape I was in. My kidney function sucked, I had a constant fever, an NG tube, several IVs, my heart was racing out of control. It went on like that for four days.

And the pain. My god. I had a morphine pump and it still barely dulled the pain.

I didn’t meet Petit Four until Wednesday. They wheeled me up to the NICU, into a vacant room, bed and all, two nurses with me, and handed her to me. I wish someone would have gotten a picture of the audience I had for this intimate moment. Looking at the video, I’m almost angry. Aside from my husband, there was my mom, his parents, two ICU nurses, two NICU nurses, a couple of curious wandering medical personel, and I don’t know who else. I didn’t cry. I took the binky from her mouth so I could hear her cry, and know that she was real. The nurses, bless them, had put her into a little dress with cartoon snails on it. She was so small, and they policed my efforts while I gave her a tiny bottle, I think it was only her second or third feeding, she wasn’t very good at it. That’s what eventually bought her a feeding tube and kept her in the NICU nine days. I couldn’t bend enough or lift her up or move my NG tube out of the way to be able to kiss her.

All my vital alarms were going off. I was given maybe 45 minutes with my daughter, and then they wheeled me back down where I could be stabilized again. I clutched the blanket they swaddled her in so that I could smell her. At this point they gave me a breast pump, too. They told me not to be a hero. Breastfeeding was a totally shit idea, by the way, in this case.

The next day or two in ICU is fuzzy. Horrible and my mom have both reported to me in that time that the fight went out of me. I had given up, and I have a vague recollection of that. I didn’t really want to go on. My mom forced me to move, to turn over, to look at pictures of Petit Four even when I refused. I asked the anesthesiologist how much time he thought I had when they went in and saw what they saw, before the sepsis would have been too bad to beat. He said probably a few hours. I asked the surgeon the same question and he simply said, “God is good”.

My OB saw my decline and promptly got my baby down to me. This time, she was brought down to the ICU in a covered isolette, and I only got to hold her for 15 or so minutes before she was gone again. I guess that would have been Thursday.

It should go without saying that my husband was incredible during this time and somehow managed to parent the hell out of that little baby and be with me a reasonable amount of time as well.

Later on Thursday, I was well enough to go to a step-down unit. By well enough, I mean they could almost bring the fever back to normal and I wasn’t quite so tachycardic. I didn’t need constant oxygen. I was standing here and there. By Friday I was in a regular room, and by Saturday I fully had my fight back and pointed out gently to the OB on call that I hadn’t seen my baby since, um, Thursday? And I was losing my mind? Within half an hour, she had me up in the NICU, though I could never stay long because of a strict regimen of IV antibiotics every couple of hours.

I breastfed. I held her, rocked her, changed a diaper or two in the next several days. We discussed rooming-in if she ended up having to stay longer than I did. See, letting me go home with her was a complicated request. I was on a surgical floor, needing the constant supervision, instead of on the mother-and-baby floor. The NICU and surgical staff nurses snuck Petit Four into my room so that Horrible and I could have a “trial run” at parenting her on our own. I got to eat that day for the first time in over a week AND have the baby with us. It was great, and we passed the test. Finally, we were ready to go home.

We had a lot of help. And it was a good thing, because the story doesn’t end there.

I actually don’t remember much of coming home, probably because of the raging infection I still had and all of the painkillers.

It was really only the beginning of the fight.

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