***Trigger warning: placenta abruption, emergency c-section, NICU, and near death***
A year ago today I started having prodominal labor at around 3am.
I snuggled close to my boyfriend (Carl) through each contraction. I tried to let him sleep and stayed as quiet as I could. It wasn’t anything I hadn’t been through before. I didn’t want him to worry. I cat napped in between.
Around 7am they started getting a little quicker and a little more intense. I didn’t want to go into the hospital yet. I got dressed anyway. We wanted to lay back down and try to sleep some more. I joked about how Kitten might end up being born on the way if we waited too long. But I still wasn’t in a rush to get in.
At about 8am I decided we needed to just go in. I didn’t want to risk another accidental unassisted birth. I was still battling my state for Dandelion’s birth certificate. I told Carl he needed to drive. Neither of us were too happy about leaving because we were both exhausted.
Morning traffic made the trek slow. My contractions got to 5 minutes apart. But that confused me. I was kind of able to still talk through them. And even though I have a high tolerance for pain, normally once I hit the 5 minute mark, I’m moaning or screaming through them. My water was still intact. I wasn’t sure what was going on. But I reminded myself all labors are different.
We got to L&D and they put me in triage. Not a delivery room. I thought maybe they were full and I would have to wait for an actual room. They got me hooked up to the fetal monitor and started their usual questions. They checked my cervix and I was only 2cm. They noticed my uterus wasn’t really resting in between contractions. And that Kitten’s heart rate dropped. My OB came in to check on me and decided they needed to put probes on his head.
That’s when things really went downhill fast.
It was a few minutes after she got the probes on his head that I felt a gush. I got excited. I thought my water broke. I told the nurse. She checked under my blanket. I was bleeding. A lot. As soon as I saw the blood, i knew things were not going well. We would not be having our natural delivery like we had planned.
My OB then explained that it looks like my placenta was abruptiong. She explained that we needed to get him out now. I panicked. I had 4 successful vaginal deliveries. How could this be happening? My mom had arrived a little before they put the probes on Kitten, she asked if I was going to be put all the way under. My OB said yes. Which both relieved and terrified me. The only way I knew I could ever handle a c-section would be if I was all the way under. But I also knew that there was a good chance I wouldn’t wake up. I knew I wouldn’t get to hear his first cry and know he was ok. The icing on the cake was because of the nature of everything, Carl was not allowed in the OR. My rock, my comfort couldn’t be with me.
They started rolling me out of the room. I was terrified. I kept telling Carl I was sorry for the stupid argument I started the night before. For whatever reason my mind thought this was my karma. I don’t know how many times I told him I love him. I was so scared I was going to be leaving him and my babies alone in this world.
Once in the OR, they got me on the table. They started prepping my tummy. The cold air made me panic again. I looked at the nurse who had checked me in and been with me this whole short time and asked her to please stay with me. I needed something to calm me. They got the drape up and I heard someone ask if I was under yet. Panic again. I was terrified they were gonna start cutting. The anesthesiologist and another nurse both yelled that I wasn’t out yet. Someone got an oxygen mask on my face and the nurse next to me said they were going to push the anesthesia. I fell asleep hoping I would wake up and that my son would be ok.
I woke up. My throat was hurting. My tummy had a pressure pack on it. And I was alone. A nurse came into my curtain room to check my vitals. She was kind of gruff. I don’t wake up from anesthesia well and her vibe wasn’t helping. I asked about Kitten. She said he was in NICU. He had swallowed and breathed in meconium. He wasn’t breathing when they pulled him out. I think she asked me if I wanted my mom or Carl first. I told her I wanted Carl. (Lots of things are foggy but I do remember asking for him.) I needed him badly. And I knew he needed me.
Seeing him brought the wave of calm I needed. He told me how cute Kitten was and what name he finally decided on. It didn’t feel like I had him for long before my mom traded out so he could go to the NICU. And I wouldn’t see him again for a week.
At some point they explained that they almost had to cool Kitten down to protect his brain. But he didn’t end up needing it. He had to be on IV antibiotics for his lungs because of the meconium. They did an x-ray to check his lungs. And some other stuff that I don’t remember. I had to be put on magnesium for the pre-eclampsia I developed. Which meant I had to stay in L&D for an extra 24 hours. The pre-eclampsia caused my placenta to tear itself up. My OB said my placenta looked awful.
Once I was back in a delivery room, I was confronted by the head of security and a social worker. They informed me that Carl had made the nurses nervous. That he was freaking out and that he was threatening them. Which I later found out that wasn’t true. He had been explaining where he got Kitten’s name from and it made a couple of nurses nervous because it was far from Christian. (And it was a Catholic/Christian based hospital.) Plus, if someone is actually freaking out, why didn’t they try to calm him down first? Instead they called security and had him leave.
The social worker explained he was banned from the premises. I started crying and begging them to let him stay. I told them me and Kitten needed him. I explained that we are each other’s calm. His brother had just died and he just watched his son and girlfriend almost die in front of him so he was just scared. It wasn’t fair that they were just tossing him out. They wouldn’t listen to me. The social worker said if I needed anything to let her know.
It was one blow after another.
I was faced with dealing with everything alone. This wasn’t what I had dreamed of for months. We were supposed to be cuddling our son together while I recovered. I was furious. I didn’t feel safe anymore. What if they thought I was a threat?
I was asked by every nurse that came in my room if I was safe at home. I was safer with Carl than I was there without him. I already don’t trust medical professionals easily. And the social worker would come in to check on me.
My first 24 hours after birth was without my son and my rock.
My mom and grandma took turns staying with me. I don’t like hospitals. If anyone was a true threat it was me. It is always me. I’m always 2 seconds away from ripping a nurse or doctor in half while I’m in a hospital.
I was on about 5 different narcotics. Magnesium. And normal IV. I wasn’t allowed to even get out of bed to pee. So I had a fucking catheter.
The lactation nurse came and visited me. I wasn’t allowed to see my son in the NICU. I couldn’t latch him. So she offered me a pump. I explained that I don’t respond to electric pumps and requested a hand pump. She got huffy and rude with me. How do I know this? I explained I had 4 kids prior and have experience. That definitely pissed her off even more. Heaven forbid someone knows what they are doing. She then decided to take forever to bring me a manual pump. In that time I had to okay organic formula for Kitten. I asked first if we could have donor milk. We were denied because he was born at 38 weeks. I can’t tell you how pissed that made me. I understand preemies need breast milk. But any NICU baby should be allowed donor milk. Kitten could have benefitted from it especially given the circumstances.
Once I started pumping, I was barely getting any colostrum out. I was scared the c-section and the time apart were going to ruin our breastfeeding journey before it even started. My nurse told me to keep trying.
She also had a sit down with me. She knew I was bottling up everything. My mom did too. But that was because at that point I didn’t trust anyone. I didn’t trust letting my emotions out. I just wanted my son and I wanted to go home.
Over 24 hours after giving birth, I got to meet him. I was finally taken off of the magnesium. I was wheeled down to NICU. He had wires hooked up to him and had an IV in his belly button. (I can’t remember what that was called.) I couldn’t help but cry. I never wanted to see any of my babies that way. I felt like the worst mom. I didn’t protect him. They promised I could try to latch him that night. They wanted me to get settled in my post partum room and relax first.
I didn’t want to leave him. It felt wrong being in my room without him there. I got a shower and finally got changed into my clothes. Which was awful. My incision was low. The waist band on my leggings and even my yoga pants hurt. A nurse brought me a compression belly band thing. That helped protect my incision from my pants. Total lifesaver. My mom convinced me to also ask for an electric pump to see if that would help me get more out for him. I napped some.
I counted down until I could go back to the NICU and nurse him. I was so happy on the way there. The walk through the NICU to get to him was torture. Seeing all the tiny tiny babies…hearing all the alarms going off…my heart hurt for them and their parents.
Finally getting him in my arms was the most relief I had gotten since Carl. Smelling his little head was heaven. I latched him onto my right boob. He did well. His latch was pretty close to perfect. He transferred colostrum well. After he was done, I pumped and got more out than I had before.
Again, leaving him in the NICU hurt. It felt like I was leaving my heart behind. I was on edge when I wasn’t with him. I felt incomplete. I needed my Kitten.
That night my mom stayed with me. We went to the NICU when it was his touch times so I could nurse him. In between I pumped. A lot. I was getting quite a bit considering everything. My body was just waiting for that first latch. I pushed myself to walk more than they suggested. I wanted to be out of there. I cut myself off the narcotics and only took Motrin.
My second night in post partum was also my first night alone. My mom had to go home and my grandma had to take my grandpa to the ER. He ended up staying in the hospital again for the second time in 3 months.
Being alone made me feel weak. I was still being asked if I felt safe at home. Being reassured I was safe in the hospital. I didn’t feel safe. Especially alone. I couldn’t protect my son because I wasn’t with him. My nurse that night was supposed to bring me up from the NICU. Kitten’s NICU nurse told me I was pushing myself too much and needed to allow my nurse to wheel me back. But she never came. So his nurse took me back even though I insisted on walking. She was the only nurse that I felt any kind of safety around.
Normally I love being alone. But in the hospital after almost dying…and not even having my son with me…that was the worst kind of alone. I handled everything without anyone there until it was time to go home. My mom had classes and was unable to get back until she came to pick us up. We were in the hospital from Monday morning until Friday afternoon. I got my OB to wait on sending me home. I told her I was not going to leave without my son. So they didn’t release me until he was ready.
At one point (I can’t remember if it was the 3rd or 4th day) the social worker cornered me in the NICU. Anyone who knows me knows that that is the worst thing to do. I already had a bad vibe from her the moment I met her. That never went away. Again she asked if Carl ever hurt me. Again I reassured her that I’m safer with him than anywhere else. She noticed what I was hinting at and frowned for a second. I kept all my other answers short. She was trying to get me to open up. I knew how dangerous that would have been since all my thoughts were consumed with ripping her to shreds. I felt threatened by her mere presence. I wanted to be done with the hospital. I wanted to take my son home where he would be safe from those people. Never in my life would I have thought that I would feel that scared and uncomfortable in a hospital.
Throughout our stay I told Carl I just need us to heal so we could be his again. Kitten seemed to agree with that because he did so well. He surpassed every expectation. The NICU pediatrician was impressed and happy with his recovery. When we finally got that okay to go home, I was ecstatic. I had a bunch of milk frozen in the NICU that we took home with us. They told me that I had the most milk stored than any other mom there. I’m an overproducer once my milk comes in so it didn’t surprise me.
After this and a recent trip to their pediatric ER for Critter, I have decided I will not step foot in that hospital again. Carl’s ban is up. But that doesn’t take away from the fact that the hospital staff there is awful. I don’t feel safe there still.
Kitten’s birth was by far the hardest for me. He is now a year old and I still have not fully processed my feelings on this. It took me this long to want to write out his birth story. That was the hardest week of my life thus far. Maybe having now written this, it’ll help me process.