A labor bubble
bursts, fades, lingers.
Never the same.
Babies are rather odd in their first few days of life. They have a very pushed-forcefully-through-a-tiny-shoot look about them. Though, to be fair, I had a very, pushed-something-large-through-a-tiny-shoot look about me…
Right after the birth
Right after baby D’s birth he was laid on my chest. The umbilical cord still attached and pulsing, leading back inside as though he wasn’t fully born. When the cord stopped, my husband snipped baby D away. Officially welcoming him into the “real world.” The placenta then exited, and I suffered through the first of many “uterine massages” helped along by a shot of Pitocin in my thigh.
I received some local numbing as I was given three or so stitches for some minor tearing.
Then my husband ordered pizza to the delivery room. Which in the hunger of postpartum was like eating a cracker with some lunchable toppings on it (who orders a lady in postpartum thin crust? honestly).
At one point we tried to get my son to breast feed, but I can’t remember this entire chunk of time. I remember we struggled to find a position to get him to latch, and he half-heartedly latched the right breast with many pillows and much assistance.
Then the midwife left, never to be seen again. The nurses continued the uterine massages, and let me know I was required to pee in under 4 hours after birth, or they would need to stick a catheter in me. So I guzzled as much water as I could get my hands on while my husband supervised the weighing, measuring, and footprint-taking of our son.
The first pee is a bit of an ordeal.
Laying in the bed I didn’t realize how weak I was. While I was still able to walk to the toilet (with assistance), when I stood up from the toilet I suddenly lost almost all of my hearing. I said “You sound like you’re in a faraway tunnel” to the nurse, who then gripped me tightly as the world started tipping heavily to the left. We somehow made it back to the bed and I held on to the rails as the world shifted and jiggled nauseatingly back into proper alignment.
They brought me orange juice, and left us alone. The post-partum room was being prepped still. I turned to my husband and said, “Do you feel like crying?” “No.” “Me either.”
I turned my phone on and posted a photo of baby D, and messaged my family extra photos.
I was very exhausted, and I don’t recall feeling any particular emotions other than dread mixed with determination as I suffered through another uterine massage.
Before our postpartum room was ready, I had to get up and pee again. I was a bit anxious about standing, but resolved that I would walk and stand up more slowly. I walked hunched so as not to tempt gravity, and successfully peed a second time. However, on the very short walk back, I couldn’t make it. I turned a clammy grey-white color and was drenched in sweat. Unable to make it to the bed I was placed in a wheelchair.
Letting the moment soak in
Time held no meaning, but after what I suspect was 24 hours after the birth, my husband held my hand and looked at me quietly. He then told me how much he had loved the labor experience. He had been so moved that I relied and trusted him so completely, so genuinely that he couldn’t have denied me anything. He told me how desperate he felt when I fell at the door of the Hyatt unable to continue walking. How sometimes he couldn’t believe I could still keep going, and how much he felt like he needed my instruction. He had been silently in awe over the effort of giving birth and seeing baby D emerge. He gripped at his chest, and then he cried. Baby D lounged sleepily across me as he leaned in and wrapped his arms and held me. My single most favorite memory in all our years together.
We stayed in the hospital a little over 48-hours, and only because we stayed, “an extra day.” We had been under the impression we’d be there for two days, specifically because our midwife group kept referring to the stay as, “you get two dinners.” It’s actually two nights. Because we got in the room a little before midnight we had the room for a good 30 minutes which counted as night one, one more night and we were expected out by checkout the next day at noon. This was a little devastating to discover, but staying for two dinners was in the cards because baby D wasn’t ready to leave.
Breastfeeding: The other ‘B’ word
I completely underestimated the struggle of breastfeeding. It took me tons of books and mental prep to believe I was capable of giving birth naturally, but it didn’t take an ounce of research for me to feel confident about my ability to breastfeed. After all, I have giant boobs. Giant. I would be a human milk factory, and it would be the cherry on top of the cake that made up my very easy pregnancy and delivery. No sarcasm.
Breast feeding was endlessly frustrating. Baby D would never latch onto the left breast, and while the consultants assured me he was properly latched onto the right the entire process left my toes curled in blinding pain. Popping him off the nipple (because it was apparently not supposed to hurt ever) proved only to piss him off. It was then I learned just how strong newborns are, and how impressively strong my uterus is to have withstood it.
He would thrash his whole body in anger, somehow climbing his way up my body, screaming violently. When the nipple passed anywhere near his face, he would start inhaling desperately, grabbing with his freakishly strong infant arms, and burying himself in with all his might. Yet, he struggled to latch, and when latched, to stay on even when I held everything in place and still as I could.
On one hand we had assistance at our beck and call, on another, there were too many arms. The slow-moving colostrum made me desperate for my milk to come in. When it did, I realized I was more desperate for my son to latch properly. The lactation consultant came in, and instructed us through several positions, all very neat, but she was also unsuccessful in getting him to latch as he would thrash and shake his head, the nipple to soft for him to find. Everyone getting frustrated. Then she said my boobs were too big to fail and left content with her own answer. So I would let him latch onto the right, suffer through the pain, and then latch the semi-satiated babe semi-successfully onto the left for as long as I could coax it to remain interested in the task.
Our stay overlapped Christmas, and so the crew available that night was nearer our own ages. The nurses, all very nice and well-meaning, quoted nearly verbatim from the same movies and books we had read. I felt a twitch of uncertainty as I realized their inexperience.
Then, around 1AM, Baby D wiggled. Sensing he was getting hungry, and poking my boobs to assure myself that my guess must be correct, my husband help me prop up so we could get some early attempts of getting him to latch. My husband and I dutifully executed all of the techniques we’d been taught so far hoping that he would latch. Baby D latched, suck, arch his back and pop off. Oh no. Again, latch, suck, pop off. The right boob, usually his favorite, was proving a failure. Latch, suck suck suck. Oh phew! I anticipated his arch and held him tight. Suck suck. Then he thrashed his head, and his eyes popped open and looked straight at me. All three of us broke a sweat as baby D realized he was definitely hungry. He started inhaling desperately as I ran the nipple in the requisite technique, opening his mouth wide, and then LATCH, but he was getting frantic and he’d thrash his head in a hungry rage and pop off. He got more and more angry and began to thrash his arms and legs as his scream escalated.
We called in the young nurses. Who tried to help for AN HOUR and then baby D cried so hard that he passed out. One instant crying, the next in a deep sleep.
“We have to wake him up so he’ll feed” and quickly shook his little body, and his eyes (and mouth) opened instantly. But this time he was just angry, he went rigid with a high-pitched cry. The two nurses began arguing with each other over techniques from either side of the bed over the top of my head. Then one left, and the other followed. Leaving me with a now very awake and angry baby. No gentle swipes along his mouth, his cheek, his nose coax him into any form of interest in feeding, he only screamed an unstoppable scream. His throat and mouth were getting dry, and I was getting a little scared. I held his little unhappy form and started wailing too. My husband attempted to reassure me, but he was as oblivious as I was on how to solve this problem.
Then the first nurse came back holding a little plastic item. A nipple guard, size Medium.
She explained how it worked over the wailing, and I popped it on the left nipple, willing to try any product that offered hope. The nipple stuck out rigidly, squirting milk into the tiny cavity. I shoved my son’s face onto it, and he sucked with such a happy fury, a satisfied mumble, little hands grasping, that I began to cry again.
The next day, a woman with a reassuring mass of grey hair wafted in, another lactation consultant. Sent in because of the pediatricians agreement that our son needed more help latching. She more successfully showed me the breastfeeding techniques. She comfortably encouraged me to use the nipple guard, noting my nipple was “naturally flat.” Then the original lactation consultant came in, and stink eyed the guard and the older woman silently. My grey-haired guru nervously tittered about as she handed me an extra nipple guard under the disapproving glare of the first lactation consultant. It was an odd moment, to realize that a person’s individual ideology had kept me from this little plastic tool I needed for mental sanity and my son needed to be successful in getting food. Right in front of her, my tiny infant happily clamped onto the BPA-free solution, eating, and still she gave the product a stink eye. I made a point to thank the second lactation consultant, clearly articulating that no one was remotely successful until her. I noted that the compliment made the confidence leak out of the first consultants glare.
Physical exhaustion and heading home
Despite being given dulcolax every single day, and eating like a starving lion, I never had a bowel movement while in the hospital. “The first poo” is a noted postpartum event, and I was anxious about it. Though I was hoping to get it over with while still at the hospital, it was not meant to be. While I did get progressively more anxious about it, I couldn’t stop myself from eating, as I was so hungry.
Moving was a particular chore, but I found I could stand and walk around with more ease than I gave myself credit for. I took a shower and donned the pink robe I had brought specifically for postpartum, slid on my nice new slippers, and walked around the L&D ward about 15 times sipping on ice water out of the nice mug I got from the hospital.
We left the hospital on Christmas day, my father and step mother were driving down from my home state and would arrive around 5PM. We at lunch at the hospital and started the process of packing up and getting dressed, the whole thing took about 2 hours as we decided to leave after baby D breastfed. This would give us the best chance of going home without stopping (as we lived 40 miles from the hospital).
I pulled out my postpartum outfit, and baby D’s going home outfit, and we packed him up as gingerly as first time parents do with most new experiences. There was an odd feeling that everything and nothing had changed.
Life had moved on seamlessly without a single ripple to the pond. This effect was louder since we were alone in our own little bubble. We had dropped our entire life with little preamble and didn’t attempt to pick it back up again. It ceased with the first contraction. Our puppy left to the pre-arranged care of close friends. Our house and fridge stocked up with 6 weeks of supplies. Our bills all set on auto-payment. Our altered existence happened so effortlessly that when we reappeared from hospital it seemed as though all time had led to the soft sleeping form of baby D.