I’m always pretty guarded about telling my children’s birth stories. Unless you ask. Then I will talk your ear off. First, everyone who has children has a birth story. Everyone thinks their story is pretty spectacular and dramatic. The truth is, birth is pretty miraculous. Saying you had a baby is saying it all.
I’m guarded because of guilt, I guess (what else is new?). We have two healthy, happy, thriving children and they were conceived with no trouble. Some people have a hell of a time conceiving. Some never are able to have babies. Some people have multiple miscarriages. Some people have a baby, but can’t bring baby home right away. Some people have a baby, but the baby doesn’t make it home. It goes on and on. So when I think about the little dramas I encountered in the maternity ward, they appear to be just that: Little. Not worth sitting here talking about. When I think of that, the little dramas fade. Then I feel particularly jerky and guilty for wanting to talk about our birth stories.
BUT, all of us parents can agree that it’s VERY therapeutic to talk about our birth stories. And I am all about talking, writing and working through our traumas to move forward. And I really feel like I’m at a place, seven months postpartum, that’s I’m ready to talk about Delilah’s birth story, get it out of my system and continue moving forward.
Our drama began when I was doing kangaroo care with Delilah just minutes after I was in recovery after my c-section. She was making some funny breathing sounds – what I thought were cute newborn baby noises. But it alarmed the nurse and she took Delilah away. She was having trouble breathing. Then she stopped breathing and they had to put her on oxygen in the NICU. Honestly, I was not worried. We were in the best possible place for infant care. I trusted what was happening in the NICU. The doctors were very forthcoming with detailed information about what was going on. And as much as I wanted to have our baby room in with us as we did with Ollie, I was kind of looking forward to a good night’s sleep. Is that selfish? Probably. I was on pain meds, recovering from a c-section. I was exhausted and doped up and I just wasn’t too worried. She was healthy for the first nine months, she’d be fine.
When the breathing problem went away, suddenly Delilah wasn’t keeping down her fluids so they gave her an IV to keep her hydrated. In her goddamned forehead. They told us, “It looks barbaric, but it’s the best vein.” Whatever. Whatever. Whatever. They put a little bow near the IV site. OK, just fix her!
I gimped over to the NICU as often as possible to nurse. I pumped like a madwoman filing little vials with colostrum so the nurses could give that to her in between.
Her condition improved and we were able to go home in the standard four days for c-section births. But her interventions didn’t end there. She spit up a lot. I’ve never been a big milk producer, so I felt so defeated when I’d nurse for a half hour and she’d spit up half of the milk. She spit up the formula I was supplementing with. And she wasn’t particularly happy. Then I began finding blood in her stools. After some labs, her pediatrician deducted she had a milk allergy that was straining her and giving her pain. We had to put her on this special formula that is approximately $261 a can. But the blood went away and the colic subsided and she became much happier overall. And so did we.
So whatever. You do what you need to do. She’s absolutely doing fine now. I’m a little leery about the transition from this magic formula to regular formula as far as when that’s going to happen and how she’s going to react, and then how the transition to cow’s milk is going to go. I hope the allergy doesn’t stay with her forever. But if it does, we’ll figure it out.
So sitting here with a very happy, healthy, giggly, pink-cheeked redheaded spitfire of a girl, it’s really hard to lament without sounding like an ingrate. But I think the trauma of all of that has weighed on me and I’m now starting to want to get it out so I can move on.
And that’s not all. We had another blow at the hospital.
A NICU nurse pulled a vial of my colostrum from the fridge and gave it to another woman’s baby. The other mom saw my name on the vial’s label and flipped. I don’t blame her. The fuck?
That just made me mad. Mad for me for the embarrassment and inconvenience of having to get blood work done to prove I don’t have HIV/AIDS/hep. Mad for the other mom who found out her baby got some random woman’s milk who, for all she knew, had HIV/AIDS/hep/crack addiction/zombie DNA. Mad for everyone who puts trust in hospitals and their healthcare staffs. And mad at the dingbat nurse who fucked up. Even more mad for her manner of sharing the bad news. I was having a private moment nursing my baby and catching up with my sister when she peeked in looking like someone just died and said she had horrible news, proceeding to tell me how she fucked up. Which, yes, is horrible and needed to be communicated to me pretty immediately, but certainly there was a better way. Like in private without the imminent-end-of-the-world facial expression and tone. I realize to her, fucking up could cost her her job, so maybe it was the end of the world to her, but chill. I was in a delicate state as it was – baby in the NICU, I’m recovering from a major surgery, on meds, not in the best mental state. I basically fell apart. Blubbering like a damn fool.
I would have been royally screwed if a) my husband wasn’t the rock that he is and incredible at dealing with people and b) my best friends weren’t waiting for me in my room to cheer me up. They came unexpectedly and I wasn’t sure I could pull it together for them, but I took a deep breath, wiped away my tears and went in and laughed like nobody’s business for a good half hour. Sometimes a surprise visit is the BEST visit. So thank you Cely and Jaime.
My reward for having my bloodwork done was $30 worth of hospital cafeteria vouchers. Looks like I came out the big winner, amiright? It was also reassuring to know that I don’t have zombie DNA.
So yeah. It was the roller coaster ride that had a lot of free falls, but also lots of fun parts in between like getting home-baked goodies from my sister’s bakery, ridiculously cute girlie stuff from friends and family, so many flowers it smelled like a garden in my room, plus lots of private, happy moments between my husband and me, and my baby and me. And seeing Ollie with his little sister for the first time was priceless.
I guess as I start closing this post, I just want to say no matter how minor, your drama as a parent is yours. It has value. It has meaning. You might not even know its weight till you’re seven months postpartum. It might hit you all at once. Talk about it and don’t feel guilty. For me, when people ask me if and when we’re having No. 3, I feel like unloading all the stuff we’ve been through physically, emotionally, hormonally and financially. I am not aching to add to my brood. And I’m not sorry for feeling that way. I’m VERY happy with my perfectly messy, chaotic, silly and crazy family. I can’t imagine it getting any better than this, right now. I don’t want to “push” it!
Now, tell me about your birth story! (Oh no, I just opened the flood gates, didn’t I?! Bring it!)