Arlo's Birth Part 2: Postpartum Shenanigans!

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WARING: Stop here if you don't want to read all the gory details because I'm not holding back! lol

Sweet Arlo was born at 1:08 Wednesday morning, November 22nd.  We felt such relief and were so ready to just hang out and get to know our new baby.  Of course a few things still had to be dealt with, which was expected.  First of all, I still had to deliver the placenta.  After 24 hours of contractions the last thing I wanted was a nurse pressing on my sore belly to try to get this thing out, but it was over soon enough.  Then there were the stitches.  They took Arlo to get weighed and measured while they cleaned me up and stitched the small tears I did have.  Again, nothing in comparison to the pain I'd just been through, but not super fun.  I was ready to be left alone already!

After that our parents got to come in and meet Arlo.  I was so happy to have them there.  Sometimes all you want is a good hug from Mom and Dad!  They were obviously super tired too so after a quick visit they headed back to my house so we could all get some sleep.  During that time I started to get concerned because I was still in pain.  The pressure and the uncontrollable shaking I'd felt during labor had not gone away entirely yet.  Was it possible it was even slowly getting worse again?  I mentioned this to the nurses and they advised to go to the bathroom and try to pee.  That was probably causing some pressure.  They helped me to the bathroom but peeing was not happening.  In fact it was excruciation just to sit on the toilet.  I felt so much pressure building when I sat it was unbearable.  Still convinced I needed to pee, they got me back in bed and put in an in and out catheter.  That was very successful but still, the pressure was building.  I felt like I was going to throw up so they gave me a zofran.  That helped with the nausea, but the pain was getting worse.  They finally gave me a dose of ibuprofen to take.  They said to wait about 30 minutes for it to kick in and I'd feel much better.

30 minutes passed and the pain and pressure was worse.  They met my concerns and tears with a attempts at comfort. "Oh honey I know, I've had a baby too.  There can be a lot of lingering soreness."  This was not soreness.  I was starting to wonder if there was a second baby getting ready to come out because the pressure was so intense, just like when he was getting very low in the birth canal.  At this point they gave me a tylenol and told me again to wait 30 minutes, but in the meantime we had to move to our room in the postpartum area.  They pulled up a wheelchair but there's no way I could sit.  The pressure and pain between my legs was too much.  Walking didn't seem very possible but I did my best.  That long trek through the hospital halls was terrible.  Barely dressed, trying to walk in some kind of wide legged squat position on my jello legs, holding myself up by my IV pole, and literally holding onto my bottom with the other hand for fear something was about to fall out!  Ryan pushed Arlo ahead of me, slowly so that I could keep up.

By the time we were settled in our new room I was loosing it.  I begged for something stronger to take away the pain.  Since I was not technically a patient at Vanderbilt they had to contact my primary care providers for permission to give me anything else.  So we waited again.  While we waited a nurse suggested a sitz bath. Yes!  I love baths!  I imagined my tub at baby+co where I labored.  Oh to be back in that tub and at least somewhat comfortable.  Well a sitz bath means you sit on the toilet(again, super painful) while a nurse tries unsuccessfully to squirt warm water on your butt for 30 seconds.  NOT HELPING! Finally I had approval for more meds.  This time it was a prescription strength pain medicine, can't remember what. Once again they promised this would kick in and work wonders if given about 30 minutes.  

30 minutes later I was on all fours in my hospital bed contracting and pushing again and screaming in agonizing pain in the middle of all these sleeping mothers and new babies. Not to mention my own new baby, somehow peacefully sleeping beside me. I knew there was nothing to push out, but if you've had a baby you know the urge to push is uncontrollable. It hurt like hell to push but I couldn't stop. It felt the same as the contractions I had had during the pushing stage but so much worse.  They were more intense, more painful, and no space between. Just one long contraction. Every time I'd give in and push I emptied my very full bladder all over the bed. This was miserable. I was DONE. I screamed at the nurses. I can't do this anymore. Do anything to me to make this go away. At this point being in so much pain for so long I had the thought that I don't know how I can survive much more. At what point does a body just stop? I was either going to die or pass out. And to not know what was happening or if it was ok. At least in labor I believed my encouragers when they told me this was normal and productive and would end. I no longer had that reassurance which was super scary. Maybe my panicked screams finally made them realize this wasn't normal because the next thing I heard is that they'd called a Dr to come take a look at me. While we waited for the Dr they gave me a percocet(I only remember that one because of the song lol).

I felt like wonder woman when I gave birth earlier that morning. Now I felt like a helpless little girl who can't handle pain. Were these nurses all rolling their eyes at me? Was I being a huge baby? Does anyone else scream like this?

It seemed like forever before the Dr finally got to our room.  I do know that at that point it was between 6:30am-7am. I'd be doing this since his birth at 1:08. The Dr finally took a look at me and saw what no one could see a few hours ago. I giant bulge had appeared(the second "baby's head" I'd been feeling). I had a vulvar hematoma, which since then has been affectionately named Timmy Owen after one of Ryan's many mispronunciations. The Dr told me that meant that at some point during labor or pushing I had burst a vein causing blood to slowly pool in that area. This results in a sort of internal bruise that turns into a large hard, pressurized mass. Think of getting hit in the head and having a big hard bump. So it's that, only a whole lot bigger, and in a very inconvenient area. And of course I can only imagine all that needless pushing only made it so much worse.

The Dr gave me the reassurance I desperately needed. He told me this is extremely rare(he'd only seen it maybe twice in his 20 years of practicing) and that the pain this must cause completely warranted my reaction so not to let anyone make me feel like I'm being a baby. "You just had a very long, all natural childbirth, you can handle pain!" Then he also told me oral drugs weren't going to do a thing for the level of pain this causes so we are going to get you some real relief. I'd been told relief was coming for so long now I'd stopped believing it, but a few minutes later an IV was being put in my arm and I whatever glorious drug they gave me crept up my arm and flooded my entire body, immediately taking away my pain and sending me into the first sleep I'd had in over 24 hours.

My poor sweet baby had to spend his first night in the hospital nursery. I felt so bad to have to ignore him in his first few hours of life. NOT what I wanted, but unfortunately necessary. After a couple hours of sleep they brought him to me to nurse. On so many different pain meds, I was still so loopy as Dr's and nurses came in and out, examining me and explaining things. I have no idea what all they said at that point. It was all I could do to keep my eyes open. My mom was already there with coffee and breakfast for us. Whatever magic drug they'd given me a few hours before was still in my arm and I had a little button to push whenever I needed more.  I was still in pain but nothing like the last night. Totally manageable as long as I was comfy in bed.

I couldn't get up and down to go to the bathroom, nor could I pee on my own because of all the swelling and blockage caused by the hematoma, so I had to have a catheter put in again. That took four nurses and finally a Dr to get it in. Kill Me Now!!!!  After the fifth try the Dr pushed passed the swelling and we were good. And I was grateful for not having to get up and pee on my own that day. Once I was somewhat coherent and out of pain the Dr came in and told me we needed to do a CT scan to see how deep the mass went and determine if it would resolve itself or if I'd need a surgical procedure to remove it. 

We waited all day Wednesday to be scheduled for the scan. That evening the Dr came back to check me again, this time bringing another Dr to give his opinion as well.  After they talked they decided that it seemed to have at least stabilized, and wasn't getting any bigger. This was good news. They told me that if left alone my body would reabsorb the hematoma on its own but it could take a while. Up to three weeks of bedrest. Bedrest meaning flat on my back, because I couldn't sit on it. Or they could do the procedure and possibly get faster results. Since it was left up to me I decided that if surgery wasn't necessary I'd let my body heal on its own. I mean, I feel like it's a no brainer. There are always risks with surgery so if you're telling me I don't actually need it, I'll pass. Plus, Ryan had the next three weeks off anyway so he could take care of me during my recovery.

If we had given birth at baby+co and all was normal, we would have been released after 4-6 hours to go home, and that was my plan. Obviously I'm so glad we were in the hospital due to my needs, but 4 hours turned into 4 days. Thank God for our parents who brought everything we needed to the hospital and took care of everything while we had to stay there. We spent Thanksgiving day in the hospital, surrounded by our family for the first time since we moved to Nashville, and our sweet friends even brought the Thanksgiving dinner we'd planned to the hospital! We felt so loved and supported. I am endlessly grateful for all of them.

Friday morning we were supposed to be discharged. We were SO ready to be home! My nurse came in and told me I was good to go. They just needed to get some prescriptions filled for me and get the paperwork all done. Arlo's nurse however, came in and told us that he had jaundice and would have to stay at least another day for treatment under the bilirubin lights in the nursery. I cried actual tears for the first time that week. I didn't want to spend one more minute in this hospital room, and definitely not without my baby. I was so sad thinking of him alone under the bright lights. He hated being naked and alone and near bright things! 

By some miracle the first nurse misinformed us about him having to be in the nursery and he was actually able to be under the lights in our room. One small win. But he still screamed all day, and we were unable to hold or comfort him. It was heartbreaking. They told us at 6pm they'd recheck his levels and if they were good he could go home, if not he'd have to stay under the lights through the night. 

As for myself, still in pain, barely able to walk, unable to sit up, on orders to be in bed and on all kinds of meds, was discharged. That would have been fine if I could have gone home to be in my own bed and be taken care of. But Arlo was still not released, so they moved us to a "family room." This was about half the size of our old room and no bed for me. All we have was a fold out love seat and two pillows for Ryan and myself. I'd had a hard time getting comfortable in my remote operated hospital bed, with 5 pillows and nurses waiting on me hand and foot. We were all SO MAD. Even Arlo's nurse was amazed that they had me in that room in my condition. I stood as long as my legs would hold me up just waiting for a nurse to walk through the door at any moment and tell me we could go home. After about 30 minutes of standing I couldn't do it anymore and Ryan and our parents helped lower me onto our new "bed" and went on a mission to find me more pillows. I just hoped and prayed with everything I had that we didn't have to stay the night. There's just no way. I could't even prop myself up to nurse, and no one was there to help me anymore since I was discharged. Thankfully Arlo's results came back normal! After just a couple hours in that awful room it was 9pm and we were finally headed home!

Being home felt amazing. Our family stayed through the weekend and helped with every little thing we needed. Friends came to visit over that first week and with our free time we watched movies and just relaxed so hard. Not a huge deal that I couldn't get up and around. Arlo was sleeping and pretty chill all the time so we just took advantage and enjoyed our time, even though I was in pain. I knew it'd be over soon. Up to 3 weeks, like the Dr said.  But now as I'm writing this, it's been 3 weeks and good ole Timmy Owen is the same size he was when I left the hospital. 

I will say I'm in so much less pain. Partially because the swelling, bruising, and stitches from normal childbirth are mostly healed. Also my chiropractic adjustments took away a lot of pain and stiffness I was having all over my body. And finally, as my midwife said, I'm probably just getting used to it. Learning weird ways to prop up and get around. But bottom line is, it's not getting smaller. So next week I go back to Vanderbilt to be examined and possibly undergo the surgery we originally talked about.

And now for a moment of brutal honesty and maybe a little plain bitching. I don't have to end this post with a silver lining or a "but it's all ok because...." because it's not. It doesn't feel ok. It feels so unfair. And of course Arlo is 100% worth it and I am absolutely in love with him. But having a newborn is hard. Everyone knows that I think. It's even harder when you feel worse physically than you ever have in your entire life and you can't even stop to take care of yourself. Figuring out how to breastfeed is hard enough, but I can't even sit up and try different positions. Totally pissed poor Arlo off a few times just not being able to get us comfy. My midwives and Dr's say to just get plenty of sleep. But you remember how I have a newborn, right? You know that means I haven't have a full night's sleep in 3 weeks, right? I'm all in for him. I'm here 100% for him and whatever he needs, so no, I don't have time for pain, or for rest and recovery, or for not being able to get up and down now that Ryan's back at work. Being a new mom is hard enough and that's all I really have the mental and physical energy for. So yeah, maybe this recent improvement is just that survival mode kicking in and saying nope, ain't got time for this! 

Looking back at when I was in labor, just getting through till the next brake, that's kind of what having a newborn is like too.  Of course this past week, now that Ryan is back at work my poor kid has decided to have tummy troubles and cries more than he sleeps. It's a constant cycle of nursing for 30 minutes, then burping and keeping him upright for 20 minutes so he doesn't throw the whole thing up, then a diaper change, then the crying, a good hour of trying to calm him down then if I'm successful maybe he'll nap an hour before we start the cycle all over. I'm getting the hang of it now, pain and all. But it really is the same thing. Just like making it through one more contraction. Making it through one more feeding, one more diaper change, one more rocking to sleep, then that amazing feeling when he's happy or passed out and I get an hour to sleep or eat or shower or return a phone call or work on this blog! But then there's this ridiculous thing(during the day at least) where after finally getting him down for a nap, 30 minutes passes and I miss him! Go figure.

In less than 4 weeks I go back to work. My nurse/midwife told me this week I shouldn't count on that being possible. But I am determined, because I have to. I'm not in a position to take anymore time off than I already have. I'm also about to go crazy not even being able to get out to even go on a walk or go get coffee, or anything outside my house. So whatever it needs to look like, natural healing or surgery, I'd so appreciate all your love, healing energy, prayers, or whatever you want to throw my way to get me healed in that amount of time.

To wrap this up in someway I guess I'll just say this. I don't feel negativity about this experience in general at all. This has been a truly amazing and life changing thing but it's hard to answer all the questions when people check in. How are you guys doing? Are you feeling better? No, I'm not doing great and not feeling better honestly so why do I feel the need to say "yes! Everything's great" when it's really not? Hopefully this doesn't sound negative, just honest. I know as a new mom I'm thankful for others that have posted their struggles instead of just the good stuff. It helps to know you're not crazy! And ok, here I go, I guess I am throwing in a silver lining anyway. One thing this experience has shown me that has been truly beautiful and amazing, is that I am so much stronger than I ever knew. I mean really, it takes something like this to bring out the deepest most animalistic side of our very being.  Our bodies were built for this and we will survive it. So even from my bed, in spit-up covered pjs and hair that hasn't been washed all week, I feel odly empowered.

Love,

Caitlin