Thursday, January 9, 2014

Part 2: Recovering


Note: The recovery time in-hospital for c-sections in Israel is 4+ days, instead of the usual 2-3. 

Thursday: After the labor, I was shuffled on a stretcher, shivering from the meds and unable to move my legs, through corridor after corridor to a different building to the "recovery" room. I had assumed when they told me I was going to recovery that it meant a maternity ward recovery, but where I ended up was something along the lines of general surgical recovery. The man next to me was vomiting or spitting something up every five minutes, the two women across from me were bruised and tied up to machines, and the recovery area got more and more full over the next five hours that I laid there, unable to move, crying, scared, and frustrated.

Mr. T made sure I was settled and then went upstairs to the nursery to see the baby, to make sure he was okay and to see what the situation was. Left alone, nurses came and changed various things in the most aggressive way possible, rolling me on my side with a quick shove, without telling me what was happening. The pain was unbearable, and one of the nurses said she'd make sure I was kept on medication, which turned out to be an empty promise because hours later I'd asked three different women for medication and crying uncontrollably not a one came back with anything for me. When Mr. T returned he was swiftly kicked out because the doctors were making rounds and, evidently, guests aren't allowed in the room when this is happening. The security guard threatened him for standing outside the door, poised to come back in, instead of in some special waiting area. Later the same thing happened and with the security guard standing at the end of my bed yelling at my husband to leave I shouted "Gever, gever, b'vakasha ..." trying to get his attention to explain the situation.

He didn't even have the decency to turn and look at the crying woman in the hospital bed. He just scowled and yelled at my husband more.

You see, with my first ever hospital stay, my first surgery, my first birth, I was both in shock, incredibly emotionally exhausted, and scared beyond anything I can describe. Left alone those minutes in the recovery room to my own thoughts and devices I cried. I didn't want to be alone. I shouldn't have been alone. Mr. T knew that, and he went to great lengths to make sure he was there for me.

After he'd gone up to the nursery, in fact, he came back with a little plastic cup.

"Don't lose this," he said. "It's very important."

The little cup was meant for me to express in, so that when my newborn baby was ready, he could eat. They told Mr. T they needed it back by noon to feed the baby, and as the hours ticked on and I clutched that little plastic cup having zero clue how to express on my own, Mr. T grew frustrated and I grew more depressed.

After speaking with countless nurses and doctors, after waiting hours, Mr. T finally went to the maternity ward and demanded they make space for me. Put me in the hallway, anything, just to get me nearer to my son so that when he's ready to eat, I'm there. I tweeted, I Facebooked, I wanted someone, anyone to help me. (Oh, and responded, hours later.)

Eventually, five hours after I'd been sitting in recovery and nearly six hours after I'd last seen my baby, we were moved onto the maternity ward, me still clutching the little plastic cup.

Mr. T went to the nursery asking them to please bring the baby to see his mother, and a nurse rolled him in to us saying "Five minutes, I'll be back in five minutes." He was on a monitor because of concerns about his breathing, but from the looks of him, he was calm, breathing, content, exhausted. I put my finger near his face and he grabbed it firmly -- my baby's first attempt at reaching out to mom. For the first time in days I felt relaxed. This was my baby, he was okay, things were going to be good.

The woman spared no seconds, returning the baby to the nursery and setting me on the journey to recovery. Nurse after nurse would come in over the next few days taking temperatures and blood pressure at all hours of the day (why they need to take these measurements at midnight when I'm sleeping is beyond me), another nurse to deliver medication, another to teach me how to express (telling me that most c-section moms can't express so quickly -- so there's a triumph), another to explain how to breast feed, another to check the catheter, another to bring me food so I can take the higher-dose medication, and yet another to stand outside the door while I sat in a white plastic chair, shivering, attempting to shower for the first time in nearly two days.

The food they served on the ward floor consisted of cheese, more cheese, hardboiled eggs, and more cheese. Oh, and chocolate pudding. The hot food was gluten-filled, ranging from shnitzel to quiche. After the birth my appetite disintegrated and I still don't have it back. I lost more than 14 pounds over the pregnancy and birth, and I find myself only eating when I know I'm supposed to. In the hospital Mr. T grew more and more frustrated with the food options -- for someone who was lactose intolerant pre-pregnancy and because they suggest avoiding mass quantities of dairy if you're breastfeeding because of baby sensitivity.

The real kicker came one of the first night after the birth when around 12:30 in the morning, with me, the baby, and Mr. T all asleep someone came in to take my temperature and woke all of us up to take the baby back to the nursery. We had no idea that the baby couldn't stay with us in the room, especially because it didn't make sense with a breastfeeding mom to have the baby down the hall when mom (that's me) wasn't incredibly mobile. Was I expected to get up at 3 in the morning and schlep down the hall to feed? Why couldn't they leave the baby with me?

That night I believe I spent five hours straight nursing the baby in a room adjacent to the nursery, which was filled with screaming children whose mothers, I assume, were relying on formula and getting a quality night's sleep. I sat and nursed and nursed and nursed and nursed and only when it was okay for me to roll the baby back to our room did I set him down and return to my room where Mr. T was sleeping.

Did I mention husbands were technically supposed to sleep in the rooms and that there is nowhere else in the hospital for them to sleep except on Shabbat? Yeah ... there's that. Israeli hospitals are not husband friendly. I guess the assumption is that post-birth moms just want to shove their babies off into the nursery and for husbands to go home and take care of the other kids and leave mom alone for the next three days or so. On Shabbat, dads can sleep in the synagogue on cots that are setup and there are options for meals, too. The rest of the time, dads can't eat the food served on the ward and if you're caught sleeping in the room, depending on the nurse, you'll be booted.

Saturday: After a few days on this particular floor, we complained about the food, not being able to have our baby in the room, and other things and we were moved up to a different floor that allowed the baby to room-in, but most definitely did not let Mr. T sleep in the room overnight. But we were content to have the baby in the room with us after two nights without him and me schlepping around to feed him down the hall.

This night was the the worst night in the hospital for me. I was frazzled already from exhaustion and still reeling from the pain of surgery and everything happening with my baby. Around 12:30 in the morning, as I sat in bed feeding a fairly fussy baby, an older, fanny-pack toting nurse came in to (once again) take my blood pressure and temperature. The conversation went something like this:

"What are you doing? Who taught you to feed like that?" the nurse said.
"What do you mean? A nurse on floor B. I've fed him like this for two days just fine. He's fussy. It's fine. We're fine," I responded.
"No, you can't feed him like that," she said as she came over and pulled the baby out of my arms as he screamed and I started to cry.

She proceeded to tell me a variety of "problems" with my breasts and why the baby isn't feeding right, as I sat bawling and the baby screamed. Another nurse came in and asked what was going on. The fanny-pack toting nurse told her I wasn't feeding my baby right and that's why he was crying and that there were problems with my breasts. The younger nurse came over and investigated (me, still bawling as I was being manhandled and my baby was starving) and said things were fine. The older nurse tried to get me to use this ridiculous device to feed the baby and the younger nurse assertively told her to lay off. The older nurse backed off and watched as the younger nurse helped me get the baby to latch. He calmed down, he fed, she told me it would be okay.

I spent the rest of the night feeding the baby and feeding the baby and crying on and off. Inevitably the younger nurse suggested we top him off with a formula bottle, and against my better judgment we did. I was exhausted and wanted to sleep. So she took the baby, said she'd feed him, and then burp him because he was gassy. Around 4:30 in the morning -- me asleep -- she wheeled him into my room, said he was fine and had been asleep for a while.

In the morning, before she left for the day, she came in to check on the baby and (having explained everything to Mr. T), we both thanked her again and again for her help and kindness. Her name? Chana. Truth be told, she was the only nurse with a sense of empathy that we came across during our time at Hadassah Ein Kerem.

Sunday-Tuesday: After speaking with the head nurse about everything, it was decided that we were going to be moved over to the Hadassah Baby hotel next door to chill out, relax, and get out of the hospital. We waited until nearly three in the afternoon, but we were moved over to the hotel and given two free nights (for me and baby -- husbands, of course, have to pay). The benefits of the hotel? Baby in the room, quality food options with a chef who was willing to make me gluten-free nosh (I had my first real meal in nearly a week thanks to some stir-fried veggies and tofu). With a giant comfortable bed, a nice shower, privacy, and no nurses checking my blood pressure every five seconds, things looked good.

Then, that evening, I began to have intense pain on my right side under my rib cage. We thought maybe I'd bruised or broken a rib in the process of the birth, but this was the first I was experiencing of the pain. We pushed the baby into the nursery and explained the situation, to which the nurses in the hotel said it was the after-effects of the c-section. They put me back on pain meds, and I proceeded to be med-loading every four to five hours for the next two weeks (I'm still taking ibuprofen nearly every night to calm the pain of what I think is a seroma behind my scar, but a visit to the ER last week had the on-call gyno saying that it wasn't a seroma, so who knows).

On Tuesday, after a week of being away from home, moved between six different hospital rooms, 45 hours of labor, having an unplanned surgery, having my baby forcibly removed from my arms several times, and being scolded for how I was feeding my child ... we went home. I was immediately more relaxed being in my own space. Without the eyes of nurses watching over me and the concern of eating enough to provide enough for my baby, I was in the comfort of familiar surroundings. And here I've been for the past three weeks.

These three weeks have been emotional and exhausting. They've involved a half-dozen trips to the nurse in Efrat to get my surgical staples removed, to check on my scar, which so nicely decided to open and cause problems, and a visit to the ER for the same reason. Luckily, we're getting into patterns with sleep and feeding, and having Mr. T at home every day has been helpful. With the baby attached 24/7 because, let's be honest he's at the age of Mommy = comfort, having someone to make food, do laundry, change diapers, and keep the house presentable while I feed and work is a huge blessing. Today I made my first solo outing to the grocery store, leaving a sleeping baby at home with the husband and it went fairly well, despite the cart falling over and the overly heavy bags being hard on my body to lift. Who would have thought a grocery trip could take it all out of me?

I guess this concludes the drama of my birthing and recovery story. I'm still recovering. There are a lot of things that I'm unable to do because of the pain and the possible whatever/seroma that's living in my body. I'm loving having lost more than 14 pounds because, hey, I look good, but not being able to lift things, bend over, reach things on high counters has me feeling a bit feeble and helpless. It's frustrating, but I'm working on it.

I didn't think we'd get to three weeks last month, but baruch ha'Shem, we're doing good. The baby has peed on me more than a dozen times (why is my instinct to cup my hand to stop the pee instead of folding the diaper up?) and decided to poo on me mid-diaper change several times, too. I've become a master of Googling baby-related things (seriously, how are some of these things even Googleable?!), and I've come to terms with the age of my baby necessitating 24/7 attachment.

Now to get tatty to understand that crying baby means baby needs something from mommy, not that tatty isn't cool.

Read Part 1 here.