Didn't read 'Our Birth Story - Part One'? Click [here] to read it now!
Our Birth Story – Part Two
[The Worst Part]
Our daughter Emily joined us in the world on December 22nd, 2014 at 6:08pm. She weighed 7lbs 9oz and was welcomed by myself & Kevin, our OB, and a room full of nurses who couldn’t wait to meet her. If you are reading this someday, Emily, I hope you know that you are the most amazing gift to your parents! We are so proud to have gotten you here safely, and your birth was the most beautiful experience. It was amazing and so are you.
But what happened after Emily arrived was not beautiful. It was not amazing. It was not miraculous. It was very, very scary. We were blessed with a ‘shift change’ baby, and as such I got a new nurse not long after I delivered the little miss. My new nurse is one of my coworkers who I had mentioned during my pregnancy that I would LOVE to have as a labour & delivery nurse. Thankfully my wish came true, and this nurse was amazing during what was the scariest thing I’ve been through.
I had a post-partum hemmorhage (PPH) and retained placenta. I mean, not the entire placenta but fragments of it. I will spare you the details of what my postpartum fundal checks were like, but I will say that even though I knew I was bleeding, I was very calm. My nurse was very calm. I knew she was worried but I also knew that I was in good hands. And she had let me have toast and juice so I figured things couldn’t be that bad… Just before she got the OB on call to see me, we said “this is the check!”. It wasn’t.
Up until this point I had been given 1000mls of R/L + 30pit, 400mg cytotec PO, 200mg ctyotec SL, 400mg cytotec PR, and then durtocin. Nothing was working. I remember thinking to myself, “this is why women have babies in hospitals”. The OB on call, who up until this moment I had only talked to about my patients, never my own care, came in to see me. She said she wanted to try a manual removal to see if there was any placenta hanging on in my uterus. Lucky me.
“Manual placenta removal is the evacuation of the placenta from the uterus by hand. It is usually carried out under anaesthesia or more rarely, under sedation and analgesia. A hand is inserted through the vagina into the uterine cavity and the placenta is detached from the uterine wall and then removed manually.” (Wikipedia)
Guess who’s epidural had been shut off for over 2 hours? Guess who tried laughing gas for the first time? Me! I will say this, after the first manual removal and the frequent inhaling of entenox, the details start to get a little fuzzy. But I remember what it felt like and it was the most painful thing I have ever endured in my life. The person I feel bad for, though, is my husband (and new Papa!) who was over in the corner watching all of this, helplessly holding our baby and not knowing what was going to come next. When the OB looked at me and said we were heading to the OR, I sobbed “I wish I didn’t know what that meant”.
At this point, there was a waiting room full of family and friends who only knew via text message that ‘Barb won’t stop bleeding’. Kevin went out there to tell them that I was going to the OR and that I wanted the new grandparents to come see Emily before I go. At this point I couldn’t stop crying and shaking, but otherwise I felt okay. I clung to Emily like I never wanted to let her go while our parents filed in and then out of the room. I remember clearly my nurse rolling up a sterile drape covered in blood, clots and placenta and thinking to myself that it was good she got rid of it before my mom saw it and fainted!
While all of this was going on, I had bloodwork drawn and then I was told that instead of a general anaesthetic, they were doing to use my epidural (yay!). I took out my contacts, my earrings, and my headband.. Why did I bother with all that anyway? Emily was crying and hungry and I knew I didn’t have time to breastfeed her again before I had to go. I asked our nurse to bring a bottle of formula for Kevin to give her so she wouldn’t be hungry. I cried so much. I apologized so much. I begged Kevin not to leave Emily’s side for a second. I wanted her to have at least one of us with her. Kevin cried. I said I was sorry. On the way to the OR I felt like I was freezing, so one of the sweetest nurses bundled me all up in warm blankets.. No sooner did I feel the worst nausea and dizziness, and I wanted all those blankets off of me! Such a gross feeling. I felt like I was being the biggest inconvenience, which I know now is silly but we really should have had someone counting my apologies! ;)
I had the same anaesthetist that had initially inserted my epidural and he gave me epimorph. He gave me lots of things, actually, one of which was Versed and after which things become pretty fuzzy for me. I remember listening to what the OB was saying to try and keep up with what was going on. I remember that I sobbed when I heard she was repairing my perineal tear for the second time. I remember that my nurse had a polka-dot OR cap and pretty earrings, and I kept saying her name and seeing her head pop up above mine, which was more reassuring than anything else that night. I remember thinking it would be amazing to watch what was going on, if only I was the nurse and not the patient.
“The Bakri Balloon is a medical device invented by Dr. Younes Bakri… The obstetrical balloon is a 24-French, 54-cm long, silicone catheter with a filling capacity of 500-mL. The device is used for the temporary control and reduction of…PPH.” (Wikipedia)
I guess the bleeding didn’t entirely stop because I found myself in recovery with a Bakri balloon draining alongside my foley catheter. It didn’t matter though because guess who I found in recovery!? That’s right, my baby. Another nurse came to do her 4hr check and I was allowed to have visitors while I waited for my second set of stat bloodwork results. At the time I thought I was totally ‘with it’, but thinking back on it now it sort of feels like I was intoxicated at the time. Like I can still remember everything but it’s fuzzy and not always in the right order.
I delivered my baby at supper time, and I arrived in my postpartum room at 1am. My nurse, who is also such a great friend, had texted me before starting her shift. I saw the message and laughed because she was getting report and hearing firsthand why I didn’t text her back earlier in the day. I remember thinking of all the things I needed to do – feed Emily and change her. I wanted to hold on to her for dear life. My nurse knew what I needed more than I did, so when she took Emily to check her and wash her hair, she dressed her for me and hung on to her while I slept.
In the days that followed I had the vaginal packing and Bakri removed, I had my IV removed, and finally my catheter. I struggled to walk to the chair in my room the first day. Then in the evening I struggled to get to the tub without throwing up or fainting. I wanted to bathe Emily but I didn’t have the energy to stand up to do so. I felt so guilty asking my nurses to do the things that I swore I would do myself. On the day we were discharged, with a hemoglobin of 72, I refused a wheelchair. I stopped to rest 8 times on the short walk from 3NW to the front entrance of the hospital. I was determined to just be okay.
When I sat down on the comfy couch in my living room, having just arrived home from the hospital, I thought to myself, “how lucky am I?”
I am so lucky. Lucky that I gave birth in a place equipped with the things and the people capable of saving my life. Lucky because my baby who we had worried about for 41 long weeks came out completely perfect. Lucky because with everything I was going through physically, my baby was able to breastfeed like a dream. Lucky because although it would be a long time, I knew I would be okay.
Now, ten weeks postpartum, I feel almost 100%. I still get dizzy, if I stand up too quickly, run, or step out of the hot shower without hanging on to something. My hemoglobin is back up to 125 so I’m kind of mystified as to why that is, but it’ll get better. I’m feeling more and more like myself each day, which is great. And while I am so thankful to be okay, and so grateful for the amazing gift I received out of it all, it will be a while before I have another baby. I look at the face of my happy little baby bird and I know she was worth every minute, every millilitre of lost blood. But it was scary, too.
So this is ‘part two’. This is the rest of the story. This is what will make me an even better nurse when I go back to work. I wasn’t a bad nurse before, but now I get it. Now, I understand what it’s like. Now, I can look my patient in the eye when they are in labour or upset or sick or worried and say “I know”.