Pretty when you’re putting the damage on
Take it high, high, high
High, high, high”
This week has been a DOOZY and the above photo is recent as well, after a nearly sleepless night. Not because of the baby, but because one of my favorite family members was gravely ill and I thought I was saying goodbye. Actually, I thought I didn’t get the chance to say goodbye and it was terrifying, and terrifyingly sad. Things have changed for the better, though, but I felt like I couldn’t keep writing my story without mentioning that. And today marks one month of Sawyer! I honestly can’t believe it. It feels like it’s been a blink and also an eon. The last four weeks are an incredible blur and they have been difficult, but I’ve also loved getting to know him. I’m two weeks into being home with a toddler and a newborn and Rider is really giving me a run for the money. I already struggled to get things done, ever since the pandemic and my Rider pregnancy, and now it’s amazing how hard it is to get one thing done! These two are a lot.
So back to the story. I woke up the morning after the baby was born and I still had the spinal headache, which was unlike anything I’d ever had. Honestly it might have been the worst thing that has happened to me physically because there’s really rarely anything wrong with me. And usually I can will things or work things out and away. This couldn’t be moved. So I had told the night nurse (I think her name was Gina?) about the headache, after also telling one of my L&D nurses about it. She talked about the blood patch procedure and how she had seen someone get one and get instant relief. She also mentioned caffeine, hydration, and some medication. A new anesthesiologist came in to talk to me, and mentioned the blood patch, and told me he’d come back in a few hours after I had time to think about it. As usual, there was a revolving door of people coming in to talk about birth certificates, meals, lactation, etc. and to do our vitals.
It was terrifying, but also not, because I felt removed from it. Like I was too tired or hopeful or hopeless or god knows what to care too much. Even though it was something that maybe they couldn’t fix, and maybe it would take weeks to go away. I can’t imagine weeks or months of it. If I looked to my left, there was a sometimes updated marker board on the wall with the current nurse on duty, and instructions. It said to “Enjoy Sawyer” and that’s all I wanted to do, but it’s so hard to enjoy the immediate postpartum period even without a spinal headache, much less with one. I really don’t think anyone knew how little food or water I had had, or I think they would have set up an I.V. There was a shift change and the new day nurse, Kathy, was a real trip.
She instantly made an impression and I don’t know if it was good or bad, but it was hilarious. I think she had had enough of people’s BS because she told Cassidy that the baby looked cold! “Your baby looks cold!” We also asked for help with a diaper change, not because we wanted her to do it for us, but I couldn’t even get up and Sawyer had soiled himself from his stomach to his feet. We just needed to know where everything was because we ran out of supplies. I buzzed her and said we needed help with a diaper change, and she was probably like, “Oh, FFS!” I love her.
She came in to do vitals and asked me why I hadn’t done the blood patch yet. And to be fair, I wasn’t opposed to someone going back to dig into my spine – EVEN IF IT COULD CAUSE A WORSE SPINAL HEADACHE – I just didn’t really know anything. A lot of ideas were being thrown around. One of the nurses told me that this kind of complication only happens once a YEAR in our little hospital. I feel so.. blessed? I told Kathy about the anesthesiologist coming to talk to me about it being an idea if I didn’t feel better and she said, “Why? Why wait? You could really need it and he’d be on the other side of the hospital for hours.” And that is a valid point! So I agreed that she could grab him and we could get this thing started! And soon, there he was!
This procedure was SO weird. I couldn’t really sit up, but I would have, but he had me lie on my side. Kathy had to help get blood from my wrists and she sort of had to lie down on the bed with me, facing me. It was very strangely intimate. It was hard to get the blood and the two of them bickered back and forth so much that I thought maybe they had been married for 30 years or something. I wasn’t highly aware of what was happening to my back, but it was stressful, as you can imagine, and I was pretty bruised in my wrists after it. They bickered because she couldn’t get enough blood, but he needed a certain amount of blood, and I was lying there wondering if I would ever stand up again! So then she got him some blood, but it was not enough, so she ran it around the bed over to him, and then back, and he was pretty insistent he needed more and she would have to find a way to get that blood from me. Eventually she did, somehow, and it was all disjointed but then he said to her, “That was beautiful.” And they stopped bickering and no doubt, both went home and told their families all about that! I think it was a first for all of us.
After this interesting debacle, I had to lie flat for at least an hour. Kathy turned off the light, told me to relax, and told Cassidy he was completely on call for Sawyer care. I honestly can’t even remember if he had to nurse during that time, but I didn’t just lie flat for an hour. It was FOUR glorious hours. Then I got up fairly slowly because I was scared of the terrible headache feeling and so I just moved the bed up with the remote, but my head was still resting. Eventually I moved forward so I could see if the headache was gone, and it was! It really was! I couldn’t believe it. Everyone urged me to start slowly so I got up to use the bathroom, and then went back into the bed. Eventually I worked my way into a shower, which was MIRACULOUS. That first shower after having a baby is always so cleansing and weird, because your body is all weird. After four times, though, it didn’t phase me. The anesthesiologist came back before his shift ended to check on me and I told him I felt great. “Thank you for saving my life!” I said. He was like, “Well, I don’t know about that.. but you’re welcome.” I did love walking around again!
We filled out paperwork and also ordered the special dinner for two that our hospital cafeteria makes. We made plans to leave the next day, because having had the baby around dinnertime meant we should probably stay two nights instead of one. I really felt like I had a new lease on life. I know it wasn’t a long time to have a headache, but it was more the cryptic nature of it, and being unable to care for my new baby. Plus it was an extraordinarily painful ordeal. So to have that headache magically gone was awesome. I rested, enjoyed the baby, nursed him, ate and drank, talked to nurses and midwives, and even checked some emails and texts, because why not? As it got dark out, and we had had our special dinner (I ordered the salmon) I was grateful to be closer to going home and seeing my kids. I held the baby, and marveled that he seemed to really excel at nursing so early on. That had been such a problem with Rider, but not so early.
The nurse that night, Charlene, had been one of the nurses when I had Des. Actually, she was and is a VERY thorough nurse and had been part of the team to send Des to the NICU. So I was definitely on edge, but she calmly took our vitals, pronounced us both in good shape, and was a kind face all night long. I really got over a lot of my trauma from the Des experience with her. With Rider, my pulse was always really high in the hospital (probably from Des trauma) so it was like a lot of things were coming full circle. I even told the midwife who discharged me the next morning that going through seeing Charlene again, but having things healthy this time, was sort of like “real time EMDR.” Or I said something like that. Maybe it was “waking life EMDR.”
We also had a nurse, Sarah, who was on her first night of work after maternity leave. She offered to give Sawyer a bath for us, and she combed his hair so adorably and snuggled him. She was yet another gem, in a series of gems. After another terrible hospital night of sleep, another rainy day dawned, but I felt so alive. This time I hungrily ate my breakfast, as I hadn’t had a decent one in 72 hours. Everything was in motion to leave, with all of the testing (hearing, bilirubin, etc.) going perfectly. The one midwife out of all of the midwives that I hadn’t met in two years of two pregnancies was the one to discharge me, and even watched our amazing birth video. I couldn’t believe we were going home. One of our favorite nurses, Emily, was back on shift and was the last person we talked to in the hospital room. I was sitting on the bed doing last minute nursing, and we were texting my mom to keep Rider awake before his afternoon nap. In fact, everything felt dreamy. I swear I was just sitting there calmly on the bed until I felt a strange sensation in the back of my head.. It was brief, though, and we stood and made our way to the hospital exit.
Yes, when you’re putting the damage on
You’re just so pretty when you’re putting the damage on”