Looking for a love where the climate is cold
Manic moves and drowsy dreams
Or living in the middle between the two extremes
Smoking guns hot to the touch
Would cool down if we didn’t use them so much, yeah
We’re soul alone
And soul really matters to me
This is where it has to happen, and maybe this is where this particular story ends. It’s really just a beginning, of course, but the hospital story can darn well end now! I still have tons to say about the postpartum experience, and will for the ages, but for now, let’s continue where we left off. I leaving the hospital (yay!) but I did feel the strangest feeling in the back/top of my head out of nowhere (boo!). So we left, for the fourth time. It was as weird as ever and I sort of forgot how it went in the past. Is a wheelchair involved (no) or do they just let you leave into the sleepless and strange abyss (yes)? For the fourth time, we tucked a too-small baby into a proper car seat and made our way gingerly to the car. The staff member checking people in and out of the hospital took photos for us and told us that seeing our tiny baby made her day. That was super happy.
Yes, Cassidy wore the same shirt for leaving with Rider and Sawyer, by design. I feel like I look pretty good in that last photo, considering that just stepping outside moments later was so bright and jarring, and gave me a headache I nursed all the way home. It didn’t feel like the same spinal headache, as it was in the front and sides too. I figured it was maybe stress and dehydration, and the ride home was the longest ten minutes EVER. We pulled in and the kids burst out the front door, followed by my mom holding Rider. I was SO happy to see him; had been so haunted by leaving him. He was late for a nap and couldn’t make sense of us being there. We kept mentioning the baby, and he gestured to my stomach (now deflated-ish) and the carseat and kept saying, “No, no, no.” He was nearly crying and didn’t really want to be near me at first. The older kids and the pets, though, were trying to knock us down with excitement.
I worried that Sawyer was sort of anticlimactic to people, because I had just had a baby only a year and a half earlier, plus, the wars and COVID and violence and everything else sort of makes everyone more rightfully self-consumed and maybe hardened. Or maybe I was worried he would be anticlimactic to me, as it was another boy, and I was so obsessed with Rider. Well, I was wrong. Our hearts just open. The kids were just as excited to meet Sawyer, and my mom got a nice glimpse of him before making a subtle and polite exit back to New Jersey. Everyone parked me on the couch (so I wouldn’t pop out my blessed blood patch) where I planned to spend the next few days. I couldn’t sit still and would occasionally walk upstairs to my room and closet to unpack, pop a Tylenol, and look all around me. I had that weird headache on and off.
I got a lot of couch time and felt good on and off. The headache would come and go and I did a lot of nursing and settling in. We had dinner, and I can’t remember what Cassidy made, but I could barely keep my head up. I started to get pretty intense chills and felt very strange. So I took my temperature and it was normal, but I went to find the literature on when to call the midwives. And it did mention chills. I told Cassidy about it, and saw the kids looking concerned in the background, and he suggested I go and lie down in a quiet room and he would bring me the baby for nursing. So I got right into bed, flat on my back, and breathed in and out slowly, and the chills went away. I had so many thoughts at first that I was dying and would leave four kids motherless. Anxiety and postpartum are already so intense, but when you mix the weighty combo together, well, it’s really rough. I was lucky in that I felt better from that two hour rest.
When I woke up in the morning, I felt awful. Not chills, not fever, not even sore boobs, but I felt like the spinal headache was back every time I sat up. It was very hard to get up, so I stayed in bed nursing for awhile and got a text from my sister that a delivery was on its way. Sure enough, I heard the dogs barking and the kids talking excitedly about something. My sister had sent us Dunkin Donuts coffee and donuts! I somehow made my way downstairs, deposited the baby in the downstairs bassinet, and went right to the couch to lie down. The kids were excited to watch new episodes of The Owl House and Amphibia and Cassidy made me a plate of eggs, avocado, and a donut. I also got a cup of coffee because caffeine can help spinal headaches. Something about the spring sun, the time together, and the coffee (although I was back to not really being able to eat) helped. I don’t know how, but I somehow got through the day somewhat normally. I can’t imagine how, but maybe it was part of my plan to rest a lot. Rest and caffeine, I guess.
I woke up and knew without a doubt that the spinal headache was fully back. I felt awful every time I sat up. Then I went into the bathroom to brush my teeth and had to lean over the sink just to not feel awful. I was incredibly down because I wondered if it would ever go away. These were bottom of the barrel thoughts. I went downstairs and instantly had to lie down on the couch. Cassidy asked how I was and I told him I felt as terrible as I had in the hospital with the headache. He was floored. I couldn’t even lift my head. He offered to call labor and delivery for me because he said that no matter what the plan would be, that would be the first thing to do.
The midwife on duty suggested I come in. I don’t think they really thought it was the spinal headache, and a severe headache can be a sign of postpartum pre-eclampsia, which is pretty rare. But you know what else is rare? Having a spinal headache. And you know what else, else is rare? Having a blood patch that stops working. Soo.. we had to scramble fast. We called our beloved neighbors to watch the older kids. They have a daughter Scarlet’s age, and the girls are very close friends, but the daughter was up in Vermont with her dad! That said, they totally let us drop our two kids off. They also have a toddler, and the kids all went on the trampoline. I’ll never forget sitting in the car, and wondering if I could even sit in the car, because I couldn’t seem to have my head up more than 30 seconds. And this would be sitting in a car and then walking through a whole hospital. Honestly, I’ve never had anything really wrong with me. This was my nightmare. As we dropped them off, I watched through the car window as Cassidy explained everything to my friend’s husband (the toddler’s dad and Scarlet’s friend’s stepdad) and he had such a concerned but horrified look on his face. I would too, to be honest.
I got checked in and it was my favorite nurse, Kathy! Ok, so they were like all my favorites but Kathy is just so special. I mean, her sense of humor is intact. I think mine is too because I made a joke, while lying in the throes of my first headache, about the cafeteria staff being very persistent in coming back to retrieve the food dishes, and she looked at me and said, “You’re funny.” Anyway, as you’ll remember, she was very direct and to the point, and had to get on the bed with me to take blood from my arms. This time around, she looked very sympathetic. The hospital was quiet. I think she knew it was the spinal headache because once I was flat on my back in bed, it went away. She did my blood pressure, which was high because I was BACK IN THE FREAKING HOSPITAL, and she talked me through breathing slowly and pretending I was on a beach. It worked like a charm. She also asked me if I wanted to have coffee (because the caffeine can help the headache) and she made me a fancy latte with whipped cream. I tell ya, I will never forget that. There was a lot of waiting, for blood pressure readings, seeing if I was interested in taking a drug (I wasn’t and I can’t swallow pills for you know what), and waiting to see what the anesthesiologist on call would say. They gave me Tylenol, which did nothing.
We made plans for Cassidy’s mom to help with the kids after a few hours, because our neighbor had to go to Vermont to pick up her daughter. The anesthesiologist came in, and he explained pretty much everything, about what happened, what went wrong, what my options were. I’m super thankful for his bedside manner, because I think that you have to be pretty weird to be an anesthesiologist. Hey, I’m weird too, and the three I saw were all fascinating. Anyway, I could choose to let it go away on its own, which would be about 5-7 days, give or take. Although that option scared me because you can barely exist with a spinal headache. It’s no way to bond with a new baby, or eat or drink or be sane. The option to try the medication didn’t excite me, and hydration and caffeine sounded like it could take the edge off, but not do more than that. The option to have a second blood patch was also scary because the same thing could happen. Although the chances of that are slim. This third anesthesiologist laid everything out pretty beautifully, and I just wanted to feel better. So they prepped me for the procedure. And I could do it sitting, instead of lying down like the last time. Plus, this guy takes his own blood so Kathy wouldn’t. She was able to help, though, so I met her eye and said, “So, we meet again like this!”
We went through the whole procedure again, with needles and blood draws and god knows what, oh my, and I went back to lie flat on my back for an hour. It wasn’t four hours this time, like after the first blood patch, but it was over an hour. They released me after that! I sat up and I felt better. I did feel weird, which was most likely from not really eating or drinking or sleeping for days, and I’m not sure Kathy believed me at first that my spinal headache was gone, because she said, “Don’t lie to me!” when asking if I felt better. I felt terrible, but it wasn’t from the spinal headache. In fact, it never did come back. The second blood patch took, and I properly rested at home. And I started eating again, although I wouldn’t say I’ve been sleeping and I’m certainly never properly hydrated, because postpartum and breastfeeding are insane. That said, I haven’t had bad complications. I cannot wait to get to six weeks, because a part of me thinks I’ll be in the clear for REAL then, but I guess we never really are. And this was pretty traumatizing. I do feel physically better, though. Little by little and day by day, I’m getting myself back, I hope.
The shades all around aren’t the colors we used to see
Broken ice still melts in the sun
And times that are broken can often be one again
We’re soul alone
And soul really matters to me
Take a look around”