Saturday, May 4, 2013

The Infection

I never described my time in the hospital after I was admitted for my uterine infection. After getting home, I just wrote about motherhood and how I was adjusting to it. I think a part of me was still too emotionally fragile over it to write about the experience, although a part of me recognized it was a good story, best told with some perspective and distance.

I may as well rehash a bit, as this is best told as a complete story in and of itself.

I was only home a couple days (At least I think it was about two days. It was a blur pain, sleep and total confusion. Let's say two days' worth) when I developed violent chills, the sort that rock your body uncontrollably. I'd gotten chills from my epidural, and I had them again after my C section. Those chills  didn't make me feel cold inside, only out of control of my body. But at home, they resonated at my bones. I was freezing from the inside out.

My aunt covered me in blankets and then tried to warm me with her own body, draping herself over me while I shook and chattered. I eventually fell asleep, warmed enough, and woke up drenched in sweat. It was then I discovered I had a fever of 38.8 Celsius. I drank water, took Tylenol and I can't remember what else only to lower my temperature down to 38.6.

So I told the Dude and my aunt and the Dude called my midwife, who said I had to go to the ER. I knew this was necessary, I understood it was sensible on an intellectual level, but I didn't want to go. I had only recently gotten rid of my hives, I was aching from my incision and exhausted was not a strong enough adjective to describe how incapacitated I felt. A hollow, "NooooOOoooOOoooOOoooo..." escaped me and there was pretty much no way out of another trip to the hospital.

My father-in-law was in town and drove the Dude and I to the ER while my aunt stayed with Jack. I seriously don't know what we would have done without her there. This was not the only way in which she went to bat for me in the aftermath of my terrible birth.

I was admitted quickly, which didn't bode well for my prognosis. On one hand you're happy to be taken seriously enough to be sent right in. It sort of makes you feel justified in making the trip. On the other hand, it sort of means you're effed.

I was laying on a bed in a large room separated by rows upon rows of thin curtains. There were dozens of machines rhythmically beeping. It almost sounded like new age techno. To pass the time and distract myself from my own issues, I eavesdropped on other people's misfortunes. The ER is truly a smorgasbord of human misery. I heard about the medical history and slow decline of an elderly woman in the partition next to me, and the doctor's belief she would not last the night. The Dude and I bore witness to her Last Rites and though I'm no longer a practicing Catholic, I quietly said the Lord's Prayer with them and had a little cry.

When I was seen by the doctor after three hours at 4:00 a.m. I was given the option to sleep there and have an ultrasound in the morning, or go home and return in the afternoon. I couldn't bear the thought of the woman actually dying beside me to the music of the machines, so I went home.

In the morning I had a great time. I felt better, took a picture of my son sleeping, pumped a bit and felt optimistic about my ultrasound. My hope was misplaced and I was fast-tracked to get my diagnosis. Two residents informed me of my infection and I was given an IV in an inconvenient place in my elbow. I was told I'd be going back to Labour and Delivery and could bring my son.

I was wheeled out of the ER and sent not to L&D, but instead to the east wing, an old 1930s building that seemingly had never been updated to so much as include air conditioning. It was the post-op recovery floor and I was about to be put in a room with some strange woman who didn't look happy I was to be her roommate. At this point I began to lose it.

I would have to share? Pump next to a stranger? Share a room with someone and have my son in there too, and the Dude? How would that work? The Dude ran over to the desk and didn't come back till he had secured me a private room, apparently after meeting a lot of resistance to this. I calmed a bit, but resumed my rising hysterics when I saw the room I'd be staying in. There was a bed, one chair, a sink, and no attached bathroom. Again, what about my son and the Dude?

I was told I could arrange to have my son in there if I really wanted to, but companions were not allowed overnight. There was also no furnishings to house my son in the room, and obviously with no companion my ability to care for him was crap. It took me five minutes just to leave my bed and I was attached to an IV that was plugged into the wall. I started sobbing while the Dude pried the nurse for answers. She tried to answer them, quickly lost patience and said she'd "Better not say anything else."

The Dude was eventually told he could in fact stay, but he'd have to sleep in the chair. He hadn't slept in days, I was worried about his health at this point, plus he had to work in the morning. We argued and I won, sending him home to sleep after he brought me some provisions. My father-in-law stayed with me upon the Dude's request, worried that I shouldn't be left alone in my emotionally fragile state.

After the changing of the nurses, the night nurse told the Dude and his dad they had to leave. She was grumpy, perhaps hearing that I was difficult. She was short with me about my questions regarding my IV. I felt despondent and lost. I was separated from my son, who was less than a week old. My only solace was sleep, but though I was beyond tired, it didn't come easily to me. I laid awake feeling almost numb from disbelief.

The next day was mostly spent unable to move, fiddling around online, pumping breast milk, attempting to nap, chatting with nurses, drinking nursing tincture, making complicated trips to the bathroom and trying to stomach hospital food.

I did have some visits. The first was from the resident who diagnosed me. She seemed horrified I was not in L&D and had been separated from my baby. I found this soothing because in an effort to make me feel better, most people were telling me it was fine and not so bad, which made me feel crazy for thinking it wasn't fine and was actually very bad.

The next visit was from my midwife, who was concerned I might develop postpartum depression after all the madness. She encouraged me to save the milk I was pumping (I was icked out by the ward and didn't want to bring hospital-laced milk home) and to have the Dude bring Jack so we could spend time together. I initially didn't want him to because I wanted him away from the hospital, but I was easily persuaded away from this idea.

Third was my friend Karen, who brought me a bag of goodies to ease the discomfort of the hospital, plus a collection of silly hats. We wore the hats and as staff walked in we made no comment on them. I was wearing a giant turkey and Karen had on a lobster. She stayed with me for hours and lifted my spirits enough to believe I was going to be okay. I felt almost normal again.

Lastly came the Dude, his dad and stepmom and Jack. Still wearing the hats, it was a ridiculous party. Holding him was a salve, but watching him go hurt and I cried. I didn't feel at all able to care for him yet, but when he left I felt a little empty.

The next morning I got a visit from my father-in-law and after he left, I was discharged. It was a glorious feeling. He came back with his wife, and they took me home. I had help waiting for me, I was rested, and I can honestly say that everything improved from there.

The week my son was born was the worst of my adult life. So many women would say it was the best, but I'm being totally honest. It was the worst. 48 hour failed induction and sleep deprivation, followed by a C-section and then more sleep deprivation, hives, chills, an infection and separation, all in a week.

However, the weeks that followed have been full of joy and learning.

Silly hats only.


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