Unfortunately, the second half of our birth story will not be an easy one to share. Our beautiful babe arrived safely, but the birth was not free of complications, and so I want to post a clear content warning before I finish our story. This post will contain a detailed account of postpartum hemorrhaging.
I always want to mention that in order to protect our child’s right to privacy, and ownership of their own body, we will not be posting full face photos. We will likely not post many photos at all. We thank you in advance for respecting this decision, and ask you all to not share photos of the baby publicly either.
I only had to push a few more times before I could feel the pressure. There were suddenly a lot more people in the room, but all I was focused on was my doctor, telling us to look down. I saw the head first, just as he pulled out the rest of the baby.
I don’t remember exactly what happened after that, but the doctor knew we didn’t know the sex of the baby, and seemed at least a little confused why we didn’t ask.
“Don’t you want to know what it is?” he asked.
“It’s a boy,” I said confidently.
“Well,” he said with a frown, as he sort of turned the baby over. “No. It’s a girl.”
“It’s not a girl,” I said. “It’s a boy.”
“Well, he has a pretty nice vagina,” the nurse chimed in.
“It’s a girl? I asked, as they placed my daughter on my chest for the first time. I’m not sure when I started crying, but I was.
Finally, after all these years. We had our baby and she was perfect.
The doctor was curious about my confidence that the baby was a boy. After all, we made a very big deal of not finding out what we were having. We filled him in.
Right around our 35 week appointment, we had another ultrasound. We had one every week at this point. The ultrasound tech was trying to show me where the baby was breathing, but I couldn’t see it, so she pulled monitor right in front of my face to see. With the screen so close, I could see right on the left hand side, a menu if sorts. There were notes on it, basically allowing the tech to click through to each part of the baby’s body (I assume).
Clear as day, one of the notes said: “IT’S A BOY!!!”
We never said anything, or asked for clarification, because we wanted to at least maintain the illusion of not knowing. My husband never saw the note, but I had to tell him. I knew I shouldn’t ruin it for him, but I was so upset that after so many months of keeping the sex a secret, it had been spoiled so close to the due date. I cried, because I was so sad to find out.
Well, that whole experience ended up making it an ever bigger surprise, because our baby is definitely a girl. The doctor seemed amused when we told him this story, and now I’m not sure if the tech made a mistake, or if they did this on purpose.
Our baby lay on my chest, and I just stared at her, feeling her skin on mine. The very first thing she did was poop. Even before she cried…she pooped on me.
The nurse asked for my husband’s phone and she took a picture of the three of us together, and then my husband and I just stared at her for a while. She was finally here. They asked us her name.
We had not had many discussions about her middle name, because…you know…we thought she was a boy. But I had briefly discussed “Leia” and I asked if my husband was still okay with it. He was.
Artemis Leia arrived on February 28, 2020 at 6:49pm – weighing 7 lbs 6 ounces and measuring 20.5 inches long.
They eventually took the baby away to have the nurses look at her, and clean her up a bit. When she was returned to me, she was swaddled and had a new hat on that featured a little bow.
Now, from here the order of events gets a little fuzzy. I can’t remember if I was holding the baby at the time, or if she was with her dad. The doctor had already finished closing me up, and was no longer there. Our nurse had also left because of shift change, so it had been at least 30 minutes since the baby was born. But all of a sudden, I felt extremely nauseous and thought I might throw up. I told my new nurse this, but even as I told her I suddenly felt ice cold, and I started trembling. I felt week and exhausted, and I felt like I was about to pass out.
Then I started hemorrhaging.
Someone must have pushed an alarm, because suddenly the room was full of nurses. I heard one of them on the phone with my doctor. They were pushing something through the IV (maybe more pitocin) and the nurse was pushing on my stomach, trying to move the clots out. I overheard them talking about my blood pressure. It was really low.
I was really scared, and felt hopeless to do anything. I looked at my husband, who was clutching our newborn daughter to his chest as he watched, unable to help me.
I don’t know how long it took, but I eventually stabilized.
I felt a lot better and I instructed my husband to go get my parents from the lobby. He didn’t want to. I knew he was still worried about me, but I convinced him I was fine. I held my daughter as they came in to the room, and we were able to tell them the news that it was a girl. They were thrilled. Almost everyone in my family wanted a girl (my brother has a boy).
They stayed an chatted for a little while, but I was feeling weak, so I asked them to leave. Moments after they left the room, it happened again. The nausea, followed by the cold, then the exhaustion.
I was hemorrhaging again.
My blood pressure had dropped extremely low again, and I was shaking. The room was full of nurses again. Someone was on the phone with my doctor, and the pushing on my stomach resumed.
I’m not sure how long it took, but my doctor was suddenly back in my room. He was asking my nurse why the epidural had not been turned back on yet. They restarted the epidural, but it wouldn’t go into effect fast enough. Someone from anesthesia pushed another pain killer through my IV, and I soon knew why. The doctor basically had to start slamming on my stomach. He had to get all the clots out. They were also pushing tons of fluid through my IV, because my blood pressure was dropping even more from the epidural.
There is no way to be absolutely sure, but the general consensus was that my uterus was NOT happy from two days of pitocin. I didn’t stabilize until after 12 am…five hours after our daughter was born.
The whole time, I could see how worried my husband was, but he tried to keep a cool facade for me. He kept insisting he was fine. I know the doctor had tried to reassure us both. This was not the first time this has happened, and if I still had not stabilized, he would have moved on to the next thing (likely a D&C to clean things out). I couldn’t have been in better hands. This particular doctor had been at the practice the longest. His name was even first on the door.
It was a very long night. Because it was so late when I finally stabilized, room service was closed. I had not eaten a single thing since the night before, but the nurse brought me some canned soup and juice. I also munched on a few crackers. My husband went down to get food at the cafeteria and brought more of the same kind of soup. I didn’t have much of an appetite. Eventually, I asked the nurse to remove the cathider. The second epidural was wearing off, and I still couldn’t walk. But the pain from the cathider was becoming unbearable, and I had no problem using a bed pan if I needed to. Anesthesia also came up to remove my epidural. We wouldn’t need it anymore, because even if I started hemorrhaging again, they wouldn’t use it again. My blood pressure was still really low, and it wasn’t safe.
They wanted to bring us over to the mom/baby side of labor and delivery, but I was terrified to leave. I felt safer here, and honestly, I felt like crap. I couldn’t breastfeed, couldn’t walk, and everything hurt. They agreed to let us stay on this side for now, but they kept telling me to sleep. I knew I needed to, but I was terrified to close my eyes. I was afraid I wouldn’t wake up. My husband tried to sleep on the couch, the baby in a bassinet next to him. He was 100% in charge of her. I was too weak to even hold her, and he was feeding her with donated breast milk. The nurse eventually gave me pain meds, and I reluctantly fell asleep.
I woke up at around 4am and this time, the nurse insisted we go over to the mom/baby side. I had used the bedpan, and I guess that was an important part of me leaving. They pushed me in a wheelchair, and the baby had to be pushed in her bassinet because I didn’t feel strong enough to hold her. Sitting in the wheel chair was excruciating. I had not expected sitting to be so painful.
I hadn’t wanted to go, but the bed was more comfortable and my wonderful new nurse recommended they take the baby to the nursery. Our hospital did rooming in, because it was recommended the baby stay with Mom. However, since the hemorrhaging prevented breastfeeding, and we were all so exhausted from the ordeal, she thought it best that we sleep.
My husband was delirious with exhaustion, and I couldn’t help him care for her…so after the assurance that our nurse would not leave her side, we agreed to send her to the nursery. My husband and I slept.
We woke a few hours later to the nurse wheeling our daughter back in. It was shift change, but the baby was still sleeping, so I went back to sleep with her in the bassinet beside me.
When I woke up again, my doctor had come to see me. He asked how I was feeling, and I admitted that I felt incredibly weak. Even just trying to walk a few steps to my bathroom toilet was too much for me, and took all of my energy to manage. He told me that he wanted me to have a blood transfusion. I had not quite lost enough blood to where it was mandatory, but I almost had. Given how weak I was, he felt it necessary. I agreed.
When you are pregnant, your body actually produces about twice the amount of blood as usual. I was incredibly grateful for that fact now, since it was probably what protected me.
The day was pretty difficult. It was not how I had hoped to spend our time in the hospital after having our little rainbow. I was in a lot of pain from both the episiotomy and a tear, and so even going to the bathroom was awful. I tried to eat, but couldn’t get too much down. I just didn’t have a huge appetite and ended up eating about half of my breakfast.
I was too weak to breastfeed, but I was told a few times that I would need to pump soon, to prevent supply issues. I didn’t really have any colostrum. The nurses told me that your body will always prioritize blood production over milk production, so I would be behind in my milk supply. This was another reason the transfusion was important.
I did try to breastfeed once or twice, but it didn’t go well. Artie was very frustrated that nothing was coming out, and it was rather painful.
Despite everything, it felt wonderful to look beside me and see our little miracle. She was perfect and made everything seem a little more okay.
A big highlight of that day was when my husband and father came with lunch. After nine months without lunch meat, my request had been a sub from Jersey Mikes. Classic Italian – Mike’s way with extra pickles.
I was given a total of two bags of blood and did start to feel better by the time I had the second.
A tech came by to give Artemis her first bath. I insisted on getting up from the bed and watching. She did not like it.
Before bed, I finally had enough energy to take a shower and put on my own pajamas. It felt amazing.
The nurse brought me a breast pump, and the night nurse (the same from the night before) showed me how to use it. I needed to pump every three hours to stimulate my supply. I never actually produced anything until the next day (and that was such a tiny amount that it didn’t even fill a quarter of a syringe….but we still gave it to her).
Artemis stayed in the nursery again that night, though we brought her back pretty early in the morning. I was finally feeling better.
When the doctor came to see me that morning, I looked human again. I had coffee and was eating breakfast. He seemed both pleased and relieved, and very happy we did the transfusion. He told us we would be discharged, and we finally got to head home with our baby later that day.
It was a difficult birth that meant I had a challenging recovery and a rough start to breastfeeding, but in the end, we are all okay and our baby is here safe. We are so in love with her.