Post-partum complication reflections

Sam’s birth really comes in three stages to me: the ‘last day‘, the induction and birth, and the post-partum aftermath. Although I was happy to share, in glorious details (too glorious for some?) the first two parts, I have decided not to blog in detail about the last bit. This is because:

(1) I don’t want to be another internet scare story;

(2) It is incredibly painful for my family, and some of my friends, to think about and thus they do not need a permanent reminder to pour over;

(3) I don’t think I have fully processed everything – for example, I still see pictures that haunt me or feel funny when someone writes ‘you nearly died in childbirth’, it’s as if it didn’t actually happen in my mind, at least, it still seems like a story someone told me.

So, in the spirit of positivity, I am not going to rehash the sorry tale (although any curious peeps are perfectly welcome to email me about it – I have a fairly blow-by-blow account I can forward on with no problem), but instead leave you with the thoughts that are in head, as I process the whole sorry tale:

(1) Dear God, I am glad I did not give birth in a birth center after all. Quite simply, I would not be here now. I now do not know where I stand on home / birth center births.

ICU machines

Not available at a birth center…

(2) Wes’ Aunt is a nurse, and is fairly sure that many hospitals in the US would not have been able to cope with the demands of a 10-unit blood transfusion. I ended up at Texas Children’s utterly by chance: they were about the only people who would take me as I moved state mid-pregnancy. I wonder if God was looking out for me at that time.

(3) I am ridiculously grateful I am a health nut. When we went in for the cervadil, as is standard procedure, I was monitored overnight. My temperature is 1 full degree lower than average, my reflexes are (literally) kick ass, and my heart rate drops so low in my sleep that the machines kept sounding alarms for the nurse to come as I had dropped into a Brady (below 50 beats per minute). These are all indicators of good health and our nurse commented “Why, you’re just going to live forever” [words that would later haunt Wes]. I suspect the speed of my recovery, and possibly my recovery itself, was due to a long relationship with weight-lifting, healthy eating and running. I really would urge all my readers to care for their health.

(4) I am amazed at how much humans can rebuild a body. I was left as a kind of shell and it blows my mind how much blood, plasma, fluid etc the doctors could pump into me, and how much they could do to keep my body going: it was for a brief while, almost like I was a vessel and the ‘life’ was just happening artificially outside of me with machines and so on doing all the work. The gifts that Science has given us are incredible.

Body not really functioning outside of the machines here…

(5) That being said, I am also amazed at all the things Science / Medicine couldn’t do. After rebuilding as much as possible, and troubleshooting, the doctors just had to wait to see if my ‘body would take over’. Of course it did, but it took time. It was interesting to me to watch certain systems start working again and reminded me what an amazingly complex and phenomenal thing the human body is.

Body working again

(6) I am clearly not at all used to ‘giving in’ to my body, when it wants to be weak. Every physical and mental challenge, I have just pushed through at taken my body to limits people did not think I was capable of: Tough Mudder? I’ll do it all. Grant due? I’ll work until 2 am every night and STILL train twice a day… I’ll recoup and recover later. This gave me a feeling of invincibility, and it has been hard learning I am not. The recovery was / is difficult… when I pushed it too hard (with ooooh, a trip to the grocery store), I got two infections. My anemia is bad enough that my heart is skipping beats / fluttering as it works extra heard to get oxygen around. Nothing to worry about, but serious signs that I have to be careful. I literally have had to bow down to my body holding me back, or watch it fail. It sucks to be reminded of my limitations, frailty, and human-ness.

Recovering at home – finally.

Writing this out made me realise something hidden deep inside: I used to love my body, because it was so strong. Now I hate it because its weakness betrayed me, and still does, every day. I’ll get over it.

(7) The hardest thing of all – of all – is that Sam’s coming into this world was not met with joy. I still cry when I think of how he – as an innocent little baby – got his start. I came across a picture Wesley took of himself right after he was handed Sam:

 

It breaks my heart that there is no joy here, just sadness that no one could tell him if he would see his wife again. When he called my parents when I was out of OR he said “Well… you have a grandson” but because it was followed up with “but we don’t know if you’ll have a daughter” my parents did not celebrate. In fact, they did not tell anyone about Sam for a couple of days when I was in the clear.

Possibly what breaks my heart the most is that when I was out of the OR and regained consciousness, I was in a lot of pain. I literally yelled and writhed my way through the first night. The nurses asked if Sam should be taken to the nursery and although ‘no separation’ was drummed into me, I was so consumed by my own pain, and so inward looking, I just said “yes. Take him”. I hate that I did that. My head says it was necessary… my heart says I was not a good mother.

Sam watching his Mum in ICU the next day

I also hate that I couldn’t really care for him initially. Sam was placed in my arms and I just held him passively – Wes did feeds and diaper changes, cuddled him, brought him to me. Wes placed him in my arms and I just held him passively. When most people are going home with their babies, I was considered too ill to be allowed to be alone with Sam and had to call a nurse to take him to the nursery if Wes went out (to get food or something). When I was out of ICU, we had a family photo shoot. Usually the Mum holds the baby and the Dad sits behind. I couldn’t really do this, as I could not get close enough to the camera while attached to IV lines, so the photographer said “OK, Dad come to the front, Mum can be in the background”. I wanted to cry as I felt this summed up Sam’s start in life: Mum a useless figure in the background. I worry that there is vital bonding time we’ll never get back.

Not ideal conditions for being a Mum…

Ultimately, the physical recovery was (and still is) tough. I have no immune system and still not enough red blood cells. I get infections easily, and I don’t beat them well. I have an extra layer to my tiredness, and my heart has an irregular beat (this will sort itself out!). But, though I hate that, and hate that I can’t just beat my body into submission, I get better and better every day and soon will be left with no visible traces of the ordeal. Emotionally, I think the wounds will take a bit longer to heal. That is where the scars will be.

On a happier note, it was of course all worth it, and if the Frazier-Wood’s can get through this OK, they can get through anything! Wes was amazing, and this was a bonding experience for us. There were happy times even in that first week, and there will be many more.

Now… back to blogging about happy topics. It’s advent, which means I have a whole lot of decorating and crafts to tell you about 🙂

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23 thoughts on “Post-partum complication reflections

  1. Wes

    I doubt you remember it clearly with all the meds you were on baby, but you didn’t tell the nurse to take him to the nursery, I did. If it would have been left up to you, you would have kept him there and sacrificed your own recovery to look after him, I couldn’t let that happen and had the nursery take him so I could focus on looking after you.

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  2. Kathy Byington

    I read this out loud to Pat and he wanted me to tell you that while you were in labor, he was giving blood. The woman next to him had given 85 pints of blood in her lifetime. Pat has only given 48. We are so thankful that you are ok and getting better! And remember that your motherhood grade will include hundreds of thousands of hours beyond that first night…

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  3. Lekki Frazier-Wood

    That is wonderful! I gave blood regularly in the UK, but was turned down here. I am obviously so, so grateful to everyone who gives blood so a big thank you to Pat! You’re right about the motherhood grade… I am trying hard to focus on being here for Sam in the present. Miss all three of you 🙂 xxx

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  4. Lekki Frazier-Wood

    Hmmm… I thought I had OK-ed it. I know it was the ‘right’ or ‘logical’ thing to do, but I hate the thought of little Sam in that big, impersonal room all night, and of him waking and crying and us not being there. Still, as Kathy said: that is one night. We’ll make it up to him 🙂 Thanks for making me feel a little better x

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  5. Peaches

    I’m super glad you’re starting to feel better. That’s all I really know what to say.

    As for the body trust thing….it’ll take time. You’ll learn to trust yourself again. I’ve actually been meaning to write a post about a similar (vaguely) topic. You’re storng Lekki. Rest isn’t bad.

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  6. Kirstie

    You’re amazing to have got through this in the way that you have and managed to breastfeed etc. – honestly, I’m so impressed by your personal strength. Just to (hopefully) relieve your fears about missing out on bonding time with Sam – my mum had major complications giving birth to my eldest brother and had an emergency caesarian to save both their lives. Then it was discovered he had a cleft palate. This meant he couldn’t even be bottle-fed (certainly not breastfed) and my mum was too weak to even feed him with a spoon for the first few days so the nurse had to do it.

    So she didn’t get any chance to bond with him at all for several days, which must have been horrendous (additionally, I suspect back in the early 70s doctors weren’t particularly interested in helping mothers to bond with their babies. Births were extremely medicalised). However – and this is the important bit – they both pulled through, Dom had an operation to correct his cleft palate at 18 months but recovered from that trauma too, and they are really close and always have been. So don’t worry. You and Sam will be better than fine. 🙂 And also, think what a great relationship he’s going to have with his dad. I think Wes has also been amazing!

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  7. Alexis Frazier-Wood

    Thank you so much Peaches. Your support means a lot. Looking forward to your thoughts on this, if you decide to write them down x

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  8. Lekki Frazier-Wood

    Thanks so much for sharing Kirstie – that did make me feel better 🙂 I am sorry your family went through that, but heartened there are no permanent scars… I guess we’re tougher than we think. I am spending lots of time with Sam now, and hopefully we can build from there.

    You are so right about Wes being amazing. I almost wrote a whole post on it, but he is a bit more private than me 🙂 Suffice to say, he has gone above and beyond and I feel very lucky.

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  9. sarah j

    Love to you and the new family Lekki. Boy do I feel like a dick for all the words I had for you on labour. We are so so lucky that we live where we do with the resources we have. I was in a birthing centre attached to a maternity ward (next door in fact) which was where I went for my very minor operation. I can’t begin to think what you and the family have been through (and poor poor wes) but my mum said that before the advent of aseptic surgery or antibiotics I would most likely have died from something as trivial as a retained placenta through infection which is just insane. I’m sure at this point you;re not thinking about it at all, but what does it mean for your future childbearing? if that’s ot to personal and painful a question.

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  10. Alexis Frazier-Wood

    Thanks Sarah. I loved all your words Pre-labor, they were very positive and encouraging. And actually, like you said, I did have a very smooth and easy labor. I really quite enjoyed it – it was only 4 hours, and only about 2 of that was active labor I think. I am sorry you had an op too – birth is a brutal business huh? I should be able to have more (and I am thinking about it already! I want a sibling for Sam so badly. Seeing the disruption it causes I don’t want as many as I used to want, but I would definitely love to have this time once again). I would have to have a C-section, and given how quickly my cervix dilated, and then didn’t contract, I may ask for a cerclage (a stitch to keep the cervix shut until birth) but the doctors think I should be able to give Sam a brother or sister.

    Yaaaaaaaay!

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  11. sarah j

    Thank goodess, that is great news! I didnt min the op at all, I laughed all the way through it with a very very lovely midwife who held my hand throughout (I feel a bit teary thinking about that) I think it’s more scary for the other halves. were you under for yours?

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  12. Alexis Frazier-Wood

    There was no time for a general, so they put me in a twilight sleep with narcotics. I woke up a few times! I remember my arms flailing off the gurney and the anesthesiologist reassuring me. But, they gave me a drug to take my memory away so that is all I remember! It’s a great drug, I have no scary recollections at all. I barely remember much until the night 🙂

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  13. michelle s jacobson

    Dear Lekki,
    I am a nurse and lactation consultant who works both privately and in the hospital. I am preparing a lecture for Nurses about bf, but also how to help and try and understand what many pts experience after childbirth. Your experience is heartbreaking. Your strength and emotional courage to share with so many and to continue to move forward is inspirational. Would you allow me to use your picture of you holding your beautiful new baby in your arms with all of the I.V.s, in my lecture? I want to raise awareness of what pts go through and when we hand a mother their baby, how important it is to make that experience as comfortable and meaningful as possible . Bonding with a new baby when one is in such pain, with so much fear is not an easy feat.
    Although you have so many concerns of the time and experiences stolen from you on those first few days, your baby was well cared for and loved by your family. These are feelings that are real. He surely must have given them strength and love to enable them to hold it together.
    I wish for you a wonderful lifetime together, to snuggle in bed, skin to skin, until you feel completed and healed to know that your baby will always think that you are the most special, nurturing, beautiful mom in the world, despite your separation in the first few days. we mothers will always feel badly about something we might have said or done in our lives, whether we had any control of it or not, but it sounds to me, that you survived to be his mommy….
    all the best….
    a speedy and full recovery,
    sincerely,
    Michelle Jacobson

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  14. Lekki Frazier-Wood

    Thank you so much for your sweet words. You are right, some people were kind enough to share similar experiences with my privately, and they said that the “I went through so much to bring you here” was very bonding.

    Please do use my pictures and any of my words / experiences. I had wonderful postpartum care, so I hope it helps others have the same. Please let me know if I can help any further.

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