Friday, October 6, 2017

My Birth Story : Part 3 : Recovery

I feel similarly to my recovery story as I do to my labor story. I'm slightly embarrassed by it and I feel uncomfortable telling it because I look back on it and think that I was treated poorly. At the time, I felt good. I liked the vast majority of my nurses and I felt like things were happening mostly as they should. But I didn't know what I didn't know and I wouldn't have a clear picture until after it happened.

Right after surgery, I was wheeled into the room where I would stay for the next four days as I recovered enough to go home. Mom was with me and I was given the baby immediately when I arrived. EVERYONE was super concerned about him eating for the first time and there were many hands and voices on me that made me uncomfortable. I thought he latched perfectly and that feeding went well, but I would learn this was not true. I wasn't allowed to stand up. I had weird compression things on my legs that squeezed them every so often so as to prevent blood clots. I had the baby, but I couldn't really move in any appreciable way, and I still had a catheter in.

On the first day, mom would stay for a bit, Adam would arrive, and my brother and sister-in-law would come visit. Adam would stay a couple more days and mom would come and go, but on my last couple of days, I would be left alone a lot. I fed what I believed to be a normal amount as often as I thought I often as the baby seemed to demand. The nights were pretty bad, though. I was exhausted and found it hard to stay up to feed him or to change him. Nurses came early in the morning and took him to be weighed. The pediatrician came daily and, though my birth preferences (given to me by the hospital) said I wanted exams in my room, the pediatrician insisted on taking the baby to the nursery. Adam accompanied him the first time and then I went every other time. I was charting his every feeding and diaper. I never felt my milk come in. The lactation consultant met with me on the first day and said I had a good latch. She came again later and seemed dissatisfied but didn't teach me anything...instead, she took my hand and shoved it up real hard against me and the baby, causing me a great deal of pain that would last for a day. Nurses came and went. Each time a nurse visited, she would rearrange my room, often pulling things away from me that I needed, and never putting anything back. The cot I requested at 5a didn't arrive until 11p, despite my telling every nurse that Adam worked night shift and would need a nap THAT DAY. Food was good. After I was given clearance the evening I gave birth, I started going to the bathroom, took a shower, walked the ward. These days were a blur of constant checks from nurses, watching movies, being totally exhausted, and feeding the baby.

It all felt ok at the time, for the most part, but it was with distance that I realized how not ok it was.

No doctor visited me until the day I was meant to check out and even then, only to check on my incision. No doctor ever gave me any instructions of any kind. This is, apparently, normal standard of care...but it shouldn't be.

The nurses were more than competent, but they often treated me like a chore and they provided no education. Each time a nurse visited, she would move shit around my room and never put it is clear that they had no sense of what I needed and only what they needed. I was taught how to pump, but not by the lactation consultant and not because anyone cared...I can't remember exactly how it happened, but one nurse came in with all the pump stuff, totally rearranged my room (including shoving my bed WITH ME IN IT all around), bitched about the other nurses, and left without showing me any pump stuff. Later, another nurse showed me the stuff, but she was in such a rush that she quickly left with no further instruction. No one talked to me about feeding frequency or how to do it. The "lactation consultant" was another nurse who had duties during her shift, so she wasn't able to spend any time with me. She said we had a good latch at first and then made some comments about my nipples later and was physically rough with me but she never really educated me. I had no idea if my milk came in (it did), because I never felt anything and no one talked to me about it. I charted every feeding and diaper...the nurses signed off on them and never talked to me about them. It was a strange mix of being bothered quite frequently for pain medication and vitals while also being totally ignored.

No one was particularly interested in the baby, or telling me anything about him. He was taken and weighed and examined, but no one really wanted to share any of the information about him with me. Despite my request to have his exams done in the room, the pediatrician refused. One pediatrician came to visit me on the first day, because I couldn't leave the room and I wanted to meet her. She was nice but she didn't follow up. The other pediatrician examined him and just said it was normal. On our last day, he was clearly jaundiced, but everyone said it was fine. My concerns were ignored. Furthermore, no one ever said anything about him or how he was growing or developing or what to do when I left.

I did receive a folder full of information that no one went over with me...and I was forced to watch some really awful videos about SIDS and "shaken baby syndrome". The folder was chock full of information about SIDS. I was on SIDS overload by the time I left the hospital, even though I violated the "safe sleep" protocol while I was there...AND NO ONE CARED. The "shaken baby" video wasn't actually about shaken baby syndrome and was about one father who not only shook his toddler, but also punched him before throwing him on the floor where he would die. The father wasn't even living in the home and was not the primary caregiver, so that video was generally useless. Essentially, i was given a huge amount of information with no instructions on what was the most important, heavy emphasis on SIDS, and no follow through on whether or not I really understood all the information given to I left the hospital wholly unprepared.

I'm not sure what was the purpose of my hospital stay, because it certainly wasn't about educating me in care for my newborn. It appeared to be a formality where I was ignored by doctors and treated like a chore by nurses.

After I left the hospital, things went down hill quickly...largely because of the lack of information and lack of education provided by the hospital. But I was there for so long, so why was I there? I suppose the purpose of my long stay was to make sure I didn't die from complications from surgery, because it certainly wasn't about giving me the tools to succeed as a new mother. I was alternately bothered by all kinds of measurements of my vitals and his vitals, given random instructions with no follow through, and totally ignored.

The day I left the hospital, I was told I could stay until midnight if I wanted. My mom had plans to play golf and then to pick me up at 3p. But at noon, a nurse came and told me that they were full up and asked me if someone else could come pick me up. She said they weren't trying to push me out, but didn't I have maybe even a neighbor who could come get me? Of course, I felt totally uncomfortable and pushed out, so I called my mom who left her golf game at the ninth hole and came and got me.

The day I was discharged, I had everything packed up and cleaned up and had the room to myself for a moment. I looked out the window and felt completely overwhelmed by the entire experience. I was happy to go home, but I was scared too. If I had know just how little I knew, I would've been terrified to leave the hospital. As I considered the enormity of everything I had experience over the course of those five or six days, I felt the need to cry. I wanted to cry and I was glad for the quiet space to feel my feelings...until I was interrupted by a belligerent nurse who was bent on getting me out of the hospital.

While I was in the hospital, I felt fine. I overlooked the inconsistencies in treatment and the brusque manner of the nurses. After returning home, I started to put together the pieces of the puzzle. Maybe I had missed the poor treatment because I was busy recovering from major surgery and had never experienced anything like this before. Certainly, I was overwhelmed by the revolving door of employees and the constant sensory overload. Upon reflection, I realize now that the standard of care I received was sub-par, even if it's the universal standard of care for all patients in the maternity ward. My preferences as offered to me by the hospital were ignored. My needs as a patient were ignored. Despite disclosing my autism to everyone, my needs as an autistic person were ignored. My needs as a new parent were ignored. In hindsight, I realize that the care I received was not ok at all.


  1. Oh goodness, NONE of that is okay! If I had been treated that way...I would have broken down...or had an outburst...something! That is a truly awful experience, and I'm glad you recognise that, got the assistance you needed, and did all the research you did, because a lot of people wouldn't have.

    And the video about the toddler being shaken, punched, and thrown... That is just disturbing...

    1. I have no idea how I managed to stay calm. I kind of looked at it like it was a can be mad and make the day shitty and then just have a really bad memory of your own wedding or you can roll with it and have a better memory of your own wedding. I think I wanted my birth experience to be positive, and also it's not like I've done this before and had any control or comparison, but it wasn't a positive experience. It just wasn't also a super traumatic experience because of my attitude, though it was still plenty traumatic.