We made it back to our room and, somehow, Rob convinced the nursing staff to unwrap her from her absurdly thick bundle of blankets to get a little daddy-daughter skin to skin snuggle time. And none of the hospital staff liked it. Won’t she be too cold? No, aside from my hormonal wife, I’m the most warm thing in the room. Don’t you want to lay her down to look at her? No, I’d rather try to bond and get comfortable with my kid by touching and looking at her.
Meanwhile, I was still relegated to numb slug status, not allowed to move or lift my head for 6 hours. I was just being pumped full of IV fluids, medication, and some sort of pain management drug (hallelujah!). But, about an hour had passed and I was being poked and prodded by nurses, some squishing my abdomen to shrink my uterus back down, some literally mashing my boobs and yanking on my nipples to see if colostrum had started. Nope- again- no labor or hormonal cues to start the flow. I need my kid to latch and nurse for that. But, as a slug on my back and an IV in the crook of my elbow, I couldn’t try to nurse. Nor could I hold my little girl. And by the 5 hour post-delivery mark, I started sobbing because yet another nurse was poking at me and I started crying because I hadn’t yet touched my own baby. Nurses got to. Rob got to. And he even started getting good at swaddling her and diapering her after getting meconium pooped-on.
But, over 5 hours after she was out in the world, and without the shared experience of labor and delivery, my daughter was still a perfect stranger. No chance to bond. No getting to snuggle and smell each other and get acquainted to try to set ourselves up for successful breastfeeding. I needed to have nutrients in my own system to have energy to produce. Except I hadn’t done much eating for four days because my kidney stone made me feel so sick and I wasn’t allowed to ingest anything for 12 hours post-delivery, and then, only glorified broth. After I passed gas on my no-food empty-bowels (makes sense), I would be allowed to eat watery congee. Protein? Vegetables? Fruit juice for an energy burst? Nope, not yet.
Anyway, I hadn’t touched my kid. And I finally lost it. Yet another nurse waltzed in, unannounced, and pulled on my nipple for, seemingly, the fun of it. No asking permission, no warning. Just an abrupt flip of my comforter, and BAM! And I couldn’t stop myself, I just let my brave face go and sobbed. Through snot and whimpering, I babbled into a tragic circle about how, let’s drive the point home, 5 effing hours had passed and I hadn’t been allowed to hold my own child. Panicked and shocked nurse’s response? Bring her massive swaddle bundled face and touch it to my cheek. Thank Baby Jesus, our amazing friend Annie realized what was happening and started barking orders to unroll my burrito of a child and PUT HER ON THE BED IN HER MOTHER’S ARM. NOW.
A little later, I was finally allowed to raise the bed into a more seated position and snuggle more with our girl. With an IV in the crook of my right elbw, I was still a little stunted in how much I could do with our girl. She had a quick latch, but wasn’t doing too much nursing- arriving 3 ½ weeks early doesn’t set tiny people up for rockstar sucking skills. And I couldn’t hold her in my right arm well, so we were a little handicapped while we were waiting for the 7-ish IV fluid bags to be over with. But, the evening came and went and we got word that my mom (whose original flight was booked for May 13) was en route, since my sister is a travel-booking goddess and found a way to get her on a plane that arrived the afternoon of Violet’s second day. Which, more than anything, meant that Rob, who was so unbelievably strong for both of us and was working on sleep deprivation of his very own coutesy of the miniscule loveseat he’d been sleeping on for days on end, was going to get to recharge at home. We just had to make it through Violet’s first night and a few daytime hours.
This is when shit hits the fan.
I was running on nothing but three hours of scattered sleep since I was vigilantly monitoring my need for the next IV fluid and doing my best to try to change diapers/ get in Rob’s way while he actually changed diapers and awkward nursing with one arm and a kid with a lazy, sleepy latch. At 4:45 am, my mommy-sense and adrenaline kicked in and I opened my eyes and peered into Violet’s hospital bassinet in the early morning light. Just in time to watch my kid’s face TURN PURPLE. I screamed at Rob, who was so out of sorts and confused and asleep, to pick her up and try to pat her back if she was choking. I couldn’t reach Violet to pick her up myself, I couldn’t reach the call button. Thank goodness he just ran out of the room with her and woke the poor night nurse at the desk out of a dead sleep, and the three of them sprinted to NICU. Leaving me tethered to the IV, sobbing, and freaked out. All alone. Rob called me from outside the NICU, where the nurse and the Pediatrician on call whisked our girl inside and no information or explaination, since her English wasn’t strong. But, bless her, she was fast, efficient, and handled shit like a warrior. (We found out a few days later that she cried for hours afterwards, poor girl.)
They all finally came back to our room, and I was able to spend a little time (who are we kidding- it was hours on end) snuggling Violet and sobbing and snotting into her swaddle blanket. Google Translate finally revealed that, shocker of all shockers, her blood sugar was super low. They fed her a small bottle of formula, her first real meal and she perked back up and squawked her brains out and was deemed well enough to return to our room. We gave her a few small bottles over the day, but were conscious about not feeding her too much in hopes she would be up for nursing a little more heartily and getting my colostrums moving.
The day settled down and we moved into a nice rhythm of cat naps, watching Rob tend to his daughter and the look of shock on his face while she let loose another meconium poop while she had her tiny butt out in the open in the midst of a diaper change. An acquaintence of mine, a LaLeche League leader, planned to come by after she was done with work to talk breastfeeding strategy and how to get my flow going. Early evening rolled around and she arrived. As did some random pediatrician, who stated that the hospital should take Violet to stay in the nursery to be more closely monitored. Not because she had an emergeny that morning. But, because she was born before 37 weeks! She’d been in my care for 36 hours, without the hospital’s harrumphing or any indication that this policy might be something we’d have to come up against. I calmly asked why it was all of a sudden a problem that she stay with us in the room. I declined to let them take her, as they kept saying that it’s policy that they recommend she go to be monitored. And I cried (again, of course) but held fast, politely declining through sobs and building frustration that everything is fine until it’s a big bleeping deal and not fine. Back and forth, yo-yo’ing information, highs and lows, over and over again. Something’s good until it gets turned on its head. My friend, militant advocate for breastfeeding and German hippy-natural-momma, finally lost her shit on my behalf and yelled that the kid would not be leaving the recovery room, and a pediatrician was welcome to come check on her more often if the department insisted, but she would not be yanked away from the opportunity to bond more with her mother. So, I sat there in a puddle of my own snot as the pediatrician obliged, left a waiver to sign, and left.
And not more than 15 minutes after, my mom arrived by cab. Can we just take a moment to acknowledge that my husband really step up to the plate in ways he never should have needed to and took care of me and our girl in our most vulnerable moments. He kicked ass advocating for us, kept me calm, encouraged me through many more tough choices than we should have needed to make. And, even considering as much as I hurt for days before Violet’s birth, I did my best to remain calm and on an even keel to make sure he didn’t feel overwhelmed by the seriously insane circumstances of our hospital stay. But, my mom’s arrival was absolute permission to break. To sob big, ugly, confused, overwhelmed tears. To shut down.
|Low res, but this wa seconds after my mom arrived. I'm so happy I have this photo from my friend.|
Rob went home and got a well deserved night of good rest. And we all puttered through four more days of hospital stay with little incident. In fact, we had two mornings with adorable bathtimes. The sweet nurse who was traumatized by Violet’s blue-face sugar crash NICU visit was the one who gave her the baths. We had so many wonderful visitors, including colleagues from both the School of Music faculty and my office girls. We were gifted homemade soups as I was allowed to eat more. And, finally, check out day came! Before we were released, Violet was even treated to a little swimming session. With an audience. Which was hysterical for both the floaty around her tiny neck and little butt cheeks floating lazily in the tiny pool, as well as the massive audience of Chinese people plastered to the observation window.
|This sweet nurse is my own personal angel|
Eventually, we got the boot and happily went home. And, of course, it’s not been sunshine and rainbows, but we’re all so glad to have the seriously unnecessary hospital absurd chain of events behind us. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but the 6 days of kidney stone was totally worth it. Do I wish I had the benefit of Western pain management rather than the “hang tight, take nothing, and wait it out” Chinese mentality? For sure. But, 6 weeks in, mommyhood is pretty awesome. I’m so happy to have this darling girl in my life!