Shit, it's been...I was going to say how many days since I last posted, but I'd need to know today's date in order to figure that tricky little 'cipher'n.
Thank you for all your wonderful comments regarding the previous post. I didn't stick the photos up in the hopes of garnering plaudits for my spawn, but rather I wanted to just post something and that's all I really had at the time. I can assure you that I am not one of those people that thinks her child is the most beautiful in the world and chooses to pass that belief on to everyone that crosses her path. Sure, she's cute, but none of you have seen her when she's drunk on milk and does her patented Infant Possessed eye movements. She rolls her eyes either back in her head or to the upper right, breathes heavily, and grunts like a rooting pig. I keep telling her she won't ever get no mans that way, but she persists.
So I promised you all a statement made by one of the midwives at the hospital which nearly left her without a head or attached arms. That comes toward the end of my story, but I promise I will tell you. I've let it go so long that I doubt anyone remembers or cares any longer. I like to recount it though to upset myself again, so I'll mention it anyway when I get to that stage.
Post-delivery I was fortunate to have some tearing and as such needed to be stitched up. As soon as there was mention of snatch stitching AND a swift snatch injection, I sucked on the gas & air like a hooker sucks on...nevermind. Prior to the commencement of the stitching, a midwife asked if she could put a suppository up my welcoming back passage. We all know of my history of having British healthcare providers shoving stuff up what is so eloquently referred to as the "back passage". Naturally I gave the midwife the go-ahead, as nothing was left holy at that point anyway. The Dude chirped, "Old pro at this Pru, aren't you?", which even in my hazy state I wondered what the midwives would make of this statement. Either they could have interpreted it to mean that I regularly underwent procedures in which suppositories were administered, or they thought that The Dude and I were quite experimental sexually and my back passage was well acquainted with fruits, vegetables, and small plastic instruments.
P. was sitting and bonding with The Dude in the corner of the room, something which I forgot as the procedure continued. By the time the midwives were done sewing me up, one of them said, "In a moment you can hold your baby again". I was completely floating with pink elephants and fluffy clouds at that point and had forgotten that I even had a child. I had to look over at The Dude and P. to verify that childbirth was the reason I had just endured labour, delivery, and snatch stitches. Up to that point, I suppose my drug-addled mind thought that I was there for the fun and games.
There wasn't any sleeping that night/morning, as P. wasn't too keen on the tit, but also wasn't satisfied with hunger. UK hospitals have a policy of keeping babies roomed with their mothers, which initially seems like a good idea. It was fantastic the first night, as I was able to spend some alone time with the little flat-nosed creature with minimal discomfort and the sleep-deprived craziness that would soon plague me.
Times changed quickly by the second night. P. still wasn't feeding and was also diagnosed with jaundice, finding herself relegated to an incubator for phototherapy treatment. I was calm about the jaundice after being assured that that most babies were afflicted, particularly premature babies. The cause of my hospital-induced insanity started from that point, as P. needed to eat sufficiently in order to flush out the jaundice and she wasn't feeding properly. She would latch on (though not correctly), but would fuss so much that one feed would take about an hour to an hour and a half. This usually would only require patience on the part of mother and child, but phototherapy is only helpful of the baby is exposed to the UV rays for an extended period of time. Obviously if your baby is feeding 6-7 times a day and taking over an hour each time to eat, that cuts into phototherapy which then leads to the baby needing to be in phototherapy for an even longer period.
The breastfeeding issue was attempted to be dealt with by numerous midwives. On any given shift there were about 8 on duty, and in all likelihood I saw most of them at least twice per shift. Every time P. was going to feed, I would buzz them so they could guide both myself and P. as to how to do this breastfeeding thing properly. Theories ranged from her prematurity to laziness on her part, and methods went from gentle coaxing to outright brutality with her head grabbed and shoved against my boob quite forcefully.
Sometimes P. would appear as if she was getting the hang of it, latch on, and suck for about 10 minutes. After that brief amount of time she would pull away and scream. Any further attempt to get her back on failed, and I would often be left crying in my bed while she cried in her cot beside me. Midwives would come in, advise me in the same ways they had previously, not understanding that I had tried all of it before with no success.
By day 4 P. was able to escape the phototherapy as her bilirubin numbers improved. Ordinarily mother and child would be able to be discharged at this stage, but as feeding was still problematic we were kept in. It is also around this time that I had what I thought was a breakthrough - a successful feed that lasted for 40 minutes. I was in absolute, toe-curling, mind-numbing pain for its entirety, but I thought that's what happened when she was latched on successfully. When she was done feeding, my nipple emerged from her mouth as flat as a pancake. I wanted to rip off my entire boob the pain was so great, but I felt such a sense of accomplishment for finally feeding my baby the way they are meant to be fed.
The next day saw my nipples sore and raw, and every movement that caused a brush of fabric against them was agony. The midwives tried to get me to breastfeed her again, but on the rare occasion she chose to latch on I wanted to throw her across the room as a reaction to the pain. The midwives coaxed me to continue, but I started sobbing after a 10 second attempt so I nixed that plan immediately.
This also marks the time when it was discovered that hey - she STILL had jaundice after all and as such would need to be back in phototherapy. Because breastfeeding was so not on, the midwives decided that she should be cup fed. For those not familiar, breast milk is expressed (well, in my case anyway) and poured into a small cup. The cup is tilted toward their mouths and they - in theory - lap up the milk like a cat. As you might presume, not only is this messy, but it is also very time consuming. P. would waste at least half of the precious breastmilk (when you have sore as fuck nipples and you pump 6 times a day, you better believe this shit is like gold dust) and take about 40 minutes to drink 30 mls. At first I was pleased to not have to struggle with attempting to breastfeed and the requisite breakdown it would lead to, but cup feeding was no joy.
I think I could have dealt with a lot of this better had I not felt so isolated and alone. I was stuck in a room of my own at the end of a corridor whose rooms had no occupants. Most nights I had to keep my windows shut so P.'s body temperature wouldn't dip whilst receiving phototherapy, so I didn't even have the comfort of the sounds of cars driving by or birds chirping. The Dude had to leave by 9.30pm every night, and at around 8.30pm I would start to panic because I knew his departure was impending. On two nights I was so inconsolable that he was going to ask to stay overnight as he believed I would hurt myself. There is no precedence for this, but I was about 20 kinds of crazy so I'm not surprised he thought something would happen. He buzzed some of the midwives, who would have just come on shift, hoping they could convince me that I was not a terrible mother and that breastfeeding was not the only answer. Unfortunately for the both of us, that never happened. Usually it was a well-intentioned midwife who would come in, pat my knee, and tell me that motherhood was hard. Who knew? I would sit there with snot pouring out of my nose and my face puffy with tears, listening to their drivel and wishing for their slow demise.
This happened for a few nights, and my reputation as the ward's crazy person spread to the morning staff as well. A couple of times I was greeted with, "I heard we had a rough night last night, eh love?", as if I had merely shed a few tears, wiped them away quickly and resolved to just get on with it. Every day from the second lot of phototherapy I was told that it could be the day we would go home. When it was found not to be the case, I would start to panic again and dread 9.30pm when I would yet again be alone and struggling.
By day 6 it seemed as if we might be going home. P.'s jaundice was dissipating to a satisfactory level, and with cup feeding supplemented by formula (also administered by cup), the midwives were happy that we could successfully feed her and avoid P.'s starvation. One midwife brought me a bottle of formula with a teat at one stage, and that set me off on a secret mission in which I decided to forgo the use of the cup and utilise bottles instead. A pediatrician, Dr McDreamy, came to visit P. to check and see if her jaundice had cleared up enough to allow her to go home.
Lest you think I had the hots for the pediatrician and anointed him with that nickname, I will say that it is in fact The Dude who decided this guy met the profile of a McDreamy. I think I even caught him gazing longingly at McDreamy with lust in his heart whilst McDreamy rambled on about bilirubin levels. The Dude has good taste though, I must admit. McDreamy was the kind of guy that could give you bad news (which he did), and you still want to hang out with him because he is just that damn cool. He was oozing with charisma as well, and I'm a sucker for a guy that can charm anyone. Damn you McDreamy, damn you.
So anyway, McDreamy got ready to tell us that we could pack up and get the fuck out of dodge, when he decided to listen to her heartbeat, you know, for kicks. He then told us that he detected a heart murmur, which of course meant that more tests would need to be done to test its severity. Cue me slitting both wrists with a shard of glass from the phototherapy lights, as I knew that tests meant processing time, which meant at least another day in my own personal ring of hell.
We were able to get her an ECG immediately after McDreamy's consultation, but naturally no one was around to interpret the results. I spent that night alone in my room with P. as per usual, smuggling in bottles of expressed milk and formula and convincing myself that she was a goner. The next day she was taken to the NICU for an echocardiogram, which, I can tell you, virtually assured me of her impending demise. It did not help that the echo took place in a room that is reserved for parents either grieving the death of a baby, or attempting to cope with having a very sick baby. In case that was not enough to make me paranoid that this was the end, there was a plaque on the wall to say that the room was created for parents by the Stillborn and Infant Death Society. Yeah, thanks for that.
The echo showed that P. does have a heart murmur, caused by a Ventricular Septal Defect (VSD). It seems that it is not something to be worried about at this stage, as it could resolve itself in time. She is to have an appointment with a pediatric cardiologist between 8-10 weeks, so prepare for me to be batshit crazy around that stage. Oh, the glories of being a worrier.
Anyway, post-echo we were able to go home. Before discharge, I was asking some of the midwives what I could do to encourage this breastfeeding thing, as I thought that I would be more comfortable attempting it again at home as opposed to in my time spent in the hospital. Here it comes ladies...the moment you have all been waiting for. One of the midwives, a woman I actually liked up to that stage said -
She said...brace yourselves...
"I think you just need to relax."
Oh no she didn't. Bitch told me to relax. See, you can't get away from it once you leave infertility behind you! It's not bad enough that you have to deal with that during years of infertility, oh no. It follows you to parenthood as well. It seems the remedy for being unable to breastfeed is the same as infertility. Somebody write this shit down.
I was pleased to be escaping that godforsaken place anyway, and that just cemented my desire to do so. Just motherfucking relax...pfft.
There is my sordid tale of my time spent in hospital. I'm pleased to have made it out without any grey hair or committing homicide on midwives hellbent on getting women to breastfeed regardless of their resulting instability. I plan on my next post being about my thoughts on culture and breastfeeding, and I swear if I get any pro-breastfeeding to the point of fanaticism comments, I might disembowel someone. You know, someone who deserves it.