The last time I wrote (a week ago, I know – sorry, but I have had other priorities!) I left off with Lucien on my chest immediately post-birth. He screamed like a champ when he came out – I was glad to know that he had strong, mature lungs – and then when I held him he quieted right down and we had an absolutely beautiful few minutes until the NICU team arrived and took him to an examination table in an adjoining room for examination. At which point he started wailing again. I was glad that Nick was ambulatory and able to follow him.
Shortly thereafter the head NICU doctor came in and started talking to me about all the interventions they were planning, the feeding tube and the electronic monitoring and the time in an isolette in the NICU. He also said that Lucien was hypoglycemic and needed food right away – he threatened to give him formula. There were plenty of things that had not gone ideally already, but I knew I could not handle the heartbreak or guilt if some doctor fed my baby formula instead of the mother’s milk he needed and observed. When I categorically refused my amazing midwife offered to obtain some (tested though not pasteurized – hooray!) human donor milk from a community milk bank, and, good to her word, she was back in under an hour. The milk she brought was actually her own (she has a 13-month-old daughter whom she is still breastfeeding). I was so incredibly thankful to her, and blown away by her expediency and generosity.
The NICU doctor talked quickly, threw a lot of information at me, and suggested a lot of interventions – some of which we allowed – and I was apparently in my protective mamabear mode. My midwives said that I was very impressive and assertive, although I did not think of myself that way – I was just worried about my son, but I guess that my protective maternal instinct took over and gave me more chutzpah that I would normally possess. Apparently at one point I copped a bit of a tone and said to the doctor “Alright, now I have some questions for you.” I made sure that Lucien would not get any formula and that I could have him skin-to-skin on my chest when I got to the NICU; and then they took him away, down one floor to the NICU, and hooked him up to all of his tubes, wires, and monitors. Nick and I agreed that he should follow Lu instead of staying with me, and Nick, wonderful father that he is, kept skin-to-skin contact with his son the whole afternoon, even if it could only be a hand on his head through the opening in the isolette.
Meanwhile, I was stuck up in my labor and delivery room trying to convince everybody that I was well enough to get up and go down to the NICU. Kinda hard considering my much heavier than normal bleeding and lightheadedness that made it impossible to stand. I tried valiantly, though, several times, only to fall back on the bed. Then they started pushing on my uterus in an attempt to get my uterus to contract. Apparently this is standard operating procedure, but nobody warned me. It hurt as bad as the contractions that helped push Lucien out, but somehow those seemed more worthwhile, while these were simply torturous.
I had a lot of bleeding and a lot of painful cramping – basically a huge oxytocin response. I had all of those love hormones flowing. Any time I talked about Lucien – thought about him even – I would double over in pain. And attempting to pump and express colostrum? Forget it. I agreed to take some ibuprofen at this point – the only meds I ever had during my stay – in hopes that I could claim I felt all better and finally make my way downstairs.
Meanwhile the doctors were pushing to give me pitocin (again!) in order to stem my bleeding. I refused. I argued that I did not want to downregulate my endogenous oxytocin production and interfere with the natural bonding hormones of childbirth, and besides – pitocin is used to stimulate contractions, which help to slow bleeding, but my body was already doing a fantastic job contracting – that was not the problem. I had plenty of my own natural oxytocin, and I did not need their synthetic variety.
I was again able to dodge the pitocin, and my very kind and supportive midwives suggested that maybe when I was strong enough to make my way across the labor and delivery room and to the bathroom I might also be strong enough to make my way downstairs to the NICU. I made it to the bathroom and lied about not being lightheaded, but then I gushed massive amounts of blood and passed a clot bigger than a softball, which got everybody worried again and delayed my departure further.
After what seemed like an interminable period of time I convinced everybody that I was fine and made it down to the NICU to see Lucien, and I was finally able to hold him. I was so grateful to see that Nick was there with him, touching him and talking to him, and that he had been there the whole time. I insisted on holding him skin-to-skin and attempting breastfeeding. It was a hard day because he was so sleepy (Who could blame him, after the stressful time he had?), he did not show interest in nursing, when I pumped I only got a few drops of colustrum, and I had to feed him via the tube the doctors had inserted up his nose and down his throat. They refused our request to feed him via a syringe.
I had been awake for 40 hours. I slept for about four, and then returned to the NICU in the early morning to feed Lucien, spend some time skin-to-skin, talk and sing to him, and read some storybooks. The nurses actually told me to put him back in his isolette (The very term is absolutely terrible – why on earth should a newborn baby be isolated instead of held close?) and leave the NICU for a while. I said to Nick something about the nurses having to pry him “from my cold dead hands.” I tried to make it sound like a joke, but I was really serious.
The story does get a lot more cheerful, I promise. And I will share the continuation soon. This is plenty enough writing – and reliving trauma – for me today, though. I would much rather be cuddling with my perfectly healthy, strong, growing little man.