Wednesday morning, things started getting tough.
For one thing, I still hadn’t gotten more than five minutes of consecutive sleep since the c-section. It turns out, when the abdomen is opened up for surgery, air can get trapped inside the body cavity. This frequently travels up into the shoulder blade area, where it can cause severe pain until it dissipates. My ‘bubble’ finally went away about 10 AM Wednesday morning, and I lay down with a sigh of relief for the first real sleep I’d gotten since Sunday night.
At 10:30 AM, the maternity nurse on duty arrived to inform me that I had been cleared for discharge, and that the room was needed. I needed to pack up and leave.
I begged for enough of a reprieve to get a nap. They gave me one hour.
At noon, the nurse returned. “You are discharged. We need your bed for incoming moms. You must get up and get out.” (Her words. In her defense, English was her second language. Although it begs the question as to who had taught her that particular turn of phrase.)
I got up. Mr. Caffeinated came down to load things out to the car. I asked for our paperwork, including meds prescriptions. Our nurse said she’d bring them and remove my staples… after she went to lunch.
Taking advantage of that, I announced I’d take a shower while Mr. Caffeinated took out the last load. Two different nurses and techs left, arguing over who was going to oversee me.
I was cleaned up and dressed before they returned.
Mr. Caffeinated helped me into the wheelchair, and we headed up to the NICU.
Junior was ensconced in a plastic incubator with portholes along the sides. They’d taken him off the oxygen mask, but the hospital air was so dry that they were pumping warm, humidified air into this little chamber for him to breathe. He did all right in there for awhile, but his oxygen saturation eventually dropped low enough that he had to go back on oxygen directly for another day or so.
He was able to nurse, somewhat, but I wasn’t producing enough milk yet. Our night nurses were terrific, but the day nurse was another story. According to her, it was my fault that Junior wasn’t gaining weight rapidly enough. Her words. “If you’d give him more milk, he’d gain quicker and we wouldn’t have to supplement with formula.” As if I was deliberately holding back my milk supply… in fact, I was nursing him and then pumping afterwards, to try and build it up as much as possible.
At one point, I asked if I could get some heat packs, to see if I could help speed things up a bit in the dairy department. She gave me an unbelieving snort, and snapped, “We don’t have hot packs in the NICU.”
Ooookay… could we make do with washcloths soaked in hot water?
“I can’t give you any washcloths, and the water temperature in the sink is kept low so that the babies don’t get scalded.” As if they were giving these babies baths in straight hot water in the sink, while they were attached to more wires than a computer.
I gave up and talked to Mr. Caffeinated directly. “Why don’t you grab a burp cloth, and go to the kitchenette. Fill a mug half full from the hot water dispenser on the side of the coffee maker, and cut that with enough tap water to bring it down to the temperature we use for yeast breads.” (He knew what I meant; we bake all the time at home.) “Soak the cloth in that, and I’ll use it.”
The nurse rolled her eyes, gave a big sniff, and departed – leaving us to our own devices. I don’t know why she didn’t call in a lactation consultant; they’re all over the place.
Later she asked about our family plans. When we told her that this was our fourth child, and that I am unable to have any more, her comment was, “Well, if this is how your babies start out, perhaps that’s just as well.”
The only thing keeping me from telling her off was that she could probably have kicked us out of the NICU, and we just weren’t willing to abandon Junior. In her defense, she really did know what she was doing when it came to taking care of our baby. She just had the bedside manner of Attila the Hun.
Her first words to us when we came in the door together were, “You can’t move in here. If another family comes in, then you can’t sleep here either.”
Click here to go to Junior’s Birth Story, Part IV