Part 2: Complications after birth

The next disruption to my plans ended up being very scary for both my husband and me. It’s something I’ve hesitated to share, because I’m not sure why I would want to, or why anyone would want to know. I certainly am not sharing this to be dramatic or to gain sympathy. But what happened to me in the hours after delivery scared me enough that I will never forget it, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it continues to affect me emotionally for years to come.

I do, however, feel fortunate to have found people who shared a similar experience. It was a relief to know I had friends who could empathize. So that is why I am sharing this part of my birth story, now. My hope is to offer that same empathy to someone else who may have been through a similar trauma.

Bleeding happens after you deliver. Our bodies produce so much more blood while we are pregnant in order to support the baby. Some of that blood is in the uterine lining. Your doctor tells you to expect bleeding for several weeks after delivery, but they also tell you what is too much.

I remember being exhausted after I delivered. My nurses encouraged me to rest. My son was getting excellent care in the NICU. All signs pointed to him being healthy and that the 12 hour stay he had ahead of him would end up being precautionary. As a new mom we don’t get many opportunities to rest. If you need it during those first few hours or days after birth, it’s okay to take advantage of the help the hospital offers.

My plan, of course, was to be super mom. I had even joked with my overnight nurse in the post delivery wing that sleeping would be nice, but the adrenaline rushing through me was not going to allow that to happen that night. I don’t know why I had it, but thinking back, I am so thankful for that adrenaline rush. It was why I was awake and was able to recognize something was wrong.

It was around 1 a.m. or so when it felt like my water had broken. The problem was, I had already had the baby. So I turned on my phone flashlight and looked to see what was going on. It wasn’t water and it wasn’t urine that was streaming out of me… it was massive amounts of blood. Way more than what I was told was normal. I rang the call button for the nurse. She was calm when she examined me, telling me it was a little more than she would like to see. The culprit… a huge blood clot, which she was able to help remove. We hoped it was the only one. Sometimes you don’t pass clots because you have to pee. So she had me get up to use the bathroom. Several more clots passed at that point, and then I laid back down to rest. They told me again, how much blood loss was normal. If this happened again I was to ring my call button.

Forty five minutes later… another huge gush of blood. This time it wasn’t just my call nurse who came in, but also the charge nurse for the floor. At that time I couldn’t wrap my brain around exactly what was happening to me, but I knew it wasn’t good and I started to get scared. My husband was still sleeping on the couch across from me. He had taken his anti anxiety medication before he fell asleep, so he was out for the count. But I was getting emotional enough that I knew I needed his support, and I had the nurses wake him up.

Shortly after that I started shaking uncontrollably. The nurses continued to push on my uterus to work out any more clots and that was extremely painful. Medications had to be administered which caused even more pain… and then I passed out. My husband said the scene was terrifying. At this point there were 6 to 10 nurses in our tiny room working on me. He was holding my hand, listening to my pain, watching me shake, and then I suddenly went limp. All I remember is feeling sick, not being able to hear well, and then suddenly having doctors and nurses in my face telling me I had fainted, was only out for about 16 seconds, and that they were taking me to an O.R. for surgery.

Past that point I don’t remember much. All I could do was tell them what I was acutely feeling and trust that they would get the bleeding to stop.

In the hours after I gave birth, I hemorrhaged. I lost between 900 and 1000 cc’s of blood. It turns out there are a few reasons your body will do that post delivery. I hemorrhaged because I had so many massive clots that had formed in my uterus, that despite the nurses efforts to help push them out, my uterus couldn’t pass them. The surgery was an emergency D & C. Once they cleared the clots and anything else that could have been i there, the bleeding stopped.

I made my husband call my parents before I went in to the O.R. I had no idea what was going to happen in there, but I knew that they would want to know what was going on. Selfishly, I needed them to know. My parents are some pretty fierce prayer warriors, and I needed as much help as I could get.

Just before they put me under I remember hoping to not see my dead grandmother… and telling God that I wasn’t ready to go. It seems dramatic to say that, but that’s where my mind was. I didn’t really know what was happening, and while I trusted my team, there was some belief that my body would fail me.

Hemorrhaging after birth is not extremely common, but it does happen. Thank God we live in a time where modern medicine exists and doctors know what to do to stop the bleeding. When it didn’t exist, the outcome was detrimental.

The blood loss left me borderline for needing a transfusion. My iron and blood stores are pretty depleted, leaving me with zero wiggle room when it comes to self care. Appropriate sleep and an iron rich diet are critical for me to be able to function. For the first couple of weeks I was home I didn’t understand that, and my body shut down forcing me back to the hospital for nearly passing out.

If I can’t take care of myself, then there are options. But for now, I’m much more vigilant. It is a slow journey. I can tell if I’ve pushed myself too hard. My doctors say it will take 6 to 9 months to replace what I lost, IF I take care of myself. In the meantime, I’ll continue to feel better every day. And I look forward to the new normal that comes with a family of 5.

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