Sunday, March 18, 2018

Thoughts on Labor & Delivery #8: Repair

 Shortly thereafter, our familial bonding was interrupted by the pediatrics team needing to examine the baby and start her IV.  Studies in postpartum medical care have demonstrated significant medical benefit for both mom and baby when the baby is placed directly on mom’s skin following birth and allowed to remain there for at least 1 hour.  I was concerned that we would not get to reap the benefits of that practice given the concern for infection, but she did her part and came out literally kicking and screaming.

I kissed Allie goodbye and instructed PIC to go with her for her IV.  I didn’t want anyone trading their less perfect baby for ours.

It was then that I first noticed the team of doctors staring at my exposed womanhood.  They didn’t look as celebratory as I felt.  They weren’t really doing much actually… In fact, the resident wasn’t moving, she had taken over for the intern and done the lion’s share of the work associated with delivery (second to me, obviously) but now she stood fairly still.  I heard her ask for the senior resident to be sent in.  He took a peek and in turn asked for the attending to be sent in.  Super.

“So… what’s the deal?” I had previously been told that 70% of first time moms tear.   Another statistic that I had been determined to defy, however by this point I had come to the realization that if I did tear, I couldn’t feel it… so whatever.  Predictably, I had 2 small tears.  What I had not anticipated was the type of tear – the resident informed me afterwards that it involved an artery.  She wasn’t moving because she was watching my heartbeat with each spray of blood and in good doctor fashion decided to hold pressure. 

She told me one of the attendings offered her some advice: that she should change into sterile gloves before beginning the repair. Because of her station in the hierarchy, her lot in life is to smile, nod and thank the attending for the insightful and helpful commentary regardless of whether it was actually either of those things. She pointed out to me that she felt it was more important to control the bleeding than to change to the appropriate wardrobe, but it looks as though we all still have things to learn.

The repair took well over an hour as the tissue was very friable (read: tears easily) and the bleeding just kept happening. Given that my magical epidural was still fully functioning and I was only a torso, I didn’t mind.  I also had crackers. 

Once the repair was completed, the doctor moved to her next task – to examine the placenta to ensure nothing was wrong.  Placentas are disgusting. I know that there are a whole host of different belief systems that think the placenta is extremely important: some eat it, some save it and some even bury it beneath the doorstep (not kidding!). In medical school, they often allow medical students to deliver the placenta when they are first starting out on the OB service because 1. Its hard to mess up and 2. It makes you feel included and 3. No one else wants to.  I have seen and handled plenty and had no sadness about parting with my own, sight unseen. My belief system is that it should operate like any other internal organ: it should stay hidden, do its job with no maintenance.  Once it has completed its function, I have no more use for it… and certainly zero desire to eat it. 

Apparently my placenta sensed my ambivalence and was not quite ready to cede her ground. One portion of it tore slightly and what should have been a quick visual inspection on the way to the lab became a thorough examination and ultimately a quest to find the missing piece… despite the many marvels of modern technology, this had to be accomplished by inserting an entire hand and just poking around my innards.  Honestly, this portion of the experience hurt worse than most of labor. 

In typical Katie fashion, I needed to speak endlessly in order to deal with my pain.  Unfortunately for my OB, PIC and my new child were still off getting IV’s or coffee or whatever. She was my sole audience and despite needing to talk, I had nothing new to say. We had been together a solid 3 hours at this point (she stayed late to do my repair #blessed) and nothing major had changed apart from the life altering circumstance of having a child and then nearly bleeding out. 

Clearly, those in charge of interior design on the Labor and Delivery wing had foreseen exactly this circumstance. First of all, there were sea life creatures on the ceiling and despite all of my medical education I could come up with no reasoning for this apart from mere distraction.   I commented on that waste of thousands of dollars adding outlines of marine animals to an already ugly drop ceiling. Then the starfish photo again caught my attention. 

Starfishes have to be the MOST useless creatures on the planet, can they even swim?  As far as I know they have no ability to capture food and must instead simply injest whatever floats into their… mouth? hole?  I’m really not sure what the proper descriptor for their food trap is.  What does it say about me that my reference point for whether a creature matters is their ability to eat?  I like to eat.  It’s really terrible that Tripler doesn’t have an after hours kitchen service.  Are starfishes edible?  They don’t look like they would taste good.  They’re fairly aesthetically pleasing – that must be their sole purpose in life, to be a source of beauty for everyone to admire.  Much like women in the olden days. Seen and not heard. I would not have survived in that time.  Do you think starfishes feel pain?  I wonder how they give birth.  With all the money I spent getting a bachelor’s degree in biology, shouldn’t I have at least a working knowledge of how a starfish gives birth?  I mean, I’m just guessing it comes out the same hole as the food goes in, or maybe there’s two holes?  Why didn’t the guy taking the picture aim at the other side of the dang fish – at least then I could have made an educated guess? Oh yeah, modesty.  Wouldn’t want anyone getting all offended looking at fish hoo-has.

I managed to distract myself enough to get through it and hopefully managed to distract the OB enough that she was entertained and only 35% hating her life for working 3 hours late but not so much that she didn’t do a thorough job spelunking for retained placenta.

She finished her job, and went home (likely to enjoy some silence).  For the first time in 9 months, I was alone.  PIC and Allie were off doing IV things, or maybe cruising for chicks? They had certainly been gone a long time.  I sat patiently in silence with no one to talk to for at least 5 years (or so it seemed) My epidural was shut off but apparently you don’t instantly bounce back to functional, so I was immobilized.  Comfortable, though.  My phone was out of reach so I was really more alone than I had been since 2005 when my parents decided my brother and I were old enough to co-own a cell phone.

At this point, those waiting with bated breath on the east coast had last heard an update of “time to push” over 3 hours ago. 

I would like to make it clear that this delay was not my fault.  Having just pushed a human out of my body, I had done my part. PR was not my arena.

Finally they came back.  My family was reunited… and someone could hand me snacks and a cell phone. 

Babies also benefit from skin to skin with their dad!
(Please ignore the scar on his chest... I once dropped a power drill on him from a ladder...
maybe someday I will write about my adventures in carpentry)

We finally alerted the world of Allie’s birth; first the families, then her name sakes, then more friends and family. 

Her official instagram debut picture.

One uncle told us “Congratulations! Can’t wait to meet her! Open up a college account now so when people want to give you gifts you will have a place for them.” My response: “Oh, thank you, but she’s far too pretty to go to college” was quickly nixed.

Skeptical tiny human, who is unimpressed by her IV. 

All was right with the world.

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