“Tonight marks my final night in the hospital after a 5 week and 2 day stay. Celebrating with fireworks, mock tails and kettle corn made it all too perfect. Such a bittersweet night as Oaklee takes my place as the patient. She’s a strong one. We love her so, so much.”
On the 30th, the day after Oaklee was born, I spent most of my day trapped in my room on the OB Special Care Floor. In the morning, I asked my nurse to remove my IV. I was so excited to finally be rid of my shackle, but the nurse was shocked I had not yet been notified of my pending transfusion.
My hemoglobin was a 6. 12-15 is normal for women (10-14 during pregnancy), but between the pregnancy and the cesarean, I’d lost so much blood. They ordered two units of blood and asked me when I wanted to sit through the transfusion. Not realizing quite how long it was going to take, I suggested we start right away to get it over with. I wanted to be done focusing on my own medical needs so I could focus on my daughter one building away.
Part way through unit one, my IV busted. While, sure, someone else’s blood was going into my veins, I panicked because someone else’s blood was dripping down my arm. I’m sure this is not true, but this was the first nurse I thought, in the moment, was unqualified. She wasn’t certain what to do about the busted IV or her panicking patient whom she’d just met for the first time that shift. My husband was over with our daughter and I hissed between my teeth into the phone, “Get. Back here.” The nurse slowed the flow of the blood, finished the unit, removed the busted IV and I faced my 7th IV start… post-partum. I was irate. After everything I’d been through, this put me over the edge.
I was disgusted. I was tired. I wanted to see my baby.
The report was that Oaklee was doing a bit better that morning. They’d bumped her down to 20-30% support on the oscillator, and the talk wasn’t revolved around whether or not she was going to survive so much as when could they give her less and less support.
After sitting six hours through my transfusion, I finally took a shower before two sets of Oaklee’s uncles and aunts came to visit. Again, we stared through the plexi-glass at her tiny, little body, her chest puffing a mile a minute from that oscillator. 2lb 12oz at birth, she was now on her way to her lowest known weight, 2lb 7oz. I watched as my husband changed his first diaper on a baby smaller than the baby dolls I played with as a child. Even this made me cry.
By the first of July, my final day as a patient, Oaklee made the switch to a conventional ventilator (see mechanical ventilator). Most parents panic if their child requires the assistance of a ventilator. We celebrated. She tolerated the switch well and, so long as she proved a vent was right for her, we would get to hold her soon.
After another aunt/uncle visit, we watched the Grand Rapids Independence Day fireworks I was counting down to from the corner room on the OB Special Care floor. We mixed virgin Moscow Mules and ate kettle corn, celebrating the end of my stay, but also not wanting to leave. Our friends were there. Our lives were there. Our baby was there.
A couple of our former nurses came in that night to say goodbye to us. Each one reminded me I did everything I could. Each one echoed every doctor we talked to along the way, telling me there was nothing I could have done differently. Deep down, I know these things are true, but throughout much of my pregnancy, it was as if my body and mind were two separate people. My body knew there was nothing I could have done differently, but my mind was so frustrated by the route my body was taking. Mentally, I could not fathom why my body allowed this to happen. It was better than that. I took good care of it. I took pride in it. And then I became pregnant and it didn’t do it right.
I will always believe my body failed me despite knowing that yes, there truly is nothing I could have done differently.
I will also always hurt a little bit when I see pictures of brand new, smiling, healthy families in the hospital – mommy, daddy, day old baby. I want that for everyone, I really do, but I also wanted it for me. Instead, I got two units of blood, another IV start, three days without a shower, two hospitals to navigate and, above the concern about my own health, the concern about the health of my brand new baby who wasn’t just kept in a different room, but a different hospital.
Still, I rejoice with those who have happy births. I want moms to be healthy and babies to be strong. I don’t ever want someone’s post-partum picture to look like mine.
(When talking with my husband, neither one of us knows why this picture was taken, but both of us look back at it and see how perfectly it sums up this day for us: Exhaustion. Transfusion. Pump. Unwashed hair. Phone nearby.)
In the stats:
Days in the hospital (Mandi): 37
IV starts: 7 (14 IV pokes)
Gestational Age: 28 weeks
Days in the hospital: 3
Sets of visitors to see Oaklee: 5