Hospital Hell-AKA Prison Stay

We made our way to the hospital and I remember still feeling high, excited, happy and not tired at all.  We went to the triage desk and when they asked us how they could help us, I remember the look I got when we told them that we just had a baby.  We had to explain it again and say that we had the baby at home and then all of a sudden, there was a flurry of activity.  You could tell that they didn’t hear that very much!  We actually had one of the nurses in the ER that worked with us the Wednesday before when we went in there for my swollen ankles and high blood pressure.  The first thing they had me do was put R on the scale.  She was fully clothed with a hat on and she weighed 9 lbs 1.5 oz.  I was too worried being an over protective mother and oohing and aahing appropriately to realize that this should have been my first warning sign of trouble to come.  They put us in a teeny tiny room and immediately wanted to take the baby from me to put her in a box.  I tried to fight them, but they still ended up taking her from me.  They were going to take her to another room, but I threw a fit and they brought the box into our tiny room…making the quarters incredibly tight!  The next fight I faced was they were insisting that I take an IV.  I was telling them that I had already given birth and they wouldn’t need to give me anesthesia so I didn’t need an IV.  They kept pushing and I kept refusing…A giant game of bumper cars.  I kept asking why they couldn’t give me pill form of any medicine I would need while I was there and finally they said they would be willing to give me a hep-lock so they had the port if they needed it.  I was working with the ER staff so I know they were following protocol, but it was a giant pain in the ass.  I finally agreed, but only because I wanted them out of my face so I could focus on my baby, who they still had in the box.  They were checking R’s blood sugar, because they said she was Large for Gestational Age (LGA).  After they realized that her blood sugar was fine, they gave her back to me because I was reaching the point of hysteria.  My baby shouldn’t be away from me.  They were messing up my bonding time with my baby.  They had done some tests on me, but I can’t remember what because I was so focused on her.  The lab staff came in to take some of R’s blood and said they needed to do a culture.  Should have been red flag number two, but I was still in a very weird and primal place.  I remember the lab techs had to poke R two times and couldn’t get blood and I wanted to punch them in the face.  I was feeling very fierce!  Finally, they sent in someone else to get her blood and had to stick her again.  Once the techs got the blood out they tested it for blood sugar again and she was still fine.  I again missed the fact that they were testing her blood sugar so often and didn’t really question the blood culture thing.  I still thought I was going home in a little while. The EMTs that came and checked me after the birth told me to get checked out and that we looked so good, we should probably be able to go home.  That thought was echoed by the first round of ER staff that we encountered.  I was just ready to go home and love on my baby and work on recuperating.  The ER staff called down the pediatrician resident on call and the gynecologist on call, so we spent some time waiting for them.  My mother made it in while all of this was going on (she got here fast for a 3 hour drive) and I was glad to have her there.  I really don’t know how it happened, but at this point I was hooked up to an IV pole, and I had to pee.  I was trying to move around in a very small room that was overcrowded with the box for the baby that we weren’t using and my IV pole was in the way of the bathroom door.  I couldn’t move around freely with the IV pole attached to me.  They had taken away the adult diaper (which I highly recommend for postpartum bleeding) I was using to catch the blood and had me sitting on a chux pad.  So here I am, trying to open the bathroom door and getting it hung up on my IV pole, blood running down my leg and about to pee on myself.  I suddenly felt very angry.  I didn’t want things to go like this and I didn’t want this DAMN IV!  After I went to the bathroom, the gynecologist came in and checked me out.  She was unprepared for my anger that was growing by the second.  They were turning my completely beautiful and natural homebirth into a medical nightmare.  I was chained down and unable to focus on bonding with my family.  J couldn’t even be near her new sister and nursing was next to impossible with an IV in my hand.  This was what I had planned for nine months to avoid.  The gynecologist checked me and I didn’t have any tears and looked good.  Once she said I looked fine, I asked her if I really needed the IV and she agreed that I really didn’t in he first place but the ER was following protocol.  Finally they took that chain off of me.  The Gynecologist was the first doctor to hint that I might be staying by saying that they “might” need to keep an eye on my bleeding and perhaps I would have to take some Methergine to initiate better contractions.  Well, I thought, if they would leave me alone so I could try to get my daughter nursing, I would have proper contractions, but being in that environment wasn’t very conducive to that.  I had never breastfed before and trying to learn with a floppy newborn, flat nipples and very large breasts wasn’t happening with people all over and the noise and chaos of the hospital.  When the pediatrician came in, to bad news I had been fearing was dropped in the middle of the room like a bomb.  He launched into, “Well she is LGA and we need to monitor her blood sugar because these babies tend to have blood sugar problems.  Since she isn’t breastfeeding well, she might be especially susceptible to problems.  Also, since she was born in an UNSTERILE area, we had to do a blood culture and that will take 48 hours to come back.  We can’t allow you to leave with the baby.”  The wind had been knocked out of me and all of the things that I should have been paying closer attention to hit me like a ton of bricks.  When they weighed the baby, they had all her clothes and hat on…Would this have made a difference?  Would she have weighed less and not been a LGA baby?  Should I have questioned them when they said they needed to do a blood culture?  I was bawling.  I didn’t want to stay.  I wanted to go home.  I wanted to be in my bed bonding with my baby.  I didn’t want to be in hell!  I felt like a prisoner and they wouldn’t let me leave with my baby. 

I told them that if they were making us stay my baby was not to leave my side.  She was not allowed to leave me at all.  She was allowed no nursery stays and she was to be with me the whole time.  I made this clear before we left the ER and they seemed disgruntled as I told them this.  I didn’t find out until much later that it is standard protocol to take the baby and put them in the nursery for observation when they are born out of the hospital.  When we got into Jail Room 220 they had brought a warming box in from the delivery rooms.  I again didn’t realize that this was not standard protocol and that they did this just to accommodate me but it made the room super crowded.  During the first few hours upstairs, there was a constant stream of nurses and doctors.  The nurses started out nice and friendly, but quickly realized that I didn’t want to play by their rules, so that changed.  At one point, I was holding R and they checked her temperature on me, and told me her body temperature was dropping and instead of letting me try skin to skin contact, whisked R off to the warming box.  They had her all hooked up to alarms and monitors so that if I moved her an alarm would go off.  Her Papa drove 3 hours just to surprise us and see his grand baby and couldn’t even hold her.  He could only stay for an hour and had to turn around and drive home.  I was so mad that he didn’t get the chance to hold her after driving so far.  Later, when I picked up the medical records from the hospital, I found out that the nurse that shift wrote that my baby was freezing and I had her only in a diaper and no skin to skin contact and she had to take the baby and put her in the warmer.  She said she had to counsel me on baby losing heat etc.  I was furious reading this because there wasn’t any time that my baby was just hanging out in a diaper and not wrapped in a blanket.  It just reiterated that the nurses write what they need to write to justify the treatments that they provide.  Once I got R back, she didn’t leave my arms pretty much the rest of the time I was in the hospital.  They kept checking R’s blood sugar and it was always perfect.  After poking, checking and harassing my daughter, all she wanted to do is sleep.  I have read that babies do not have any way to deal with stress other than sleep.  They asked me if I wanted her to have her bath then.  She had been cleaned off really well with a towel after her birth so I told them that she had been bothered enough and she didn’t need a bath right then.  After that, every time a doctor came in to check the baby the nurse would sarcastically say, “You might want to put gloves on…THIS one hasn’t had a bath.”  Starting the evening of the first day, they started checking their bilirubin levels and noting that the levels were going up.  When we asked a nurse about the bilirubin levels, she said that she couldn’t really explain it and pointed G to a “Parenting” book they hand out that said that jaundice was normal in newborns and comes from the liver being unprepared to break down red blood cells.  It made us feel like she thought we were simple country bumpkins who couldn’t understand simple medical explanations.  I mean, who really has their babies in a bathtub right?  We then dubbed that book the Parenting for Dummies book.  Fortunately I had done a bunch of reading/learning and I had an awesome midwife that I could call!  I was able to call her every time I heard something from the doctors that they made sound like an emergency.  For example, they were getting freaked out when R’s bilirubin levels hit 10.5, but in talking to my midwife and doing some research, they don’t really get concerned unless the number gets closer to 20.  A level of 20 is where they start worrying about brain damage and other issues.  Also, eating and pooping are the best ways to get the bilirubin levels down and I was having a terrible time breastfeeding.  I belive this was due to not getting her latched in the first hour and being in a stressful environment where neither I nor her could relax.  Most of the nurses hated me this hospital.  I believe they do not like dealing with a woman who is outspoken, educated and willing to stand firm to what they want.  At least, that is how I saw myself.  They saw me as a pain in the ass who wouldn’t do anything they wanted and was argumentative.  I did have one nurse Patty who was a God Send.  She knew I didn’t want to give formula and tried her hardest to help us with the latching issues.  We were pumping for 5 minutes to get my nipples and then she would come in and mash my boobs and cram them in R’s mouth.  I felt like a side show…I mean who has huge boobs AND flat nipples?!  The second night, I broke down and cried and cried.    I was on such a high from the birth and also stressed from the hospital stay and breastfeeding that I hadn’t slept in 48 hours.  I remember trying to get R to latch and her crying in frustration and hunger.  I gave up on that session and was sleeping with R beside me.  I was woken up by the nurse, not long after falling asleep, who was frowning at me in concern.  She looked at R with that look on her face and said, “You sure are sleeping pretty hard.”  I could tell that she thought I was going to roll over on my baby.  I couldn’t believe that she woke me up to tell me that.  That was when I broke down.  The nurse wanted to take R to the nursery and I refused, sobbing.  I felt like a failure.  I was trying to nurse her and it didn’t seem good enough for them.  I was stressed and wanted to go home.  R was still going to the bathroom adequately but they still seemed to be lurking around the corner ready for me to throw in the towel, admitting my failure and surrender so they could rush in saving me with the finest from the big formula corporations.  In fact, there was a Similac “gift” bag hanging from R’s bassinet.   G was so supportive during this time as was my mom and best friend.  G stood beside me and argued with them.  I am so thankful to have him!  He was able to continue asking them questions when I broke down.  It is important to have people to help you fight your case when you are emotional and hormonal.  The next few days were a blur, but they revolved around arguing with doctors and nurses and trying to protect R.  I remember it was only the second evening when G and I ran to get dinner while my best friend and my mom stayed with J and R.  As we were leaving, I felt like a refugee who was wandering around an unfamiliar place.  It felt so surreal.  I cried leaving because it felt so wrong to leave my baby there and I was just getting dinner.  My heart goes out to mommies who have to leave their babies for medical reasons.  I was sick of them checking me and I had finished my Methergine so I was released early the second day, but allowed to room in with my daughter, which I am thankful for.   My daughter wasn’t released until the third day around lunch time thanks to a wonderfully understanding pediatrician.  She said the nurses were complaining about us but she understood me and why I wanted to leave.  She made the deal to let us go and just come back in two days to have her bilirubin levels checked.  She was awesome!  I felt like I had been freed from prison and won the lottery on the same day. 

I wish I could say that I transcended some part of myself or grew as a person during this experience, but that would be a lie! I might have grown in experience as a doula and childbirth educator but that’s about it! I’m not saying that you should never go to the hospital for birth, however if you do go to the hospital be prepared for it to be really hard to be an advocate for you and your baby. They want you to play by their rules and follow their protocols. The hospital isn’t really the place to march to the beat of a different drummer–which I have always done.  If you’re ready to let them call the shots and like to have things planned for you then it’s the perfect place to have a baby.  They will give you a little of wiggle room, but when you ask/demand as much as I did you will be marked as a problem patient.

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