So, don’t worry! No big breaks in the birth story for silly things like sleeping. Breakfast came at 8:30a. I was STARVING, so when they came in and woke me up, I was still really exhausted but that was tamped down well by how excited I was to eat. Jon woke up at 9am to come back to the hospital. He texted me about that time to tell me he was going to shower and then be over. I sent some texts while I ate. They brought me French toast and a muffin, sausage, and some other little things. It felt very rich to me at the time – it was really slow going and took me 45 minutes or an hour to eat. Mom stayed home for most of this day. Jon arrived and came to say hi, and then he went to the cafeteria to get breakfast. (His breakfast was better than mine, but he shared with me!)
At 10am, we took a moment to notice that we had a baby who was seven hours old. That is kind of a crazy feeling. We celebrated by taking a nap. (By the way, all of these things are punctuated by feeding the baby every few hours. But he slept a LOT.) It was a good, long nap, too, except I was HOT the entire time I was in my room. I remember waking this morning bathed in sweat, thinking that I was sweating more right that moment in my recovery room than I did for the entirety of giving birth. Anyway, so I kept asking them to fix it, and they would only take it down so far (considering there was a baby in my room), but I didn’t realize my internal temperature was going so crazy – I thought they were keeping it hot in there. My point is, Jon’s nap was a little less pleasant than mine, because he didn’t have much of a blanket, and he guesses it was something like 60 degrees in the room. He likes the temperature lower than I do most of the time, so this was a departure from the norm. I guess they told me I would get hot flashes, so maybe that was what was happening, although I was pretty much just hot all the time. Anyway, we got a good nap.
Because I had a fever during labor and delivery, I was still hooked up to the IV (antibiotics) and the catheter for most of the rest of the day. (Again, it was a relief to be able to drink a ton of water to help with nursing, but still put off the first bathroom trip for awhile. I was drinking a pitcher of water every time I nursed, I had a saline drip, I had a ton of juice boxes and ice and all kinds of things, and I didn’t have to worry about trips to the bathroom EVER.) Also because of my fever, Alex had to stay for at least 36 hours post-birth for observation. They came in regularly and pushed on my stomach to move my uterus down into its normal position and make it firm up and shrink to the normal size, which hurt. It didn’t bother me so much if I knew it was coming, but a lot of the time they didn’t warn me, they just started shoving around on my stomach. That was less great. Overall though, my nurses were pretty awesome. I was chained to the bed and all, so they were always friendly and helpful and made sure I had everything I needed. It was amazing.
So, about pain medication. I had second degree tearing, which means that skin and muscle both tore and need stitches (but it could be a lot worse - the scale goes up to fourth degree tearing.) They told me that I would feel sore for awhile, and my first thought was, ‘Um, this is not SORE. Sore is when you lift weights for too long and your muscles ache. This is PAIN THAT HURTS.” My terrible, awful cough I had before labor also came back, though not with the same vengeance, so that made it worse. By the end of the 5th, though, I can say I could describe it as ‘sore.’ After the epidural was no longer my pain medication, they gave me giant 600mg Motrin, and if that wasn’t enough, they would also give me some Vicodin. My first Vicodin dose was too small (5mg - I couldn’t even tell I took any), so they increased my second dose (to 10mg), but I reacted badly to it. I had started to feed Alex before the second Vicodin dose kicked in, and after a few minutes I started to get even hotter and really dizzy. I was having trouble keeping my head up and my eyes open because I was so dizzy. We had called in a nurse to help with the latch, and as she came in, I was telling Jon that I didn’t know if holding Alex was the best idea for me right then. I thought I was going to pass out. The nurse took Alex from me and put him in the bassinet so I could recover a bit. She said, “It’s okay, he doesn’t have to eat every second.” They were actually going to take the catheter out then, but once they realized how out of it I was from the medicine, they said I should wait until it wore off.
I wasn’t dealing with the pain all that well, and without the Vicodin to cover the distance between what the Motrin did, I was having a tough time. Finally, the next day, a lovely and insightful doctor checked me and saw my swelling, and then heard me cough and instantly prescribed Tylenol with codeine so it would knock out the pain and the cough all at once. MIRACLE. Since we moved and I needed to find a new gynecologist, I looked her up, but unfortunately she isn’t a regular-office-hours doctor. Too bad.
So, about nursing. Nursing during that first week or two gave me massive cramps. They warned me about that – the hormones that increase during nursing also signal to your body to get rid of all the extra uterine stuff from the pregnancy, so it’s kind of awful. I was super lucky, though, that Alex was good at latching from the beginning. Mom made me use lanolin in between EVERY feeding, so I felt like I was using it ALL THE TIME, but I never had any skin problems from nursing. No dry skin or cracking or bleeding or anything. Bless you, Mom and lanolin.
I had a pretty late lunch, and I’m not sure Jon ever got around to lunch, but we did pop some popcorn and watch about ten minutes of a show this afternoon. Which was super fun, but nurses come in and out a lot in the hospital, so it didn’t last long before another nurse came in to do something or other.
At 5:30p, the hospital gave us (both me and Jon) a special congratulatory dinner. That was pretty fun. It was pot roast with vegetables, cheesecake, and a chocolate cupcake, with mini sparkling cider bottles. I was feeling dizzy and sick from the Vicodin still, so I didn’t eat much of it, but I had some here and there over time. It was sad that I couldn’t eat much, but it was really nice to get some time to ourselves that felt celebratory.
Between 6-7pm, a couple of my college roommates, Becca and Danielle, stopped by to visit. I think they were trying for a quick in-and-out visit, but I wanted to take some pictures with them and a nurse came in to change my IV (and do other things, I think?) while they were there, so it took awhile. It was cool, otherwise it probably would have felt too short to me. As it was they were there for somewhere between 30min or an hour, which was great. My friend Tamsen made an awesome onesie for Alex that looked like it had a “NEW” sticker on it, and we tried that on him while Becca and Danielle were there. It was so cute and it was fun to visit with them and see other people hold the baby.
After they left, it was time for …
8pm: Brooke Gets Out of Bed (and also heads to the bathroom) for the First Time
(Skip if you’re worried about TMI.)
Ugh. My painkiller sickness had worn off by this time, and actually the catheter was beginning to be pretty annoying (even though it was still kind of worth it to be able to chug water with no consequences.) Soooo, it was time to get out of bed for the first time. Jon stayed to make sure everything was all right with Alex while I was busy. I had soaked blood through all the bandages and pads and all the tons of blood-catchers and Tucks/ice/whatever that I was wrapped in (the nurses had changed those dressings a few times throughout the day, and every time it was like … so much blood.) It was an impressive mix of stuff, including but not limited to four or five Tucks things, a big blue water resistant pad that they normally spread out on an exam table, a regular pad … I think that was about it. It was a huge bunch of stuff. (They actually switched to Tucks from ice packs, because they thought the bulk might be increasing my swelling.)
The nurse took out the catheter first, and then she had me turn sideways and hold onto the IV pole. She helped me out of bed and had me sit on the edge for a few minutes so I wouldn’t get dizzy from standing up too quickly after being down for so long. Then she had me just stand and hold the IV pole for a minute, and then she helped me walk to the bathroom.
She taught me the process of spraying off and patting dry. (That part was a little traumatizing, because I could feel the crazy swelling, which I did not expect.) Then she showed me what all the bulky padding was, so I could change it myself after that. It was this whole process, and they only helped me once, so I kept worrying that I was going to forget or do something out of order (for example, I HAD to fill the water bottle at the sink before I did anything else, because otherwise I would be trying to walk back and forth between the toilet and the sink, and I was still dripping a lot of blood at this point.) Still, it was painful and messy and an ordeal, but I got through it. I think it would have been a lot better had I known what to expect, which is why I’m giving all this detail. It was just a little overwhelming as it was. That first time hurt a lot, but after that (at least in the hospital), I felt like my pain levels improved very quickly and it got better every single time.
Thankfully, Jon helped me after that, because it took FOREVER. The first time I did it at home, it was the middle of the night and I think it took me 30 minutes or so from when I left my bedroom to when I got back in bed. You have to fill the bottle, spray, dry, medicate, set up all the layers of padding, etc., all while you’re still moving slow from the recovery. It was a lot.
Overnight - August 5-6
Around 9pm, we called Mom to let her know that Jon was heading home for the night, and she asked if we’d like her to come stay the night with the baby and me. We weren’t sure if they would allow it, because Jon and I had the matching wristbands and they had said something that made us think there might be an issue … but I don’t quite remember. Anyway, we asked a nurse and got it okay’ed, so Jon said good night to us and drove home.
Mom drove back to the hospital with my car (and a good, big blanket, after Jon’s experience with my freezing hospital room.) It was after hours, so she had to come in through the ER doors again (she arrived around 10:30pm.) This time, she had to get a visitor’s name tag and everything (although they misspelled her last name.) It turned out to be pretty great to have her there that night. They had already told us that the baby would mostly want to sleep for the first 24 hours, and that his tiny stomach wouldn’t really have opened up yet anyway and we couldn’t starve him by letting him take that sleep. However, this night nurse wanted us to wake him up every two hours to feed him. I asked her if she was going to come in at those times, or if I was supposed to set an alarm, or what, and she said she would be in around those times. Mom said no way to setting an alarm, so we just went to sleep.
Later in the night, the nurse did come in … but apparently she was purposely quiet, so as not to wake me up (Mom woke up a little when the nurse came in and saw.) As for me, the next thing I knew was six hours of undisturbed sleep later, when she came in around 4:30 or 5am and that did wake me up. I assumed it was 2am or whatever time she told me she would be in, and I assumed it was time to do the first feeding (also I felt great!) She asked, “Did you feed him?” and when I looked confused and said no, she exclaimed what time it was and chided me for not feeding him. Mom took the blame for it, for telling me not to set an alarm (which was nice of her), but then the nurse just said, “Oh well, we’ll make up for it next time. That’s OK.” So, I got TONS of good from the uninterrupted sleep, and for the baby it would have just been practice and maybe trying to help my milk come in faster. In the end, he had a great latch and my milk came in, and we all got the sleep we wanted, so I think it was fine. (Later, that nurse even commented that it was nice that I got the extra sleep. Mom liked her because she called me ‘Mommy’ and said she hoped she could be my nurse again later.)
Wednesday, August 6
A little later, a resident OB-GYN came in to check me, also. I don’t remember much about that.
Anyway, after that 5am-ish feeding, Mom took Alex and told me to go back to sleep, so I fell dead asleep until almost 8:30am, when they brought breakfast. That was the BEST. (Mom was going to have me sleep longer, but I can’t really let hot breakfast pass me by.)
Jon texted around 9am to tell me that he had just woken up, and that he was going to shower and come back. He got something like nine hours of sleep that night! (Which, by the way, as much as we wanted an Oakland delivery, none of this back-and-forth would have been really possible if we had ended up in a hospital so far away. So, it was great that it worked out this way.)
All that sleep made August 6th a really great day. The first day was pretty amazing, being there with just Jon and Alex, but we were also just so exhausted the whole time. The 6th was great because we were able to feel more present and happy. Mom got the least sleep of any of us, and even she got a pretty good block.
Baby Gets a Name
The birth certificate people came before Jon made it back to the hospital, so they said they would come back later that afternoon. We still hadn’t 100 percent decided on the name, so we talked it over and said a prayer once Jon arrived. We still felt great about naming him Alexander Kendall Evans, so we went ahead and told my mom (and called my dad and Jon’s parents) to tell them. We really liked that Alex could get his last name from Jon’s side and his middle name from my side, although it wasn’t necessarily planned out exactly like that - I always liked my dad’s middle name when I was growing up, and it fit perfectly with all the names we had been considering, so it just worked out well. There were tears all around, and we started actually calling the baby ‘Alex.’ The birth certificate woman came back in the early afternoon, and we got everything signed and sealed. It was pretty cool.
Hospital People Come in a Lot
A little later, the attending OB-GYN came in (this is the one I mentioned earlier, but here is the full story.) She asked me how things were going, and I told her that I felt like I had swelling the size of my fist, and that it hurt. She checked me and said I definitely had swelling (although not the size of my fist :) ) and that it would go down over time, and that my bleeding was slowing down too. She asked about medications, and I told her about the Vicodin issues I had had. Then, I coughed just a little, a couple of times, which really hurt, and she could tell it did (probably because I gripped the bed and couldn’t talk or look up and, you know … apparently coughing uses a ton of muscles, including ones with stitches in them.) Immediately, she said, “Do you have a cough?” or “Have you been sick?” or something. I explained that I had had an awful cough which had mostly gone away during labor and delivery, and that it was back now but just residual, although it hurt quite a lot when I did cough. Right then and there, she wrote out a prescription for Tylenol with codeine, which worked perfectly. I loved how perceptive she was - she was fantastic. Yay for immediately seeing and solving my problem.
All of this, by the way, is interspersed with regular nursing sessions (which included awesome cramps and lanolin application, every time.) They said there were nursing specialists, but it was actually that the nurses were also nursing specialists. So they had some goals for me to hit, mostly to do with the way Alex latched. Get it right three times in a row, that kind of thing. The piano teacher in me went for that and we got it down.
I also spent a lot of time during both days making video calls to my siblings and my dad, to let everyone meet Alex. That was pretty fun. Jon’s parents were at (mission) work during the days, so we scheduled a time to video chat with them right after we arrived home from the hospital.
Then, a hospital administrator came in to ask for feedback on our experience. We ended up chatting with her for probably more than an hour. I kept feeling like we were taking up her time, but she was the one who kept the conversation going even more than us. She answered tons of questions and helped us see more than one angle on lots of things. It was really great. Jon mentioned the issues we had calling around to the hospitals, and she nodded and asked follow up questions and then explained to us the ‘triaging you over the phone’ thing and all the other background I explained earlier.
We also asked her more about the ‘eating in labor’ thing. We talked about my study I brought, and she was super interested in it and took a copy to discuss in a meeting somewhere. I don’t know if she was really interested or if she was just trying to make sure we felt heard, but the whole time, she acted thoroughly genuine and kept asking for more feedback and discussed everything with us. It was a great personal touch. For example, we told her that the nurse instructions on what I could eat conflicted with what the hospital’s class told us, and she told us the class had just been updated and said that she had a meeting the next day with certain supervisors and would make sure there was consistent information coming through the hospital’s different channels. So I felt like our feedback was really going to go to the right people. As someone with a PR background, I applaud her.
Wrapping up Our Hospital Stay
When she left, it was time for my first shower. It was slow, arduous, and precarious, and also I didn’t have a normal bath towel (just a couple of hand towels), so that was rough. And the showerhead was broken, but Jon “fixed” it with some of Mom’s yarn from her crocheting (she was working on a blanket for Alex.) There were no shelves for shampoo and stuff, so I had to bend up and down to get them off the floor. Good thing there were handrails. But I felt AMAZING afterward.
At 5pm, we went to a class about ‘info you should have before we discharge you.’ I used Alex’s rolly bassinet as a walker and we slowly walked down the hall to a little meeting room. The class was mostly about postpartum depression and that kind of thing. We learned how long breastmilk is good for on the counter (6hrs), in the fridge (6days), or in the freezer (6mo.) There were nine couples in the class, and they all seemed like they were still physically worse off than I was - there were some C-sections, and I think I stayed in the hospital a little bit longer than most people with non-eventful births do, plus this was toward the very end of my stay. We were also the only Caucasians - this is California! :) The nurse who ran it was a little bit brusque - the couple sitting nearest her had a baby girl who kept crying. It wasn’t very loud to us, but because the baby was right next to the nurse, I guess she felt like the baby was super loud, because she shushed then two or three times and then said, “My goodness! This baby can cry louder than I can talk!” and took the baby and held her for the whole class. Yikes! (To be fair, the baby didn’t cry much after that, because the nurse was standing up and walking around and bouncing her the whole time.) She passed out gloves to everyone, because if your baby started crying, you were supposed to put your glove on and put your finger in the baby’s mouth.
Two funny things happened while we were there. The first one happened nearer the beginning. We sat on the back row. The chairs were kind of painful for me to sit on (they were just normal chairs, which I wasn’t really ready for), so I was sitting on my hip toward the edge of the chair and leaning my arms on the bassinet, so my face was looking over Alex and pretty close to the people sitting in the row in front of us. Suddenly, Alex let out the juiciest … I don’t know if it was gas or if he pooped, but it was extremely loud and long and intense. It was otherwise silent in that room. Aaaaand, Jon lost it.
From our conversation later:
“Brooke: Yeah, I kinda laughed a little bit and looked at Jon and laughed a little bit, and then I turned away, back to the meeting, because I was trying to be quiet, and Jon was trying VERY hard to be quiet, but he just couldn’t … it was that kind of laughing that you CANNOT stop. And I was trying so hard not to look at him, because I looked at him for one second and I nearly couldn’t stand it. I was – Ahh!! He made me laugh so hard that we were just like this couple sniggering in the back row, and our baby was just …
Mom: ‘OK, can the 12-year-olds please be quiet??”
Brooke: So, then, FINALLY, I almost had a handle on myself and Jon started to talk to me. I said, DON’T talk to me, because I cannot hold it in. I knew it would be a joke, and I knew it was going to undo all my efforts to be quiet – And Jon was like, ‘no! I just wanted to say____,’ and then he made his joke, which made me almost lose it again!
Mom: Did you lose it again, Jon?
Jon: I don’t know if I ever had it back.
Mom: So what was it that he said?
Brooke: Yeah. Yeah, I can’t remember what it was, but man. And so, then I FORCED myself to calm down, ESPECIALLY because I was leaning forward over the baby, so I was like twelve inches away from the heads of the people sitting in front of us. I was RIGHT … laughing into their ears, basically.
Mom: And the lady just kept talking and talking?
Brooke: Well, yeah, because we were in the back row. She probably didn’t hear us as much as she heard that screaming baby, but the couple in front of us was probably just going, ummmmm.
Mom: ‘Oh, my goodness sake, who let them in?’”
So that was great! Then, at the very end of the meeting, the nurse closed by saying, “OK, well, congratulations! Let me know if you have any questions!” and as soon as the last word left her mouth, Alex just SCREAMED for something like fifteen seconds. It was perfect timing. I think he was sad the class was over.
We walked slowly back to the room, and started gathering our stuff together and packing up. Mom went to find out about dinner, and they brought mine a little early because we were being discharged soon. (When you are in the hospital, it’s great to have a non-patient there to advocate for you.) I ate, Jon went down to the pharmacy to get my prescriptions filled, and I asked for extras of everything (like my bathroom stuff.) I was so paranoid that I had been taught this big system and that I would run out of everything at home and then not know how to care for myself, because where do you buy some of that hospitally stuff? I don’t know! Although, it was a little embarrassing when I asked for an extra pack of Tucks, and the nurse brought them to me and then had to take them back because apparently they are a medication and you can only give a certain amount per person per time period. (In my defense, I had never heard of Tucks before that hospital stay, and I didn’t realize you could get them over the counter.) Oops! She felt bad about it and wanted to give them to me. I explained my paranoia, and she brought me a little more of everything. I can be a hoarder when I am paranoid about being prepared for things. Jon calls it ‘panic mode’ (we see it most commonly in our house during the last hour or two before we leave on a trip.)
Then we waited around for a long time, because our wing was suddenly very busy and the nurses were stretched pretty thin for awhile. Mom and Jon went down to get the car ready, and I was alone with Alex, which was fine except that I suddenly REALLY had to go to the bathroom, but I didn’t realize until halfway through that I had already packed up all my supplies. That was terrifying and involved cleaning blood off the floor afterward, but I was kind of proud of myself for taking care of it all myself. I changed into a dress (that’s when I suddenly realized that all my pregnancy dresses would no longer work for nursing - having babies means all your clothes get to be irrelevant over and over all the time!) and Alex did not need me at all during all that craziness, which was relieving.
Finally, we were discharged. A hospital staffer (who legally could not be photographed) pushed my wheelchair while I held Alex and Jon/Mom carried the last of our stuff and got doors. Jon had pulled the car around a little earlier, so it was waiting for us on the curb. He loaded Alex into his carseat for the first time (he was so tiny!), and Jon drove Alex and me home while Mom drove Jon’s car home.
- I loved being in the hospital and was worried about going home. I mean, in the hospital, you don’t have to put any thought into any meals, they make sure you’re hydrated, they have all the supplies you could need immediately available, they have any drugs you might need immediately available, they can answer questions anytime, they make sure everything is happening at the right times .... I was pretty nervous about having to keep everything together once I went home, especially because I was still in a fair amount of pain. Of course, I had my mom and Jon for help, which was incredible and eased a lot of that stress (I was also a little freaked out when my mom flew home and Jon was back to work), but it was nice that they could be with me and the new baby in the hospital, instead of rushing around cooking or cleaning or … whatever else. Still, we managed things and everything worked out totally fine.
- I was surprised that they never asked to see my birth plan. I think that they mostly wanted us to fill one out so that we would have already made decisions about possible interventions, and so that we would be informed about our options and our choices so that we could be better partners in the whole process. We had tried to do some research, but it felt overwhelming, and it was nice to have a guide for some of the things to think about ahead of time.
- In Labor and Delivery, things went so well that I kept thinking … is something going to go wrong? I was kind of like this from the very first moment I took a positive pregnancy test, though. It took us awhile to get pregnant, so when suddenly things started to work, I kept expecting something to go awry. We were really grateful that nothing major ever did.
- As biased parents, we are pretty sure we got the best baby. He is our favorite.