Ok, this is it. This is where I tell you why I was bawling my eyes out over a salami sandwich. It’s a story most of my family doesn’t even know yet because I was so traumatized by it I haven’t been able to speak about it out loud yet. If you need to catch up you can read Part I and Part II.
So Stella was just perfect, we spend two days in the hospital and I see a lactation consultant a few times because Stella seems to not be interested in eating at all. The lactation consultant assures me everything is fine, that she doesn’t need to eat that much right now anyway. The doctors and nurses don’t say anything to us either other than she was a little jaundice but not enough to warrant treatment.
Then, at discharge, minutes away from leaving the hospital and driving to our new home 2 hours away the pediatrician comes in. She announces that Stella has lost 11% of her body weight and that we needed to supplement with formula. And that her jaundice levels were still increasing, but they still were not going to treat her.
What? No, wait a minute, WHAT? You’ve had 48 hours to notice that she has been steadily losing weight and you just decide to tell us NOW? Like, they could have been encouraging me to feed more often, or to pump to increase my milk supply. I tell the pediatrician I do not want to formula feed. She supports me but tells me they want Stella to see her pediatrician the next day for a weight check. Ok, fine.
The next day we go to the pediatrician, in our new town, who we’ve never met and he declares that our baby is orange and will probably need treatment for jaundice. He also says that Stella has now lost 15% of her body weight. He sends us for labs and tells us to wait for his call on what to do.
We go home, 30 minutes away, and make some lunch. I’m worried but not overly so, we are feeding her as much as possible and I figure if she needs treatment for jaundice they would just give us one of those special light blankets to use at home. I’m REALLY excited because all pregnancy I had craved a salami sandwich, but had avoided deli meats as was recommended by my midwife, and now we had just bought salami for our lunch.
The doctor calls as I’m about to make my sandwich. Stella was very jaundice and her weight loss was too extreme for his liking. He was admitting her to the hospital for treatment and we needed to pack up and get her there. I remain calm, I breath, I tell Jacob and we pack up to go to the hospital. I keep telling myself to ‘hold it together‘, Stella was going to be fine, it would be ok, even if they made us do formula we would get her healthy again and that was the most important thing.
Jacob tells me I need to eat, as I hadn’t been eating much because I was so worried about Stella. Again, queen of nausea, so when I am stressed I don’t eat. Jacob makes my sandwich as I pack everything we need to go. We get in the car and he hands me my sandwich and again tells me I need to eat even if I wasn’t hungry to keep up my milk supply.
I start to take a few bites. I start thinking how I had craved this sandwich SO much when I was pregnant. How trivial it seemed now with a sick child. How it was probably pointless for me to eat as they were going to probably feed Stella formula. And as I was trying to choke down that sandwich and thinking about all this, I just start crying uncontrollably. Can. Not. Stop. We get to the hospital, a new hospital, in a new town, I’m still crying. Jacob has to do the talking for me as I can not.
We get put in a room and the nurse says we have to strip Stella down and place her in a bassinet on top of a special light-therapy blanket and that she will also have a special light over her to treat her jaundice. Because of the intensity of the light they need to put special goggles on Stella so her eyes won’t be damaged. The nurse emphasizes how important it is that these goggles stay on and cover her eyes completely.
Well in theory that was all well and good. In practice Stella hated the goggles, shrieked and cried and ripped them off every other minute. Stella is bawling her eyes out, a cry of pure misery and confusion as she could hear my voice but I couldn’t pick her up to comfort her. The nurse tells me I have to sit next to the bassinet and anytime the goggles slip I have to readjust them. Jacob had to leave for a few minutes so I’m in the room alone.
Stella is absolutely shrieking and bawling. I remember that I had read or heard that my scent as her mother, the smell of a mom, was comforting to infants. I am wearing two shirts so I rip one off my body and place it in the corner of the bassinet with Stella. As soon as I do that Stella stops shrieking, turns towards the shirt, reaches her little hand out and clutches it, whimpers and settles down.
And then I lost my shi*t. I LOST MY DAMN SH*T. Look, I am not much for using profanity, (outside of my inner monologue) but there is no other way to tell you the absolute sense of despair and worry and fear and broken heartedness I felt at watching my daughter suffer in that moment. I am now bawling hysterically. And when I cry my nose runs like a faucet, so it’s a hot mess up in my face.
Stella’s calmness is short-lived, she rips her goggles off again and starts crying as I try to put them back on. The nurse comes in as she can hear my child shrieking down the hall. I inform her that jaundice treatment be damned I am picking my child up. The nurse wisely assesses my mental state and agrees. I hold her with the light blanket under her, she immediately stops crying, and I try to stop crying.
Jacob comes back and we get Stella back into her bassinet. I can’t relax in any way because we literally have to stare at Stella and make sure her goggles do not slip in the slightest. And they slip every single time she moves her head or body. I am literally on edge with worry. It’s also day 4 after her birth, meaning PEAK time for the postpartum hormones to make me all crazy. I know all this, I acknowledge that my hormones are making me nuts and that we are under extreme stress.
Stella will not keep her goggles on and is just crying non-stop. I walk out to the nurses station and tell them that they have to figure out something else, Stella was not keeping her goggles on, I was not going to risk her eye sight and they needed to fix it, NOW. The nurses come in, they manage to wrap her in a way that keeps her still and calm, but we still have to adjust her goggles like every 5 minutes. I am also in quite a bit of physical pain from recovering from the birth. I was actually feeling fine physically but given the day we had I had done more walking and moving then I should have.
The one thing that I was somewhat happy about is that they did not make us do formula. BUT they did make me pump and bottle feed her to see how much milk I had. Let me tell you, I had MORE than enough milk. Which had been my point all along, that it was the jaundice that was making Stella not want to eat and lose weight. I had asked them to treat her in the hospital Stella was born in, but they kept telling me she wasn’t “bad enough.” And now I was having to bottle feed her breast milk and worried that she would not go back to nursing as bottles are easier for a baby to eat from and they often reject the breast after having a bottle.
SIX hours after being in the hospital the nurses’ shift changes. The new nurse comes in and ask how we are doing. I tell her, while starting to cry again, how much of a struggle it is to keep her goggles on and how we have been sitting on the edge of our seats watching her every move for 6 hours. The nurse looks at us and says “that’s our job, why are you doing this?”
I DON’T KNOW BECAUSE IT SEEMED LIKE A FUN IDEA? I tell her the last shift of nurses said we had to. She shakes her head and says “No, that is our job, I will take her and you need to rest.” I ask how closely she will be watching Stella because literally every slightest turn of her head moved the goggles. She promised that she would literally sit over her all night. I could have FULL BODY HUGGED her. And, of course, I snuck out and spied on the nurse to make sure she was watching Stella, and she was. I still had to pump every two hours, and my nerves were still a mess, but I got a few naps in that night.
Stella was discharged the next day. I kid you not, this was not the end of our trauma. I should also mention that this new hospital, was a small rural hospital. There were dead bugs in the shower of our room, a dead worm on the floor, and I woke up to a bug crawling on me while I slept. Additionally the special light she was under, started shooting electrical sparks out the top of it. Luckily Stella wasn’t in the bassinet at that point. Had she been I’m pretty sure I would have killed someone. And when they went to try to find a new light? They couldn’t find one because they said all the other lights were in, what they called, “the dungeon” and it would take someone over an hour to go through all the stuff down there and find one. When people ask me why I have issues living in rural Indiana, THIS IS WHY.
So we get home, we are in the middle of a heat wave of temperatures over 100. Over night a storm had occurred and we arrive home to a house with shingles that had been ripped off and no power. All our food, going bad. No hot water. A baby, who is still recovering, and we can not safely keep her in such high temps. At this point I am convinced the universe is picking on me. We call around and find out that the estimate of power being back on is TWO DAYS from now. Like, how do you process this, all these INSANE things happening? It’s not possible, I still can’t. We call up a good friend from our previous town who knew what we had already gone through. I tell him about the no power and high temps and before I can even finish he tells us to come stay with him.
We start to pack up, which takes a couple of hours, we need to pack everything for the baby, her bassinet, clothes, breast pump in case I have nursing issues, all sorts of things. We are a few minutes from getting in the car and driving 2 hours back to our old town. The power comes back on. PRAISE GOD, two days early, somehow the power comes back on.
And with that ended our series of major traumatic events. I managed to survive all of this without spiralling into major postpartum depression. And that in itself is a miracle as I had all the ingredients for the perfect storm for developing postpartum depression. The factors that contribute to developing this condition are: A major life change right after or before birth (moving to a new town), a traumatic birth or sick child or other trauma (weight loss, jaundice, being readmitted to a new hospital, a house with no power, a birth that went fine but was stressful due to circumstances), lack of sleep (hard to sleep when you have to constantly watch your child to make sure she keeps her eye protection on, and then at home I had to nurse her every two hours and she took an hour to eat, so no sleep).
By the grace of God I survived and it is in large part due to my husband. Jacob, just as sleep deprived as I was, took over every function of our house except for feeding the baby. He cooked all the meals, cleaned, changed the baby’s diapers. Literally all I had to do was feed the baby and try to sleep when she did. And the thing that allowed me to actually relax is that I didn’t have to ask him to do any of this, he just did it. After being discharged from the hospital I was still a crying mess and would lose my shi*t and cry a couple of times a day, just because I was so stressed. Jacob took it all in stride.
Things are going pretty well now. We still can’t let Stella go more than 3 hours between feedings, but we can let her go for one 4 hour stretch at night. A concept she has yet to fully realize herself. But we get sleep and I get usually one nap a day in as well. At our one month appointment we are hoping that they will tell us we can stop waking her to feed and let her feed when she wants.
I’m pretty sure I’m done eating salami for a while.