I saw her. Just a glance, no eye contact. In that split second, my heart stopped and my breath left me. The chaos of Audubon Zoo came back into focus, tunnel vision to my 4 year old daughter, who was pulling my hand ahead of me.
Who did I see? It was the OB/GYN who delivered the same 4 year old I just mentioned. You would think seeing the doctor who helped bring your perfect, beautiful child into the world would sprout feelings of joy, but for me, it brought back feelings of dread, anger, and sadness.
So, let me go back a bit and explain why my first after birth experience was so traumatic.
Our story is not for the faint of heart, but it is something that every woman should know about. We hear so many stories involving horrible birth experiences, but my struggles did not arise until the days after my daughter was born. Hell, my labor and her birth were fantastic, and I honestly cannot complain. However, when she did come out, it was with one arm extended in front of her, scraping my insides as she was delivered. This required extra stitches for me, packing sponges and a catheter placed over night as measures to keep the bleeding at bay. This was no biggie, as I understood it to be a common occurrence with some deliveries. The next day, my OB made her rounds, was satisfied with the progression of the healing, and the dressings were removed. Or so I thought.
I had my baby on Saturday, and I was home on Monday. I spent all Monday through Saturday feeling pretty flu-like. It took 5 days for my milk to come in, and each day around 5 PM I would hit this figurative wall where I just could not move, talk much, or generate an appetite. To add to all of this, my loch (postpartum gunk we are blessed with for 5 weeks) was putting off what I felt to be a strong odor. I remember asking both my mother and sister if this was the norm. Neither of them had vaginal deliveries, but they reassured me that afterbirth does have a smell and swore they were unable to pick up an unpleasant odor from me. I chalked all this up to me just having my first baby a mere few days ago.
Thursday of the 1st week home, I had a visit with a lactation consultant. She told me the baby was getting NOTHING from me, and the baby’s first pediatrician appointment to check her weight. The hustle and bustle of the day made my legs and feet swell, so much so they became numb and cold to the touch. The nurse at the pediatrician’s office had to wheelchair me to my car. Calls were placed to my OB’s office, not getting a response until hours later. Since I was not experiencing tightness in my chest, shortness of breath or dizziness, I was told my OB was not concerned and to continue drinking fluids and elevating my legs. I was not happy with this determination, but again, first baby.
I had been so fortunate to have a neighbor who is a Labor and Delivery nurse. She had been there every step of the way of my pregnancy, including riding with me to the hospital and remaining present leading up to and for the birth. She has been a family friend since my parents moved next door well over 20 years ago. On that Saturday, she came to visit me and my now one-week-old baby. Since sitz baths were not giving me much relief in regards to feeling clean, I asked her to smell me to see if she felt it was normal (luckily she and I have a close relationship). I was really hoping this was all in my head, and I was just being naive about after birth. She leaned down and immediately told me to get a towel and lay on the bed while she grabbed some gloves.
After seconds of examining me, she looked up and sadly said, “I am so sorry.”
I asked her what the problem was. She then informed me that she could see a piece of packing still lodged in my vagina. At this point, I was frightened. She got my consent to remove it, and, as she did, white and yellow discharge flowed out. The stench was so pungent, we had to open all the windows in the house. The tears rolled down my cheeks as she helped me into the tub to wash away the remnants. My friend stated that this packing was actually a RayTec sponge, which has a blue string that can be easily seen in an X-Ray, in case one goes missing (oh, the irony). My husband was thankfully home and called the OB on call. The OB gave the ER (at the same hospital I had my baby) a heads up that we were on our way. All of this happening while my sweet one-week-old lay in her swing sleeping.
Now there are so many more horrible details that could be added to this story, such as after telling the ER nurse why we were there and her response being “Oh yummy” (yes, we complained), or the fact that my OB/GYN told me nothing dangerous would have come to this, “it would have just fallen out” (really?!), or the fact that the antibiotics that put me on at the ER gave me and my baby thrush, which was the tipping point for me to quite breastfeeding, but I’ll spare you all the details.
Literally on the drive home from the ER that afternoon, I remember telling my husband in the car that I already felt noticeably better without that foreign object inside me. When I tell this story, I am always asked: Did we seek legal action? Nope. We did not. We just wanted to put all this behind us. We were just new, first-time parents, trying to figure it out and making it our primary concern to focus on. We never would have been mentally or financially prepared to take on a big hospital in litigation. We were satisfied with our baby being healthy and me being on my way to finally being healthy. We wanted to move on to all the great things that come with having a child. And my first step to moving on was finding a new doctor AND hospital.
What I learned most from this as we need to make sure we are researching our hospitals and their policies.
Take care of our health and ask the hard questions. As it turns out, the hospital I delivered at did not count their sponges! I switched hospitals shortly after all this happened, and the first question I had for my new OB was their delivery policies. I was pleasantly surprised by how meticulous they were. I am so happy to say I had another successful birth, but my first wonderful after-birth experience just 3 months ago. Life is good.