A few hours after the delivery, I was moved to a room on the postpartum floor. My legs and feet were still numb from the epidural, so I got to go down in a wheelchair (yay wheelchairs!). It was also for the better that I wasn’t walking around yet, because I felt a little dizzy – perhaps from the blood loss. My vitals were all normal though, and everything that felt wrong during labor/delivery immediately disappeared after the baby came out – my fever was gone, the soreness in my butt muscle was gone, etc.
After I settled into a room on the postpartum floor, PapaDumpling and our parents went to get some food. They must have been worn out from the delivery as well, since everybody was mentally (and sometimes physically) helping me push for the past several hours. The nurse on the postpartum floor was not nearly as good as the one upstairs – after she introduced herself, she didn’t come back for several hours. So, this was the first time I was left alone since I had entered the hospital.
[If you are squeamish about bodily excretions, I suggest you skip the next two paragraphs.]
Before I had been moved down to the postpartum unit, the L&D nurse had dressed me in disposable underwear and giant pads. I would be bleeding for 4-6 weeks, they told me, and certainly heavily at the beginning, so the giant pads were necessary. However, I suddenly felt a gush of something else come out of me, and then another, and then another. I was having diarrhea. And it was unstoppable. The volume was clearly no match for the pads, so I wanted to call the nurse in to help me change. I was under strict instructions not to get up and go to the bathroom myself, even though the bathroom was right next to me, because 1) if my legs were still numb, I could collapse as soon as I tried to stand up, and 2) I hadn’t been told anything about where extra pads were, how to handle my wounds in my nether regions, etc. – which is presumably what the nurse would help me with and teach me about. Unfortunately, the nurse call buttons were not working. I pressed many times but there was no response. The diarrhea was still coming. I started to holler, “HELLO??? CAN ANYONE HEAR ME?” hoping that someone might walk by my room and hear me. After yelling my throat hoarse, still no one came in. Finally, I decided to risk getting up. I knew there was an emergency string in the bathroom, which if pulled, would get an immediate response, so if I could make it to the bathroom, I could pull that and hopefully that was still connected to the nurse’s station. I wobbled out of bed, and – mind you the diarrhea is STILL coming, and now it’s dripping down my leg – luckily made it to the bathroom and pulled the emergency string. Within seconds, five or six nurses burst into the room. They asked me what was wrong, but as soon as they saw the state of the room, they started helping me clean up. I looked at the mess I had made for the first time myself. There was diarrhea on the bed, a trail of diarrhea on the floor, diarrhea footprints where I had made my way to the bathroom, and still more diarrhea dripping down my leg. Suffice to say, there was diarrhea everywhere.
One of the nurses got to work on me while the other nurses got to changing the sheets, wiping down the floor, etc. I gingerly took off the hospital underwear, stepped into the shower, and she hosed me down. Even while she was hosing me down, there was more diarrhea coming out. I kept apologizing, even though I knew this was beyond my control, but this is obviously not something most adults experience until they become senile and – well, it wasn’t exactly a shining moment for me. After the nurse cleaned me off, she helped me into new underwear and pads, and for the first time, explained what the other items in the bathroom were for. There were witch hazel pads and Dermaplast spray, both of which are suppose to provide temporary pain relief down there, for my stitches. There were extra disposable underwear and pads, and also instant ice packs. She suggested I layer in two pads and an ice pack into my underwear. Since the disposable underwear is extremely flimsy, carrying this kind of bulk down there (the ice pack is quite large and heavy) basically meant you have to hold it up with your hand and you can’t really walk around. By the time I was done, the bed sheets had been changed and they’d fixed the nurse call button, so I wobbled back into bed and stayed there until my family came back.
PapaDumpling came in just as the nurses were finishing up. Apparently they had returned while the nurses were cleaning but were told not to enter the room because the floors were still dirty. He asked what had happened and I told him the whole diarrhea disaster. The nurses told me that the diarrhea was a side effect of one of the medications they had given me upstairs. It should wear off in a few hours, they said. I hoped I didn’t have any more explosive diarrhea in the meantime.
By now my father had arrived as well – he’d been waiting at home since he hadn’t been allowed in the L&D unit. BabyDumpling was still in the newborn special care unit, so he couldn’t see her right away. But it was good to see both my parents. As everyone discussed how the delivery unfolded and how perfect BabyDumpling was, I relaxed in bed and mostly listened. I was too tired to be actively chatting but I also couldn’t fall asleep.
At around 8pm, they brought BabyDumpling back into the room, and from there on out, she pretty much stayed with us until we were discharged. I got to hold her again for a little bit, and then everybody took turns taking pictures with her. I secretly wanted to hold her longer, but I knew I had plenty of time to be with her when the grandparents left, so I let them take their pictures and fuss over the baby for the next few hours.
The first night with BabyDumpling passed fairly peacefully. I breastfed her a couple times, but for the most part, she slept. Newborns apparently don’t really become active until after the first 24 hours, so newborn parents are suppose to take advantage of the first 24 hours to stock up on sleep that they won’t be having for the next few months.
During our next two days in postpartum, we were taught the parenting basics: how to change a diaper, how to swaddle a baby, how to breastfeed, how to calm a baby, how to give the baby a bath, etc. Since PapaDumpling and I had taken all of the prenatal classes offered by the hospital, much of it was familiar – but it had been a lot of information thrown at us over a month ago, and we had never practiced on a real baby.
On my part, I was focused on recovering. Although I had a vaginal delivery and not a C-section, it is still a lot to put your body through. I took my first shower the day after the delivery and examined my new postpartum body. I had bruises in places where they’d stuck me with needles, my belly had shrunk considerably and left behind a soft pillow of skin, my acne was starting to clear up, and I still had swelling in my hands and feet. I couldn’t see my own stitches down there but I was just thankful that they didn’t hurt. I still hadn’t pooped because every time I exerted any effort, I felt pain down there and I wasn’t sure how close my stitches were to my rectum. They hadn’t given me any stool softener (which they give almost every mother after childbirth) because of my bout of diarrhea the day before, but I already knew I needed to make a bowel movement and I didn’t want to rip anything down there. My body felt like it had gone through a battle and these were the battle scars.
On Day 3, we were discharged. Mommy and baby both had a clean bill of health. They deemed that the fever I had had during labor was unlikely to be caused by an infection, so they took both of us off antibiotics. Before discharging BabyDumpling, they also ran some tests on her, such as a test for jaundice and hearing, and gave her a few vaccines. She passed all the tests with no problems, and we were told we had one big, healthy baby on our hands!
Everyone assumed I was excited to be leaving the hospital, but actually, I didn’t mind the hospital at all. I liked that the motorized bed allowed me to pretty much stay in bed all day. I liked that they brought me three meals a day, even though the food was mediocre. I liked that there were nurses and lactation consultants checking in on us day and night, bringing us supplies and answering all of our questions. All of that would disappear as soon as we were discharged.
The real challenge would begin once we were on our own at home…