I showered for the first time in the hospital on Monday morning, my mother-and-father-in-law came to see their new granddaughter and my brother-and-sister-in-law too. I couldn’t recognize my feet, they looked like an elephant’s, I had so much fluid in my body. Also, the only way I could get out of bed was to use a lot of my arm and elbow strength and roll over to my side, because there was no way for my body to sit up on its own accord. The shaking hands doctor took out the staples from my surgery and even I had to admit the scar looked pretty decent. He said we could be discharged. I was glad to be going home just three nights after giving birth (not bad for almost dying) and I was so glad our new girl slept the entire way home in the truck and I was so relieved to walk into our house, with a fire going in the woodstove and cute decorations all around thanks to my mom and sister. Of course, by the end of that night, when the baby wouldn’t sleep again and I couldn’t sit up any longer, I cried when I had to give her to my husband to console, which he did by driving her around again in the big diesel truck, while I got a few hours of sleep.
My mother was a godsend during those two weeks and her being there for us will always be remembered – she did everything, dishes, cooking yummy meals, cleaning, laundry, walking around the kitchen with our child, the great wailer, and, also listening to me cry, too, about how sad I was about the birth.
Complication #3. All I’ll say is just because you have a c-section doesn’t mean you can’t get hemorrhoids. Mine weren’t the worst I’ve heard about, but still, what kind of karma is that?
Complication #4. With hormones going crazy in my body, (and with a c-section, I argue, hormonal fluctuations are worse because the body doesn’t quite understand the baby was “born” since the natural processes didn’t occur), I got a fever blister on my lip. The lips I wanted to kiss my new baby with every day. I’ve had infrequent but very real fever blisters and cold sores ever since I made out with some unfortunate choice of pubescent boy my freshman year in high school. They often accompany sickness and/or great hormonal fluctuations. This cold sore wasn’t the most raging I’d ever had, but I certainly didn’t want my few-day-old baby to get herpes right off the bat. Of course, once I felt the sting on my lip, I read about my concern on the Internet, and immediately found an article about a poor mother who did get a cold sore, passed the herpes onto her two-day-old baby, and the baby died! I don’t know if that site was real, but all emotional and exhausted from the birth ordeal, I wasn’t about to take my chances. Thus, for several days, a week maybe, I only butterfly-kissed my new baby on the top of her head.
Complication #5. Two weeks after the baby was born, and the day before my mom was set to get on a plane and leave us, I took my mom to lunch to a favorite local spot. I had my usual sandwich and a bag of chips, my mom the same, and we ate while everyone in the place ogled over the cuteness of my daughter. My husband was gone that day – all day and night, actually, at meetings, which he did eventually have to attend to. That evening, I started to feel sick, and even my mother said she felt “bilious.” I felt more than bloated, though, I felt sharp pain in my abdomen, not unlike the kind I felt in the ICU. I thought for sure I had food poisoning and I rocked the baby in the office chair, holding her with one hand, while moaning out a lullaby and holding my stomach with my other hand while also praying she’d fall to sleep. My mom fretted about my condition but I assured her I’d manage, so she said goodnight, then went next door, for she needed to pack and get ready to get on a plane. The baby did fall asleep, thank the gods. I put her in her bassinet, and then doubled over in pain, a pain like a searing from the inside, and next thing I know, I’m throwing up, first as I ran through the hallway, then in the toilet, again. (There in the bathroom, I learned about Complication #6, lack of bladder control, which I’ll let speak for itself, and I also learned via that particular complication, our bathroom floor is not level.)
I took off my wet sweatpants, put on one of my husband’s big hunting shirts and then barfed again, doubled over and praying to the porcelain gods. So, there I was, a pool of pee angling away from me, and, of course, the baby woke up, wailing is her Moses basket. This was the moment my husband came home from his meeting and I looked up enough to see him peering around the bathroom door.
“What the hell?” he said.
“It’s Deliverance,” I said, meaning the movie, not salvation.
He rescued the baby. I barfed again, then cleaned myself up again. A few days later, worried this new complication was something going awry with the c-section, I saw the doctor. “Nope, nothing like that,” shaky hands said with all the confidence of a, well, a doctor. “Get an ultrasound and check for gallstones.”
Gallstones. The unspoken complication of those Female, Forty, Fair (which I’m not), and Fertile, or more accurately, women who’ve just given birth. When I finally got an ultrasound appointment through my local doctor, and received the diagnosis of “extensive gallstones,” I had a month left on my insurance. The only solution, according to this round of doctors, was to blow my belly up again, ram in some laparoscopes, and suck my diseased gallbladder out. At that point, in my physical and mental state post-partum, there was no way I could face another abdominal surgery, much less be hospitalized and not nurse my baby for even a day. I said no surgery, and I’d control the gallstone attacks with diet. The local doctor scoffed at me for my decision and I wanted to punch her for not being sympathetic. The insurance ran out.
I did control the attacks with diet, except that with breastfeeding and not eating any real fat other than olive oil and avocados, I lost weight too fast, which apparently also causes gallbladder attacks and attack my gallbladder did. I can’t explain the pain of a gallbladder attack except to say I’d rather do fifty-four hours of labor all over again. At least in labor the contractions end for a few breaths – with passing a gallstone, that little hard cholesterol ball squeezes itself through the smallest and tightest of bile duct tubing, somewhat like a marble trying to pass through a plastic coffee stirrer, except the plastic feels each excruciating millimeter of travel. I’ve had about a dozen attacks and sometimes I fended them off by downing a huge amount of water to break up whatever fat was causing the problem. I don’t eat fried foods and no greasy stuff and hardly any oil other than olive oil, which seems to not bother me. I eat red beets up the wazoo, because they’re super-good for your gallbladder, raw or cooked, and I have learned how to make new recipes with beet greens, which I don’t particularly enjoy. For several months I took giant alfalfa pills and made smoothies with soy lecithin. Sometimes I drink apple cider vinegar tea, or if worse comes to worse, I’ll drink a hideous concoction of liquid made from boiling flax seeds, a viscous bitter “tea” that’s a lot like drinking snot. There’s a lot to know about the gallbladder – and about the pros and cons of surgery, and I found a lot of my information here. Also I did see a nutritionist who supported my decision not to remove one of my organs, sold me expensive beet concentrate, which I took and liked a lot, only to realize it had alcohol in at, which is a whole different kind of complication, so I just stuck to making my own beet stuff. It's a good thing I like beets.