Tuesday, September 30, 2008
I want to tell her that I know the nurses coming in to take her temperature after the birth of the baby may seem an annoyance when they wake you up, may not tell you why they are doing this, but it is important. It is of life and death importance, as a matter of fact. I want to tell her that she should continue taking her temperature every afternoon until at least her 6 week checkup, even though the last thing she has time for is "one more thing."
Many women don't realize, and I definitely didn't, that postpartum infection is still a common cause of death for women. Some assume the temporary rise in temp due to engorgement is the issue, but any fever is important even if there are no other obvious symptoms. Infection can become seated in the breast, uterus, cervix, vagina, vulva, and urinary tract. C-sections can make you more likely to develop infection, but a vaginal birth does not put you in the clear.
Be aware of the following symptoms, but don't discount your fever if they are not present:
-bad smelling discharge (can be a sign of endometritis, the most common postpartum infection)
-Changes or difficulty urinating
-lower abdominal pain
-pain that increases during your recovery time
-Tenderness, discharge, redness or swelling at your c-section incision, episiotomy or laceration
-signs of mastitis such as chills,muscle aches, fatigue, soreness or hard area of the breast
Sweats and hot flashes are common after giving birth, but can also be signs of fighting infection. If you find yourself running hot and cold, take your temperature at BOTH times. I missed most of my temperature spikes while temping when I felt hot. When I tested during a cold chill I realized I was running a fever of almost 104.
Some symptoms can seem less obvious:
-fast pulse (over 100 beats per minute)
-vomiting and diarrhea
-headache and generally feeling unwell
Whether it is called postpartum infection, childbed fever, endometritis or purperal fever doesn't matter. What matters is that it is avoidable, treatable and women don't have to die from it every year.
But they do. I almost did.
I want to write about exactly what happened, the chain of events that took me from happy new mama to begging for someone to help me. I will, that's one of my goals this month. The thing is, it's hard. Even now, writing this, my chest starts heaving with the importance of what I'm saying. I want so desperately for others to avoid what I went through, that I fear failing to get this message across clearly enough.
I want women to read this for their own information, and pass it along to their friends, sisters, cousins, coworkers. Caught early, postpartum infections can be an annoyance, treated with antibiotics that can take care of them completely and permanently.
I was passed along, ignored, doubted, given the wrong antibiotics and told not to say my cervix hurts but to wait until they did the exam and could find out where the problem was.
It did hurt. It's where the infection started while I was pregnant and where it was allowed to grow more severe daily.I'm still trying to wrap my mind and my words around the fact that my son and I are both very lucky to have survived this. Still trying to cope with the fact that medical incompetence, negligence and a faulty system cost me thousands of dollars, major trauma and my uterus.
It shouldn't matter that I didn't plan on more children. I should have had my womb available to me, regardless. That's another story, for another day.
In the meantime, I just want to say that if you or someone you know has unexplained contractions they need to ask their doctor about the possibility of infection. If, after the baby is born, they start showing signs of fever or illness they need to call the dr right away and insist on being seen. Don't give up, keep pushing.
And use those thermometers.
Monday, September 29, 2008
I bring out the memories of you from their hiding places.
Unwrap them slowly, stingily, looking over my shoulder.
Nothing to prove you were mine, carried only for a moment.
Tests and lab slips in a drawer I can't bring myself to empty.
Secret treasures, my hopes unfulfilled
I know your stories, the dates, how old you would be when, if, how...
I've kept you to myself, scared of those who would not understand.
This lump in my throat is choking me.
I need to say you were here, you mattered, I miss you so much
I have two lovely children but there would have, could have, been four.
Had I paid less attention I might have missed you completely
Might have missed the miracles I held for far too short a time.
You deserve recognition, and names
Not just whispered when I am alone, but by dad, and others.
They should be written, announced, set in stone and immortalized.
To my littles, babies I never held, never saw, and until now rarely acknowledged; We are going to bring you to the light, share you with others.
A bench is being made with a plaque that will declare your names for others to see, recognize, and know you were here and you did change us, you did and do make a difference.
Thursday, September 25, 2008
I do it with my weight. Instead of thinking of it terms of one brisk walk at a time, one less carb serving, one more flight of stairs I think about the number of pounds and sizes I want to lose. When I focus on how bad I feel for not being at a weight I'd consider healthy, I just end up staying overweight.
I've done it with work, too. Letting what I have to do feel overwhelming to me, when just one hour a day of working toward the things I need to accomplish would have me 7 hours closer to done at the end of the week instead of looking at a Saturday night and feeling I need to pull an all-nighter to make progress. By then, the mere thought has me exhausted - I've already spent at least that much time and mental energy WORRYING about the problem instead of working on it. I beat myself up about it, vow to do better, but still find myself overwhelmed.
I used to be the worst "great-student" you can imagine. I was a great student in that I could learn the material quickly, easily and make awesome grades. Unfortunately, I did it with some of the worst study habits imaginable. I'd start a semester with awesome notes, color coded sometimes to help my memory, rewritten neatly for ease of studying. Often the mere act of rewriting the information would cement it in my brain. Then, inevitably, at some point I would get behind. Illness, absence or something similar would momentarily interrupt that flow. I'd have two days worth of notes to rewrite. Or three. Suddenly it was a week. Two weeks. Then the test was there and I'd not have studied or rewritten, and oh crap - there's a paper due too. Typically I pulled it out of the spin, but not without a lot of stress, a lot of missed sleep and the self-admonition that I would never do this again.
I don't understand what it is about me that gets overwhelmed so easily once I reach that point. It's something I'm actually pretty embarassed about, though for the first time I'm working really hard to get it so that everything is above water (whereas there is usually SOMETHING for me that falls in the drowning category). It's a lot easier to row when the boat isn't full of water. If I can maintain, it will work better and I have spent enough time recently learning the "ask for help" lesson that I think it has finally saturated me to my very core.
I've made a new goal for myself. Instead of sitting and worrying about all the things I need to do, I'm going to focus on channeling that worry into actually WORKING on the thing I'm stressing about. It seems simple, embarassingly obvious, but I guess improving this at 30 is a hell of a lot better than waiting until 40.
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Generally we can go a long time in between them, but lately the stress of trying to figure out if we can get this new house and whether that means selling or renting out our current home has really gotten to both of us. On one hand, I've lost over 20 pounds in a really short time. On the other, I'm a stressed out mess and I hate that. A lot of our recent issues have been tied to the house/move/financing thing and mistakes that were made in the past being drug up again as a result. It's a hard time in our household, made harder by lack of sleep, the events of the last year and his tendency to fire first and not want to say "I didn't mean that."
I'm trying hard to focus on what is going right, because there is a lot of it. At the end of the day, I'm still thankful that we're all here, safe and sound, and where we are (this house, the other, whatever) doesn't really matter.
Last night my husband was calmer, more relaxed, and apologetic (even if all the words weren't there) for statements of the previous days. I'm hoping that lasts.
Monday, September 22, 2008
Typically when you come back from a vacation, people want to know where you went, what you did, what happened that you couldn't do at home, what happened that was out of the ordinary. The thing is, this trip was not about what we did (though we had a fantastic time in Seattle, at Ikea, the beach, etc.) it was about who we were with. The things we did were so very normal and that's what made the trip extraordinary. Our first day there, we talked with my friend and her husband as our children played together and even though we'd not seen each other in person until that very morning, it felt like the most normal thing on the planet. It felt like seeing my long lost sister, minus the awkwardness.
After a year of medical scares, medications and complications I found myself sitting next to my friend and suddenly very aware that my face hurt. From talking, from laughing, from smiling more in a few days time than I had in the previous year. I found myself watching my husband bond with hers over movies, meat and video games and feeling completely guiltless about our gabfests.
I was able to hug in person the woman who has held me up when I was ready to let go, the one who was able to answer the phone with a smile and reassuring words no matter how many times I called, no matter how late it was, no matter how hard I cried as I said "I'm on the way to the hospital again," or "I have a fever, again." The one who said more times than we can count, "you're not crazy," and she believed it.
We teared up at the realization that two women with PCOS and years of fertility treatments were watching their four children play. We cheered when we pulled off a trip to the grocery store without any of them. We finished each other's sentences and never ran out of anything to say. We ate the best hamburgers, salmon and steaks in the world and I am forever ruined on them, so I HOPE they will be coming to visit me soon so we can at least revisit the steaks and hamburgers.
There is still healing to be done, physically and emotionally, after this last year. There's no doubting that, but during the trip it felt like we turned the page, as a couple, as a family, and with the help of some freaking incredible friends.
Thank you, C, D, D and G. For welcoming us to your home, into your hearts, cooking us amazing food and just being the incredible people that you are. We missed you the moment we got on the plane, and that's not about to change any time soon.
We need to get this house so you can visit us as soon as possible.
Saturday, September 20, 2008
I have asked myself that question many times over the last few days, in the process of packing the contents of our home. Viewing each item with a critical eye, I look at books, trinkets, dishes, toys and more books. It seems I deem my cookbook collection still worthy, despite the fact it fills more than three paper boxes will hold.
I look at pictures, paperwork and presents and try to decide whether it is important, meaningful, something I actually use or love.
Is this still serving a purpose?
Maybe there are people who can pack their belongings quickly, methodically, without regard for where they came from or where they are going. I can do that with some things, but with many things my packing is slowed by the memories that get in the way. Who I was when this item showed up, who I am now and whether those two images match.
What if I let this one go?
I'm trying not to pack things that I'll regret moving, unpacking and trying to find a place for. We're moving to a bigger house, a better home, a change that feels strangely like a new start, a second chance, a step toward better in so many ways. There's so much to be excited about, and my tears over leaving behind this home are tempered by the thought of turning the new house into home.
I fill the boxes and try to designate where they will go....playroom, dining room, the closet under the stairs. I alternate between flashbacks of this house...bringing my daughter home, her first birthday party, my son's first days home, the breakfast we hosted here the day after our wedding.....with imaginings of our life in the new house. I picture birthday parties where we aren't crammed together like sardines, imagine the kids chasing each other in the back yard, my husband and I sitting on the balcony outside our bedroom on a warm summer night.
I sort through things and wonder why I still have material for so many projects, why I have two copies of certain books and more canning jars than my own grandmother did.
I wish I had taken more pictures.