We arrived to our apartment to my parents and my brother, sis-in-law, and their two girls- Kylie Jo (2) & Lila (4 months then). We pulled up to find them waiting for us on the balcony and cheering us on- an awesome and sweet homecoming. My dad and my brother came down to help me up the three flights of stairs to our apartment (at this time I am wondering why we chose the 3rd floor!). They were prepared to carry me but I was determined to do it- it was something I wanted to prove to myself. So with my dad in front of me and Jake behind me we slowly made the climb to the top to hugs all around. It brings me to tears just thinking about it because instead of coming home to no one- we were surrounded by family and that's exactly what we needed after the week we had just had. I needed a distraction from the excruciating pain and the fears that loomed ahead. It was so fun to introduce our daughter to her Aunt Jen and Uncle Jake and her cousins. It's so fun to watch your family love on your child- there's something so beautiful about it.
My sister-in-law, Jen, was a complete lifesaver. She is right in the middle of raising babies so she knew exactly what to do. She sterilized, washed, organized, etc all of our things and Jake helped set up a lot of the baby gear we never got the chance to set up before Gracie arrived. When it came to giving Gracie her first bath- we relied heavily on Jen, to say the least, haha....Seth had just taken Gracie out of the baby bath tub and wrapped her in a towel when she decided to go to the bathroom- we just looked at each other like "Uhh...what do we do?" Seth looks at Jen and says, "Um, what would you do in this situation?" hahaha thank goodness for her help- we truly would have been a mess (or even more of one) :).
The Texans and my dad stayed until Sunday morning and then had to go home but my mom was able to stay for a whole week! That woman was incredible and literally did everything. Cleaned, cooked, organized, shopped, held Gracie, everything. We literally wouldn't have made it without her help. At this point I was in so much pain at my incision site and my abdominal muscles and breastfeeding was HORRIBLE. I just figured all this was normal- I didn't know what post-c section pain was supposed to feel like.
I DREADED going to sleep at night because to lay flat would just put me in tears of pain. I would start to get really anxious when it got closer to bedtime. It hurt SO bad to lay down and SO bad to get up or even turn. Plus I had to go to the bathroom all the time because my body was getting rid of excess fluids so Seth would have to come around and pretty much lift me out of bed. We were at such a desperate state that we decided the next day we were going to buy a recliner that I could sleep in because I couldn't bare it anymore. We didn't budget for that or really have the room for it in our apartment, but desperate times call for desperate measures. That next day- the day we were going to buy a recliner- our bible study leaders were over and we had mentioned to them how painful it was for me to lay flat. They said they had a recliner they would love if we borrowed- 20 minutes later it was set up in our bedroom- what a gift. Truly- for the first time since being home I didn't dread sleeping as much and was actually able to find a comfortable position!!
My dad came back to pick up my mom that next weekend. I wasn't ready for her to go and to be "on our own". Of course we both bawled. Like mother like daughter :).
Seth's parents were originally not planning to come for another week after my mom left which would have meant we would have been on our own for a week. We called them and asked them to come ASAP and thankfully they didn't hesitate or we might have begged them :). They arrived the day after my parents left, leaving us alone for only a half a day...we could manage that. In the time between my parents leaving and Seth's arriving, we made an appointment with the lactation consultant because I. could. hardly. stand. it. anymore. I knew it was "supposed to be painful" and it was "supposed to take time" but I was crying every time she ate. I wanted sooo badly to keep nursing her but I knew the only way I could was if I got some help because MANY times in the middle of the night I would just cry to Seth "I'm done, I'm not going to do this anymore, I can't handle it!". We found out at the appointment that Gracie had thrush and I had a yeast infection so we were just passing it back and forth. With all the antibiotics I was on in the hospital- it was no wonder this happened. She prescribed something for me and something for her. We left and I felt almost (almost) giddy with hope that it was going to stop hurting! (Little did I know then how persistent stinkin yeast infections are!).
Seth's parents arrived that afternoon and we were SO ready for their help! They were awesome and helped a ton as well as loved Gracie when we needed a nap or a break!
I was feeling miserable. I was in so much pain I almost felt numb to any kind of connection with Gracie. It hurt my heart so much to feel so disconnected from my baby, but it was all I could do to bear with the pain. And oddly, the pain was growing increasingly worse every day. In my mind I reasoned that this must be nerve endings reconnecting or "normal" post surgical pain since they did cut through my entire abdomen. Eventually I texted a couple friends who had c-sections and asked what their pain experience was like. I was looking for hope that this pain was normal but in the back of my mind I was terrified of something being wrong (the nurse in me was running to every terribly possible scenario). I wondered if it might be infected...I have seen tons of infected wounds as a nurse but it's COMPLETELY different when you're the patient. First of all, it was hard to even see my incision because my baby belly was in the way and secondly, it did look red- but I figured it was supposed to because the skin was pretty irritated from staples and steri strips.
That Monday I called the Dr's office because I needed to know if something was wrong. I talked to the nurse- she said it was going to be really painful and probably red. So I went with that. Maybe I was just over thinking it, maybe this was completely normal to feel pain 10/10. I felt slight relief after talking to her, thinking, "Okay this is normal, nothing is wrong, I just need to survive until this pain is gone". Seth's parents had to get back to IL that day- so we had to say goodbye- it was sooo hard. I dreaded it- we wanted them to stay but we knew we had to eventually figure out how to do life on our own. We just didn't feel ready yet because I was basically stuck to a chair all day and that left Seth doing everything else.
The next morning was worse than any. I was in SO much pain, literally unbearable pain. I didn't know what to do. I was taking pain meds as soon as I could- Seth was watching the clock like a hawk and bringing me pain meds on the hour. I was exhausted. It was painful for me to stand for more than 2 minutes, I couldn't. I had to sit to do anything- and even that hurt. There was no comfortable position- it all hurt. I just kept telling myself "This is normal, just make it through, just survive".
The breaking point came that morning when I tried to get up to go to the bathroom and bawled the whole way there. On the way back (this is literally a 20 foot trip) I maybe made it 5 feet and was pierced with unbearable pain, I couldn't even breathe. I tried yelling for Seth to help but was breathless and couldn't. Thankfully he saw me and came running and helped me sit down. I just sat and cried. and cried. I was miserable and it was only getting worse. I looked him in the eye and I said "This is not normal anymore, something is wrong". I couldn't even call the doctor, I was a mess.
Seth called the Dr and they told us to come down to be evaluated. Traveling down the stairs of our apartment and climbing into the car was TORTURE. More tears. On the way Seth called to see if they had a wheelchair we could use because we were afraid I wouldn't be able to make it by walking. The receptionist said they didn't have one but if I was in that much pain I should go to the ER. I told Seth, "I'm not going to the ER, we are going to make it up there, I want to see my doctor". So we made the veeeeery slow trip in and up to the 7th floor where my Dr's office was. They took me back and tried to have me lay back on the exam table but I pretty much screamed in excruciating pain after moving back an inch. I started sweating and crying- it hurt so bad. The nurse practitioner took one look at my incision and said "Oh my, honey- this is not normal". Relief and fear flooded me at once- relief because it was confirmation this pain was as bad as I felt it was and fear because what in the world did that mean then??
My Dr came in and took a look and told me I had cellulitis at the incision site. She was concerned there might be something wrong underneath the incision and was debating whether to send me straight to the ER for a CT scan or if it would be safe to wait until the next morning. In her compassion, she said we could wait until the next morning ONLY IF I checked my temp frequently and if there was ANY sign of a fever I would go straight to the ER, no questions asked. We were sent home with more antibiotics, stronger pain meds, and told to come back in 2 days to be re-checked, as well as get the stat CT scan the next am. We called Teena, our doula, and asked her to be on call to come help us in the middle of the night if I spiked a temp. No fever that night- so no midnight ER trip- thankfully.
At this point I would have almost done anything to make the pain stop. I hated the idea of taking stronger pain meds (really strong meds) because I didn't want Gracie to be any more affected- the poor child had been basically drugged her whole life because of me living on pain meds. Thankfully the antibiotic started to help ease the pain so I didn't have to take the strong ones.
The next morning we got ready and headed to the hospital for my CT scan. We thought it would be a quick in and out, but it turned into an over 3 hour ordeal. Normally this might not be a huge deal in the medical perspective of things, but when you're in intense pain, have a newborn, are sleep deprived, and are trying to figure out breastfeeding- it's an emotional disaster. They took us back to a tiny little waiting area and told us it should just be a few minutes. The few minutes turned into the first hour and then into the second hour and then into the third hour. We had been on the phone with my lactation consultant asking if this contrast dye was safe to have while nursing. The IV dye was iffy and originally they weren't going to use that- they just made me drink a nasty oral contrast dye instead, but because of the loong delay I ended up having the IV contrast. To a normal, emotionally stable person this may not have been a huge deal, but I feel apart because I was so tired of Gracie being impacted by all these drugs in her little tiny body. I felt like I had no control over what happened anymore.
The next morning we are a getting ready an hour before my re-check and I notice my incision is oozing on one end. uh-oh. We arrived at the Dr's office and sure enough part of the incision site opened up and to spare the details she drained quite a bit of infection junk (not medically-terminologically correct). She swabbed the site for a culture to be sent off and basically gave Seth a 411 on wound changes because for the foreseeable future we had to do a wound change twice a day. It was terrible. He had to clean and pack my wound with idoaform twice a day (I've done this tons and tons of times to patients but I've never been the one receiving the treatment and now I have a lot more compassion on my them!). We then were told we need to come back every week until this was closed and healed- we saw the doctor more at this time than we did when I was pregnant.
The week was exhausting. We had been on our own for three days and each of those days we spent at the doctor's office for lengthy appointments- about 3 hours each time. We just couldn't keep up- it completely drained me to get out of house to those appointments. The rest of the day I had zero energy, but yet life kept piling up. I'd sit there and watch Seth, in his exhaustion, try to get things done and take care of us and I watched our lives getting buried by the defeating game of "catch up".
It didn't help that in 4 days was Christmas and we were by ourselves. I would cry to Seth and tell him it just didn't "feel" like Christmas and we tried coming up with ideas to help...like driving to see Christmas lights or making sugar cookies- but we couldn't do any of them because it took too much energy and I hurt too much. I felt depressed. All I could do was just sit in that chair hour after hour and day after day. I wanted to go to the store or look at lights or even just make a stinkin batch of cutout cookies- but I just couldn't. I tried so hard to have a better attitude- thinking things like "wow, isn't it amazing we have a baby for Christmas?!" and "how special is it going to be just the three of us for our first Christmas?!" but the truth was we were both weary, tired, and pretty miserable. I couldn't shake it, I couldn't feel happy and I wanted to feel happy so badly at Christmas. Maybe I put too much weight on it- but it's where I was- I wanted something to feel good- to be fun and not hard.
That Friday we had gotten into an argument- we were both frazzled and exhausted and our wires were short. My hormones were raging and I cried at anything and everything. Seth was run out of emotions. My overflowing bucket of emotions meets his empty bucket of emotions= sandpaper. He went into the room to take a nap so he could get some strength and I sat out there and cried because I didn't know how to stop. When he came out we just sat there and I said "I want so badly for this Christmas to feel special, but I just can't make it happen"...he said the same thing. After a few moments an idea dawned on both of us at the same time that we had never entertained. Seth looked at me and said "What if we went to IL for Christmas?" I looked at him and said, "I was just thinking the same thing". We weighed back and forth and back and forth...were we crazy? was it feasible? could we do it? did I feel up for it? how would Gracie do for that long in a car? how would I nurse in a car? We called our parents and we made the crazy, new-parent-have-no-common-sense-left decision to go. This was about 10pm on Friday night...we got up Saturday morning, packed, and left Little Rock around noon. We didn't arrive in IL until 1:30am- what was normally a 9 hour drive took a lot longer with a newborn- but we made it. The week was just what we needed- a break from all that was hard and overwhelming to us on our own- yes it was still hard and would have been no matter where we were- but it was the distraction we needed to give us strength to push forward when we got home.
The way home was so hard but yet a sense of "okay we got this" starting building. We started to reach that place where we felt "ready" to figure out life on our own. We were still nervous since I really couldn't bend over to pick up Gracie yet and Seth was supposed to go to work that week, but we felt a glimmer of hope. Things were starting to come together- I was slowly regaining strength, our emotional tanks were filled from being with family, I had just taken my last antibiotic and that meant no more antibiotics for Gracie and hopefully the yeast infection with nursing would clear up soon! We were literally talking about this on the way home when the nurse from my OB's office called. I wasn't ready for what she said, "Miss Angela, we received the culture back from your wound and it looks like the antibiotic you have been taking is resistant to the bacteria, we need to prescribe you Cipro twice a day for 7 days". Immediately tears filled my eyes and I barely mumbled, "Are you sure? Is this medicine safe with breastfeeding?" She told me it was "iffy" and that we could choose to pump and bottle feed. I barely muttered "okay thanks, bye" and started sobbing. I cried, "No, I can't do this, I won't do this, I don't have any more strength to do another complication...I just can't do it anymore!". Why this, now?! I just finished antibiotics and was supposed to be done! We haven't even introduced a bottle yet- what if she gets confused! I am so tired of being on antibiotics! This one has potentially harmful side effects to Gracie! It was a last straw for me...I thought we were on the road to recovery and then another bat was swung...I wanted to move forward, not backwards. We called our pediatrician friend, lactation consultant, chiropractor, and our pediatrician to get all their opinions- I didn't want to take it, but yet I wanted to stop the complications and be done with them.
We decided to wait until Monday when I saw my Dr to take time to think about it and pray about it and let this settle a bit. I went back and forth all weekend and started to feel a peace about just taking it. At my Dr appt that Monday, she resonated with my concerns but told me that bacteria that was found on the culture was the same bacteria that had potentially been to blame for all the initial complications with the labor and we just needed to kill it off. If all the serious antibiotics I had been given IV in the hospital didn't kill that off, then she was right, we just needed to rid of it and be done. So started another round.
I continued to have lots of unbearable nursing pain so we went back to the lactation consultant and she had us try some things to fight the resistant yeast infection. I kept telling myself "It has to get better eventually...just don't give up".
Seth went back to work that week and Gracie and I were on our own. We managed to figure it out and make it through our days imperfectly, but we survived :). Things are now much much much better...the pain is just "normal" post surgical tenderness now, nursing is getting much more tolerable, and I am getting more strength and energy back. Those first six weeks were a whirlwind and completely draining.
To be completely candid and honest- I struggle(d) with depression, anger & questioning towards God, numbness toward my new baby, incredible neediness towards my husband, complete and utter exhaustion like I never knew possible- I felt like I was walking in a fog just surviving most days, and so much pain- physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. It was a six weeks I had not been prepared for- I felt like we were just hit down and the jabs just kept coming. It was hard. There is no bow to tie it up in. I didn't want to say "It could've been worse" because yes, it could have, but what I was experiencing felt like more than I could handle and it was worse enough. I've had to wrestle with God. I've cried out to Him and asked for Him to comfort me or speak to me and have been met with silence. It is hard to not feel God when you need to feel Him. This is when you're supposed to lean on Truth and not feelings- but that is hard to do when your ability to cope and think logically has been corrupted by hormones and exhaustion. I doubted Him- that He really even cared, even at times if He was real.
One day when I was trying to figure out my faith and what it all meant...it hit me- I don't know how to be me apart from God- He is part of me, He makes up who I am...I am nothing without Him...I'm not me without Him. So God has slowly been healing my heart and meeting me- telling me that He is there. I still don't understand why He doesn't answer when I call to Him at times or why He allows life to be so stinkin hard sometimes, but that is when it comes to the bare basics of just resting in God and letting Him navigate the swirling waves of doubt, confusion, hurt and pain.
I know a few things...I am completely amazed now by my baby girl and am amazed at the love I have for her...it's incredible. Having a baby is straining on a marriage and it takes intentionality, patience, and looooots of grace, and forgiveness to make it. I have an incredibly patient God who isn't afraid of my doubts and my anger and my emotions.
That's my story- nitty, gritty and all. Thanks for walking the journey with us. Thanks for your love, your prayers and your patience as it has taken us a while to respond to texts/calls/emails, write thank yous, post pictures, etc. I'm learning again what a gift the body of Christ is
and how valuable having true community is.
Seth reminded me of a song the other day that I used to love, called Shelter by Jars of Clay. Listen to it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bcgj-Jbl2RY
Here's a few pictures for fun: