The After-Birth Story

Eight hours after arriving at the hospital I had an 8 lb.10 oz perfect baby boy. My third child. He looked exactly like his brother had looked four and a half years ago, as if I'd had the same baby twice! My labor and delivery were uneventful. I was delighted to have cut my time in half, having labored between 16 and 17 hours with my first two deliveries. And just like the first two births, I dilated very quickly right at the end, pushed three or four times, and baby arrived. This time my hair wasn’t even messed up.

Easy peasy.

Two hours later, sitting upright in bed nursing Honey Bear and talking to my mother and Mr. P, I started to lose my sight and felt consciousness slipping away very quickly. I said to my mom, “You have to take him,” and I remember her reaching out for the baby. I heard P run out of the room.

When I came to, my anesthesiologist was tipping the bed back to get my feet above my head. I had an oxygen mask on my face. And in the next moment I was surrounded by people working frantically. They were talking and giving commands across my body.

“I can’t get a pulse.”

“Start another IV.”

“There’s no time. Do it this way.”

I remember closing my eyes slowly and opening them very deliberately again and again. I listened in a detached way, noting how fast they were moving. I couldn’t move at all, except for my eyes.

It felt like the medical staff had been filmed separately from my part of this little drama and the footage combined, so that I was in quiet, slow motion and they were in fast forward with the volume turned up.

One nurse, the one who stood beside my head on my right, seemed to have a role in both films, a foot in two worlds. She kept changing IV bags as they drained gallons of stuff into me, but she kept talking to me. A constant stream: “You’re doing great.” “You’re going to be fine.” “That’s good. Relax.” “You’re doing great.”

I was paralyzed, unable to speak even if the mask had been removed, and it seemed absurd to think I was doing anything at all, but she kept saying I was doing great. I needed to hear it. A nurse reported my blood pressure at one point as 42 over 24. Does that even count as having blood pressure?

In time, (fifteen minutes? an hour?) their frantic pace began to slow, our worlds merging as I stabilized. Tears began to stream steadily from the outer corners of my eyes toward my ears. But I didn’t feel like I was crying, in fact I’d felt strangely calm and detached the whole time, like I was watching and listening but not actually involved.

Now they were drawing blood at regular intervals, and in between an automatic blood pressure cuff was squeezing and relaxing over and over again on my right arm, literally every minute without stopping. Over the next few hours they would continually check the oxygen level in my blood, and find just barely enough to hold off on a transfusion.

I saw Mr. P at this point. He walked up on my left side and he had been crying; his face was contorted and wet with tears. Seeing him like that triggered emotional reaction in me. I felt startled and sad. He said something but I’m not sure I understood him. I tried to nod but I’m not sure my head moved. He kissed me on the forehead. And he was gone.

Later, I felt someone take my right hand. It was my mom and she was crying quietly. She kept wiping at the tears still running down the sides of my face, but it was a steady flow and the effort was useless. I was afraid to look at her for too long. I wanted my eyes to look confident and reassuring but I didn’t know what they looked like.

I didn’t wonder what happened and I never thought about whether I might be damaged in some way, which I think is quite odd given that I still could not move or speak.

Then Sugarplum appeared. She grasped my hand and looked down at me and I really struggled to stop the tears flowing. The damn oxygen mask. I thought “Why can’t I have it off yet? It looks alarming.” She talked for a few minutes and left. I was very worried about her. The boys were too little to know anything was wrong, but she was a child old enough to see; see all the scary equipment her mother was hooked up to, see that I was incapacitated, see that this was not how things were supposed to go. I felt like the only way to protect her now would be to speak, for one thing, and tell her it was fine and not to be afraid because I wasn’t afraid. When she left I felt something I can’t describe beyond its being a void and an isolation. I closed my eyes and tried to rest.


I had a postpartum hemorrhage. My uterus was not contracting properly after Honey Bear’s birth, and the normal pattern of postpartum uterine massage was not stimulating it. We did not know it, but blood was building up. When I started nursing the baby two hours after delivery, it caused sudden contraction of the uterus which caused me to bleed out. P said he’s never seen so much blood.

I never needed the blood transfusion. My blood oxygen level sank to one rock above rock bottom, leveled off, and slowly over the next 48 hours began to come back up. It would take 2 of my 3 months of maternity leave to recover from the severe anemia. I had to take supplemental iron for 6 months.

Postpartum hemorrhage is pretty rare and is unrelated to maternal age. It does have a correlation to the number of pregnancies a woman has had, with multiple births being a risk factor. Though the other woman I know who has had a postpartum hemorrhage had it with her first child, not the second. There is no significantly increased likelihood that it will happen with subsequent births, not that I’m concerned about that anyway.

It is terrifying for those who witness it. My mother-in law says she’s never seen her son in such a state of devastation and distress. It didn’t help that our pediatrician heard “something not quite right” with the baby’s heart first thing the next morning. This turned out to be nothing at all, but the wait for Bear’s chest x-rays to come back was excruciating.

So that is my post-birth birth story! Drama, excitement, extra blood, all things you don’t want in a birth story.

And the one thing you do want: A Very Happy Ending!

Visit Sarcastic Mom to read other amazing and emotional Birth Stories at her Birth Story Carnival!


Sister Honey Bunch/Judi maloney said...

Oh wow. This not only made me cry, but I think I might have fallen in love with your husband a little bit.

Jenny said...

Holy mother! I felt like I was reading a Stephen King story! My heart was racing and everything. Glad you and HB came out well! Good grief!

Rima said...

OMG, how scary! I'm so glad that everything turned out OK.

BTW? I think this post qualifies as "cranking things up a notch." :)

Memarie Lane said...

I've read a lot of birth stories today, but this is the only one that made me tear up.

Anonymous said...

Scary, scary, scary. I'm relieved that you're just fine!

Anonymous said...

What a terrifying and yet amazing story. Perhaps not the best thing to read while pregnant, but...

Glad the ending was a good one!

Unknown said...

Wow, you did kick it up a notch! What a story. I'm so glad things turnd out okay. I can't even begin to think how scary it was, for you and your family.

Meg said...

WONDERFUL post, very touching!

Thanks for stopping by, just so you know..you are officially my blogging sista now...we have too much in common! I am adding you to my blog roll and subscribing, I don't want to miss a thing!


S said...

Wow, Amy. This was riveting. Riveting only because I knew you were OK before I started reading it.

Wow. That is quite a birth story.

I'm so glad everything ended up just as it should have.

Bananas said...

oh my gosh. This gave me goosebumps. I'm glad you made it. What a story!

Rachel said...

Oh my word.
Amy. You... I'm fairly speechless.
I knew you were okay, even as I read this, but my heart still stopped, tears still pricked my eyes and I still wanted to reach out and hug sugar and hubs. Oh my gosh.
Big huge hugs honey.

Anonymous said...

Wow. Amazing story. Glad everything turned out okay.

Anonymous said...

This was so scary! I can't imagine. I'm glad it all turned out for the best.

Heather said...

O.M.G. Scary isn't the word. I can't imagine!

ABW said...

Wow....this had me in tears.

Anonymous said...

From the husband and father - bin there ... done that ... don't ever want to see that again - it was the second of three and it happen after she came home ... scary stuff.

mudmama said...

Ok, I'm all emotional over here! You are making me flash back to my experience that I just wrote a book about because it was SO traumatic. Mine was "AFE" (amniotic fluid embolism) but like you, I bled out and had very low blood pressure. Horrifying stuff! Hugs to you--those of us who have been through something like that are so lucky (to be here)...and bonded!
Thanks for your message- the Oct NVille thing sounds great!

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