This birth story is not what was expected. It being my second time to give birth, I thought I was fairly prepared for what was to come. I had the same OBGYN, the same birthing doula, and the same birth plan to deliver at the same hospital as with my first child Lyla. This time around the only thing I wanted to do differently was to have a spontaneous vaginal delivery. With Lyla, I had an induction at 40 weeks. Everything had gone smoothly, but for this second birth, I was staying open to allow my body and baby to lead the journey. As I write this in the NICU this one choice paved the way for a totally different experience than my last birth and different postpartum altogether.
On my due date 9/8/23 while out on a walk with Henry I suddenly felt liquid dripping between my legs. As I had a membrane sweep and acupuncture the day before this moment was not a surprise, but rather a relief that it was happening. We immediately rushed home, but when I pulled down my underwear I saw that it was a dark red blood that had been released, also considered a bloody show. After conferring with the doctor I was told to go to labor and delivery if I started to fill a pad with blood every hour. After losing a blood clot with heavy bleeding later that evening we went to the hospital for observation. As I was dilating this seemed consistent with the blood loss, so we went home to rest and would come back when the contractions were stronger.
We checked in to the hospital at 3:30 a.m. on 9/9/23. The nurses knew I wanted a vaginal birth, but were worried about my bleeding. At 4 cm dilated I got an epidural, but things didn’t calm down as expected. I suddenly had a fever and the baby started to go into distress. The team started prepping the OR for an emergency C-section and rushed to get me antibiotics, but in the meantime, I went from 4-10 cm so quickly that there was no time for that plan. My doctor came in and said, luckily, that I had the option to push, but the baby would have to be born right away. Any mother with the threat of a C-section would do as I did. In 3 pushes Florence Likan Golding was born at 7lbs at 9:03 am on 9/9/23.
Baby Flo breastfed like a champ during the golden hour before we were whisked together to postpartum recovery. I received my bag of antibiotics for the fever and we all promptly passed out before getting ready to feed again at noon. It was during her second feed that Flo started to grunt. We thought it was perhaps from gas, so we did all we could to make her comfortable, but her grunting didn’t cease. We called a nurse in for assistance who elevated the baby’s bed and said that they would check on her if she kept grunting. Sure enough 2 hours later at around 4 p.m. a NICU nurse came in to put on a pulse oximeter. They said her pulse was “tachy”, or faster than normal, and that they would need to take her to the NICU – possibly for antibiotics. “A course would last 48 hours,” they said as they whisked her away.
As the doctors quickly started to uncover why the baby’s breathing was having difficulties Daddy Henry oversaw as she was PICC lined and intubated. The answers took a few days, but eventually, they discovered Florence had swallowed meconium while in my womb. It had developed into pneumonia and required a 10-day course of antibiotics. Her health would not suffer otherwise and her lungs would heal, but for the first almost two weeks of her life, she needed to be in the NICU. As mothers with vaginal births are only allowed to stay for 2 nights in the hospital in the US I was discharged on the morning of Sept 11. My plan was to visit daily and deliver the breastmilk I had pumped until she was extubated and we could breastfeed again; however, I did not expect my own hospitalization to reoccur.
As soon as I got home I rested for a few hours, but woke up with an extreme pain in my ribs that rendered me breathless. I took the edge off with some Advil, but that night another fever began. I called my doula Andrey to see if binding would help the rib pain, but after taking a look at me she said “Postpartum is not supposed to be this way” and said she would assist me to the ER. For those of you who read my first postpartum breastfeeding blog, healing was never straightforward for me. As postpartum hadn’t been without complications I was ready for the rollercoaster of healing with holistic methods at home and never considered going back to the hospital would be necessary.
For any mother-to-be reading this please know that you should not be in pain or suffering during the postpartum period. Fevers should be taken seriously and you should not have to rely on pain medication to make it through postpartum. I say this because I called the OBGYN on call before heading to the ER. After telling her my symptoms she told me just to take more Tylenol and call again in the morning. From that moment on Andrey stepped in to advocate for me. She knew from her experience that postpartum sepsis occurs and if I wasn’t feeling well I should be seen by a doctor. She brought me to the ER where they took my pulse and called it “tachy” just as they had with Florence’s first symptoms. The ER doctors were amazing and took my blood cultures where initial readings came back with positive readings for a blood infection.
I was checked back into the hospital at 5 a.m. on the 12th. From there I was put on another antibiotic drip to bring down my fever. So far all I could explain to the doctors as far as my symptoms were that I had a fever, headache, postpartum chills, rib pain, and my abdomen was red and sore. Vague and easily manageable with medications, but hinting at something more serious. The source of the blood infection was yet to be determined and we needed more time for the blood cultures to come from the lab to determine what was causing the infection.
That same day on the 12th, only 12 hours later, the doctors let me know that they wanted to discharge me. As they had been able to manage my fever with antibiotics they wanted to let me go; however, I did not feel well at all. This being the second time a doctor dismissed how I felt I really had to listen to my intuition and strongly advocate for myself. No matter what the doctors said I knew that how I was feeling wasn’t right and needed some kind of medical assistance, so I asked for a uterine ultrasound, for which I was declined, and stronger pain medication as I couldn’t fathom walking out of there with the pain and shaking. Miraculously, as I was going to say goodbye to Flo before discharging, the nurse came and confirmed that the full results from the blood cultures tests had come back early confirming that I had a blood infection – therefore I wouldn’t be discharged.
Considering the ER doctors had already suspected a blood infection it was shocking to me that they were going to let me go before the cultures came back from the lab with more detail. Either way, I was relieved not to be discharged, but also, it was not possible for me to visit the NICU while I was infectious. As I lay down for my 4th night in the hospital and cried I called my best friends for support. One gave me access to meditations so I could keep my mind in a positive place and calm my worries enough to fall asleep. A Reiki master and partner for WOMOM Lexie performed energy healing for both Flo and me, going a step further by contacting two additional energy workers, Misha & Cécile to join in helping us.
This is not the first time I had an energy healer help me process trauma, Reiki had helped me in a session in combination with breathwork to process my brother Sam’s death. The team specifically helped Flo with energy work to adjust to eating after extubation and to bond easily with me. For myself, I asked for help with trauma healing. As our body holds memory it was incredibly hard to sleep after what had happened so far. My nervous system was shot. Every time I would meditate to relax and start drifting off I would violently convulse. I couldn’t breathe properly as a result of chest pain, neck pain, rib pain, shaking, and headaches with a mysterious cough to top it all off. I had been managing the pain with Tylenol and Ibuprofen taken every 4-6 hours until the healers stepped in to work on me. What an extraordinary feeling!
The energy workers set me on the road to recovery even before the doctors got to work. In the morning we started working to find the source of infection. An abdomen ultrasound was performed and they found a thickening of my gallbladder. A gallbladder specialist came in to explain the further scans they would be performing as well as what removing the gallbladder would entail should they need to operate. An MRI, ECHO, and HIDA scan were performed throughout the day. Because the radioisotopes in the HIDA scan exceeded the recommended amount safe for breastfeeding I was recommended to pump and dump for the next 48 hours.
You never want to start a sentence with “luckily”, but luckily I did get back into the hospital and take control at the right time because the scans showed that the infection had not affected other areas of my body. The scans showed that my gallbladder was functioning and wouldn’t have to be removed. With the right antibiotics, I would make a full recovery. After the 5th night in the hospital, the second set of blood cultures came back with endometritis. As I had no symptoms before the birth the complications only showed up at birth when the bleeding started, so they couldn’t speculate as to how I got it; however, I could be released with a 10-day course of Amoxicillin in the morning. Goodbye.
Even after the medications had ended I continued to focus on healing by following up with blood tests from the infectious disease doctor, chiropractor, and cranial sacral therapy to align my body. In this chapter, now 3 weeks out, I am so grateful to be able to take walks, pick up my 2.5-year-old again, and breastfeed fully. Healing from postpartum, a blood infection, becoming a mother of two, and breastfeeding at the same time was an intense experience that rebirthed me at the same time as my daughter Florence. When a life-changing moment presents itself we have a choice to change with it. These powerful moments, which do not come often, can last for an instant or, if we choose, can continue to process and implement changes for a complete lifestyle overhaul. While at the time the process was utterly devastating I have no regrets about choosing a spontaneous vaginal delivery nor do I hold any ill feelings towards the process. With some intuition and a bit of my demanding stubborn personality, I managed to get diagnosed. I got through it and healed with the love and support of my family, friends, doctors, nurses, and holistic specialists who helped me turn around in a record time. I am so grateful to have access to these healers, so I have shared their links with their mentioned titles for you to reach out to if you also need help or if their work resonates with you.
I hope and pray you are in good health and have a wonderful delivery and postpartum.
*This article is written personally by Liv. If you find it insightful, please copy the link & share it with friends. Sharing is caring 💞
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