This next part is where I get a little upset. It bothers me more than the cattle-prodding, more than the invasive checks, more than the vomit-pushing, more than the subsequent exhaustion and all the pain combined.
A nurse took our baby from my husband “for observation” in the nursery. My baby was born completely healthy (thank goodness!) and had already been given a preliminary examination which determined she was A-O.K. (Whew!), so there was no medical necessity for the separation.
My husband tried to intervene and asked, “How long will she be gone?” He even tried to take her back from the nurse, but she held the baby away from him and said something to the effect of, “We’ll give her right back. We promise.” The nurse (not the labor nurse, who was awesome) made an obnoxious little giggle at her own joke. I think at this point I may have protested some, but I can’t really remember because of all the drugs and pain, aching desire to slip into a coma, and the general feeling that my husband was taking care of the situation.
Before I knew what was happening, my daughter was whisked away “for observation” for an unspecified amount of time. At the time, everyone attending us made it seem like she’d be gone for, at most, 20-30 minutes… Like she would be taken to the nursery, given a quick once-over, and then handed right back. I think this is another reason why we didn’t fight any harder than we did to keep her from being taken. It didn’t help matters that we were both dead tired. Well, I was dead tired and in quite a bit of pain. My husband, who got to nap intermittently throughout the day and night, got to eat whatever he wanted, whenever, and experienced everything in all its comfortably distant, third-party, painless glory, was also “tired.” I think, though, that his “tired” was the sort of tired you might feel after pulling a semi-all-nighter at an exciting slumber party, whereas my “exhausted, ravenously hungry, and in incomparable pain, not to mention, possibly traumatized” “tired” was more like what you’d feel after… well, after laboring for 24 hours and pushing a baby out your grumpelstiltsken.
I remember saying, though, that from the moment the nurse had her in her arms to take her away, over and over again, “Please bring me my daughter.” I didn’t care if she was covered in vernix and goo. I couldn’t have cared less if they never gave her a bath. All I wanted to do was establish breastfeeding with her after my stitches were done and I could finally get off my back. I remember their vague and ultimately meaningless promise, “We’ll give her right back.” And then she was gone, taken I-don’t-know-where to be with I-don’t-know-who and done I-don’t-know-what to.
This is what ended up happening immediately after my baby was taken away and my perineum was finally stitched up: my OB disappeared, and a big burly man came in the room and put some panties on me. They were disposable fishnet panties. This wasn’t nearly as sexy as you might imagine. He placed a special cold-pack style pad in it to put between my legs to help stop the bleeding (I didn’t even know these existed before, but wow, what a great invention!). Then he gingerly dressed me in a hospital gown and placed my sore, iced ass in a wheelchair. Did I care that this strange man saw me not only naked but at my very worst? Not really. I figured it’s his job, so he probably sees a lot of bloody, loopy, fat, smelly post-partum women with stringy hair. I was just grateful he had a soft touch, despite his brawny appearance. Also: drugs. I still had a bunch of them in my system, what with my liver not working right, and they made things like modesty and social mores go right out the window. He wheeled me out of the birthing suite and into a room on the other side of the floor. What’s strange about this part is that the hospital I birthed in prides itself on having only “all-in-one” birthing suites, so I never imagined I’d be taken to another room after the birth. What’s it like in other hospitals, then? You get moved twice? Three times? More?
The dressing and transport only took about 10-15 minutes, tops. In that time they could have done an examination on my daughter, washed her up, whatever. When I arrived at my room, the big burly man helped me to get (painfully) settled in the hospital bed, and I immediately called up the nurse’s station so they’d bring me my daughter. I think they said they’d be by.
I waited and dozed off a little thinking she’d be wheeled in any minute. I still had a lot of Nubain in my system and I was utterly dead, dead, dead tired. But the anxiety of not having my daughter in the room with us kept jolting me awake. I’d spent her whole life with her living inside me, she’d been with me always, and now, after waiting for so long to finally meet her face-to-face, she was wrenched from my presence and taken to a room down a long corridor far from me when I was at my most vulnerable… It was a hollow, sickening, helpless feeling.
Whenever I’d come-to and I remembered where I was and what the situation was, I’d call the nurse’s station and ask for my daughter. I must have called them at least five times. I sent my husband there a couple of times, though he was reluctant. The hospital staff and hospital vibe made him feel uneasy. I have to admit, it’s a pretty clever operation they have at many modern hospitals, where they intimidate parents into feeling like they don’t have the right to be with their own children, or feed them the way they wish, or even to see them. I won’t use the word “kidnapping” to describe this practice, but it sure comes uncomfortably close.
Even though my hip bones felt like they’d all come painfully unglued and I was bleeding like only the postpartum can, I almost hobbled out of bed to go get her out of the nursery myself. Just as I was about to get out of bed, though, a nurse finally wheeled her in, wrapped up like a burrito and asleep in her bassinet. She was sleeping so soundly I wondered if they’d fed her, which I’d been COMPLETELY INSISTENT they NOT do. I told every single person I came across in that hospital that I was breastfeeding my baby, and was very explicit about NOT giving her anything by mouth: not formula, not water, not even a pacifier. I said this before and after she was born.
To this day, I still don’t know if those wishes were carried out.
It took the nurses over four hours to bring me my daughter. She’s a year old today (Happy Birthday, Baby Bear!), and I have yet to be separated from her for that long again.