They say it takes a village to raise a child.
I was already aware that I had access to a wonderful core support team in my immediate family. We have always been tight knit and I was raised with the understanding that you were always to offer help and support when needed and could expect the same from others.
I was also very fortunate to marry into a family with similar values.
I called upon this village when I was first home with Clara. I knew we needed help and with no questions asked my mother in law packed a bag and came over for a couple of days.
It wasn’t until this past weekend while laying on a bed in the emergency room when I realized that my village was so much bigger than previously thought. My immediate family is just one hut and within a few hours more huts popped up. My village was revealed.
Around supper time on Friday night my stomach started to feel off. I thought I was having some indigestion, so I took some medicine and rested on the couch. Instead of feeling some relief however as the evening wore on I felt worse. My mom who had been helping out my sister in the next province for the past three weeks had just gotten home that afternoon with my sister and nieces in tow. Everyone was eager to get to know baby Clara. Around the time I was feeling sick my mom and sister left in my car to visit an aunt who is currently going through cancer treatments. After they left I took Tylenol and something for nausea and laid down in bed for an hour, leaving Alex on baby duty.
When I woke up in a lot of pain and clammy I discovered I had a low grade fever and started feeling like I might need to go see a doctor.
Seeing on how it was after 9:30pm and I hated going to the ER (almost as much as I hated asking for help), you know I was worried. At 3.5 weeks postpartum, I was afraid I had an infection in my uterus. Thankfully, because I was still considered in my postpartum recovery period I could go to the Women and Children’s hospital when I delivered instead of waiting in the ER for who knows how many hours.
Just after 10pm I had Alex texting my mom to see when they were coming home and by 11pm we were on our way, baby in tow since I’m breastfeeding.
At the IWK I was given a room on the labour and delivery floor while I waited for blood work and an exam from the doctor. The OB working that night was also working when I was in labour and it was nice to see a familiar face. It took a while to get seen because all the ladies in labour rightfully took priority. By 3:30am my blood work was back showing a high white blood cell count and it was determined I needed a CAT scan to know what exactly was wrong. I was told they suspected appendicitis or gastroenteritis. I was hoping for the latter because I knew appendicitis meant surgery.
I was transferred to the ER and by 7am I was taken for my CAT scan. Due to the radioactive dye I was advised not to breastfeed for 48 hours. My stomach dropped. I had 2 oz of pumped milk in the fridge and another 5 in the freezer. I had just started pumping enough excess that week to store and it wasn’t 48 hours worth. Thankfully I had just fed Clara before the test.
Within a half hour I was told I had appendicitis and needed to be put on antibiotics and consult with the surgeon.
At that point Alex and mom packed up Clara to take home. I couldn’t feed her anymore and they had both been up 24 hours at that point. The tears started to flow as my mind raced. I didn’t want to be away from my baby and how was she going to eat while I was in hospital being pumped full of drugs? I know if push came to shove she could have taken formula but I didn’t know how it would affect her digestive system or if it would affect our breastfeeding relationship post recovery. Things had just gotten so good with feeding I didn’t want it ruined already.
I wrote a Facebook status about being in the ER and one of the managers at work reached out and encouraged me to pump my milk and look for donor milk to do us until I could feed Clara again.
Being someone who rarely asks for help, I hesitated for a moment before posting to a local breastfeeding support group asking for donor milk. Within minutes I has offers from a coworker and another friend who are still nursing to help with pumped milk and the offer to nurse if she won’t take a bottle. I burst into tears, so touched from the love of these mothers. Of course that was the moment a nurse entered my room and asked if I was ok. I blubbered out my explaination and she was touched.
Within an hour my village grew in number as I had offer after offer of frozen milk and mom friends in the city offered to pump some milk for me. Between interruptions from medical staff, my phone being plugged in and only being able to use one hand due to the iv in my other arm it was hard to keep up with the offered and figure out how to coordinate pickup of the milk.
My awesome friend from work offered to not only pickup donated milk but to coordinate the offers coming in for me. The iv pain medication + being up for more than a day (except for a couple of short nap so) + being sick was taking its toll and I was drained. Trusting fully in my friends abilities, I let my sister (who was taking over baby duty) know what was happening and that donor milk was coming.
I can’t describe the feeling of despair in my heart while lying in the ER, helpless to take care of my baby girl. The love and gratitude felt each time a new hut popped up in my village as each offer of help buzzed through my Facebook feed was incredible. Some moms I knew personally and others were strangers but they all came together to nourish my baby and lift my spirits. Once I knew Clara was taken care of it was easier to let go and rest until it was time for surgery.
I learned that because I had a newborn at homecoming, was generally in good health and had a previous successful laparoscopic surgery if all went well I could go home that day!
By 12:50pm I was wheeled to the OR and just after 4pm my mom was picking me up. What a whirlwind.
My fridge and freezer were full of donated milk and my heart was bursting with love.
I am currently 3 days post surgery and while I am impatient to recover and get back to normal I know I have to take it easy. Thankfully I have an easy baby no lots of help at home.
I also have an incredible village of family and friends and for that I am truly grateful.