Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Spinal Tap

Yesterday, I gushed about Girl-child’s birth. (And last night, there was much flaming of food at the Japanese Steakhouse, and too much cake afterwards. Heavenly Yum.)

In my post, I mentioned that the epidural they gave me was in “the wrong place”.

The lovely Orange asked me in comments, “did you get the spinal headache the next day like I did? The Mother of All Headaches?”

Why yes.

Yes I did.

Egan, honey, ya might want to look away for a while, because I’m digging specifics about that today, and really, it’s just another thing an expectant father need not worry about. (Only 1 in 100 have this happen, according to Wikipedia, so chances are your wife will be FINE.)

Seven years ago….

After the epidural was inserted, and after the morphine had worn off, while in the middle of contractions and pushing and the nurses all being their sweet nurse-y selves with their strongly encouraging words, I started noticing that I was feeling a LOT more pain than with my son. LOTS more. I asked the doctor and the nurses, “Are you SURE I have an epidural? ‘Cause I can feel everything.’

They assured me, Oh, yes, of course, everything is fine.

Oh. No. It wasn’t.

But, as this was my first non-induced delivery, what did I know?

Well, I can tell you, when the OB announced he’d have to make a little ‘snip’ to help Girl-child come out, and the snip came, I felt THAT.

And when Girl-child was pulling all her limbs through that opening, I felt THAT.

And when the OB stitched me up, oh gawd, I felt THAT.


It wasn’t so bad, really, I mean, it’s CHILDBIRTH. If it was easy, they wouldn’t call it “labor”, now, would they?

I was fine immediately afterwards, elated and tired and so in love.

Everything was fine until later that day.
When I tried to sit up to feed my baby.
I thought my head had exploded.

Check that.

I thought someone had snuck up behind me and hit me with a steel bar. Repeatedly. As if to kill.

It was, as Orange said, The Mother of All Headaches.

I’d had migraines before, and I know what that pain felt like. But jeebus on a popsicle stick, this was like nothing I’ve ever felt…or felt since. I couldn’t string two words together in a sentence, the pain was so terrific. I tried to sit up, but it felt like Andre the Giant slapped me down again with his big ol’ paws, and then a bear came and chomped on my cabeza.

I called the nurse’s station to ask if someone could come check me out. They then lost that smiling nurse-y demeanor I’d seen just hours earlier when they told me how brave I was and to just PUSH. They suddenly became these uncaring monsters. “Oh it’s probably just the pain medicine wearing off.”

“But you don’t understand, I Can’t. Sit. Up. To feed my child.”

“Well you HAVE to feed your child. Just sit up.”

They finally decided to check on me when I couldn’t stop bawling.

“Well,” one nurse said, “something could have happened with the epidural. But it probably didn’t. You’re probably just tired is all. But…if you insist…I’ll send a doctor in to check on you.”

The most helpless feeling in the world is knowing your baby needs to eat, and you physically can’t move to feed her, and both of you are crying your eyes out.

After what seemed like forever, a doctor came up, examined my spine, and said, “OH! You’re leaking spinal fluid! The epidural needle must have gone through the space and punctured the dura. Your brain. Is losing is cushion of fluid. THAT’S why you have a headache.”

I could have kissed the man. Had I been able to sit up.

“We can do a procedure to clot the hole. We’ll take some blood from your arm, and inject it back into the epidural hole, and once it clots, the fluid will replenish, and you’ll be fine.”

After a quick phone call to Sergei to update him, I signed the consent form. The nurses watched my baby while they took me down several flights to a procedure room. Four of them had to help me sit up, with my head hanging down, and held me so I wouldn’t fall over. I swore a lot. I know one or all of them was secretly hitting me in the head with cement blocks. Had to be.

One of the nurses drew some blood, and then I could feel the needle go into the hole in my back (they didn’t numb it and I really didn’t care). 30 seconds later, I felt like I could conquer the world. The leak stopped. My brain had a pillow.

They wheeled me back to my room, brought in my baby, and I fed her for a good, long while.

The nurses all seemed to be in denial about the whole thing.
I never even got so much as a ‘sorry’.

Two days later, at home with my newborn, the clot in my spine dissolved, and The Mother of All Headaches appeared at my door, with a bucket of nasty in one hand and a boxing glove in the other. I had to call my mom to come up and help me, as Sergei had to work, and I couldn’t do anything for either baby Girl-child or 3-year old Boy-child. That time, I called the doctor, who said, “Just deal with it, we won’t do another blood clot in your spine…you’ll live.”

I did live.

But holy gravy.

I’ll remember that headache For. EVER.


At 1:55 PM, Blogger Maggie said...

God the bedside manner of the nurses and the doctor you called two days later could really use some work! After an experience like that I would never set foot near a hospital.

At 5:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is the kind of story that sent me to a midwife when I was pregnant.

How awful.

At 5:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hospitals are scary places. Why is it when you say, "Something is wrong" they don't check to see if something is wrong? Do you think it's because there are a bunch of whiners who are patients in hospitals and consequently nurses and doctors don't take anyone seriously anymore? What's up?

On the upside, no headache will probably ever feel as bad as THAT headache.

At 9:38 PM, Blogger meno said...

Those fucking bitches/bastards.

It's never serious if it requires them to actually DO something.

I am pissed.

At 11:01 PM, Blogger Teri said...

Just for Egan... I had an epidural with kid number one - and no spinal fluid leakage....

I.can' the natural childbirth thing. I'm a wuss. But I made it through the other two with only IV drugs, no more evil needles in the spine (man, as I recall, the needle in the spine hurt like a mutha!). My epidural was lobsided... it only worked on my left side. No movedment / feeling in left leg, full movement/feeling in right leg. It did make the god awful back labor go away, though...

childbirth is not for the weak....

At 12:51 AM, Anonymous Anonymous, too said...

The queasy should leave the room now. I'm male. I thought I'd been through some exteme pain. Broken bone, second-degree burns, laceration nearly down to the bone, rubbing alcohol in the eye, muscle spasm that felt as if someone had shoved an iron bar up my ass until it came out the top of my head -- done all that.

After reading your account, Mona, I can honestly say that I don't think I've been through REALLY severe pain. My hat is off to all the women who've been through this.


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