The One With the Infection

by Alison Friedman in Mommy's Musings, Stupid Infection

Love is infectious. Trust me, I know.

Recap: So, on August 9th, I was induced, had a last minute c-section, got pampered in the hospital for four nights, went home on August 13th, and the rest is history, yada yada. We all thought the worst part was over. Giving birth — whether it’s from the hoo-ha or with surgical intervention — is never easy or glamorous, but hey, you get a baby as your prize and it’s all worth the cost of admission, right? Well, of course right, but apparently whatever-I-believe-in decided I wasn’t finished paying.

The day after we got home from the hospital, a Sunday, I’d been feeling sore, but it was all the usual c-section recovery soreness and was nothing to blink about. But that evening, I broke out into a fever with the whole shebang: chills, sweats, aches. How could I be so lucky to come down with the flu — in August! — just after having a baby?

Well, it wasn’t the flu. Apparently, it was some gnarly bacteria brewing in me and causing a haywire infection at my incision site. But I didn’t know this yet. Instead, I followed the directions of the hospital discharge papers, called the on-call doctor (not Dr. Fiiiine or anyone affiliated with her practice) who told me “Feh! You’re not my patient. I don’t give a hoot about you. Go to the ER if your temp reaches 101.” Okay, so he didn’t really say that, but it’s basically what Dr. Shlub said because he’s a dinosaur who was annoyed to be on-call after hours and probably shouldn’t be practicing anymore (Oh, hello, hormones and Bitter-Betty feelings! How did you make your way into my blog post?). Dr. Shlub is also the same doctor who discharged me from the hospital and never even looked at my incision site after I told him it was suddenly feeling like OMG FIERY DEATH after three days of no discomfort. Yes, Dr. Shlub he is.

So, since my fever never reached 101 and I am an obedient patient, I never went to the ER. Sunday night passed. Monday came and went. Tuesday morning, I spoke to Dr. Fiiine to let her know that the 2838947298734 Vicodins I was taking a day were really blocking no pain and, oh yeah, I’ve had some fevers, and spoke to Dr. Shlub two days earlier who said, “Until you’re actually already dead, don’t bother me,” and so, ya know, what should we do? And before I could finish my question, Dr. Fiiiine ordered me in that afternoon for a check up, so back on the butcher paper I went for a look-see.

Eyebrows raised, lots of “Hmmmm”s, and aggressive touching left Dr. Fiiine with a diagnosis of cellulitis, a skin infection at my c-section incision. But wait! There’s more! It was the worst infection she’d ever seen in all her years of practicing medicine and only the second she’s had to treat in her eight years of private practice. I’m honored to be the recipient of such an award, but hold your applause, please. We wouldn’t want such esteem to go to my head.

My real prize was two week’s worth of antibiotics, instructions to put a warm, moist compress on the incision for fifteen minutes every four hours, and a return visit on Friday for a check up. She mentioned something about “drain” and “pack,” but followed it with “let’s hope I don’t have to do it and it just clears up on its own.” So I decided to only hear that part.

Sidenote: During the pique of this infection, my body decided it would also be impeccable timing to become engorged in the breasts. This made nursing, on a scale from sucky (no pun intended) to omgkillmenow, MISERABLE, so we were dealing with a boob treatment to help with the engorgement every three hours on top of the hot compress for the infection and my in-house pharmacy of pills I had to take. My mom and Bryan were running a makeshift clinic that would put Johns Hopkins to shame.

A little over 48 hours had passed since my Tuesday morning’s diagnosis and starting the antibiotics and we saw little change. The hot compresses seemed strange because as far as we knew, heat and moisture only creates a more bacteria-happy environment so we doubted its effectiveness in the treatment of my infection. But, joke’s on us, because as I got up out of bed on Thursday evening to go take care of bidness, I started to spring a leak from the incision site and it did not look or smell very good. I’ll spare readers the comparisons and refrain from using some gnarly adjectives, but because it didn’t look healthy, I called my doctor who said it was all a good thing! What? Yes! The heat enticed the infection to the surface and now it was looking for a way out, making it easy to pinpoint where that mofo was festering.

Friday morning, we went in and the “drain” and “pack” words that Dr. Fiiiine had muttered became a reality. Since the heat opened up the incision where I had my own version of Old Faithful the night before, the wound was now open and Dr. Fiiiine tugged and yanked to encourage more drainage. Some hydrogen peroxide not only cleaned the area and deep inside the wound, but also created a volcano that mimicked a first place project at the school science fair. If you think I was still and quiet during Part I of this lovely morning, you would be wrong.

Then we moved onto the packing portion of the fun. Spooled, medicated gauze that literally looks like fettucini was packed into every nook and cranny of my wound using a long Q-tip swab. Shoving and poking the raw skin and lower layers of a surgically-created opening on my body located near no-man’s land (sorry, Bryan) feels REALLY GOOD! LIKE A SPA MASSAGE! WITH LAVENDER OIL!!!!! On Opposite Day.

Waaaaaah!!! I’m sure my screams could be heard worldwide. My poor mom’s hand, forever engrained with my finger nail impressions. And poor Bryan’s eyes, forever blinded by the sight of my insides and face muscles that flexed into unrecognizable figures. This was NO. FUN.

So, imagine my excitement when Dr. Fiiine mentioned I would get to continue this treatment! Every day! Twice a day! For probably over a month!

And that’s where we are. Twenty seven days after Madelyn’s birth and I’m mid-treatment for a rare and nasty infection. I’m glad to say it’s getting better. The infection itself is gone and now my wound is healing. It’s getting smaller and looking healthier. Dr. Fiiiine and the very nice nurse that comes to my house to pack the wound are all happy with the progress. Each packing session is still painful and I don’t look forward to my mornings and evenings when the procedure takes place, but I know it’s only temporary, even if temporary is under two months.

The worst part of this has not been the pain of the infection or the dread of the treatment, but my stalled bonding with Madelyn. I was not able to hold her or help around the house during our first week-and-a-half home. I never thought I’d long for changing a diaper, but as I laid in bed, unable to get in a comfortable position, hear her cries, and the laughing chatter of our visiting company downstairs, I felt like I was missing out on my experience with our newborn. Thankfully, Bryan is an amazing Daddy and took care of her pretty much all by himself. I was (and still am) very angry that I was cheated out of my happy time at home with my daughter and went to a low and dark place I wasn’t sure my mind knew how to navigate. But it did. Because even though I’m now a mom, I’m still a human. I was mad that I was not strong and invincible like my perception of mothers denotes.

I’m in a better place now, though. With the infection cleared and my increased mobility around the house, I’m changing diapers, and I’m participating in feedings, and I’m cuddling with my little M whenever I can. I’m still not as quick to get up and my swaddling skills leave little to be desired, but finally finally finally, I feel like the mom I wanted to be and know that from now on I will continue to be infected. Infected with lots of love for Madelyn and deep appreciation for Bryan.

  1. Grandma Ellen
    9/6/2011 3:22 PM

    So glad that the worst is behind you. I’m so proud of how you guys handled all of this (howls from upstairs aside….I’d have probably been louder). My little Madelyn is a lucky girl.

  2. Carol Becker
    9/5/2011 10:40 PM

    So sorry to hear all of this. I think you are the only one I’ve heard of that makes my story pale. My on call doctor gave me double pitossun, probably to get home fast. Then wham bang I went from a one to a nine and had the baby without even pushing. I was up and walking around immediately. Each day I got worse until I could barely walk. He had left a sponge in me and I had a huge infection. I could have gotten Toxis Shock. Let’s not hear in for on call doctors.

    So happy for you and the lucky baby. Brian raves about her.

    Carol Becker

  3. Mom/ Sharon/Mimi
    9/5/2011 7:14 PM

    Dear Sweet Madelyn,
    I hope you like the way your mommy draws people. Her style hasn’t changed since she was a little girl. She always (and obviously still does) drew herself like this. I always called it the “girl with the curly hair” drawing. I can’t wait to see if your hair is curly and to draw pictures with you!

  4. 9/5/2011 5:36 PM

    You are SUCH a riot! You must write a book because only YOU could make a gnarly infection like that sound FUNNY! I love your sense of humor, your real, accessible emotions, and the way you share it ALL! I really had the image of the infection oozing – thanks so much for that!

    So glad you and Madelyn are doing great, and happy that Bryan is such a major mensch! Can’t wait to catch up with you!!!
    Lots of love!

  5. Mom/ Sharon/Mimi
    9/5/2011 5:25 PM

    You could not have explained that ugly mess any better. You have been a real trooper through this entire unfortunate set-back in addition to being brave, strong and determined!! You beat the infection and the wound is healing and getting better everyday because of your attitude & sense of humor. Now that you are a mother yourself, you can understand why I haven’t even felt your finger nails digging into my hand during this soon-to-be-a-distant-memory story . It all ends with your last sentence–that’s perfect & needs no treatment. Much love!