Baby Lilly passed her 7 month birthday last week. I never could have imagined that I would still be dealing with the complications of her delivery seven months after she was born, and yet here I sit in bed one day after surgery.
The simplified explanation for my continued post-delivery complications is that Baby Lilly’s placenta got stuck in my uterus. Despite an emergency D&C after delivery, the placenta stubbornly remained in place. It turns out that I had developed a severe case of “placenta accreta,” which is basically when the placenta grows too deeply into the uterine wall and doesn’t detach. I was told by my OB-GYN that if they had known that I had this prior to delivery, they would have insisted on a c-section and that she likely would have had to take my uterus out at that time.
In the days after delivery, I’ll be honest that I had several moments when I wished they had taken my uterus. I was in the worst pain of my entire life. I don’t remember most of the days following Lilly’s birth. All I remember is my doctor telling me that I should never become pregnant again, and laughing hysterically at that because I could not imagine ever putting myself through such misery again.
Along with a torn and stuck placenta hanging out in my body, my recovery was also impeded by anemia. I lost a lot of blood during the D&C after delivery; so much that I required a blood transfusion the next day. They put me on iron supplements in the hopes that I would rebound quickly, but I didn’t seem to respond to them. For weeks, I suffered from daily episodes of shooting aches and pains. These were so bad that I would be unable to even get from the couch to our bed without assistance. Sleeping was the only thing that made the pain go away. It basically felt like the worst flu of my entire life, with elevated temperatures and debilitating and shooting pain, but without nausea, vomiting, or a cough.
My symptoms of anemia were not normal. In fact, they were so strange that my doctor thought I was fighting an infection from the D&C or the placenta accreta. It was only after weeks of this pain, and multiple rounds of antibiotics to fight this invisible infection, along with stubbornly low hemoglobin levels, that she recommended that I see a hematologist for potential anemia. The hematologist gave me an IV drip of iron that same day and I am not kidding you when I say that I felt better within hours. I went back two more times for more IV iron and haven’t felt the anemia symptoms since then.
But still, the placenta remained stuck. In the weeks after delivery, I was given three methotrexate injections to help kill off the placental cells. It took weeks for the placenta to die, but eventually it did. I had passed some placental tissue on my own in the weeks after delivery, but subsequent ultrasounds showed a good portion still hanging out in my uterus. So the decision was eventually made (months after delivery) to set up a hysteroscopy surgery to clear out the remaining dead placenta from my body.
I reported for the surgery at 9AM on Monday. My surgeon and I had talked about the plan for months, but because very little could be determined from an ultrasound, he told me that it was difficult to set expectations for what they would find and therefore what my recovery would look like. We decided together that I should not carry a pregnancy again and so he tailored his level of aggressiveness with my uterus accordingly. As I was sedated, I was told that surgery should last no more than 90 minutes.
I awoke in terrible pain. When I looked at the clock and saw that over two and a half hours had passed since I went under, I realized that things must have been worse than expected. When my husband came in and the surgeon came in, that was indeed confirmed. It turns out that they couldn’t even get into the uterus without cutting through severe scar tissue. The work of getting all of the gunk out that shouldn’t be in there took longer than expected. This explained why I felt as bad as I did. I also was surprised by the nausea that accompanied the pain. After about an hour of observation (and of course the great fun of having a nurse watch me pee to make sure I could do it independently), I was wheeled out of the hospital. The fact that I agreed to a wheelchair goes to show how poorly I was feeling as I didn’t even allow myself to be wheeled out post-delivery when we went home with Lilly!
I collapsed in bed for the rest of the day and after hobbling to the nursery to see my girls for a few minutes, I promptly fell into bed again at 6PM. This morning I awoke after sleeping 12 hours and I’m so happy to report that I feel great! I am hopeful that spending the day relaxing in bed (with some breaks to play with the babies of course!) will be just what I need and that I can return to work tomorrow. I will have to go back in to see the surgeon in a week for a check. He also had to put a balloon in my uterus to help the recovery and that will need to be removed at that appointment.
I definitely did not mentally prepare myself for surgery this week to be so serious and so painful. I honestly felt just as bad yesterday as I did in the days post-delivery. As I did then, I have to give credit to Mr. Starfish, who swept in to care for me so gently and patiently. As luck would have it, our nanny had to leave early the day of surgery so Mr. Starfish was tasked with caring for both the girls and me, and he did it without a hint of stress or frustration.
While we are still on the fence about if we want to try for another baby someday (we still have several frozen embryos), it is clear that I will be unable to carry again. It’s a very good thing we know how the whole surrogacy thing works!