Daily Life · Motherhood

A Perfect Storm 

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Boy is that a dramatic title. I thought it sounded better than “That Time I Went To The Emergency Department And Some Of The Doctors Were Unhelpful”. If you’re squeamish you probably should stop reading because I talk about body parts that are covered by bikinis. I’ve had three babies. Not much embarrasses me anymore. At least not enough to prevent me from sharing on the Internet. I guess it helps that hardly anyone reads this, right?!
So anyway. About three weeks after I gave birth I noticed that I had a prolapse of some kind, which I assumed was my uterus. A prolapse happens when things get stretched or weakened or broken during pregnancy or childbirth (and at other times but these are very common) and the uterus can start to sag and fall into the vagina instead of hanging out in your pelvis where it belongs. I noticed it because I don’t normally have things hanging around in that particular area. I had a little bit of trouble emptying my bladder – same as when I was pregnant, sometimes I’d feel the urge to go but nothing would happen when I went to the bathroom. I didn’t have any stinging or pain so I assumed it was due to the prolapse interfering with my bladder and squishing it a bit, instead of a urinary tract infection. I’ve had those before and it feels different.

I mentioned it to my doctor at my 6 week check and he gave me a referral for a pelvic ultrasound. It still wasn’t causing me any pain so I booked the scan for the end of the week and went about my business. Then I started getting a lot more pain in my pelvis – all the joints are quite loose and “clicky” still, and I also have a gap down the middle of the pubic bone that I can feel. And lots of lower back and hip pain, which is just from pregnancy hormones loosening everything up and childbirth and so on. And then my bladder started feeling really full but not emptying after I used the toilet (on the occasions that I was actually able to do anything). I also got a head cold with a sore throat and snotty cough, which was gross enough on its own, but the coughing seemed to make all the pelvic pain worse. I checked the prolapse again and it was further down than before. So I assumed the coughing was making the prolapse worse, which made bladder function worse, and possibly gave me an infection. It was starting to hurt when I coughed or blew my nose or laughed or sat down or stood up or rolled over in bed. It felt like my bladder was absolutely bursting and then someone punched it. To make everything worse, both the toddlers had the same cold virus and I was up a few times a night blowing noses and rubbing on Vicks and giving them bottles of milk at 6am to convince them to go back to sleep. And my husband had a whole bunch of tests to study for this week and the next, so he couldn’t help look after them much.

So on Tuesday morning, after I couldn’t stand up straight and walking was ridiculously painful, I called the free nurse helpline and told them my symptoms – I love that helpline because I’m so indecisive about going to see a doctor or not – and she said that because my abdomen was swollen my bladder probably was very full, instead of just feeling full the way it does with UTI’s. She recommended I go to the emergency department in the next hour.

I told my husband, who was getting ready to leave for uni as he had a test that morning. Worth 25% of his mark. Of course. So he rang his mum to come look after the older boys while we went down to the hospital with Seb. I really did not feel like going out with a raging sinus headache and a hacking cough that made me sound like a 30-a-day smoker but I also didn’t want my bladder to burst. So we went.

They’ve been doing renovations at the hospital, of course. And the entrance with the big red sign saying “EMERGENCY”? That’s for the private hospital. The entrance right next to it? That’s for the pediatrics unit. The entrance right next to that? That’s just a hospital entrance that leads to the Emergency Planning Unit, which is not the emergency department. No, the emergency department is around the corner and down a tunnel and past a weird mural of what looks like bacteria cells under a microscope. (Note: there was no big sign saying Emergency Department anywhere).

Once we actually found it, a bored-looking male nurse, leaning back in his chair with one foot crossed over his knee, asked how we were doin’ today. Apparently it was a slow day in emergency. I tried to be charitable and told myself he had probably been up all night yelling out “Blood pressure’s falling!!” while wheeling patients on gurneys with bullet wounds and stuff. So I told him my symptoms and he’s like “What do you mean by prolapse….” and I’m like Idk Todd, I’m not the one who went through seven years of medical school. 

But I didn’t say it out loud because I’m trying to do this thing where I pretend I’m nicer than I really am.

So Todd (I don’t actually know his name, that just seems appropriate) sent me down to another nurse at reception, who basically asked me the same questions and had to update all this stuff on my file because even though I’ve had three babies at the same hospital they still get my name wrong and stuff. And then she sent me to the green chair section of the waiting room, way at the other end, which kind of made me stress out a bit because everyone else was in the blue or red chair section so they were prioritised. A couple old people gave me the stink eye as I walked past. (If you’ve got something to say, Vera, come right out and say it! I’ve got just as much right to be here as you do! My bladder is going to explode!) 

And then I ended up being the next person they called, because apparently the green chair section is the closest to the actual emergency department. (Suck it, Vera! Although I didn’t actually say that either bc of the whole I’m a nice person thing). So this tall male nurse (who I’m going to call Tall Male Nurse) took me to a teeny tiny room and took my blood pressure and things and then went and did other stuff for a bit while I waited, and then a doctor (Useless Male Doctor) showed up, and I explained my symptoms again, and he said hmm this might be something the Gynaecology Department should look after, and he went away for a bit, and then Tall Male Nurse came back to do a bladder scan. But he couldn’t find my bladder, and I’m like well I’m pretty sure I have one. I’m also pretty sure he couldn’t find it because he was just scanning my abdomen and wasn’t putting the probe down far enough. It seemed like he thought it was impolite to try moving my jeans, while I’m just thinking yes you will probably have to see my underwear and maybe even part of my pubic bone okay just stop being squeamish, I’ve had three children and nothing embarrasses me. 

Except I was too embarrassed to tell them I was constipated when they asked because I just couldn’t cope with discussing any more of my waste disposal systems with a bunch of guys. It was bad enough that I had to talk about my vagina with six different people. Especially somewhere like the emergency department where you’re surrounded by other people. I have some dignity! (But apparently not enough to stop me publishing this online eh).

Anyway, then they moved me to another room to do a proper ultrasound on my bladder, with another doctor, also male, because I needed to talk about all of this to another guy. This one seemed quite competent and quite nice and okay-looking and American, although I have a sneaking suspicion that he could have been Canadian because I used to know this Canadian guy who sounded like him, so he’s Okay American Doctor (Although I Have A Sneaking Suspicion That He Could Have Been Canadian Because I Used To Know This Canadian Guy Who Sounded Like Him). He seemed less exhausted than the rest of them and more personable and I was all yay I got a nice, funny doctor who asked about my baby and remembered his name and stuff. So they did an ultrasound and this doctor wasn’t afraid of actually moving my clothes so he could actually find my bladder – I love nurses and think they’re just as important as doctors, but it seems to me like they often lack the confidence to do certain procedures because they seem to think they’re just a nurse and doctors can do it better. I’ve noticed that with midwives who called in a doctor because they weren’t confident about breaking my waters and so on. And I’m all “Nurses are awesome and you should have more confidence in your own abilities even if you get paid half as much as the doctors and you just own it, okay.” Also sometimes it seems like people have less respect for nurses because it’s traditionally a female role and isn’t like a doctor’s job which is a REAL job…..which is also a traditionally male role. And if you get a male nurse people think they’re girly. Does anyone else notice that?

ANYWAY. Mid-week sexism food-for-thought over.

So Okay American Doctor said I had a small bladder, which is why Tall Male Nurse couldn’t find it, and there was only 38ml of urine in there, which wasn’t much according to him. (Meaning it wasn’t actually full, it just felt like it.) Useless Male Doctor just stood there and watched, either because he was incapable of doing anything on his own, or because Okay American Doctor (who was his boss) was a micromanager who had to do everything himself. Okay American Doctor said it’s something the Gynaecology Department should look into, but that could mean a lot of waiting, and he didn’t think it was a good idea to hang out in the waiting room for ages with Sebastian because there’s obviously a lot of sick people there.

So they moved me somewhere else and a real hipster male nurse said they needed a urine sample from me. And I was like right you want a urine sample from the person who’s having trouble doing wees. He was also really tall with a hipster haircut and hipster glasses and a hipster reusable coffee mug and a hipster walk. And he was quite good-looking. And I’m just like really? Really? The good-looking nurse is the one who wants my pee? And I know it’s stupid but there was just this part of me that realised I was just a sick, snotty married mother of three with a dysfunctional vagina and nobody in the hospital was going to care if I was pretty or not, and then I was like WELL NOBODY IS EVER GOING TO FIND YOU ATTRACTIVE ANYWAY except maybe my husband if we ever find the energy and time (and my uterus goes back where it belongs) to actually have sex again and while I would like to say it’s only his opinion that matters, nobody wants to believe that their partner is the only person in the world who finds them attractive.

So. I couldn’t pee so Hipster Nurse didn’t get a urine sample.

Someone called the gynaecology department and they said they were busy and could someone from Emergency (who obviously wouldn’t be busy) and not an expert in Gyno problems please take a look instead. So they moved me to an examination room where I waited for like 15 minutes with half my clothes off, wondering whose idea it was to build exam rooms in the emergency department with frosted glass walls. I mean sure they were frosted, but I could see the outline of everyone who walked past, because it looked out onto a passageway. A couple of policemen walked past in hi-vis vests, probably waiting for their partner to come out of a coma so they could swear revenge against a deranged serial killer terrorising downtown Bridgewater. (I don’t actually know much about emergency departments, okay. I learned it all from tv shows.)

Anyway. That’s the room I was in for an internal exam. Okay American Doctor had a look while Useless Male Doctor and Pretty Med Student Girl stood on the other side of the room. They all left and told me to get dressed and I waited for I don’t know how long. My husband brought Sebastian in because he was hungry so I fed him sitting on the hospital bed. Useless Male Doctor came in and said because the ultrasound only showed a small amount of urine left in the bladder, it was probably draining properly, but because if there was any left in there I could get an infection so he gave me some antibiotics. I’m just sitting there thinking “well if it’s draining properly why do I need antibiotics?” and nobody actually told me what was wrong or told me the results of the internal exam or anything. I didn’t even see Okay American Doctor again. Useless Make Doctor also seemed really embarrassed that I was breastfeeding because he stared at the floor the whole time and didn’t make eye contact. Maybe he was trying to be polite. I don’t know. I’d much rather he just treated me like a normal person. I mean he’s a doctor who works in emergency. Surely he’s seen everything?? Although now that I think about it, if someone is uncomfortable seeing a woman breastfeeding, I would much rather they looked away than insisted I cover up for their benefit.

Anyway, he gave me a copy of the referral they sent to the Gynaecology Department and said if they didn’t contact me in the next few weeks it meant they’ve forgotten about me so I should call them. I also read through the notes on the referral and apparently they didn’t find any prolapse and the cervix was completely normal and so on. Although I didn’t understand anything until I Googled how to decipher doctor’s notes. Anyway I was really angry that nobody actually bothered to *tell me* this and also really angry that they thought I didn’t have a prolapse because that was SUCH BULLSHIT and I was 500% certain that I had one, and then I started to doubt myself and felt like an idiot for self diagnosing and being one of those people who think they know better than doctors and got really embarrassed that I had brought it up at all because I just should have let them diagnose it themselves….

And then he said I still had to give a urine sample, and then he left, so I got Seb packed up into his pram and left the room, and then waited for a while, and then the doctor came back and asked what we were waiting for and I said I still had to give a urine sample and he was like “oh of course” and then he left and I never saw him again. So we stood around waiting for a bit until Hipster Nurse walked past and asked what we were waiting for and I said I still had to give a urine sample and he’s like “oh of course” and then he left BUT he actually came back with one of those sample jars and I headed to the toilet but the cleaning lady cut in front of me because the cleaning ladies at that hospital are the worst (second only to the food delivery ladies) and I was like Marge you old hag! and she just pretended she didn’t hear me, probably because I didn’t say it out loud, although I did say “Oh you’re taking that bathroom? Okay then,” because by that point I was actually mad enough to be snarky on an audible level. So I went to the other toilet and did my thing and then stood around for like ten minutes waiting for Hipster Nurse to come back and take a plastic container of my pee while all the other staff ignored me and Seb wailed in his pram. I was *this* close to tossing the sample in the bin and walking out of there because I was so over it.  I sat down and my husband picked the baby up, so Hipster Nurse immediately showed up because that’s how these things go. And then we buckled the baby back in and went home with me still on a ridiculous amount of pain, feeling like I was getting kicked in the privates every time we went over a speed bump or something.

And then it got worse over the rest of the day until I could barely move at all and it felt like I was weeing razor blades while being stabbed behind my pubic bone and I couldn’t watch any comedy shows because laughing caused so much pain, and Sebastian had finally gotten my cold so I ended up holding him for the next 10 hours until I went to bed. I took  breaks to use the bathroom and have something to drink while he was awake and happy, but I basically held him for 10 hours straight. He never settled enough for me to put him down to bed. *But* my first child was like that all day every day pretty much from the moment he was born, so I keep telling myself it could be worse. I went to bed feeling absolutely rotten, but Sebastian finally slept through again (or 6 hours which is good enough) and neither of the other kids woke me up with coughing or anything. Which was awesome. So I woke up feeling better apart from the stabbing pain shooting through my pelvis whenever I breathed or blinked or thought about anything. And for some reason I’m coping much better with sleep dorivation and early mornings at the moment, so I was able to function even though my husband had to leave at 7:30 or so and I had the boys on my own from then on. Things did get less painful throughout the day, though it still feels like knives every time I use the toilet, but I’m taking antibiotics and Panadol and chugging water and cranberry juice and so on. And I had a shower and gave the boys a bath while Seb had an actual nap *and* Ronan had a nap for the first time in three days which was AWESOME because he was so snotty and crabby and bursting into tears at the drop of a hat. So I consider today a success even though I didn’t wash my hair, we have no clean clothes, I’ve been holding Seb since 12pm, and we’re getting McDonald’s for dinner even though I haven’t been able to clean up the packaging from last night’s takeaway.

And this morning, I was so convinced I had been correct in saying I had a prolapse that got a hand mirror and had a look and I could SEE IT. It may not be a uterine prolapse but it’s SOMETHING that is definitely definitely not normal. So I feel a bit better because I am actually right and not a complete hypochondriac.

Anyway, I called this post a perfect storm because lots of crap went wrong and I didn’t want to put the words bladder, prolapse, urine, or vagina in the blog title because I don’t want to be one of those mummy bloggers who talks about her vagina all the time and is really crass and swears a lot. Because I’m not like that. Obviously.

**I left this sitting in my draft folder for a few days or two weeks or something, partly because I never have time to get back to these things, and partly because it wasn’t quite as refined as my usual posts. I called my blog What Would Audrey Do, and discussing this stuff probably is not something Audrey Hepburn would do. But it happened. So I’m talking about it.**

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