I was whisked into the ICU ward, into a room with two other beds, that were empty. I was in the middle of the two. A nurse kept buzzing around me. She would fly by, hooking things up as she zipped along, never forgetting to tell me to “Lay…Flat." However, trying to figure out what was going on, where I was, who was around, where was Aaron and Maggie...I kept lifting my head to try and orient myself to something familiar. “Stay flat!, if you don't you will be dizzy in the morning." Luckily, the bed was comfortable. I at least had a blanket (still no clothes) and somewhat warm, not to mention exhausted, so I dosed off and on. Later, I would come to. I lifted my head again, I realized nothing was going on...I was laying in a room, naked, with no-one else around….not knowing what was going on. I kept thinking, Aaron should be coming in soon, the doctor said he would be able to see me. I had no idea what time it was, or how much time had passed. At some point, another lady was brought in. She was on my right, she had had some trauma in the birthing room, so had an emergency c-section and was not awake or aware of anything...she too, was naked.
I had Maggie at 8:51am, so I was assuming it was sometime before noon. As I lay there, I heard the nurse station’s phone ring. I heard some Czech being spoken among the nurses, and one of them leaned into our door and said, "You are Julie Davis?". I said, yes, to which she handed me the phone. I thought, shouldn’t she know my name? I am one of two people in this room…I shrugged in my mind and said, “Hello?" To my absolute relief, it was Aaron! Hooray for Aaron! The first thing he asked was, “How are you?" The first thing I asked, was “Where are you? Where is Maggie?" He said that they had taken Maggie to the nursery, and that he would be able to see her during visiting hours sometime that evening. He asked if I had seen her, I said no. He mentioned that the nurses in the nursery said that I would get her every three hours or so to feed her, so she should be coming soon. At this point, we had both only seen Maggie for a matter of seconds, minutes for Aaron as he went with her after her birth…but still, not hardly any time at all. I asked when he was coming to the room. He said that he had come to the area and rang the buzzer. The nurses told him he was not allowed in the room. I tried to control myself, but I knew I was going to be there for at least 24 hours…that is a long time when you don’t speak fluent Czech, when you don’t really know what is going on and when you feel absolutely powerless. I was tired, he was worried about me, but, I did my best to keep it together...because, that is all I could do. He let me go, and said he would call me back later that evening.
The ICU area was shaped like a pod. There were about 4 rooms around it, with the nurses station in the middle. The rooms were glass doors, so you could see the comings, goings and many happenings. I saw a nurse come into the pod, wheeling a little trolly…she came to our room and asked for Magnolia’s mom…Magnolia’s mom, that was me! I was finally getting to see and hold my sweet miracle! She put her into my arms, and I just couldn’t believe it. I looked at her face, and thought, she is a little Aaron!
I laughed and looked around to share the news, then realized, there was no one to share it with.
I went back to admiring this little thing that was now ours. She was wrapped up in some type of white cloth, and was tied up like she was in a little cocoon. There were three ties (top, bottom and middle-see pic below), and when the nurse came back a few minutes later, she picked Maggie up by the middle tie, turned her around and placed her in my arm like a football. She barked some orders on how I was to hold her and feed her. Grabbed, forced and pushed things where they needed to be for her to eat properly..and I guess, to teach me how to do it the right way.
Now, when Aaron and I talked about breast feeding or bottle feeding, he left that decision to me. I have always been a bottle feed girl…I have my reasons, I’m not interested in having a discussion on what is right or what is wrong about the subject. In short, my opinion, and as Maggie’s mom, that is the one that counts….full stop, period. I also needed to do what I feel is best for our family in our current situation. We live in a foreign country. There are daily struggles and challenges, that we push through that are not easily explained, breastfeeding, regardless of the glorious benefits the propagandists would have us believe, was not the only factor under our family's concern. …so with all that, in my mind, that decision was made. I would bottle feed. In the Czech Republic, there is a consensus. They believe that everyone should breastfeed, no questions asked, full stop, period. If you don’t, you are a terrible and irresponsible person, who is intentionally hurting your child for selfish reasons. It’s every nurse's responsibility to remind you of that fact. No, I am not exaggerating, that is not hyperbole. We knew it would be a battle, but we decided it would be one we were willing to fight.
Back to the story
When the nurse said it was time to feed her, I told her we were going to bottle feed. She looked at me weird; either because I said bottle or because she didn’t understand, maybe a little of both…and said on word, “Breast." So, I thought, alright, lets just do what we gotta do. Well, to my surprise it was a fine experience. I thought, oh, this isn’t so bad. We will continue on this path, and see what happens. After a few minutes, she took Maggie away. I kissed and hugged her as long as I could (pretty sure it was a 5 minute visit) and sent her on her way…hopefully, to see her daddy.
There was about three shift changes with the nurses, each one gave me some reference to passing time. A third woman came into our room, and like me and the other, naked. We all were laying there flat in our beds, on full display, machines clicking, IV’s dripping, nurses coming and going…even our little ones, coming and going. No privacy, my eyes seeing much more than I felt they should, a lot of pain, but also a sense of calmness. Thank you, God for your peace.
It was early evening, and the lady on my left, started to get sick. I mean, "not a little" sick. The lady on my right, started yelling for the nurse. The nurse came in, eyes rolling and with a sigh, acting like it was an inconvenience. She set a bowl down near her with the grace of a hippo. The lady asked for something to drink…to which, we all asked for something to drink. It had now been about 20 hours without food or drink. I mean…20 HOURS, I was hungry, I was thirsty.
The nurse came around, and gave us all sippy cups of fruit tea. I’m not a fruit tea fan, which seems to be the Czech favorite, but at this point it was the best thing I ever tasted.
One of the women asked for more, to which the nurse replied that it was enough for now! Hahahahahaha!
At midnight, we had our last visit with our little ones. Each visit got better and better. I saw new things about Maggie; looked at her little fingers, kissed those cheeks and dreamt of her, Aaron and I being all together soon! I sent her on her way for the night, I had talked to Aaron and learned he had her for an hour until they came and took her away for the night. I went to bed knowing my people were okay, my goal was to get to tomorrow when we could be together!
The night nurse came in. She emptied our urine bags. She came around to each one of our IV drips and switched bags. Then, she came to each one of us, I didn’t realize what she was doing until she got to me…she handed me the pully, and said, “LIFT", touching my bottom…I did my best to lift my butt, then…without warning…she popped something up in there!
Whoa! TMI?!?…How do you think I felt!!! I wasn’t expecting that…ok.
"Hmmm…what was that for?" I thought. Turns out, it was the pain medication…the first dose I had been given since my operation that morning. …OK, people, I didn’t skip anything….at that point I had gone ALL day without pain medication. It was not a pretty site. The worst part was, every hour or so since I had been brought into the ICU, a nurse would come in, pull down the covers and press on my stomach. She would start at the top, and work her way down, pushing, jiggling, pressing. The first time one of them did this, I about jumped out of the bed. The nurse said, "yes, I know it hurts." After the fourth time and the soreness almost being unbearable, I was thankful for whatever that was that was shoved up my butt! I slept, as best I could I sleep in a room full of naked strangers.
Around 5am, the nurses came in and started changing out IV’s and unhooking us from machines. This was a positive sign, they were going to be moving us out. Our babies came in around 6, and we got to love on them some. The other lady to my right, started asking me some questions about Maggie. The first thing I thought was, SHE SPEAKS ENGLISH?! We chatted back and forth. She told me about her birthing experience, and that no-one knew she was in the hospital and that she had her baby. We couldn’t have phones, so she had no numbers to contact anyone. She was anxious and a little scared. The nurse came in, and said she was going to start getting each of us up…we had all been laying flat since we arrived. She started with the lady on my right. She chose to do this all WITHOUT a gown on…that we all JUST RECEIVED a few minutes ago. She slowly rose and made it to the bathroom to freshen up (with a bag of things she had someone smuggled into the room?…I wonder how much a nurse was paid to look the other way). It soon was my turn. I sat up, and you guessed it, I was dizzy. I took my time, stood up, sat back down. The nurse was concerned and was questioning my recovery. I asked if there was any way to get something to eat, that that may help…we had gotten tea, but no food. It had been 30 hours since I had eaten anything. She thought it was odd, but went and got us all some yogurt and a vanilla wafer cookie. I was upset because I wanted to leave the unit, so I could be with Aaron and Maggie.
Aaron called about that time. He asked If I knew when I was going be released to a normal room, I said, "I don’t know" I was trying not to cry-but, I was struggling.
I told him that I was trying to get up and that I needed some strength and energy to do it. He had not been allowed to see Maggie since the day before at 5pm, and was anxious to have us all together too. I hung up, and sat up, and was ready to try again. The lady next to me said, “You must really want to see you husband and baby." “DUH!" Were my thoughts, but I actually responded with a, “Yes, I do."
The nurse came in and told everyone that they were having trouble finding rooms for us because they were full (this was now being translated to me by my new best friend). I quickly told her that I had a private room, and that I was able to go immediately. They all looked at me and silently judged as they just looked at me…the American has a private room..?! “Of course she would, spoiled American!" The nurse said she would see about getting an orderly to take me there, but that it could still be a while and she wants to make sure I am well. About an hour or so later, the orderly made his way to wheel me to our room (the time it took, I could have wobbled there with time to spare...). He didn’t quite know where he was going, so we took a short tour of the hospital, but we did eventually make it. When we wheeled into the room, I literally jumped out of the chair into Aaron’s arms. I was just bawling, I was still in the hospital, but I felt like I escaped a dungeon. It was just a few hours since we'd been together last, but they were some of the most important hours of my life. Maggie had arrived, and I was just about to get and share her with my husband 30+ hours later. The nursery nurse came in, we nicknamed her nurse Ratched, for various reasons. She said she would bring Maggie to the room, so she could eat…Aaron, informed her, Maggie would be staying in the room with us. You could tell she didn’t like it, but she had to allow it, as we were in a private room. Maggie joined us, and we had a happy family moment.
The nursery nurses came in, they said it was time to feed Maggie. I rotated her in my arms, as I had been doing in the ICU ward, and got ready to feed her. Nurse Ratched snatched Maggie from my arms, pushed the button on my bed, it snapped up, forcing my body upright. She plunked Maggie back into my arms. I had just been pushed up after laying flat for 24 hours, and was screeching in pain, as I had not had any pain medication since midnight.
They demonstrated their way of feeding Maggie after they chastised me from using the previous method from ICU. Maggie was ok with it, but you could tell she wasn’t quite in the groove as we were before. They said we were done, reclined my bed back, put Maggie in a normal holding position and left before I could blink. "Whew, we made it through that." I thought. We would repeat that ordeal every three hours. They would bring more than one specialist to “help" me, they would yell at me for not doing it right and let me know I was being a bad mother…and Maggie would cry…and I would cry. This was day 2, and I knew we would have at least 3 more days of this.
During moments between the scoldings and hurtfulness, when it was the three of us; we sang, talked, snuggled. I watched Aaron change diapers and take care of Maggie, I watched him become a dad before my eyes…it was the best. He watched you tube videos on how to swaddle, he played Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong to dance with her when she cried. He took care of me; helped me get up and down from the bed, in and out of the shower. He told me, I was a good mama! ❤️
Struggling with infertility for nearly a decade, we were finally in our moment! What we had been waiting for, praying for all those years. It was hard in those first few days, to hold onto the positive moments and memories because the hospital, nurses and culture were not ours. My milk was not coming in, and Maggie was not getting enough to eat. Each day, the nurses would come in, the doctors would come in and say, we will keep trying. They would have us weigh her before she ate and after to see if she had gotten anything…each time nothing, and Maggie was NOT happy about it. They reluctantly told us at the end of Day 3 that if she wasn’t satisfied, we could take her to the nursery for a bottle. So, we did…each time. Even though, we had decided to bottle feed before we came, experiencing breast feeding the the first few days, I had decided to continue.
Now, all the things the nurses had been shouting and yelling at me about being a bad mom, “It must be true at some level." was my thinking.
I couldn’t produce milk for my baby. It was one more thing I couldn’t do. I couldn’t conceive her on my own, now I can’t even provide food for her. Aaron was so encouraging and loving. He started doing some research and found that some women that struggle with infertility, often struggle with producing milk. It’s based upon the hormone problem they may have. Hmm…ok, well, maybe that was it….? I was trying to survive, everyday and every-which way, being shamed into not doing something correctly.
Day 4 came, the doctors asked if we could learn how to bottle feed since we would be going home the next day. We said yes. We agreed to continuing weighing, breast feeding, weighing again and if no improvement, we would call for a bottle. They would make it and bring it to us, each time…the whole while time Maggie was screaming in hunger. The first bottle she got, she chugged that thing down quickly…poor baby, was hungry. The rest of the day continued in that order, and everything got a little bit better.
We had been told by a hospital nurse previously, that once the baby is born, the baby is the patient, the mother is not. I found this to be true. I got one pain pill each evening that lasted until the morning hours. No-one talked to me about recovery or what I should and should not be doing. I realized in order to leave, I would have to walk out of there…so, I started walking up and down the hall. It was a slow start, but got better each time. I also, had a bottle of ibuprofen, I was going to start as soon as I walked to the car.
To be released, several things had to happen. First, I was sent to stand and wait with several other ladies to have an ultrasound to make sure everything was looking okay. We stood in line outside of a little cubicle, each lady went in one by one. While we were waiting, the ladies started asking where each other were from. When I mentioned the US, they looked at me and one asked, “Why on earth I would have a baby there instead of in America." At that point, I didn’t have an answer, I was asking myself that same question. They asked if the US was as brutal about breast feeding as they were there…to which, I was thankful that others felt the same way as I. Once that was done, we had a lady come in to help fill out the paper work for Maggie’s Birth Certificate. We found out, we would not leave the hospital with one, but would get one in the mail between 8-10 days (to which we never did, because they lost all paperwork, including our marriage certificate and other original documents…thankfully, we had a lawyer who helped us sort that out, that is another story for another day). I had my last check-up and Maggie did as well.
We woke up the next morning, packed and had everything ready. After some final words from the doctor, some paperwork, signature. We left…slowly, as I was still in a lot of pain. Aaron pulled the car up to the door, I got in and popped the glove box. We always kept a bottle of ibuprofen for after language classes that always cause headaches, I didn’t realize it would be my after c-section recovery meds stash too. Aaron pulled out into traffic, I took one last look at that place and said some "nice words" about it, and we went home!
This was the last picture I took at the hospital. This is the door to our room. In our married life, God has always been one to open the doors that needed to be opened and slammed them shut when they needed to be. When we left the hospital, there was a weight that I carried for a while based upon what happened in that room. It has taken me quite some time to process those things. I would see pictures of other friends having babies and having this joyous picturesque moments…and I would be a little sad thinking about our first few days together as a family. We had waited so long for our miracle, and God had finally answered our prayers. We left with our bundle of Joy! We left with our miracle. We left that room, that place, with some scars…but, we would find our Joy and peace in being a family of 3! What a journey we were about to take…there would be ups and downs, but it would be together, as a family of 3! ❤️ My heart could burst, knowing we were a family of 3!
I hope that you will continue along on the journey that I will continue to share. There are things that happen in life…God has slammed some doors shut, and He has swung some wide open…I am excited to continue sharing our life, as we are continuing to Hold onto Hope, as we are also Experiencing Joy!