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Postpartum Recovery Part 2: The Blood Clot

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Postpartum

Postpartum Recovery Part 2: The Blood Clot

If you haven’t already read Beau’s birth story or my Postpartum Recovery Part 1, I highly recommend you do. Reading these stories in order definitely helps set the precedent for the story to come. This one personally was the most intense of the three, and I still cannot believe it happened. The story of my massive postpartum blood clot after my third baby will never leave my memory.

This post will be a long one as I want to describe as much as I can remember. There are also very few pictures because let’s be honest, people rarely take pictures when something potentially life threatening or traumatic is happening! However, I will admit that now that I’m on the other side of this, I do wish I had a few more images to look back on. Mostly to remember that I overcame and got through this. Our bodies are amazing and so is modern medicine!

After being discharged from the hospital, I passed a cantaloupe sized blood clot. This is the story of how it happened and the aftermath. #postpartumrecovery #postpartumhemorrhage #bloodtransfusion

And so the story begins…

Saturday

9:00pm

I went to the bathroom just before nursing Beau and going to bed for the night. Since I had only been released from the hospital the previous evening, I was still exhausted and wanted to go down early! I noticed when I went to the bathroom that there was significant pressure in my perineal area, but figured it was because I was constipated. (TMI, but I had just given birth a couple days before!) I pushed it aside and got snuggled in the bed with my babe.

Sunday

1:30am

Beau woke up for his next feeding, so I proceeded with our nighttime feeding routine. JP would change Beau’s diaper while I went to the bathroom and got settled back into bed to nurse him. However, when I went to the bathroom this time, I realized that something was seriously wrong.

As I was trying to pee, I noticed I couldn’t get anything out just like it was at the hospital. But this time there was an immense pressure that made me feel the urge to push. It was the same pressure I had felt earlier in the evening, but the intensity was unbearable.

My body started to bear down and I immediately pushed out 2-3 golf ball to egg sized blood clots. Once those came out, I started pushing harder and something massive started coming out of me. I then resisted the urge to push and held onto the mass for fear of what would happen if it fully ejected. Could my uterus prolapse? Would I continue bleeding and loose too much blood? Would I pass out? So many questions went through my head as I yelled for JP to come see me immediately.

He said he needed just a minute, and I yelled that it was urgent. He came running in while Beau wailed on the bed. Poor man, I made him look between my legs when I didn’t feel like he was grasping just how big the mass was. Oddly enough, I was very calm and level headed given the severity of the situation. My mom think that I was going into shock because of my reaction.

(Makes sense that she would know since she saw me go into shock when I broke my arm in 5th grade. Having a bone protruding through your skin and your arm bent at the wrong angle will definitely do that to you.)

Speaking of my mom, she’s the first person I called. Moms know everything and it helps when they work in the medical field. I asked her if my uterus could prolapse because I had something massive coming out of me. Needless to say, that woke her up instantly and she let me know it could, but it could be other things as well. She asked if I could go lay down and I told her that wasn’t an option. (I literally had something about the size of a softball in between my legs at this point that I was trying very hard to not push out further.) She said to call my doctor’s emergency line and see what they wanted me to do. We hung up and she was on her way.

Calling an ambulance.

As soon as I hung up with my mom, I looked at JP and told him to call 911. I realized in that moment that an ambulance is the only way I was getting to the hospital. If we called the doctor’s emergency line, they would tell me to go to the hospital right away. JP called 911 first then the doctor. I’m glad he called the doctor second because he had to leave a message for them to call us back!

Once the ambulance was on its way, JP helped me get from the toilet to our tub. There is a seat on the side of our tub that I was able to sit on the edge of that helped relieve some of the pressure and urge to push that sitting on the toilet caused. Needless to say, blood got all over, but I didn’t notice or care.

At this point JP was holding Beau and my poor sweet babe was crying because he was hungry. I had JP grab my smaller, battery operated breast pump and help me set it up since I only had one hand. I got about one ounce before I realized that I started dripping more blood into the tub. Of course I did, because pumping causes contractions helping your uterus to shrink. I felt so bad that there was nothing I could do! Luckily, I had used my Haakaa the day before to help with engorgement and got 3 ounces. That gave my mom 4 ounces to milk to start with once Beau was with her.

1:45am

The fire truck and ambulance arrived at our house very quickly. The first responders from the fire truck came first and started asking questions just a few minutes before the ambulance arrived. I explained to them what was happening and had to show them what was coming out of me. The medics reassured me saying that it was most likely a blood clot, but I did the right thing keeping it where it was at the time. We weren’t sure what would happen next, so it was best to be in a hospital setting. While I was explaining things to them, my mom arrived which immediately gave me a small sense of relief.

Now it was time to get me out of there. The stretcher couldn’t fit into our room because of the angle of the door, so I had to scoot on top of a waterproof pad to get to the stretcher and avoid getting blood everywhere. I’m pleased to say that it worked!

My first ambulance ride.

As I climbed onto the stretcher and laid down, I was finally able to let go of the blood clot. I pulled my hand out and it was covered in blood. It wasn’t the blood that made me freak a bit in that moment, but the sheer amount of it and the unknown of what would happen next. My mom grabbed a wet dish towel and cleaned me up the best she could before we set out to the ambulance.

JP wasn’t allowed in the ambulance, so I went solo while he grabbed our bags and rushed to the hospital. I told them which hospital I wanted to go to and we were on our way. While in the ambulance, the EMTs were so kind and helped distract me from the chaos of the situation. They got an IV started and we were at the hospital in about 15 minutes.

Since I came via ambulance, I didn’t have to go through the ER waiting room. We went straight to the check in desk and they sent us on to L&D. JP arrived through the ER at the most perfect time. I had just given them my information and we were on our way.

L&D Triage

It’s funny because even though I was arriving on a stretcher in an emergency situation, I still had to go through checking in and signing things at the L&D desk. (Anyone who has given birth in a hospital, knows exactly what I’m talking about.) It didn’t take too long before they wheeled me back to the same triage room I was in just 4 days prior!

This is where the order of things and exact details start to get a little fuzzy. I remember the big things though, trust me.

The nurse asked me a few questions and I explained what happened. She took one look under the sheets and got the doctor. The doctor currently working was the same one that checked my cervical dilation when I came in labor. Though I didn’t know him well, it was nice to see a familiar face.

He asked me several questions and I know it was some time before he actually helped me to expel the rest of the clot. (This part is fuzzy.) It could have only been a couple of minutes, but I feel like he didn’t remove it right away. Once he did remove it, he did so by having me give a gentle push while he massaged my uterus on the outside. It was the weirdest sensation as it left my body!

L&D triage letting my family know that I'm okay after my massive postpartum blood clot.

What came next was miserable.

To make sure he couldn’t feel any additional postpartum blood clots, he had to insert his fingers up to my cervix while pressing hard on the outside of my uterus (similar to the postpartum fundal massage you get after birth but it seemed even harder). Since I had given birth to Beau almost 4 days prior at this point, my cervix was closing, so it felt miserable as he was trying to examine it. It didn’t last forever, but he did have to go in again after giving me a short break. I just had to breathe through it like I did my contractions.

After the second time, he said he needed to go in at least one more time and asked if I wanted pain medication. I declined knowing I could handle one more go at it, but said if he needed to continue, I’ll take the Stadol. The third time was intense and hard to endure after going through it twice before, but it was the last time. Thank the Lord.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t the last time I’d experience excruciating pain. Next they needed to give me some Cytotec pills in my butt to help stop my bleeding. I mentioned in the first part of my postpartum recovery they did this to help me stop hemorrhaging. Since my hemorrhoids were so inflamed, the nurse had trouble getting the pills inserted and it caused me to cry out in pain. The doctor felt terrible and wanted to get me pain meds, but the nurse managed to get them in just before I couldn’t take it anymore.

Finally, they inserted a foley catheter to help drain my bladder. It was quite full since I wasn’t able to pee when I got up to feed Beau. Since the blood clot I had passed was so large, they didn’t want me getting up anytime soon.

Speaking of that blood clot…

When I was wheeled in the triage room, the EMT said I had a blood clot about the size of a grapefruit. After the chaos was over, JP asked our nurse if she thought the blood clot was the size of a grapefruit or a softball. He personally thought it was probably softball sized. The nurse replied that she thought it was the size of a cantaloupe and that it was the most impressive blood clot she’s ever seen in her 40 years of nursing. I’m pretty sure that’s not something to be proud of, but I guess she’ll very likely remember me for a while.

In case you were wondering, my massive postpartum blood clot ended up weighing 1.2 lbs or 556 grams. Needless to say, I was going to need a blood transfusion since my hemoglobin was down to 6 and would probably dip lower since I had just passed the clot.

We finally got to our room around 5:00am.

After nearly 3 hours in triage, I was finally moved to a room around 5am. They set up my Pitocin drip in my right arm and waited for the two units of blood I needed to arrive.

Since I had mentioned in triage that I really needed to pump, there was a hospital breast pump set up and waiting for me. I was supposed to feed Beau at 1:30am, so I hadn’t fed Beau or pumped since 9:30pm on Saturday!

The IV that them EMT placed was in the crook of my left arm, so I wasn’t able to bend it. Thank goodness for my amazing husband who held the pump flange in place during each pumping session! I ended up getting almost 8 ounces from that first pump. Considering the fact that my milk came in just the day before, it was so much milk! Thank goodness too because my baby needed it. (Side Note: We got this milk to Beau at some point. I believe around lunchtime when my brother in law brought JP lunch, but it’s all fuzzy.)

After I pumped, my two units of blood finally arrived and they got me all set up with those. Of course that also meant increasing the amount of Pitocin I was receiving which led to more pain for me.

Enter Stadol.

Same drug that they gave me to help with my pain after I gave birth, but I wasn’t as loopy this time. Instead it put me right to sleep which is what I needed. JP and I got about 2 hours of rest before we were up again.

At this point it’s mid morning and I can’t eat, because there was still potential that I would need surgery. After my blood transfusion, they would check my uterus for any leftover placenta or other problems via ultrasound. There were three options as to what the likely next steps would be:

  1. I would need a D&C if there was any residual placenta found.
  2. They would insert a balloon into my uterus, but I’ll be honest, I can’t remember why this was an option.
  3. My uterus is clear and I can eat and continue to heal.

So 2 surgery options and 1 go on about your life option. We were obviously hoping for option 3!

Luckily our prayers were answered (thanks to all my prayer warriors for helping me through this one!), and the ultrasound showed no issues. Ultrasounds cannot detect blood clots, but since I hadn’t passed anymore since my massive postpartum blood clot, they turned down my Pitocin a bit.

2:00pm

I was finally able to eat!

Finally getting to eat after my postpartum blood clot!

As you can see from this image, I look rough. Despite that smile, I felt probably even worse than I looked. But I smiled anyway thanks to the massive meal I finally ate! (Can I just say that hospital pancakes are amazing?!)

6:30pm

Fast forward a few hours because nothing exciting happened. I was in and out of sleep and we just watched football since that’s what we do on Sundays!

That evening my mom came by to bring dinner to JP. We spend Sundays at my parents and this Sunday we were actually celebrating my brother in law’s birthday! It was a special dinner and they wanted JP to get some! Since my mom works at the hospital in the postpartum unit, she knows the L&D nurses and they let her in. I cried when I saw her because I was just so thankful that she was there.

We talked for a little bit and my nurse, Wilma, (Who I haven’t really mentioned, but I’ll say now that she was amazing and supporting. She was everything I needed that day!) came in to chat too. I mentioned that the hardest part of this entire situation was being away from my baby.

Wilma immediately said that since I was feeling better, my mom could go get him and bring him to me for a feeding. Y’all, I literally started bawling and hugged my nurse! I know my poor mom was so exhausted from being awake and caring for my children since 1:30am, but she immediately went to grab my baby.

Reunited with Beau

Seeing my baby for the first time in 19 hours was the best feeling in the whole world. I feel like this was my turning point. Once my mom arrived, I immediately snuggled and nursed him. It was magical.

Breastfeeding Beau for the first time after my postpartum blood clot.

It was also so nice to not have to pump for one session. My poor nipples were sore from pumping so much early on. (NICU mommas, you are superwomen! I don’t know how you do it. Spending time away from your baby and pumping this early is so hard!)

I spent about an hour with him because it was now 9:00pm and my poor mom needed to get some sleep! And let’s be real, so did I.

Monday

After what seemed like the longest day in all of history, we made it through Sunday and into Monday. I didn’t really sleep in because it’s impossible at the hospital. Plus I needed to pump at 7:00am and my mom got to work early so she could spend some time with me.

Needless to say, my mom and entire family had been beyond worried about me. Looking back, I can’t imagine being in their shoes! It was an incredibly scary experience for everyone.

Our morning was fairly easy. I was definitely feeling better in the sense that I didn’t feel dizzy or like I was about to pass out. That was a win in my book. I also had my foley catheter removed and was able to stand for the first time in about 36 hours!

My doctor came and checked on me that morning too! She was completely shocked by what happened. The scariest thing is that we still don’t know and will likely never know what caused all of this to happen to me. But I was doing better! My morning blood work came back with my hemoglobin back up to 8.4. Still much lower than the desired 12, but high enough to be discharged in a few hours!

Discharged and headed home!

The rest of the day was uneventful. I got up and walked around, pumped, spent some time with my mom and watched Schitt’s Creek on my iPad. It took a while, but I was eventually discharged around 2:00pm and headed home to see my precious babies!

I spent the rest of the day in bed doing skin to skin, snuggling and nursing my precious boy. Those hours apart were brutal, and I honestly felt better just having him near me. I know that in the early hours it would have been so difficult to have him at the hospital. I felt so miserable! For that, I am beyond thankful for the support of our families. My mother-in-law came right back into town and met up with my parents to help out! She stayed the night with the kids and even spent another night with us to make sure we were okay. Going through something traumatic definitely lets you know who you can reach out to and who makes up your support system!

I made it.

In the end, I made it through. That’s what matters. Reading this you may not realize just the amount of pain and suffering that I was in during this time. It was rough and it was a dark place for me. I never really thought that I was going to die, but I was worried about what else could happen.

I still feel raw looking back on this time. After a beautiful birth that I dreamt about, I struggled more than I could have ever imagined postpartum. I still feel some trauma, but I’m working through it. In the end, I’m okay, my baby is okay and my family is okay. That’s what matters most.

Thank you!

If you made it this far, THANK YOU! Thank you for taking the time to read my journey and for caring enough about me to get through the whole thing. I know it’s not written beautifully, but it’s written with raw emotions, so I can look back and reflect. I never want to forget this experience because it’s part of me and my journey.

Thank you to my amazing friends and family who have helped me and prayed for me during this postpartum time. The texts, phone calls, prayers, meals, gift cards and love mean more than you could ever imagine. I have the best support system in the world and feel beyond blessed to have so many people that love me and my family!

That’s all for this journey. Now it’s time to move onto the next chapter as a family of 5.

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