March 9th, 2011
Discovered during my pre-bedtime pit stop that I had some light spotting. It seemed to have already stopped. I went to bed and debated whether or not to call Dr. M. I knew he’d just send me to the hospital, it was barely anything, and I felt like I had just gotten home. Istarted getting kind of hysterical about it, since I knew that the next bleed meant I’d be in for the rest of the pregnancy. I called E, who talked me into calling Dr. M, but as soon as I hung up I started freaking out again and just couldn’t do it. I calmed myself down and promised that I’d call if it turned red—I was seeing him in the morning for a NST anyway.
I made sure to snuggle the cats that night, and I savored being in my own bed.
When I woke up, the spotting had stopped, so I went about my day. Shortly before I left for my appointment, it started up again (still very scant, still brown, but still there), so I had to tell Dr. M. I gave the cats an extra kiss and mush before I left. As soon as I got into the exam room,
I told Dr. M. He said “Turn around, go straight to the hospital.” I protested that it was very light and brown and he insisted. I started crying and saying I didn’t want to be in for the rest of the pregnancy, and he gave me a hug, but insisted that I go there and don’t stop by the house first.
No one seemed terribly alarmed at the hospital, and I felt hopeful that this might not count as my “three strikes and you’re out” bleed. Dr. M confirmed this (and said if all is well maybe I can go home in a few days), and I was able to stay calm. He was going away to a conference that night until Sunday night, but he assured me he’d be calling in to check on me, and he gave me his cell phone number. Dr. B was covering for him. I had a quick exam (cervix was closed but a little soft) and a biophysical profile (which was excellent). I was having contractions every 2-5 minutes at that point, I think.
Some time during the day I had a trickle or two of red blood. That afternoon I talked to Dr. B about it to try to ascertain whether there was any chance I’d get out anyway. He basically said his job is to keep me there until at least Sunday night, but if I were his patient and I needed to exist in a bubble in order to prolong the pregnancy, so be it.
The contractions picked up to every 2-3 minutes, and apparently they looked like labor contractions, although I wasn’t feeling any pain. I overheard the nurse talking to a maternal-fetal doctor on the phone, and then say “okay, if she’s breaking through then we’ll mag her,” and I completely freaked out. I talked to everyone I could about how much I didn’t want to take it, and Dr. B said he wasn’t going to make any decisions until he returned at 8:30 or 9 that night. One of the nurses told me I did have the right to refuse any medications, and I was seriously considering it, but as the day went on I sort switched over to sort of steeling myself to being put on magnesium. The nurses and on-call doctor were reassuring that not a ton of people vomit on it, and it has a very short half-life, so if I still couldn’t tolerate it they could just stop the IV and it would be out of my system in about 15-20 minutes.
About an hour before Dr. B came, my nurse thought to check my urine, and it turned out I had a ton of ketones in it, which means I was severely dehydrated. I still don’t see how that was possible because I always drink at least an okay amount of water, and I was peeing all the time (although, admittedly, I had started restricting my water intake as soon as I saw the spotting, because I wanted to minimize my use of bedpans). She quickly emptied a bag and a half or two of fluid into my IV to see if it would help. My contractions slowed down to every 7-10 minutes by the time Dr. B returned, and I was less dehydrated, so I escaped the magnesium sulfate.
They offered me Zofran, and I took it. I think I got an hour or two of sleep, which is more than I’d expect otherwise.
That morning, my nurse officially declared me no longer dehydrated.
Sometime after 7 am, I felt a trickle. And the trickle didn’t stop. At this point I was going through pads and having to have the pad underneath me. I think my contractions went back to every 2-5 minutes. They called Dr. B. I called my husband, and we debated whether or not he should go to work. I told him to take his shower and then call me—hopefully I would have talked to the doctor by then.
Dr. P (really nice maternal-fetal medicine doctor from Madonna) came in, and he told me that since I’m 32 weeks he was recommending that I deliver. I was shocked. Dr. P issuper conservative though (he hospitalizes for the rest of pregnancy once you hit your second bleed), so I thought maybe Dr. B and Dr. M would think differently. I thought maybe they’d give me magnesium sulfate. I was wrong. Dr. B said that the baby was far enough along that she would be okay; it wasn’t worth it to make heroic efforts to keep her in, because at this point it was risking something happening that would hurt her. I called my husband and told him to come to the hospital, but I didn’t tell him I’d be delivering.
He called before he got there because traffic was bad, and I ended up telling him then.
The next couple of hours waiting around were a bit of a blur. I think I just started sending texts and making phone calls to keep myself occupied. I think I was shaking a lot. I talked to Dr. B and the anesthesiologist about my phobia. He said he gives Zofran pre-emptively and has other anti-emetics on hand as well, but most people tolerate the spinal and the Duramorph just fine.
Husband was going to run home to get the camera (which he had considered grabbing…I guess he had a gut feeling about it), but they said there wasn’t time, so we’d have to settle for the camera on my iPod. They shaved me and put in a Foley catheter about an hour before we went in. It wasn’t that bad….just irritating. It felt like I had to pee really badly and had a slight urinary tract infection. They brought husband scrubs and he changed into them.
When it was time, they wheeled me down. I can’t remember if I got the spinal before or after I moved to the operating table….probably after? It wasn’t cold in there like it was when I had my D&C.
The spinal was really nothing. I rolled onto my side into a ball, the anesthesiologist felt around with his thumbnail I guess to find the right spot, and he cleaned my back with cold stuff. He put a (plastic?) thing over my back and then gave me a shot of numbing stuff—I don’t think I even felt the shot go in, but if I did it was barely anything. Then he said I’d feel pressure I think? I guess I felt something pushing on my back but not really. He said I might feel a little electric “shock” down my legs, and that’s normal. I didn’t. What I felt was my body from the stomach down being filled with Novacaine. It felt really good, actually. I couldn’t feel the catheter any more. I wasn’t completely numb….I could still wiggle my toes a bit, and I knew I still had legs, and I was able to keep myself calm by doing clavicular breathing and just reminding myself that I could breathe. At some point I started shaking, but no worse than I did from nerves, and I wasn’t cold. They put a wedge cushion under my right side and the blue drape up across my chest.
I think Dr. B was testing me for numbness, because he had assured me that he’d check it over and over before starting the surgery, but I was really spaced out just trying to stay calm and monitor myself for nausea. I think I heard him asking me if I felt things, but it was off in the distance or like he was talking to someone else. I’m pretty sure I knew when they started cutting, but I didn’t feel any pain. There was a weird burning smell (I had read about that). I heard them suction out the amniotic fluid, and Dr. B said that was a lot of fluid (I’m not surprised that Ro was right rather than the hospital sono person). Tugging I guess is the right way to describe what I felt. I could feel my organs being shoved around, but it was completely painless. It was just weird. Dr. B kept asking if they had brought husband down yet, and by the third time it was apparent that he was waiting for him to arrive before they pulled her out.
He came in, and there was one more big tug, and I heard her cry. I was so relieved to hear her crying, because that was supposed to mean she was fine (at least, it did on TV). It was a little cry, kind of like a kittycat. They said to look over my left shoulder, and there she was, looking absolutely beautiful, but confused. They took her over to start working on her, and I just kept saying “My baby! My baby” over and over. I couldn’t see what was going on because the drape kind of wrapped around and blocked my view.
Dr. B asked one of the nurses to explain to husband what they were doing because he had a frightened look on his face. I looked up, and he looked pale. It turns out they had intubated her, and they were using a pump to help her breathe. I wished I had warned him that that would probably happen.
There was LOTS more tugging….enough to move my whole body. I was just concentrating on breathing and checking to see if it would make sick (it didn’t). The doctors were cracking jokes the whole time—Seinfeld jokes, something about my bladder, and something about how he’s doing the stitch Dr. M-style. It took a while. Dr. B told me that everything was goingnvery well, everything went well, the placenta came out easily. Dr. B had gone through the placenta with his hands. Then they dropped the drape, and Dr. B said if I looked down I’d be able to see my toes. I said “I’ll pass,” but husband looked and said I looked way smaller.
I can’t remember exactly how they got me back onto the stretcher..,…something involving the wedge pillow. They wheeled me back to my Labor & Delivery room (I kept my eyes closed, since I was kind of loopy from the drugs, and I didn’t want to get dizzy). I think I was in there for maybe 2 hours, but it went by quickly enough. I felt a slight bit of pain, so I got a shot of Demerol and some more Zofran. The little bit of pain was still there, but I didn’t really care because I was nice and loopy. Husband was there. It was uneventful. Dr. B came and talked to me and told me everything went great, I only lost 800 ml of blood, no problems getting out the placenta, etc.
Before they wheeled me up to my room, they took me by stretcher into the NICU. Boo was full of tubes and on a ventilator, but I was drugged up and also kind of prepared for the sight, so it wasn’t too upsetting. I was only there a few minutes. She was very pink, and she was breathing really fast. I was still in dazed, in shock.
Off to my room I went. It was a double room but only had one bed—score! I don’t really know what happened next. I thought I was supposed to get real food for dinner, but it was clear liquids (vegetable broth, that good gelatin-free jello stuff, Italian water ice, juice). It was like the best thing ever, and I felt like I could drink as much as I wanted because I still had the cath in (but still couldn’t feel it!). When it was time for meds, I got 2 Percocet. The nurse assured me that clear stuff was enough in my stomach to tolerate it, but she brought me a few crackers to take with it. She told me that the catheter would come out in the morning, and then I’d try to get up.
I was sort of relieved.
I don’t really remember that night. I slept a half hour here and there, and I watched TV. That’s all I remember.
I was allowed to eat breakfast! I was afraid to eat too much after not eating since snack at 10 am on Thursday, so I just got oatmeal, raisins, and milk.
They took the catheter out, and I was now allowed to use the bathroom (but I had to call someone to help me getting there and back). Yay! They asked if I wanted to go see my baby. I was surprised by how eager I was to trying getting up given I knew how badly it was going to suck. And it did. Each new move hurt so badly, I’d think “well it can’t get any worse than this,” but the next move would get worse. I don’t even have the words to describe how excruciating the pain was during the brief moment I was standing between the bed and the wheelchair. I held the IV thing, and a CNA wheeled me down.
Husband was there, and we talked to the NICU nurse. She assured us that while they expected her to be fine, she was very sick. She told us we could talk to her, read to her, whatever. I think I just stared. It didn’t seem like she was my baby. It was like I was visiting and admiring someone else’ cute baby, but it hadn’t sunk it that she was mine.
I don’t think I stayed long. As they started wheeling me away, I told them I was feeling really faint. I knew that getting my head down between my legs was going to be physically painful and impossible, so I just slumped my head down. My nurse said I fainted, and I said I didn’t, but at some point I guess I did actually pass out. I smelled this gross smell…actually, I kind of tasted it…and I worried that it meant I was going to get sick. I found out later that it was smelling salts. I think someone held me up as they wheeled me back to my room, and then they had to lift me onto my bed. As soon as I was on the bed, I started feeling better, but I felt awful that people had to lift me. They lifted the bottom of my bed so my legs were above the level of my heart, and I felt much better.
I decided that I still had bathroom privileges. I called for someone, I started working on getting up, and I sent husband out. The CNA came in, and tried to tell me to get back into bed and just use a bedpan. I told her I was mostly up, so I’d rather go to the bathroom. Same thing as before with the pain….unbelievable how badly it hurt. She unplugged my IV thing and wheeled it to the door…guess I had to pee with the door open. Awesome. I had to go so bad, I said I wasn’t sure if I was trickling blood or urine. She laughed and said probably both. When I got my underwear down, I saw that I had passed a clot the size of my fist. I was shocked, but she said she’d seen bigger, so I didn’t worry too bad.
I was having trouble getting going because I was so shy, because I was in horrible pain, and because I was feeling faint. She asked me a couple times if I was okay, and eventually I had to tell her I was going to faint. She caught me and pulled the emergency cord. They tried to get me to stand up just long enough to move to a wheelchair, but I told them I couldn’t do it without fainting. They had to carry me to the bed again. Again, once I was in bed I felt much better. I had apparently left quite a bit of blood behind…oops. This time, my nurse said, I’m staying in bed for the rest of the day. I felt too guilty about making them lift me twice to argue it.
I honestly thought that I was passing out from the pain, but my nurse thought that it was from the Percocet. She switched me to Motrin every 8 hours. I think that was the day I had a real meltdown about how gross I felt and didn’t want any visitors because I was gross and stinky and farty and just disgusting. Later on that day, my nurse came in and supervised me just sitting up on the edge of the bed. It went well. I felt so encouraged by that progress that I had husband call people and tell them to come if they wanted to. That night, when husband called me after he got home, he told me that Boo had held his finger. I said “That’s it—I’m going to the NICU.” I called for a nurse and in the meantime got up and went and sat in the chair in my room while I was waiting for her. I was fine, so she wheeled me down to the NICU.
I decided that I wasn’t on bedrest anymore, and I managed to get to and from the bathroom without passing out. I was determined to shower (although, it’s like the minute I got onto my feet I was like “Oh crap no way can I do this”). Once I got the okay from Dr. B, I had husband come into the bathroom and stay with me to hand me soap while I stood there hunched over like a human candycane.
All that good posture I got from carrying high and being uncomfortable with even a little slouching was completely out the window from the surgery, boo. My nurse was concerned that Motrin wasn’t enough pain medication, but I was too afraid of passing out and not being able to go to the NICU. The pain was really bad once I hit about hour 6. If I was still, it was fine. But I still couldn’t turn to my side or laugh without horrendous pain. I would just sit there and shake from the pain. When I talked to Dr. M that day, he was NOT happy that I was just taking Motrin. He got me to agree to try one Percocet with the Motrin (every 6 hours, not every 8). I didn’t pass out any more after that (there was one time I had to sit down on the bathroom floor for a bit after a shower, but I was okay). After the first couple of days, things really started to improve. When Dr. M came to see me Monday, I was shuffling my way down to the NICU all by myself.
Doing better, more able to walk hunched over. Still not sure how I was supposed to (if I was supposed to) manage stairs at home.
Discharge day. The first NICU nurse that I talked to the day after surgery had warned me that in about 3-4 days I was really going to start to feel the drop in hormones. She also warned me that going home was going to be incredibly difficult (and apparently talked to husband for a while about what to expect and how to help me). She pointed out that it was going to be the first time in 8 months that I had been physically separated from my daughter, and that was incredibly validating the more I thought about it. I didn’t want to go home. I wanted to see my cats, but all things considered even now I wish I was still in (maybe with privileges to go home and see the fluffs). I’m still jealous of the moms who come in through the Mother and Baby unit, although I’m starting to bond with some of the other moms as we wait outside for them to let us in after rounds or when they get a new, very ill patient.
A few weeks later:
Basically, the first 36 hours after the surgery were horrendous, then a combination of things getting better, good pain meds, and post-birth amnesia all started to work to make it not so bad. I distinctly remember telling myself in that day after “Remember this—this sucks, and you don’t ever want to do it again,” but I found myself talking about VBACs at my 2-week appointment.
I think all the stuff with having my daughter in the NICU could be the subject of its own book, but the main pro is I know she’s safe and being taken care of by people who know what they’re doing. I didn’t even have the chance to take a childbirth class, and I was so focused on my pregnancy complications and fears regarding c-sections that I never read farther on. I did watch a lot of programs on the Newborn Channel in the hospital, but I think I was too overwhelmed to really retain much. This buys me some time and a lot of support to learn how to care for B.
The main con is that every day I choose not to be with my daughter. Any time I’m away it’s because I chose it—I set my schedule. The thought of her being awake and alert—let alone crying—and I’m nowhere to be found kills me. Whenever I see another baby crying or even just chilling out awake in their isolette, and their mom isn’t there, it’s hard not to cry. I think that’s the worst part of that, and I wonder if I’ll ever get over it. (Even worse, I wonder if she’ll ever get over it). I’ve been trying to stick to attachment parenting info just for parents of preemies, which reassures me that bonding is a process, and there isn’t a strict critical period, but good luck convincing me that there’s anything okay or natural about this situation.