If any of my 1.5 readers has checked up on this blog in the last six months, I would be amazed. I also can’t believe it’s been six, almost seven, months since I last posted. For anyone who was curious how the rest of my pregnancy unfolded, I apologize. Here’s the rest of the story …
My days in the hospital generally went like this:
Between 5:30 – 6 AM every third day, blood drawn for reasons I can’t recall. Blood-typing, I think it was.
Between 6 – 8 AM get a visit by the OB resident to check in on me.
Breakfast somewhere between 7:30 and 8:30-ish.
Around 8 – 9 AM get a visit by my OB/Gyn or her partner.
Around 9 – 10 AM temperature check, blood pressure check (the vitals) and spend 20 – 30 minutes on fetal heart monitor and contraction monitor.
11AM-ish shower. Yea! My favorite part of the day!
2PM-ish vitals check and about 2-5 minutes on fetal heart monitor.
Around 5 – 6PM dinner.
6 – 8PM vitals check and about 2-5 minutes on fetal heart monitor.
7 – 8PM was the daily nurse-shift swap.
Around 11 or later, I’d fall asleep. This hour grew later and later the longer I stayed in the hospital. Toward the end, I was sleeping very poorly at nights and napping like Heaven loved me during the afternoons.
This basic routine went on for weeks.
However, there were shifts in the routine, and emergencies and minor dramas. For instance, three days after I wrote the last post on this blog – and one day after I had gotten to be moved to the window side of the room – the baby’s heart rate was elevated. Consistently elevated. When the fetal heart rate is elevated for a minute or so, no big deal. But when it stays elevated for several minutes, it causes concern. My nurse jumped into action. Within five minutes, I was flanked by 4 nurses, my perinatalogist, a portable ultrasound machine and a tech. Oh – and I was hooked up to an IV drip. The worry was that with the heart rate so high, and knowing that I had both placenta previa and vasa previa, I might have internal bleeding. Apparently elevated fetal heart rate can indicate distress. My perinatalogist started asking me several questions like, “when was the last time you ate?” and “when was the last time you had a lovenox (blood thinner) injection?” I remembered, months earlier – before I had any major complications – my OB/Gyn had told me that since I was on blood thinners, she would want to take me off of them a day or two before induced delivery so that I wouldn’t – y’know – bleed to death bringing new life into the world. After I learned about my two previas, I remembered learning that I would need to fast for 12 hours before planned C-section. Given the nature of my perinatalogist’s questions, I suspected she was thinking we may need to get the baby out of there, pronto. “Should I call my husband?” I asked. “Yes,” my nurse told me. Luckily, I caught him just moments before he was going to turn off his phone to go into a meeting. Even more luckily, everything was fine with the baby. My perinatalogist was very calm and deliberate and watching her work with the ultrasound tech made me feel confident in her skills and decisions, despite the worries flooding me in the moment. There was no indication of internal bleeding and within about five minutes of the IV drip, the baby’s heart rate started descending and returned to normal. It turns out that, among other things, insufficient hydration can cause sustained elevated heart rate. So, I stepped up my hydration from that day forward. Baby had a few other incidents of elevated heart rate after that, but we managed them with me sucking down buckets of ice-cold water.
I went off the lovenox and the baby aspirin at that time. With placenta previa, I presume you’d want to move swiftly to get the baby out if there was a rupture, so you’d not want any blood thinners in the patient’s system. However, if the vasa previa bursts, you’ve got maybe 30 minutes to get the baby out alive, 20 minutes to get it out without the risk of brain damage. So, I was more than happy to stop the injections and the aspirin if it meant that both of us could live to meet each other in the event of an emergency. Plus, with the brand of MTHFR that I have (heterogenous, I believe), my risk of pregnancy loss due to clotting is more prevalent in the first trimester – as I now know all too terribly well – so dropping the thinners was less of a risk.
Due to Swine Flu outbreaks around the country – our region being hard-hit, in particular – the hospital had a strict visitor policy during the fall and winter (ie, flu season). Only two visitors at a time, visitors must wash the ever-lovin’ sin out of their hands, and NO CHILDREN! I had a decent share of visitors while I was hospitalized. In fact, I’d say I was blessed by the outpouring of love that I received from friends while I was in the hospital.
Thanksgiving in the hospital was good. Good, because I got to spend it with my husband. He brought in good turkey from Texas and sides from Boston Market. That was leaps and bounds better than the food the hospital had prepared. Though, God bless them for all they do for us. Seriously, I cannot express how much I learned to appreciate everyone who makes the hospital run: from the doctors to the nurses to the cleaning crew. I love them so much! The nursing staff, in particular, I now believe to be angels sent straight from the bosom of God. It was also a good holiday because my doctor gave me a wheelchair pass, so Hubby took me on a wheelchair tour of the hospital for about half an hour. It was really strange. I was so happy to be out of the room – and even outside the building in the chill, grey air, for a few minutes – but I found that every bump I passed over scared me. Is that jostling the baby closer to the placenta? Will that bump rupture the vasa previa?
Soon after Thanksgiving, I got my own private room. And it was paradise! Also, apparently, that’s when my body decided that more bleeding incidents would be hilarious. During the month of December, I probably had another 4 or 5 bleeding incidents. And they seemed to almost always happen on Thursdays. One of them canceled my baby shower, which was to be held in hospital cafeteria, since I was on lockdown. That sucked, hard core. I’m still sad about that. (Though two of my shower-coordinating girlfriends ended up spending a couple of hours with me the day that it was supposed to happen and shared one of the games they’d created for me. Which was really sweet! Oh! And cookies, too!) In almost all cases, it was handled the same way: the bleeding stopped quickly, so the concern downgraded a teensy bit; but more importantly, I wasn’t contracting, nor was the baby’s heart rate elevated, the baby was still kicking and so I would be monitored for an hour or so and the staff would basically comfort me. In one incident, about a week before Christmas – so, I was maybe 32 weeks along – I was having a lot of Braxton Hix contractions, so I had to get a terbutaline drip to slow them. Which is hell. I’ve never done illegal drugs like heroin or cocaine, but the shakes and sensory amplification that it gave me made me feel like what I’ve always suspected it must feel like to go through cold turkey detox from those drugs. I was then put on a regimen of terbutaline pills four times a day. The oral version is far more commodious to the bed ridden life than the drip, by the way. That particular incident – the pre-Christmas one – was bad enough that I was disallowed to leave the bed for 24 hours. I had use bed pans, and got a sponge bath and … just ick! I felt so bad having to call in a nurse every half hour or so to bedpan me so I could pee. They didn’t care, but I felt like a bother. And it’s just gross.
By the week of Christmas, though, it really did look like I was going to make it to my scheduled C-section date. It seemed like my body had calmed down. At one point, I think I went 9 or 10 straight days without a bleeding incident. January 4. That was when our baby was supposed to be born. And my body was holding out. It’s going to happen, that day, I told myself. That’s what I told the baby, too. But apparently, baby didn’t believe me.
A few days after Christmas, I had been feeling progressively sicker. I won’t get into the details on the Internet, but just suffice it to say that by the 29th, I was miserable. Hubby took off early from work and came to the hospital to sit with me and watch movies and comfort me. By bedtime that night, I was feeling markedly better. He’d had a long day, so he kissed me and said he’d see me tomorrow. I went to sleep. Then I woke up an hour later, went to the bathroom and emerged with blood running down my leg. This was a bigger incident than any before. I pulled the emergency cord and within seconds a team of nurses and a resident had me in my bed and were hooking up the fetal monitor and the contraction monitor. It was moments before midnight. The resident ordered an IV drip and got my OB/Gyn on the phone. They both agreed: it’s just 6 days from the originally scheduled C-section; she keeps having these incidents; the baby is 34 wks and change; let’s just do this. Can’t say I disagreed, and frankly, I’d always been worried about the baby surviving each time I bled, so I kind of just wanted to have the kid already. I called my husband to meet me in the O.R. if he could get there in time, and was whisked away to have my baby.
He didn’t get there in time. It turned out in the wee hours of December 30 was when the freeway between our house and the hospital decided to close down for a major repair. So he arrived just after the delivery. The only thing that made his absence bearable was that I was completely knocked out. Because of the nature of my complications, they treated the C-section as an emergency one, which meant, no time for epidural: I had general anesthesia. When I came-to about half an hour (or more) later, I discovered that we were now the proud parents of a 5lb 0 oz baby girl. I will refer to her as GiggleGirl from here out. Because she is the heir that brings new joy to my laughter. Hubby and I now both joke that neither of us was present for the birth of our first child. I certainly hope we’re both there for the second!
Altogether, with the initial hospital stay of a few days, the few days of home bedrest, the long stay and after the delivery of our daughter, I was in the hospital for about eight weeks. In that time, I crossed the threshhold of my hospital room only a handful of times. I actually went 4 weeks, at one point, with no egress, save for a sonogram which was performed across the hall from my room. I’ve had hospital stays in the past – for the emergency ectopic pregnancy surgery, for the day surgery to remove embryonic tissue that turned into emergency uterine surgery – and after about a day, I’ve wanted to rip my hair out and flee. But for some reason, I held up remarkably well. Except for one day when I was just overall sad and weepy about the whole situation, I was actually in pretty good spirits. The only reason for this, I suspect, is because I knew I had an out date, and because I was doing this for GiggleGirl as much as for my own health.
It was odd coming home without our daughter. She was in the NICU for the first two weeks of her life. Odd, but in a way, kind of good. It allowed me to be back in my space, mostly as it was when I left it. It allowed me to re-ground and prepare for her arrival. I really hated having her in the NICU, but what are you going to do? We were very lucky. Due to the steroid injections I got at weeks 27 and 32, her lungs were wonderful. She mostly just needed to be able to increase her nutrient intake and learn to eat on her own, not through her nose or through nutrient IVs.
She’s 5 months old now. Little, still, but thriving. She likes to smile and laugh and likes the dog. She’s a good sleeper and pretty easygoing for the most part. She coos and sings. She loves her bouncy chair, and finally likes tummy time. She can even roll over if you position her arms under her chest. I’m hoping the self-roll isn’t too far behind. I’m not worrying about it much. I kind of suspect that she’ll be one of those kids who goes straight for the walk and skips the crawl. You know, the ones you have to be scared of!
I’ll keep blogging now and then. I’ll try to be more frequent and more regular than once every six months. And though our story of getting to our first kid has resolved, I’ll try to still blog about miscarriage. I don’t particularly want this to evolve into a mommy blog. I created this blog because I found very few blogs dedicated to recurrent miscarriage, so I want to still stick with that mission: being a voice in a the wilderness. I still don’t know how to talk about it in public, or when to, but I want to preserve this space as a place to talk about it, so hopefully other women will know they’re not alone.