- 3 years ago
- Wedding: December 2012
Thursday, September 5th
I brought my mom in for a doctor’s appointment at our local hospital. She was seeing my OB, so I asked my mom if she minded me going in with her so that I could ask her to hear the baby’s heartbeat. I hadn’t felt him move much that day, so I wanted the reassurance that everything was okay. My mom, of course, said she didn’t mind. When we arrived, my OB (Dr. L) asked me how I was doing at 31 weeks, 1 day and I mentioned my worries about the lack of movement. At first, she said that we could listen to the heartbeat right in her office with the Doppler, then quickly changed her mind and suggested that I go over to the birthing center where they could hook me up to the monitors to see if I was having any contractions and see how his heart rate was doing. This way she could examine my mom while I was over there, then she would send my mom over after her appointment. Thinking nothing of it, and getting a little excited to hear his heart beat again (something I loved doing!), one of the nurses walked me over to the birthing center.
When I arrived at the birthing center, I felt that same calm and relaxed atmosphere that I love so much whenever I visited there in the past. Two very kind nurses hooked me up to the monitors while I listened to my sweet little boy’s heart rate. No contractions, heart rate was perfect and all was well. That is, until they decided to take my vitals. With a thermometer in my mouth and a blood pressure cuff (which, little did I know at the time would be a piece of equipment that became tethered to me for the next seven days) around my arm, I felt content, relaxed, happy, and calm. Then the machine started beeping and the nurses thought the machine was broken because my blood pressure was so high. I don’t recall the exact numbers, but it was somewhere in the 200/170 range. I laughed it off, thinking it was odd that I had a blood pressure that high because my blood pressures had always been completely normal up until this point. I had even gone in for an appointment a week prior and my blood pressure and urine was normal then. They took it two more times with that same machine, even trying another cuff and waiting for me to relax for a bit, and still ended up with the same extremely high results over a period of an hour. The nurses paged Dr. B (another OB from Dr. L’s office). I tried really hard not to panic.
I texted DH (who was working) to let him know where I was and asked him if there was any way he could come in. My mom was done with her doctor’s appointment at that time and came over to find me in the birthing center. Dr. B arrived and told me that with my high blood pressure I was at risk for preeclampsia and that I would have to go to Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center (a larger hospital further away) to be checked out. DH arrived soon after, which helped settle my nerves a bit. At that point, Dr. B did not think an ambulance was necessary and said that DH could drive me down. Dr. B left the room to make arrangements with Dartmouth. The nurses then had me give a urine sample to test for protein levels, and they came back very high. They also drew blood to test for HELLP syndrome (I will explain this later).
From that point on everything went extremely fast that evening. Dr. B returned upon reviewing the protein/urine results and told me that I had severe preeclampsia; something that I had heard about, but never imagined would happen to me since my blood pressures were always fine and my protein in urine always came back clear. I didn’t realize up until this experience how common it is, how often it occurs, how fast it can happen, and how serious and life-threatening it can be. Dr. B explained to me that there is a very serious risk of seizures and stroke. It wasn’t until that point that it hit me that not only was I in danger, but the life of my son was also in danger, and honestly I also realized that I was more concerned for my baby boy than I was for myself. Dr. B told me that I would be brought to Dartmouth via ambulance, and DH would follow in our car. I really didn’t like this idea because I wanted DH with me. The next thing I knew, I had a nurse putting an IV in (which took about an hour; three separate tries at three different sites…my poor arms…) for saline and magnesium sulfate, a drug that I have come to despise after being put on very high doses of it for 5 days.
The ambulance crew consisted of a paramedic, Matt, and an EMT named Chris. These two cracked me up and made the whole situation a little more bearable. I was scared and felt alone, and if it weren’t for these guys joking around, I probably would’ve broken down and started bawling my eyes out. Because I had to collect my urine for the next 24 hours to test my protein levels, we had to bring it in the ambulance with us. DH handed Chris the container of my pee on ice, saying “Here ya go! Enjoy!”, at which point Chris immediately turned to Matt and tried handing it to him. Matt’s reply was “I’m not taking that, I’m driving! It’s all yours.” The look on Chris’ face was priceless as he brought it in the ambulance with us.
The ambulance ride wasn’t anywhere near as bad as I had anticipated it being. Chris was good company and talked to me about things that were non-related to the situation I was in, which really settled my nerves. It was a welcome distraction from the life-threatening circumstances. I was still worried and scared, but was able to remain composed as we talked about rock climbing, EMT training, and how it was a little annoying that they decided to put in the IV at the local hospital instead of letting them do it in the ambulance.
When we arrived at Dartmouth, I was wheeled into my room in the birthing pavilion. I was happy to see that DH was right behind them; my knight in shining armor. Seeing his face was a huge relief, and I remember getting tears in my eyes and hugging him when he came in. My support, my comfort, the love of my life, was there and I was no longer alone. Soon after, I was being examined by a whole medical team.
Because of the high doses of magnesium sulfate to prevent me from having a stroke or seizure, the days that followed are a bit of a blur – literally! My vision got blurry and I was seeing double, had a horrible headache, was weak and lethargic, horrifically congested, had a very dry mouth, and felt absolutely miserable because of that drug until I was off of it. Magnesium sulfate is a drug that affects the central nervous system. Because of this, I had to have my reflexes and lungs checked every hour in addition to the blood pressure checks, which for a while was every 15 minutes. I was hooked up to all kinds of monitors and machines and could not move easily at all. Every time I had to go to the bathroom, I had to call a nurse to come in and unhook me. As you know, pregnant ladies have to pee quite a bit, and with as much fluid as they were pumping into me, I found that I had to go every 30-45mins. Every time I got up, I felt dizzy and confused and needed help finding my way to the bathroom and then returning to bed. It was quite possibly one of the worst feelings I’ve ever encountered.
I really don’t remember much of what happened until after I was off of this horrific drug. DH had to tell me a timeline of when things happened. There are things that I definitely remember and other things that I don’t. I don’t remember my parents and brother coming in to visit me Saturday night. I do remember the internal exams (probably because they hurt almost as much as passing a kidney stone). That night was when I had my first internal exam to check to see if I was dilated at all and to see how my cervix was. I didn’t think it was going to hurt as bad as it did, but boy was that painful. Because I was so early in the pregnancy, I was not dilated at all, my cervix was not at all soft, and my body was nowhere near ready to go into labor.
Friday, September 6th
On Friday, my blood pressures were still coming back extremely high. They ordered more labs and I had blood work done every six hours for the next few days to test for HELLP syndrome. HELLP syndrome is another complication that often accompanies preeclampsia. It stands for: H – Hemolysis (breaking down of red blood cells), EL – Elevated Liver enzymes, LP – Low Platelet count. Throughout my stay, my labs always came back with levels that were okay and I did not have HELLP syndrome, thank goodness.
Dr. P informed me that due to the severe preeclampsia, I would not be leaving the hospital until after delivery. We asked how long this would be and she said that it could be hours or days, but probably not weeks. They were going to try to keep baby inside of the womb as long as possible, but that induction was likely to happen within the next week. At this time they had me sign papers for a c-section, which was not something they thought I would need at that time. The plan was for them to induce labor after giving me corticosteroid injections to help mature baby’s lungs. The steroids would take 24 hours to take full effect, so we would have to wait to induce until Saturday morning at the earliest. They were going to hold off as long as they possibly could. I honestly don’t remember them doing the injections at all. We met with the anesthesiologist and discussed options for pain management during labor. Looking back, I’m so glad they had me get these things out of the way prior to the day baby was born. It helped things go smoothly and in a timely manner, which turned out to be of utmost importance in the end.
Saturday, September 7th
Saturday seemed like a very long day for me. Every morning I was woken up at 6am by Dr. K, one of the sweetest doctors I’ve ever met, to examine me. My blood pressure was still high (surprise, surprise) and because the steroids had been in my system for 24 hours and the proteins in my urine came up exceptionally high, I was told that today would be induction day.
They began the induction around 13:50 (DH likes military time). This consisted of a tiny tablet called misoprostal (“miso” for short) being placed inside my vagina to soften/ripen the cervix. At 31 weeks, my body was really not ready to go into labor, so they told me that it could take as many as four rounds of this lovely procedure. They would come back and check every four hours to check the progress and if necessary, place another tablet inside. I won’t lie; these procedures were downright painful and awkward. Each one got a little easier as the tissues softened, however. This was repeated the full four rounds and my progress was as follows:
- 18:50 cervix softer, still 0cm dilated
- 22:50 cervix a bit softer, 0.5cm dilated, -4 position in birth canal
- 02:50 still 0.5cm dilated, cervix softer, no real change
I had mild contractions throughout, spaced about 3-5 minutes apart, but nothing unbearable.
At one point during the night I woke up gasping for air, feeling as though my chest was tightening and closing up. I immediately woke up DH and told him I couldn’t breathe. He thought it was because I was having anxiety about what was going on and kept telling me “just relax…slow down your breathing” and I said “no, it’s like I’m having a major asthma attack… I really can’t breathe, something is very wrong!” He pressed the call button and our nurse came in. I explained to her what was going on; she listened to my lungs and left the room. The next thing I knew, a doctor was in listening to my lungs and said I had pulmonary edema (my lungs were filling up with fluid). This is a complication of the magnesium sulfate, so they decided to stop the magnesium for a while and see if my lungs cleared up. They put me on oxygen to help me breathe and a few hours later after they stabilized the edema they started up the magnesium again.
Sunday, September 8th
Since there was no real change, they decided to do two more rounds of miso:
- 06:50 – 1cm dilated (Hooray! Making progress!)
- 10:50 – a little past 1cm dilated, no significant change
The team then decided that they would start me to a new drug called Cervidil. This is a vaginal insert that is used for cervical ripening and to start contractions. They would leave this in for 12 hours, while monitoring both mine and baby’s stats. They inserted the Cervidil at 14:50. I was exhausted from not being able to sleep the few nights prior, felt miserable, and started getting frustrated and impatient. They decided to give me Ambien to help me sleep.
I remember the contractions getting much stronger throughout the night, but I was knocked out because of the Ambien that I don’t remember much. DH says that I was letting out little moans in my sleep every 3 minutes, so he could tell when I was having a contraction. I do remember them hurting quite a bit, but nothing like I had anticipated. I was ready for real labor and just wanted to get this whole process done and over with. It was taking too long and I just wanted to be done.
Monday, September 9th
I don’t remember much during the night other than having to get up to pee and being frustrated with that because I just wanted to sleep. I ignored the pain from the contractions because I was so tired. I faintly remember them coming in to check the progress periodically, but everything seems a blur to me. At 04:20 I was 50% effaced and dilated 2cm. However, we were told that baby was not doing well with the contractions. His heart rate would decline with each one and it took longer and longer for it to come back up in between the contractions. This caused his heart rate to steadily decrease. They decided to remove the Cervidil to pause the induction and monitor to see if his heart rate came back to normal. At 05:50 we were told that baby was steadily declining and that his stats were dropping. We were going to have an emergency c-section. DH says they shaved the incision site, prepped me, I was taken in to surgery, given an epidural, and baby was born at 06:34.
I remember the epidural causing some weird twinges, but it didn’t hurt per say. Honestly the IVs hurt more than the epidural. I was so out of it that I hardly remember anything about the surgery at all. There were doctors and nurses everywhere and I felt like I was surrounded by them while I lay on the table. They pulled a blue curtain across my chest and I had a team of anesthesiologists at my head. I remember seeing DH’s face in a matching set of scrubs, so at first I was confused and didn’t know if it was my husband or a doctor. DH says I slept (and snored!) through most of the surgery. I remember that I was mostly annoyed that they woke me up to do this and I didn’t really understand why. It wasn’t until later that I found out that our baby was in distress. It breaks my heart to know that he was having trouble and I wasn’t even aware of it.
I was wheeled back to my room after the surgery and felt like I slept for days. My mom and dad were there when I woke up. Next step: recovery!
The rest of that day I pretty much slept and they brought in a breast pump and got me started on that. From then on, I would be pumping every 3-4 hours, which was a little annoying since all I wanted to do was rest. Pumping came easy for me and I had great colostrum levels in the beginning. The nurses were very impressed.
I didn’t get to see baby until that afternoon/evening. The doctors wanted to make sure I was stable, and I wanted that first memory of seeing him to be a positive one. I didn’t think they were going to let me hold him, but they wheeled my bed right next to his isolette, took him out, and placed him on my chest. That was the best feeling ever. The first time I got to see and hold my son. He looked so perfect, so peaceful, and so healthy. He was amazing. I spent as long as I could with him that evening. I fell in love.
Tuesday, September 10th
They had put in a Foley catheter since I wasn’t able to move after the surgery. In the morning, that was removed along with the magnesium sulfate (finally!!!). I remember that moment being paramount because I was so excited and happy that they were finally going to take me off of that horrible drug. I was a little nervous about them removing the catheter since it meant that I was going to have to get up at some point when I needed to pee. I didn’t know if I could do it, I was a little scared that it would hurt, and I anticipated it being extremely hard. However, once I actually did it, it wasn’t nearly as bad as I had anticipated. I’ll admit that it was difficult to pull myself out of bed, but the nurses did a great job teaching me how to use my arms and legs instead of my core muscles to lift my weight. DH helped a bit, but I’m thankful that he and the nurse didn’t baby me and made me do the work because it’s been a huge help in my recovery. I’ve learned to do things on my own, but not to push it too hard and to ask for help if I need it. Each time I got up to go to the bathroom it got a little easier. It was painful and felt like my guts were going to fall out, but the nurse reassured me that they weren’t going to fall out and that the sensation I was feeling was okay. I pushed myself to get up each time because I really didn’t want to wet the bed!
This was the day I also pushed myself to take a shower. My mom and sister were there to help me in case I needed it, and I honestly thought I was going to need more help than I did. It was a weird feeling, like my legs weren’t going to be able to hold me up. But, I did it! I pushed through and took that shower. And I’m so glad I did because I felt a lot better afterwards.
From then on, recovery was pretty smooth sailing. I did lots of resting, but also getting up for a walk was important. I got to see baby again (this time my vehicle was a wheelchair instead of a bed!) and that evening we got to do some skin to skin. BEST FEELING EVER!
That night, I had another scare. After a long visit with our boy, DH wheeled me back to our room. As I got into bed I felt my heart palpitating really hard and fast. It felt like it was going to jump out of my chest and each beat felt like a thud. Then I suddenly got a horrible headache, so DH called the nurse in. The nurse checked my vitals, which seemed to be okay and paged a doctor to come in and check me out. Dr. P showed up and ordered an EKG. The EKG came back normal, and she prescribed me some Tylenol to help with the headache. They weren’t concerned about it. DH suggested I chug some water because I might have been dehydrated since I was losing so much fluid that day. Turns out he was probably right! I felt much better after I drank some water, and dozed off.
Wednesday, September 11th
I spent most of my time on Wednesday visiting baby and sleeping. They tested my blood sugar levels a few times and decided that my gestational diabetes was gone, so no more insulin! Hooray! They removed the IV from my hand, so I was no longer hooked up to anything but the blood pressure cuff. Blood pressures were still a little high, so they started me on a drug to lower my blood pressure. More visiting with baby and recovering! I was told that they would most likely be discharging me the next day.
Thursday, September 12th
I was discharged! Discharge happened really fast, and we were out of there by 11:30. We visited with baby for a while and then I finally I got to go home!
Here he is at 3 weeks:
Our son finally came home on October 12th. He is doing extremely well and we couldn’t be prouder of our strong little boy! He is now over 2 months old and weighs 8lbs, 8oz!!!