Prebirth Adventures in the Hospital

Let’s make an attempt to work out exactly what happened on our little excursion to the hospital. I’ve been processing it for a couple of days now, but I’d like to get some of the details down “on paper” before they start to get too fuzzy.

It was Wednesday morning, and I was taking a shower. When I went to turn off the water, I noticed blood (the bright red kind doctors and pregnancy books get really excited about) in the tub, and tried to call Craig. He thought I wanted him to get the biscuits out of the oven, so he didn’t come and I had to call again. We called the midwife, but she didn’t pick up, so we called the office of our back-up doctor, and they told us to come in to the labor and delivery floor.

At any rate, I got cleaned up and dressed, and went to lay down. The bleeding seemed to have stopped, but we knew we should still go have it checked out. Craig got the girls dressed and packed some biscuits for their breakfast, and called Theresa to watch them until his mom could come in from Baton Rouge. I failed to eat, which was a mistake, except to snatch a couple of small biscuits from the girls’ bag before they left.

Theresa is, after all, a saint. We dropped the girls off at her house on the way to the hospital (and forgot to leave the car seats and had to circle back) even though she was getting on an airplane in a few hours. She and Craig’s mom worked out what to do with the girls, and they spent the afternoon at our house then went to BR for the night.

Craig and I made our way to Touro uptown and found a parking place near the entrance. (He had to renew that meter I think five times over the course of the day!) We went upstairs, checked in, got a room, changed clothes, and started waiting. I can’t remember exactly what order things happened at this point. I thought there would be tests – pelvic exam, ultrasound, and whatever else, and then we would either know something was really wrong or we would go home. We were told my back-up doctor was in surgery or something like that, and would be in a little later to see me. In the meantime, they put me on a fetal monitor, and then the nurse came in with an IV bag. We had been there an hour or two at this point.

I started to cry, which confused the nurse a great deal. Why wouldn’t I want an IV? I think it was that what I had hoped would be a battery of tests and home in time for lunch was suddenly looking like a much longer stay. I think I made our doctor mad, because I asked the nurse to ask if I could do oral fluids instead of the IV. What no one had explained to us, I figured out the next day, was that the fetal monitor was showing weak but semi-regular contractions (which I could not feel at all) and so they thought I was starting pre-term labor. IV fluids are a really good way to stop that, so that’s what they wanted to do. I might have been less upset by it if anyone had bothered to tell us what was going on.

They did blood work at some point (and I would have had it done again later if I hadn’t asked what they were checking for now – the tech left to check her orders and never came back!) and the speculum exam showed nothing of interest except that my cervix was still closed. They rolled in an ultrasound, and it looked like my placenta was low, so they wanted to use the better ultrasound. So we waited for someone to come from that office across the street to do that. And we waited.

Meanwhile, lunchtime had come and gone, and I wasn’t being allowed to eat, which really just made me grumpy. Our nurse finally sneaked me some crackers, and when Craig went home later in the evening he brought back almonds so I’d have a little something at least. Again, apparently they were thinking I was in labor, so I shouldn’t eat, as is the usual policy, but no one was telling us that.

What are the chances of a woman who is fairly well in touch with her body and in her third pregnancy going into labor and having no idea that it’s happening at all?

We did eventually see a doctor (ours was not able to make it after all) and he wanted to keep up the IV, keep us overnight, and give me shots to slow down labor (labor!?) and speed up the baby’s lung development in case it was born early. Not what we were expecting. We still didn’t really know what the doctors were seeing or what was going on.

Finally it was decided that we would have to go across the street to do the next ultrasound, they wouldn’t be coming to us after all. This was somewhere around 3PM if I remember right.

So we loaded up a wheel chair and headed out. The first ultrasound showed a very healthy baby and everything looked pretty good. Then they did a transvaginal ultrasound so they could see just how low the placenta actually came, and found that it is covering about 1.5 cm of my cervix.

So here is the trouble. If it doesn’t move off of the cervix, the bleeding risk during labor is too great to make a vaginal delivery a good idea. Contractions, particularly strong ones, have the potential to move the cervix (which is what they’re supposed to do), and if the cervix pulls away from the placenta when the placenta isn’t ready, the placenta could bleed. It could be a lot or a little, there’s no way to know. If it’s a whole lot, it could be very bad for me and the baby.

So what they usually do is prescribe bed rest and schedule a c-section for 36 weeks or so.

So we rolled back to the L&D floor after another chat with the doctor on call and discussed our options. We decided that since there were almost no risks associated with it, we would do the steroid injections to help Oscar’s lungs develop faster, just in case something did cause a very early birth. But we wanted to go home for the night and come back for the second injection. The doctor didn’t like that idea, but told us we could do that if it was really what we wanted.

Craig renewed the parking meter again and made some phone calls (our cell didn’t work in the hospital room) including to the midwife, who told me to “trust my gut.” Of course, I never felt bad at all except for the things the hospital did to me, so my gut was saying, “Let’s go home and sleep this off. I want to see my girls. I don’t want to stay here.”

Well, the resident (intern? something like that…) came back a little later and told us that the doctor was going to sign a “left against medical advice” paper which meant that our insurance would pay for nothing that had happened on our whole visit. As we are not independently wealthy, that was clearly not a option. So we felt totally trapped, and spent the night in the hospital.

It turns out, after Craig talked to the insurance, that she was totally wrong about this in our case. We could have left at any point as long as I wasn’t in the ER or mentally unsound. But we didn’t know any better!

So I didn’t get to eat dinner, either, and after we got back to the room they wouldn’t let me go to the bathroom, I had to use the bed pan. I tried to consider it a lesson in humility. But with the amount of IV fluids in my system, I had to be humble fairly often.

I had the first of the steroid shots (the needle didn’t work right and it had to be done twice) and then Craig went home for a little while to see the girls and gather things for the night. He slept in the arm chair with the extendable foot rest. I refused the sleeping pills until around 11, and then it took an hour for them to come over and I had dozed off anyway.

The real problem with the night was that my nurse was apparently very busy and I had to keep calling twice to get anything – bed pan, new IV bag (and the beeping that goes with an empty IV is horrendous), more paper for the fetal monitor, which also beeps until someone pays attention to it. Once my nurse came to put me on the bedpan, and then left the room. I had to wake Craig up to help me because the thing made my legs fall asleep. Even with the sleeping pills I woke up around 7.

I had to wonder several times just how worried they really were about me, since I tended to knock one or both of the fetal monitor probes loose and the baby’s heart rate would go off record for half an hour or more at a time.

The morning brought no breakfast, even though the doctor the night before had promised that I could have some juice before bed (which I declined as I didn’t think it would help me sleep) and something to eat in the morning. The morning shift nurse was nice enough to go on a crusade for me and find out if I could at least get some lunch, which I finally did. We spent the day waiting around, mostly, until 24 hours had passed since the last steroid shot, so I could get the next one and go home.

But in the afternoon the new doctor on call came in to visit, and he wanted us to stay another 12 hours. I balked. I had been told I could eat, then I couldn’t eat; I could leave, then I couldn’t leave; I could walk around, then I had to stay in the bed; I had had enough of these changing orders. So I explained this to the doctor, who admitted he was of a “conservative” mind frame and followed ACOG’s guidelines closely, but would yield if we really wanted to go home. He, too, would sign the “against medical advice” paper, but we knew now that that only meant we couldn’t sue him for letting us go, so that was no big deal. We were much less interested in suing than in sleeping.

The highlight of the whole visit was that a friend of ours from the Catholic Worker was also there having her baby, and she was able to walk over and visit us before we left. (Craig got to go see little Micah Francis, lucky thing!) She had a wonderful birth experience with one of the midwives who works in the hospital, and looked great and was a true blessing for us at that time. I don’t think she’ll ever be able to know how much good that little visit did me.

So I got dinner, Craig gathered things up, and a little after 6:30 we had steroid shot #2. Then it was remove all the various medical devices, get dressed, sign the release paper, and roll out to the car. My mom had picked the girls up in Baton Rouge and brought them home, so they greeted us at the door, which was wonderful. It was a long two days without them. And then I went to bed and had Craig try to rub some circulation into my legs. I’ve had no swelling this whole pregnancy, but they had pumped so much fluid into me that I could barely squeeze my sandals on to come home because my feet were so swollen.

And here we are, two days out now, and so far so good. It’s hard to turn over my carefully systematized (ha!) house to other hands, but I’m working on it. I am highly motivated not to go back to the hospital any sooner than I have to. Tomorrow morning we have an appointment with our own doctor, so we’ll see what things look like from her perspective, and what our course of action will be. Pray hard around 9AM! (Or later – it took us 3 hours to get in for the last visit!)

Postscript, if you’re still reading: some things that didn’t fit into the storyline, but that I hate to leave out.

  • What is bed rest anyway? Nurse #1 said it means only getting out of bed for the toilet, but on-call-doctor #1 said it meant staying home and taking it easy – he mentioned walking around the house and doing light activity.
  • Shouldn’t another nurse cover a call for a bedpan if the nurse in charge of that room is busy? That seems like common courtesy.
  • Where are they writing down things like “she can eat now” that no one can find them???
  • Does it make sense to make a woman 31 weeks pregnant fast for over 30 hours when you don’t want her to start labor? Or ever, unless there is a really, really good reason? I don’t think the possibility of starting early labor sometime in the next few days a very good reason, personally.
  • What do hospitals have against fresh food? The food wasn’t terrible, but you there was definitely a disproportionate amount of starch and dessert. I devoured the cooked squash. (The real problem is that we have been doing way too much research into nutrition lately, and the hospital food I got equals not nutrition.)
  • Again, where are they writing stuff down that I almost had my blood work done twice? And with experiences like that, why wouldn’t I question everything that is being done to me?
  • After four nurses, three doctors, and one intern-type-person, I didn’t know which way was up or who to listen to. I know the circumstances were a little strange, but still. My vote will forever be for a midwifery model of care.

My Little Lent

Well, for those of you who may not have gotten Craig’s updates, we are in need of prayers – big time.

Merry Christmas, by the way!

The good news is, our little Oscar is very healthy, and I am very healthy, except for one little thing.  I had some bleeding in the shower on Wednesday morning, and we went on to the hospital to have it checked out.  (Thank you Theresa, Justin, Craig’s mom, and my mom for taking care of the girls through all this!)  What I had hoped would be a battery of tests and getting home in time for lunch turned into two days and one night in the hospital, mostly waiting.

Life lesson: do not go to the hospital on an empty stomach.  There is no telling how long they will make you wait to eat.  (More on that later.)

So the story is that a small (they’re guessing about 1.5 cm) part of my placenta is between the baby and my cervix.  For the birth to go well, the baby has to come out before the placenta, or there can be lots of bleeding and other possible complications.  So.  What needs to happen is for the placenta to kindly move itself out of the way, which can happen, but the doctors we were seeing were not too hopeful.  Thus the need for lots and lots of prayers.

Of course, as I called our midwife on the way home (finally) and processed things more, it may be that we had some fairly pessimistic doctors to talk to.  The last one wanted to keep me another night (just in case) and schedule a c-section for 36 weeks.  We have an appointment with my own doctor (who was on vacation this week) on Monday, so we’ll have a much better idea of where we stand after that.

In the meantime, I’m on bed rest, at home, thank God.  Mom and John are here helping, and we have have had lots of other offers of help, which we greatly appreciate.  So that’s the short version.  The blow-by-blow story of the hospital visit, which I like to call, “A Case for Avoiding Hospitals”, will be appearing on this page soon.  I’m back to having time to write, since I can’t go anywhere!

And why the title of this post, you might ask?  Well, if I make it 49 days from our homecoming (the length of Lent), I’ll be at 39 weeks, which I feel like is a fairly ambitious goal.  So I’ve made myself a paper chain to count down the days, and there will be very little fasting and lots of praying until the baby gets here.

December 14, 2010

Homeschooling Journal:

Visited the Farmer’s Market and Whole Foods.  The girls are getting to meet lots of new vegetables since Craig has decided we’re going to try to eat as “raw” as possible.  Yesterday I brought in the last bell peppers from the garden and each of the girls ate a whole one like an apple.  (They were small.)  That made us really happy.  Lucy also was chewing on cabbage like a dinosaur.

This afternoon we went with the Justice Walking group to the nursing home and the girls got to watch us sing Christmas carols and talk to the residents.  Lucy barely said a word, but when we left she said she liked it and wanted to go again.

We also cleaned the living room and they played dress-up all evening.  I think that covers it.

December 9, 2010

Homeschooling Journal:

Dug Christmas books out of attic and read Lily the Lost and Found Lamb, Merry Christmas Strega Nona and Cajun Night Before Christmas.  The girls indulged in a Veggie Tales Christmas movie.  We started the Christmas-tree-setting-up process – sweeping and assembling stand parts are done.

December 8, 2010

Homeschooling Journal:

Continuing to try and convince Samantha that she doesn’t want to keep wearing a wet diaper, that the floor is not the appropriate place to pee, and that clothes are very effective at keeping you warm.

Play-doh and cookie-cutter session before lunch.

Lucy came to Mass and got to hear about the Immaculate Conception at Youth Group.  Samantha stayed with B-Bob and Mimi and learned to sing “Jingle Bells”.

December 7, 2010

Homeschooling Journal:

Visited the farmer’s market and grocery store.  Read Art and Max; Watch Out, Little Wallaby!; and Arbor Day Square before naps.  Craig read some other books in the afternoon.  Went to Adoration at AOL this evening, and then got a Christmas tree.

December 6, 2010

Only two months since the last entry…

Homeschooling Journal

Lucy’s BD party was Sunday (the 5th), so cleaning, baking, pizza making, and socializing all occured.

Lots of dress-up, including one “queen” being chased by one “tiger”.

The manger scenes are out, and were in constant use for a couple of days.  Lucy remarked several times that she “can’t wait for baby Jesus to come”, as the whole thing is a little empty without Him.

Trip to the zoo with Dad for Lucy’s actual birthday.

Trip to the library today for story time (Christmas themed).  Lucy made a beautiful paper stocking with sequins on it, and demonstrated her superior cutting and gluing skills.  Samantha demonstrated her tearing and glue-spreading skills.

New books from the trip include, Josephine Wants to Dance; Did Dinosaurs Eat Pizza?; Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening; The Legend of the Candy Cane; Art and Max; Watch Out, Little Wombat; and Arbor Day Square.

We returned Brother Juniper; Martha Doesn’t Share; Jamberry; Cinderella; and whatever else I’m forgetting.

Advent project today was to paint ceramic ornaments.  Lucy did a snowman and Samantha an angel.  They are quite colorful.  Craig called Lucy “Picasso”, but she was very meticulous about making sure all the edges were perfectly covered.  She’s coming into her own with the art things now, I think, and really enjoys painting, stamping, cutting and gluing, and the like.

Finally, some news!

Yesterday I had the appointment with the OB who backs the midwife we’re looking at using, and I am offically certified “low-risk” for home birth!  Yay!

I spent 3 1/2 hours at the doctor’s office, and took a tongue lashing, because the OB has had some pretty bad experiences with the midwife we used for Samantha’s birth, but she said she trusts Emmy’s (the new midwife) judgement so much that she thinks we will be fine, even if something should go wrong.  So I have an appointment with Emmy in two weeks, and all I have to do now is keep from doing anything that would kick me out of the “low-risk” category between now and February.

I am so relieved!  No more trips to Baton Rouge (I think I was going to try to switch to Touro if the home birth fell through anyway – that drive is just not something I really wanted to contend with after the baby was born), and all the rest of the appointments, except one 36 week check-up with the OB, are at my house.  No more dragging the girls anywhere.  No more 1, 2, or 3 hour waits for appointments.  And no hospital (God willing)!  Thank you so much for all the prayers, they have paid off in a big way.

I hope all is well with those of you who still bother to check up on this poor, neglected blog.  I guess my creative energies have just been directed into several other areas lately.  I’m waiting to see if this new baby gives me the kick to want to write like Samantha did, or if this is just going to become a very occasional forum for me.  Or I could try to be disciplined.  But that rarely goes well. : )

At any rate, Samantha had a wonderful little birthday party about a month ago, and Lucy’s is this Sunday, and then we have Christmas, and babies, and such, so things are staying busy.  And that’s pretty much the news.