I guess I’m supposed to keep up with these things, but I just realized the About page hasn’t been updated since I started this blog 2 1/2 years ago. So now it has. Tempus fugit!
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.
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.
Socialization practice today – we took the girls to youth group. Also learned that Red 40 may be a problem for Lucy. The Kool-aid at dinner made her nuts. But she is usually nuts at youth group, so I never can be sure.
Also watered the garden and picked a couple of bell peppers, and explained to Lucy why we let some of them stay on the plant and get bigger before we pick them.
I’m pretty sure this will take several days to explain, in part since my writing time is now divided by a number of thank-you notes which must be written with all haste.
Which seems like as good a place as any to start. We were very, very blessed by the generosity of friends and strangers on our trip to Fargo, ND, this past week. We were gone from Tuesday morning to the following Tuesday night, and only spent one of those nights away in a hotel. So pending the thank-you notes, here are the people to whom we owe our very awesome, very long trip.
We spent the first night in St. Louis, MO, with Nate, Angela, and John Paul. Craig got to know Nate first in his role as a Catholic blogger (read: “they met on the internet!”) Nate and Angela are in the beginning stages of starting a new Catholic Worker on the other side of town from the long-standing Worker of St. Louis, and as they have kicked most modern communication technology out of their house, we’ve been corresponding with them by snail mail for a couple of months now…mostly about whether they would be interested in allowing us to crash at their house on our way north. Happily, they were willing. We left New Orleans early, arrived in St. Louis in the afternoon, and had a great time having dinner, going to playgrounds, eating frozen custard, and discussing the joys and difficulties of living a holistic Catholic lifestyle. Nate and Angela were leaving on their own road trip the next day, so we were really grateful to them for going out of their way to take us in.
Next we went on to Iowa City, where we stayed with people we actually knew, Mike and Violet and their beautiful daughters Stella and Juniper. They let us stay two nights, so we had time to visit, take the kids to the library, stay up late, and marvel at how peaceful Juniper is at all times. Mike and Violet let us sleep on their mattress. They are awesome. They offered to leave things where they were in case we wanted to stop back there on the way home. Sadly, we didn’t make it back to see them again this trip.
From Iowa City we went on to the original purpose of the trip, a Young Disciples reunion in Fargo, ND. There, again we stayed with strangers, although the arrangements for this “host home” had been made by a friend of ours who used to run the YD program. Josh and Tracy, the young couple we stayed with, provided toys, stairs, and cereal for the girls, as well as a Mary Poppins cup with built in straw. What more could little girls need? We were there Friday and Saturday nights, and had a good reunion and more fascinating theological discussion. That was actually the other theme of the trip.
While we were in Iowa City, Mike and Violet had mentioned the place their friend Brenna was living: a Catholic Worker farm outside of Dubuque, IA. Violet was kind enough to call and see if we could come visit the farm on our way home. And sure enough, they had a space for us. Actually, Brenna gave up her bed so we could stay, and we got in late since we didn’t leave Fargo until almost one and there are no useful interstates in the area, (South Bend and Highway 31, anyone?) and the roosters are apparently on Mountain Time, as they started crowing at four in the morning. But the people of the farm (do I call them Farmers? Workers?) were so hospitable, even though only Brenna knew us from Adam, and she barely so. Craig was feeling down and out by the morning (he didn’t sleep well) and we were offered another night, should we need it. We have several good farm stories now, and Craig is ready to move immediately, and, as usual, we had good food and good conversation and left feeling welcomed and rested (Craig napped through lunch).
So finally we went back through St. Louis, and stayed at a hotel, because even though Nate and Angela had offered us another night at their house, they were getting back from their road trip that same day, and Craig had come down with a cold, and our humility had about run out, so we decided not to impose anymore. And even the lady working at the hotel offered us milk as we were checking in for the tired and grumpy (read: screaming) girls.
Thus the pile of thank-you notes I have to get started on. We have a new standard of hospitality to live up to. We were well cared for on a long trip, one we could not have afforded to make without the generosity of friends and strangers. And I think the best part was, if we had stayed by ourselves in hotels all those nights, trying to get the girls bathed and to bed on time, sleeping until we had to get ready to go, watching TV because there isn’t a whole lot else for a three-year-old to do in a hotel room, we would have missed so much. We would have missed catching up with old friends, we would have missed making new friends and learning a wide variety of new things. The girls would have missed playgrounds, frozen custard, and farm animals, just for starters. I wouldn’t have so many letters to write, which I actually can’t wait to start. Connections we had to people in other places which were tenuous, if they even existed, are stronger now. Our like-minded community, which we keep trying to build a little here and there as we go, has grown tremendously. It might just have been worth the 3,200 miles in the car.
“Please pray for me to Our Lord that, instead of merely writing something, I may be something, and indeed that I may so fully be what I ought to be that there may be no further necessity for me to write, since the mere fact of being what I ought to be would be more eloquent than many books.”
-Thomas Merton, Dialogues with Silence
I feel this way fairly often. Do you?