Thursday, 30 August 2012

Pregnancy and birth story - Part II

Okay, part 2 - where were we?  Oh right ... I was crying :)

Typically of how life goes, the day after we were informed that I had a potentially fatal pregnancy complication - and the OB who I should "urgently" consult with was not available until after the weekend - was the day we were moving to a new condo.  I had been packing all week, trying to keep the heavy work to the absolute minimum, which meant that after I filled a box I called my boyfriend over to shift it the four feet out of the kitchen to the "box collection area" in the living room (it was a small place, there was little "shifting" required!)

We only had my brother to help - fortunately he has the ability to be more productive than 5 men put together, but it was definitely a lot for my husband to handle.  We also have the dog - the very neurotic dog who hates moving with a violent passion and does whatever he possibly can to communicate that deep loathing (barking nonstop, sitting on top of/in front of suitcases and boxes, walking very slowly in front of you to prevent you from getting out the door with said suitcase/box - or at least prevent you from getting out the door without tripping and risking serious injury!)

The simple matter of what to do with the dog while they were trying to move things was a logistical nightmare.  I alternated between holding him on a leash and locking him in the bathroom.  The latter was a terrible choice because he would bark and scratch frantically at the doorframe and the linoleum, trying to escape to prevent us from leaving him.  The former also stank on ice, because I was also the designated door opener/holder (we'd bought doorstops at the dollar store.  Don't do that, okay kids?  They fit under the door quite nicely, but completely failed to hold it - just slid docilely along the floor while the door slowly closed.  You could practically hear them saying "I'm the door stop.  I'm here to stop the door.  Oh, you want to close, door?  Hmm.  Well, I'm not really expensive enough to stop you.  I'm like an underpaid bodyguard - do you think I'm going to leap immediately into the path of that bullet if there's $1700 a week in it for me?  I'll tell you what I WILL do.  I'm just going to slow you down very slightly so that everyone can see that I know what I'm designed to do and yet, just can't be bothered.")  Every try carrying a 100 lb sofa through a tiny narrow doorway and equally narrow hallway while your 8-months pregnant girlfriend tries to take up as little space as possible while also warding off the panicked, hyper leaping dog who seems to be trying to get up ONTO the sofa even as you cart it out?  Yeah, I don't recommend it.  It was funny to me, but I had to save the laughter for when the boys were well down the hallway, or else I would have been in mortal danger.

Inevitably I found myself trying to hurry things along.  I reasoned carefully before I picked up a box:  "Okay, this is sort of light-to-medium-heavy, so I'll just half pick it up and half shuffle this one.  But this one's light - we'll just quickly pop that over to the car...." then I'd try to pass my husband in the hallway and he'd grab the box away from me, his expression scolding, and I'd mock pout and return to the rapidly (but not quite rapidly enough for me) emptying condo.

Why am I telling you about this?  Let me back up a tiny bit more.  In the year we'd been living together my soon-to-be-husband was also completing his university degree, job-hunting, and dealing with a very unexpected pregnancy.  The combined workload was so much stress for my boy that he ended up developing a case of shingles in late March.  And after much arguing about what we were capable of (me, pregnant, and him, at school) and what kind of jobs he was looking for, we finally came to make a simple vow:  "We will not be greedy".  He wouldn't pursue jobs that were big money but possibly a level up from his current experience and education, because not getting the job also meant he wasn't getting any other job from that company for at least a year while his 'rejected application' made it's way through their hiring cycle.  He wouldn't take on a massive course load because finishing something 3 months ahead of schedule wasn't worth the risk of NOT finishing it - or worse, failing a course.  And we would just take every pregnancy milestone as calmly and happily as humanly possible.

The weekend after we moved I got a call at 8 am on Monday morning from the OB to whom my case had been referred.  They asked me to come in an hour later to see the OB, adding rather cryptically that I had been a last-minute addition to the schedule 'given my case'.

My heart was pounding as I went into the office and met the OB, who was a tanned, lean woman with very velvety brown eyes, and looking into them I felt my heart rate normalize a little.
She held the closed file in her hands and leaned forward in the small exam room.  "Okay, so first thing - you need to be in a hospital.  The reality of this condition is that if you go into labour and these vessels rupture, your baby can bleed out in less than 5 minutes."  (Let me interject that the OB was wonderfully calm.  Somehow she managed to impart the intense urgency of the situation without scaring me to death, and allowed the decision to feel like something I made while fully informed, not blind with terror.)
She continued, "Now, I can deliver your baby right now.  We can do a test and check on the baby's lung development and if we're assured they will function outside the womb, we deliver as soon as tomorrow."  I don't think I replied immediately to this statement.  The only thing I remember distinctly is that my lips had instantaneously gone completely numb - such a strange sensation.
"But we can also wait and see, but either way you need to be in the hospital.  Right now.  Are you all right with being admitted today?  It's right across the street."

I remember agreeing to be admitted, and she pushed to her feet, and it was like someone had hit the play button twice and everything had sped up to double time.  This woman was filling in for the regular OB who was on holidays, and as she went out front to consult with the office manager you could sense that she was wishing for the comfort of her own office and her own staff.  A polite, slightly deferential tone crept into her voice as she said "We need to get this woman into the hospital, as soon as possible.  Can you call over please and make the arrangements?  I assume you have access to the right channels for this - if not I can make the call - can you let me know?"  My heart rate had accelerated again, and I was starting to feel like I needed to sit down.

Truthfully though?  Despite the numb lips, racing heart, and the spots flashing at the edges of my vision, a part of me was thinking - what the heck kind of craziness is this?  I don't need a hospital.  And the baby does NOT need to come early.  This is insane.  I am just going to go home and go to bed and everything will be fine.

The OB looked back over, then abruptly took my purse away from me, hefting it in her hands to check the weight.  "Okay, Stefanie is going to take care of you now.  You can go home and gather up some things but I want you to be careful.  NO heavy lifting.  Your husband does Everything.  I'm not even happy about the weight of this purse right now."  She handed it back to me and I carefully slipped it back over my shoulder, trying to do so in the most ergonomic, non-womb-impacting way.

Then she looked me in the eyes and said "You know what I tell my patients?  We will not be greedy."


I was going to the hospital.

15 minutes later I was home, making lists.  The boy came in and heard the story and started offering the same arguments my panicked brain had come up with.  "You don't need to be in the hospital.  Just go to bed.  They are just trying to avoid a lawsuit, that's all, and all you need is to take it easy.  We've just moved. We haven't even unpacked.  The dog will have a meltdown!  You can't go!"

I looked at him and said "Honey, you know that won't work.  This whole weekend I did WAY too much, I know it.  And the OB said my purse was too heavy - and that's the smallest purse I own!  We can't afford to take any risks."

He just looked at me, unconvinced.

"Honey, she actually said the words - 'we will not be greedy' - " and as I watched his expression changed immediately from faintly militant to resigned.

"What time do you need to be at the hospital?"**


** Now, while he did say this, leaving the story there makes him sound almost preternaturally calm, so let me add one little story to put this into perspective :)

Before we went to the hospital I googled "what to bring for a hospital stay" and decided we needed to go shopping - I needed socks and Junior mints and trail mix, and we needed a lock for my laptop, and other myriad things to make the stay a little easier.

We went to the mall.  Because the OB had said those magical words I felt completely confident that we were doing the right thing, so I chattered happily about the appointment, how dramatic it felt.

He got a coffee from Starbucks and had about five sips before tossing it out, complaining "It is way too strong.  I don't handle caffeine very well."

I mentioned how the OB had said "I can deliver the baby as soon as this afternoon." 

He described how the coffee had been way too hot and too sweet.  "I can feel my heart racing from all the sugar."

I talked about how the baby might have the same birthday as my sister (a week from that day).

He said "I don't know why they put skylights all over the mall.  The sunlight is way too hot.  I'm sweating in here.  It's like a greenhouse."

I said "I mean, it seems really soon, but we were only expecting to wait another 7 weeks anyway.  That time would have flown by."

He said "I think I need to eat something.  I don't feel well - I think my blood sugar is crashing.  I don't think I've eaten all day - except for lunch."

I looked at him and laughed.  "You ate lunch like 20 minutes ago!"

"It's the coffee, I'm telling you, I don't handle caffeine well on an empty stomach," he protested.

"Your stomach isn't empty!" I proclaimed as we grabbed a bottle of all-natural, hypoallergenic laundry detergent.  "Now listen, you need to wash all the baby clothes we have - and the baby blankets, using THIS detergent, before the baby is born.  Okay?"

He stared uncomprehendingly at the bottle.  "What?  It is way too loud in here.  I can't even hear you talking!"

[Are you starting to figure out what I was so clueless about?]

It wasn't until he started complaining that we were walking too fast - "I can't even breathe!  That coffee was way too strong!" that I actually looked at him closely.  Very belatedly I realized that his face was grey, and indeed, very sweaty.

"Okay, let's go eat something," I agreed, and we walked as quickly as his protesting lungs would allow us to a pancake house located at the front entrance of the mall.

Once we were seated and the waitress was bringing a massive order of food and orange juice - "STAT!" - I tried to help.

"I know it's scary, but I promise, it'll be okay."

"I don't know what you're talking about.  I was just hungry.  My blood sugar was crashing.  I told you.  I don't handle caffeine well."

"Okay, honey."

All right, there apparently will be a part 3 - and probably part 4 - before the story is done.  If anyone is reading this, please know I'm not writing all of this because I think you'll love reading this in all its excruciating detail - I'm trying to record it while I still remember everything!

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