I don’t know if I’ve ever blogged this story before. I don’t think I have. I guess now is as good a time as any.
Around 25 weeks in my pregnancy, I started feeling very strong, crampy pains at the top and sides of my belly. I knew they weren’t contractions. I’d been having fairly regular contractions since about 20 weeks, and had been checked multiple times. My doctor told me I had an irritable uterus (evidently that wasn’t limited to my personality). They said as long as my cervix didn’t start shortening, I was safe. So we checked my cervix weekly for a while, and then every other week until we figured out that the contractions, while real, weren’t doing anything scary.
Back to the cramping. I asked one of the doctors that I worked with what would cause me to ache so badly in the top of my belly, and curve around the sides. He palpated, and it didn’t hurt. He listened with a stethoscope and didn’t hear anything unusual. He said he wasn’t sure what it could be, but to keep an eye on it and let him know.
A week later, I was having the cramping more severely. Sometimes I couldn’t sit down. They weren’t related to my contractions, and contracting didn’t make them worse, but I noticed when I started cramping, the contractions came more frequently.
Another week went by, and one evening, on December 5th, they became so painful I couldn’t move. They would come and go in waves, and as soon as I was hit, I would start writhing and crying in agony. We called the nurse line and was told we would be called back within an hour. I was hit with another wave of cramping, and started screaming in pain. I told Brock I couldn’t wait until they called back. We were going to have to go to the emergency room. He took my phone and called Dr. Shaver, and told him what was going on. Dr. Shaver said to just go straight to OB Triage at the hospital, that he would call and let them know we were coming.
The car ride there was the longest I’ve ever taken in my life. I was crying in pain the whole time, and Brock was trying to get me to calm down, to relax. I was so scared, and so tense that I was making everything snowball into something so much worse. We got to the hospital, and went up to the Maternity ward. They brought me into the Triage area, had me change into a gown and leave a urine sample, and then hooked me up to the monitor. A nurse came in to start asking me questions and stopped asking within the first three minutes. Another nurse came in and started an IV, and then they said they were moving me to a room. I was going to be admitted. I had been contracting every minute, which panicked the nurses because of the amount of pain I was in. They immediately assumed that I was in pre-mature labor, and they needed to get the contractions to STOP.
I was given a shot of Terbeutaline in the back of my arm. Within a minute, I was shivering and shaking all over. It’s a tocolyitic, which means it stops smooth muscle contractions. One of the most common side effects is uncontrollable shaking. The doctor came in to check me, and I was thrown unceremoniously up into stirrups so he could check my cervix. “Hmm…” he said as he evaluated my cervix while I writhed in pain on the table, “… your cervix feels long and closed. Like a tree trunk, really. I’m going to do a Fetal Fibronectin test, but we’re going to admit you and start you on Magnesium just in case.” A fibronectin test, or FFN, as it’s abbreviated, is a test for fetal proteins in the vaginal secretions. They can be present for many reasons, but if they are NOT present, there’s a 90% chance that delivery WONT occur within 2 weeks. A positive result isn’t a very predictive indicator of outcomes, but a negative test is helpful for easing fears of early delivery. They told me they wanted to give me steroids for the baby’s lungs, and I refused. I told them I didn’t want the steroids until the FFN came back positive. To my logic, as an employee of a High Risk Obstetric clinic, if my cervix was long and closed, and the FFN was negative, there was no reason to give steroids. If we gave them now, and something actually did occur later in my pregnancy, I wouldn’t be able to get them again. So I said no.
The next thing I knew, we were moved into a room in Labor and Delivery. As they transferred me from the stretcher to the bed, I felt a gush of fluid between my legs, and I started crying uncontrollably. I told Brock, “My water just broke! They broke my water!” I couldn’t calm down. Before, what had just been pain and uncertainty became the realization that my baby was about to be born at only 27 weeks. Panic had set in, and I couldn’t get myself together. I cried until I exhausted myself. My new nurse came in and told me they were going to have to put in a catheter while I was on the Magnesium because I wouldn’t be allowed to get up to use the restroom. I screamed out once when she put in the catheter, and then apologized. “I bet you hate having to do that,” I said to her. “Why’s that?” she asked. I said, “It probably sucks to have to hurt people all the time.”
“Doesn’t bother me,” she said, “I’m not the one that it hurts.”
I was a little thrown by that, but didn’t have a chance to think on it. At this point, they started me on the Magnesium. For the next 12 hours, my life was a blur, a haze of events that I can’t clearly remember or distinguish real from dream. I remember a nurse coming at me with a needle. I asked her, “What is that?” She said, “Steroids, for the baby’s lungs.” I was angry, and said, “No! I don’t want the steroids until the FFN is back!” I could tell she was disgusted with me, but she went away. About 20 minutes later, another nurse came in with a needle. “What do you have?” I asked again. This time, the nurse said, “It’s Betamethasone.” Unfortunately, none of these nurses know who I was or with whom I was employed. Betamethasone is the medical name for fetal steroids. I yelled, “I DON’T WANT THE STEROIDS!” and the nurse shook her head and walked away.
Two hours later, my FFN came back negative. My chances of early delivery were significantly reduced, and I felt vindicated in my choice to refuse the unnecessary drug.
This is a VERY long story. We’ll call this Part One, and I’ll continue it tomorrow.