The Weekend of Babies

I had a rough weekend.

It was busy, and the ER kept me running.  I hardly had a chance to sit both of my nights.

Whenever I get home from work, I always sit and think about the patients that I’ve scanned, and if any of them stick out to me – someone that might be worth writing about.

This weekend was all about the babies.  And I don’t mean that literally.

One of my more memorable ultrasounds was on a 12 year old girl.  She was in a lot of pain, and they had given her hydrocodone.  She was SO FAR OUT of it, it was almost funny, but she kept trying to chat me up.  She was talking to me about her school, and her friends.  She told me about her parents and her sisters.  I mentioned to her that I didn’t remember what it was like to be 12, but she seemed VERY mature for her age.  She held a conversation, even drugged, better than most of my full-grown patients.  She laughed and told me it was probably from having two older sisters, and growing up a little before her time.  She told me that she’d had a lot of health problems thus far, and she was used to spending a lot of time in the hospital.

The thing that struck me the most about her was the fact that she still cuddled a teddy-bear.  She was sick, and in the hospital, and the bear just made her feel better.  She was a little sad that her mom and dad couldn’t be in the room when we did the exam, but she had her bear.  As grown up and as sweet as she was, she was still just a little girl.
A few hours later, I had another ultrasound – this time on a 13 year old girl.  She was status-post D&C, which kind of freaked me out a little.  Who does a D&C on a 13 year old?  There wasn’t a lot of information in her chart, so I waited to talk to her.  When she rolled up into my room, it scared me how little she was.  But the similarities to the young girl I had scanned earlier were hard to ignore.  She was very eloquent, and very bright.  She told me about how she’d had very heavy periods ever since they first started, and no one could figure out why.  At 12 years old, she was put on depo-provera to try to stop the bleeding, and that made it worse.  She’d been given a D&C a month ago by her ob/gyn to try to curb the bleeding, and had spent the last several weeks hemorrhaging.  She ended up coming in to the hospital because she had started passing out.

We talked for a while before I started the exam.  Because of her age, I automatically assumed I would skip the “internal” portion of the exam.  (Yes, there are some parts of my job that are rather invasive.)  I asked her if she knew what that was, and she said, “Oh yes!  I’ve had many of those before.”  I was shocked, and asked her if she was sexually active.  There are very few contraindications to vaginal or internal ultrasounds, but not being sexually active is one of them.  She blushed and looked at me sheepishly before answering, “Yes.”

My heart fell out of my chest.  Thirteen years old, and sexually active?

Wow.

Blink, blink.

Not that I haven’t seen it before, but this little girl hardly looked a day over ten.  She’s still a BABY!  I wanted to shake her, or hug her, or… I don’t know.  I can’t imagine.  It breaks my heart, and scares me at the same time.

She pulled up her gown so I could scan her belly, and I spied a tattoo and a navel ring.  My blood ran cold.  She told me she ran with a ‘bad crowd.’

Here it is, guys and gals…

I don’t know how to be a great parent.  I don’t even know if I’m doing the right thing from day to day.  It makes me crazy, knowing that these girls are smart, and well spoken, and outgoing… and that things can go so wrong.  Bad choices, bad friends, bad directions – all despite how good things could be.

All I can hope is that I do better for my son, for my kids – that some part of what I’m doing will help them make better decisions.  That I will never see a child of mine on a hospital stretcher, dealing with the fallout of poor choices and a bad direction.  I know I derailed this post, but I can’t help it.

I hope, hope, hope that caring, trying, and wanting the best is enough.  I hope that being involved is enough.  I hope.

Survival.

Woah.

Okay.  Now that mommy and Ronan have both had a much needed nap, lets go.

I put Ronan in the car and left my house by 7:25am.  The drive from my place to KJ’s place is about 2 miles, with several stop lights in between.  Seriously, keeping Ronan awake for that distance was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done.  He was SO exhausted!  I was yelling at him, shaking his car seat, tapping him on the head and shoulder, pulling on his arm and wiggling his fingers – his little eyes just kept on closing.  I ended up having to startle him over and over, feeling HORRIBLY cruel, and making him cry.  I told myself that crying was better than sleeping, and if he fell asleep we’d have to do it all again.

KJ got in the car, and I hadn’t seen her in a few weeks, so we kept trying to talk.  Then one of us would see Ronan’s eyes slowly close, and we’d interrupt the other by SHOUTING… eventually we both just focused on keeping Ronan awake for the drive.  It was the longest 20 minutes of my life.

We got to the hospital just before 8 and went to Admitting.  All they did was pull his file out of a folder, put a bracelet on his wrist and then mine, and get a volunteer to take us to EEG.

Roger was the name of the sweet old man that guided us through the hospital.  He smiled at Ronan again and again.  He dropped us off at the EEG waiting area and left.  The tech came out and told us she was just going to get everything ready, and would be right back.

About two minutes later, she came out and said she was ready.  She took us around a corner to a tiny room, maybe 5 feet by 6 feet, with a stretcher, a counter with a sink, and a computer station on wheels.  All four of us crammed into the little green room with Finding Nemo stickers on the wall.  I noticed that  on the stretcher was a nifty device that looked a little like a TV remote, only it had about 30 wires coming out of it.  On the end of each of the wires was a little golden metal ‘cup’.  It didn’t take much imagination to figure out how those were used.  BUT, let me tell you, it’s nothing like what you see on TV – little electrodes placed all over the head neatly and cleanly.  There was NOTHING clean about this.

She first used a tape measure to mark his head with a red grease marker.  She marked something like 28 little places down the center, an inch from lateral, 2 inches from lateral, and ear level on both sides.  Then, she used a q-tip and an exfoliating scrub on every one of the marks she’d made.  Ronan sat far more still than I EVER would have expected while this strange lady played all over his head.  Next, she scooped a thick, gummy paste with each one of the ‘cups’ and smooshed it down onto his head.  It looked a little like cake icing, and she covered each paste-cup with a square of gauze.  We had to fight with Ronan most of the time to keep him from reaching up and pulling the wires off.

Once she’d gotten his head covered in cups, she put two sticky pads on his cheeks to monitor facial movements, and a pad on his chest to monitor his EKG.   She wrapped his whole head in gauze to keep the cups on and then let me try to put him to sleep.

At that very moment, construction workers above us started working.  It was so loud we couldn’t hear ourselves think.  I just started laughing.  Honestly, I thought he would probably go to sleep anyways, but I wasn’t very optimistic.  The tech called her supervisor, who called the construction team and told them to be quiet – no talking, no working – until 10:30 when we would be through.  About 5 minutes later, the working ceased and I laid down on the stretcher and cuddled with Ronan.  I patted his back and he was out in less than 3 minutes.

The tech started asking me questions for her study, and it was hard to talk quietly with Ronan laying on my chest, so I shuffled him to the side, scooted out from under him, and laid him down on the stretcher on his own.  I wish I would have taken a picture.  He was so peaceful, even with his adorable headwrap.  I asked how long he would be monitored for and she said they needed about an hour of information.  Maybe 25 minutes later, the construction workers started again.  They were making a HUGE racket, and Ronan began to stir.  The tech was livid, but she said there was probably enough information for us to be through.  She asked me to try to wake him up, and I quietly said his name while rubbing his back, which normally only takes a moment or two before he would startle awake.  This time?  I got to where I was nearly shouting his name, and firmly patting his butt – he slept right through it.  Eventually I had to pick him up, and it was finally enough to rouse him.  He was NOT a happy camper.

The tech grabbed a wet wash cloth and wiped out as much of the goop as she could.  She said that the Pediatric Neurologist would read the study that day, and then, told us how to get to Radiology.  We said our goodbyes and went on our way.

Once in Radiology, they checked us in and said we’d be going back in just a few minutes.  A few minutes turned into an hour for my poor boy that woke up angry, hungry, and still tired.  I let him walk around, and he charmed everyone that he saw.  Somehow, despite the day, he was full of smiles, grins and jabbers for all of the hospital workers we came across.  When they finally called our name, we went back into a floroscopy room and got ready.  Ronan had to take his shirt off, and KJ and I had to wear lead aprons.  We waited another 20 minutes in the room for a Radiologist to show up, and then we got started.

We laid him on his back on the table, and the doctor started shooting.  The Floro does a constant small dose radiation so he can line the baby up and see what he needs to see, then snap an image of it.  They gave him a bottle with barium in it, and he ate it gladly.  They kept him on his back, turned him right, then left, then right, then left, then right again.  The radiologist said he was having a hard time getting the barium to empty out of his stomach, but that that could be normal in some kids.  He also said that Ronan had some mild reflux, but not to a severe degree.  She said it was more likely an amount that you see in almost all kids.  He finished up and told me that he would be dictating the study immediately and that my doctor would have the final report in about half an hour.

So we left!

I gave Ronan a bottle of milk and some graham crackers, and immediately he was all smiles.  We loaded up the car, drove home, and this was the smile that greeted me when I opened the door to get him out.

I don’t know what the results will tell us.  I don’t know what will come of this.  I don’t know if it will end up being nothing at all or something terribly serious.  I do know, however, that I really am the world’s luckiest mom.

Ugh, I’m Awake!

Wow.

We kept Ronan up until Midnight last night, per his EEG instructions.  We also stayed up a little extra to pack a bag for the morning, because, I’m sure I will be in a rush as usual.  5am came awfully early.  I’m going to cheat to keep him awake with Finding Nemo (a favorite) and then we’ll possibly move on to Shrek (always makes him laugh.)  I’ve packed a bunch of snacks for when I’m finally allowed to feed him.

I’m not as nervous about today as I thought I would be.  And I have had so much encouragement and support.  I hardly feel like I’m going through this alone.  My sweet friend KJ is going to come with me as the car-waker-upper.  She’s going to stick out the day just so I’m not alone.

I figure we should be home by noon, and I will update again then.  I’m sure there will be a story to tell.

Okay!  Time to go in T-minus 3 hours!

Sort Of Funny.

I had some blog posts all planned out this week, and then everything goes to hell.

All I can think about is Ronan, and his tests, and what’s coming our way.  His EEG and Upper GI are now scheduled for Friday.  We have to keep him AWAKE until Midnight, then let him sleep until 5am, and then keep him awake until the EEG at 9am. (In case you weren’t counting, that’s only 5 hours of sleep for a boy that usually gets nearly 12.)  We also aren’t allowed to give him ANYTHING to drink after midnight until his Upper GI at 10:30.  Ten whole hours with no food, drink and almost no sleep?

I’m going to have the WORLD’S CRANKIEST KID.

And yes, I’ve already called to ask if they can do the Upper GI before the EEG, they can’t.  They have NO earlier slots.  And rescheduling will mean waiting another 2 or 3 weeks.  The Upper GI is more important to me right now than the EEG.  The scheduler also told me that if he’s too sleepy for the Upper GI, they will reschedule, but I’m sorry.  Fuck that noise.  If I keep him without food for 10 hours, you’re doing the damn test, we’ll pinch the kid.

So if Brock can’t come for the rest of the tests on Friday, I need someone to come with me.  I have to have someone in the back of the car to keep him awake while we drive.  Sucky job, but I don’t want to do all of this, and then not do it right.

We went for a walk today, it’s gorgeous out.  Sunny, but the wind is really cool, so it felt great.  I haven’t been doing enough activity lately, I could feel it in my legs after half of the walk.

I can’t get my mind around anything else right now.  I’m doing laundry today, and going to try to get the rest of the house cleaned up.  I also need to have a shower during Ronan’s next nap.  Oh yeah, he’s really cute today.  And every day.

Thanks for all the love and support.  You guys are amazing, and remind me all the time why I blog.  I will give updates as soon as they are available.

OH YEAH!  Ronan is 13 months old today.  I’ll save the Dear Ronan letter for tomorrow.

It’s Not Supposed To Be This Scary.

Ok.  First, before you read this, don’t get mad at us for not telling you what was going on.  We don’t tell everyone everything, and it was important to us to have some answers before we freaked out the cavalry.

Second, we’ll probably get more answers as time goes on, but for now this will do.

Last Friday, I noticed Ronan exhibiting some very strange behavior.  He would shrug while walking around, throwing his head down and cranking his shoulder up and smashing them together almost like you would if your earlobe was itchy and you didn’t have a free hand to scratch.  Only, he’d do it two or three times in a row.  At first, I thought “How cute!  Ronan has learned how to shrug!”

Until he did it again a little later, and I looked a little closer.  It didn’t look totally normal.  Just something about it struck me as wrong.  I filed it away as an anomaly to not worry about unless something came of it.

Later that night, Brock saw Ronan do the same thing for the first time – head smashed into shoulder, arm jerked up, and it upset him greatly.  He asked me, “Why is he doing that?  What is that?  Is it a twitch?  That doesn’t look right.”  Brock witnessed him do it several more times that night, and became increasingly more upset each time.

The next day, Saturday, we saw him do it multiple times, and began to question what could be going on.  Ear infection?  But he’s not upset, and no fever.  Maybe water in his ears?  Probably not something serious at all.  Maybe a muscle twitch?

When I got to work Saturday night, I decided to ask a doctor.  I described what was going on to one of the physicians, and he told me, “Hmm.  Yeah, sounds like it could be seizure activity.  I would take him to his pediatrician on Monday, and get him checked out just to be safe.  They’ll do an EEG, and make sure his brain waves are normal.”  He didn’t sound upset or freaked out, so I tried not to be upset or freaked out.  Then I got some text messages from Brock that told me, “I just put my hand in between his head and his shoulder when he does it.  His whole right side is seizing up, he can’t control it.”  I called him and told him what the doctor said, and tried not to let him freak out too badly, but it was really starting to bother both of us.

I started second guessing my decision, and wondering if we should take him somewhere to be evaluated sooner.

Sunday morning, when I got home from work, I woke Ronan up to nurse him before I went to sleep, and we spent a little special time together.  All of a sudden, he sort of spaced out.  His eyes lost focus, and he wouldn’t respond to me – shoulder jerk, shoulder jerk – snap back.  He acted like nothing had happened.  It freaked me out again.  So Sunday night, when I had a free moment, I called up to the Pediatrics floor, and asked if there were any Pediatricians in the hospital by chance.  The nurse told me no, but asked me what was going on.  I described to her the situation, and she said, “What you have just told me sounds very bad.  Everything you have described is bad.  I would get him to the ER right away and have him evaluated.”

“Right away?” I asked, “At 3:30 in the morning?”

“If what you are saying is accurate, I wouldn’t wait.  Wake him up and go.”

Next, in a panic, I called Brock, leaving a message on his machine and told him to wake up and call me back.  Because there was no answer, I got upset and called my pediatric office, hoping for a 3rd opinion that would agree with one estimation of the situation or the other.  I talked to the call nurse for about 15 minutes, and went through the same story again.  She asked me a bunch of questions, and then came to this conclusion: “If he’s been doing it since Friday, and it hasn’t worsened, he’s not losing consciousness or crying out in pain, I think you’re safe to wait until morning.  But call first thing and get an appointment.  I will make sure I leave a message for them saying they need to get you in immediately.”

For the rest of the night, I fretted and worried, going back and forth between one possibility and another.  Could it be a Tourette’s Tick?  I read a book not too long ago about a boy whose life was taken over by ticks and rituals, tried hundreds of different drug combination and felt like his life was entirely dominated by the judgments he was handed for something he couldn’t control.  This was terrifying.  Could it be Seizures?  What would that mean?  What if it’s a brain tumor, causing involuntary movement?  Or some other neurological problem?  What if his muscle is developing improperly?  Your brain can do horrible, awful things when idle, and I’m thankful last night was a busy night.

I got home around 7 am and crawled into bed.  I told Brock that he needed to wake up at 8am and call the office for an appointment; tell them it was urgent to us to get in.  I hoped that it would be early enough to get our fears assuaged, and late enough that I could catch a couple hours of sleep.  At 8:05 am, Brock woke me up and said to get ready, we had an appointment at 9:15, which meant we had to leave soon.

We got to the office and checked in.  When we were taken back to the room, the nurse asked us what was going on.  We described it to her, and she seemed a little concerned, then told us the doctor would be with us in a moment.  Now, I have a love-hate relationship with my Pediatrician.  He is very dismissing, and can often make me feel silly for worrying about something very valid to me, which pisses me off.  But he also takes something he deems to be serious VERY seriously, and will move aggressively to be sure it is addressed and taken care of.  He came in and asked us questions.  We went through the same description we had given everyone else, and he probed deeper.  Asked about sleeping habits, and eating.  Asked if there were any other similar symptoms.  Asked if there were anything common factors we’ve noticed that caused the reactions.

Then he brought up Ronan’s GERD.

He told us after a few minutes that this sounds fairly serious, and is worth a full work-up.  He said he was going to order an EEG to rule out Petty Mal brain activity, but he was pretty sure it would be normal.  He then said he was going to order an Upper GI, and a full food allergy panel.  The connection wasn’t immediately there for us, so he explained.

He said there is something called Sandifer’s Syndrome, which is related to GERD.  Basically, it’s the condition where a child is in pain because of reflux, and it causes them to posture their body in such a way as to give relief.  Strangely, it’s commonly mistaken for seizures.  Ronan has been on Prevacid for his reflux for several months now, and missing even one dose of his medicine can cause his symptoms to reoccur so heavily that it takes days to remiss again.  Our pediatrician said it sounds like his GERD is still very active, and not being entirely controlled by the medicine.  He also said some GERD cannot be controlled by medicine.  But he wanted to get all of our bases covered.

We spend several hours at the hospital being tested, and have to go back for more tests.  Ronan had to have several vials of blood drawn, and I think that is one of the most horrible things to have to endure.  We also had him checked for MRSA, because the spot where he had a needle that was dropped on the floor injected had developed a pimple.  (Thankfully it appeared to be normal.)  All of this on just one hour of sleep.

So, with several fears quieted, we have time to wait until all of the tests are complete and a diagnosis is given.  I’m thankful that my Ped sounded so sure, and was very comforting.  I’m thankful he was willing to move quickly.  And I hope this is all that is going on.  I’m sorry for keeping it secret, but it was important to us not to sound any alarms over something that COULD actually have been nothing.

At 27 Weeks – Part 3

This story began with part 1, and is continued with part 2.

After being discharged, Brock and I left for home with unease.  There were still no real answers as to where all of that terrible pain was coming from, or if it was really gone for good.  Also, there was the added trouble of being on bed rest, and not being able to work meant not being able to save up as much money for time off.  I had a really hard time letting Brock do EVERYTHING for me.  I found it very frustrating.  I wasn’t afraid that I was going to deliver soon, and I wasn’t hurting, so why the bed rest?  The doctors put me on Procardia, which is another tocolytic and I didn’t like taking it; it made me feel loopy and queazy.   So I got permission to only take it when I felt like the contractions where getting troublesome.  I was also on the anti-spasmodic, that seemed to be helping.

Until around 8pm.  I had another attack.  It hit me just like all the other ones, a sudden on-rush of overwhelming, mind-crushing pain.  I couldn’t find a position to ease the hurting, and I was crying too hard to talk to Brock about what we should do.  He took control and packed the car back up with all of our hospital stuff, brought me out to the car, and we headed back in to the hospital.  This time, something changed. It was a whole different experience.  It felt almost as though they didn’t believe anything was wrong.  This time, no pain medication.  This time, we spent over 4 hours in triage before they decided to admit me.  This time, I didn’t hear from a doctor until the next day.

Once I was finally admitted, I was told they wanted to do a CT scan.  I don’t know which doctor ordered it, or what their indication was.  I was in so much pain, I didn’t care.  To my logic, if they ended up delivering the baby at 27 weeks, he would have so many chest x-rays, it would probably be equal to a CT scan, so I consented.  (I found out much later that my assumption was incredibly, completely wrong.)  I was brought down to radiology for an abdomen-pelvis CT.  I sat in the hallway for about 20 minutes while I waited for the Tech.  This, being my business, didn’t upset me.  I know how things work, and what it’s like to do exams in the middle of the night.  I tried to be as pleasant as I could be, despite my pain and lack of meds.  Once my scan was completed, I waited another fifteen minutes for someone to come and get me.  Finally, back in my room where Brock was waiting for me, I got to lay down.  Most of the pain had started to pass, and I fell asleep.

The next morning, I was woken by Dr. Imseis again at 7 am.  He came in to tell me that the CT was normal, and they had no idea what was wrong.  “We want to do a GI consult,” he said, ” just in case it’s something like an ulcer.  But if the GI doctor can’t find anything wrong, we only have two options left.  Exploratory surgery, and delivering the baby.  You can’t stay in this much pain for the rest of your pregnancy.”

Brock and I spent the rest of the day on edge, our minds spinning wheels of what could possibly be wrong.  We imagined every single bad outcome.  At one point, I broke down in tears again and said, “I wish it was just something stupid like constipation.  I wish it was nothing at all.”  We waited, and waited.  Evidently, our GI consult wasn’t very high up on the priority list.  We saw a Nurse Practitioner for the GI office that came and asked a bunch of questions, and said the doctor would be in to see us that day.  He didn’t show up until 7pm, after we’d waited 12 hours to find out what the next scary step would be on this terrible journey.

The GI doctor was a thin, dark haired man with glasses that dominated his face.  His Dr’s coat looked well worn, and he walked into the room with a smirk.  He introduced himself, shook my hand, then Brock’s, and began a little speech.

“I took a look at your CT from last night, just to be safe.  I know they told you it was negative.  The funny thing is, I’m a poop doctor.  And poop doctors look at different things than Radiologists do.  So even though the radiologist didn’t notice anything wrong with your CT, I found something very interesting.” He paused, smirked again.  “I noticed that it looked like you probably haven’t” … pause… “had a bowel movement” … pause… “in at least a month.  Maybe longer.”

I blinked.

And then I smiled.

And then I laughed.

And then I threw my head back with a sigh of relief, and asked, “You’re serious?  That’s what this is?  Constipation??”

The doctor nodded, laughed, and came over to sit down and talk to me about the situation.  He told me that all of the tocolytics and anti-spasmodics I was put on stopped the pain because they stopped the bowels from trying to move.  He said that they were, in effect, making the problem worse.  He also said that even though I felt like I was having normal bowel movements, I was probably not fully emptying my colon each time, causing a slow but inevitable back-up.  He told me that at that point, my entire large bowel was full and had become impacted, as well as most of the small bowel.  He also said that it wouldn’t have been much longer before I had gotten toxically sick from the over-load.

Before the doctor left, I thanked him… and then asked him why he couldn’t have asked my husband to leave the room before giving me the news.  I knew I’d never live this down.

I was so thankful that the problem was something so simple.  I was incredibly grateful that the solution was so easy, and (though embarrassing,) relatively quick.  I spent another full day in the hospital being “de-pooped” and ended up having lost a full 10 pounds by the end.  I swore my husband and family to secrecy, but really, we all know how this ends.

Every time I say something remotely unbelievable, the inevitable response is, “Oh come on, Mandy.  We all know you’re full of shit.

And just in case you don’t believe me, here is a picture of my belly at 27 weeks, and then a week later (post de-poop!) at 28 weeks.

Yes, that really is a before and after picture.

At 27 Weeks – Part 2

This story began yesterday with Part 1.

For Part 2, I must write a few things that I had forgotten to put in up to this point.

Within the first hour of my trip to the hospital, I was given a shot of Morphine.  The amount of pain I was in was unbearable, and they needed me to relax in order to find out if the contractions were going to slow down.  A few hours later, the Morphine had worn off, and I was given a second shot.  The Morphine masked the pain, but it wore off too quickly, and the pain came back just as it was before.  Also, all night long my nurse would come in and check my reflexes and bend my legs, every hour, to make sure the Magnesium wasn’t causing any adverse reactions.  Even though I was almost completely out of it, I didn’t get any sleep.  One of the many times she came to check on me, she shook her head at the IV pump.  “What’s wrong?” I asked.  She said, “I can’t believe the dosage you’re on.  4mg of Magnesium is the dose for someone four times your size.  But every time I try to wean you down, your contractions start again.  I’m sorry.”  I had been telling her all night that Dr. Shaver wouldn’t want me to be on Magnesium, and he’d make them take out the foley catheter.  I said my doctors wouldn’t keep me like this.  She just nodded and went about her work.

After the second shot of Morphine wore off, and the pain was ramping back up again, they told me they couldn’t safely give me any more of that drug.  Instead, they gave Nubane.  I’d never heard of it before, but I was told it causes nausea.  They gave me a dose of Zofran in my IV to help prevent the nausea, and I remember it burning all the way up my arm, and feeling it go down into my heart.  Then they gave me the Nubane.  I’ve never had such an immediate, violent reaction to a drug before.  Within 10 seconds, I sat up and said, “I’m going to be sick.”  I had an extra second to catch a clear container that the nurse handed me before I spilled my cookies over and over.  Once the wretching stopped, I laid back down, exhausted, and fell asleep.  When the Nubane wore off, they came with more, and I cried.  My stomach was empty now, and they weren’t getting my pain under control, they were just covering it with narcotics, all of which were probably harmful to my baby.  They dosed me again, and I dry-heaved until I was crying with pain and fatigue.

Brock was sleeping on the pull-out, convertible recliner-slash-bed.  And by sleeping, of course, I mean sitting by, feeling useless and wishing he could take all of the pain away.  He was getting angry with the frustration of being unable to do anything to help.  I didn’t want him to touch me or try to make me feel better.  And I kept telling everyone it was “too hot in here,” so poor Brock froze all night while I roasted away on drugs.

Around this time, near morning, I figured out that my water hadn’t been broken or I would probably have kept leaking.  When the doctor checked my cervix in the Triage room, he used a large amount of lubricating jelly that melts when it raises to body temperature.  The gush I felt was all of the extra jelly exiting my body.  It was the first breath of relief I’d had in what felt like forever.

My next breath of relief came at 7am.  My doctors, all three of them, came in to check on me.  Even though I was still quite out of it, they managed to make me smile.  They asked the nurses a few questions, check my contraction strips, and Dr. Shaver told the nurse to take me off of the Magnesium.  He also said that I didn’t need a catheter.  I almost cried with gratitude.  Another nurse came in, and I heard her say to Dr. Imseis, “She refused the steroids!  She wouldn’t let us give them to her!”

“Good,” was his reply, “She didn’t need them.”

As Dr. Imseis was the hospital physician that day, he was the one that performed my actual consult.  I had an ultrasound done that confirmed that there was nothing wrong with my pregnancy or placenta, and that my cervix was still long and closed.  Despite the significant contractions I’d been having all night, my baby was not in danger of coming too early – or at least not yet.

However, the problem of my pain had still not been addressed.  Dr. Imseis prescribed an anti-spasmodic, which assumed that there was some problem with my bowels.  After the first two doses, my pain had gone away and they felt comfortable letting me go home on bed rest.

I would return to the hospital in less than 24 hours.  This story will conclude tomorrow with Part 3.

At 27 Weeks.

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.