By You I have been sustained from my birth; You are He who took me from my mother’s womb; My praise is continually of You.
Monday, November 28th, 2016
I remember standing in the produce section of Wal-Mart on Monday morning. Everything was crossed off my list except for Christmas ornament hooks, and my heart sank when I realized they were located clear across the store. I had to give myself a pep talk before I started pushing the cart the two hundred yards to the garden section. If I could just make it home and unload the groceries, I can rest for 45 minutes before I need to pick up Gracie. And if I can just sit down and rest, maybe the heaviness and back pain will go away.
If I can just get Gracie to her nap, I can lie down and rest, and maybe the pain will go away.
If I can just drink some water, lie on my side, and not move for an hour, maybe the sharp pains will go away.
If I can just get something to eat, drink some more water, and sit down until my husband’s flight gets in from Houston, surely the pains will stop coming every seven minutes.
I hadn’t felt right since Thanksgiving. Saturday night I cried to my husband and said I just didn’t know how I was going to get through another twelve weeks of pregnancy when I felt so heavy and achy. This was what being pregnant with a precocious toddler felt like. I needed to suck it up and deal with because clearly things were only going to get heavier and achier as the pregnancy progressed.
His flight from Houston got delayed around 5 pm. He called to tell me right when I had picked up my phone to text him that I was so thankful he was getting home soon. I started to cry because I just didn’t feel good. He got yelled at for being on his phone in the plane and had to leave. I told him that if things didn’t get better, I was calling the OB in thirty minutes.
An hour later, I turned on The Land Before Time: The Great Ice Melt Adventure in the Secret Rainforest of the Forgotten Island or something close to that, distracted Gracie with pizza, and called the OB. He said to come in immediately. I scrambled to find a babysitter with Gracie, fully prepared to bring her with me, but was able to get one within twenty minutes. I think that one event- being able to find a babysitter who I trusted so fast- calmed me for the next twelve hours. I don’t know what I would have done if I had to be emotionally torn between keeping an eye on Gracie while in L&D and taking care of what would happen next.
At 6:45pm I huffed and puffed my way from the parking lot to the ER. I had driven the wrong way down a one way entrance and parked in the staff parking lot, but I didn’t care. Within ten seconds of walking in and verbally identifying myself, I was whisked upstairs in a wheelchair to the labor and delivery floor and surrounded by nurses and a doctor who already knew who I was and why I was there. Despite being alone, with my husband thousands of feet in the air somewhere over Louisiana, being in a hospital where most of the staff knew him and, by extension, knew me was so comforting. I never had to show my driver’s license, insurance card… anything. I was Dr R’s wife, so I was going to have a hand to hold until he got there.
I was checked by the OB. Three centimeters and 80% effaced. I was in active labor at 29 weeks. I needed to be transferred to UMMC by ambulance… not for my sake, but because of the pending arrival of Bea. Our hospital wasn’t prepared to handle a baby that early and undeveloped.
Once that was announced, the bustle in the room turned into a flurry, and I began getting stuck with various needles and pumped with a massive amount of fluids.
Magnesium to stop the contractions. It made me groggy, my limbs were so weak I couldn’t lift them, and my eyes crossed when forced them open.
Stadol to help with the pain. It also worked with the magnesium to stop the contractions. I could feel it crawling up my arm and by the time it hit the back of my neck, every muscle in my body relaxed and the world got fuzzy. It relaxed me enough to realize the implications of being sent to a hospital an hour away; my humor and bravado melted away and I began to sob. I tried to verbally work out the logistics of handling Gracie until a nurse grabbed my hand, squeezed it, and said it was time to let someone else take control of everything.
Oh, and let’s not forget the steroid shot. Over a week later, and I still had a hematoma from the injection site. This shot was a strap-me-to-the-bedrails, give-me-a-stick-to-bite-on kind of shot. I remember grabbing the side rails of the bed screaming while the doctor stood across the room, shooting me sympathetic looks and updating my husband on the phone, who had finally landed and had no clue what was going on.
The steroid shot was meant to kick-start the development of Bea’s lungs in case she would be delivered that night. The ideal circumstance would be that I would get two shots, 24 hours a part, that would give me a 48 hour window to either allow Bea’s lungs to mature, or to stop the contractions altogether.
My husband arrived from Jackson just as they were beginning to load me into the ambulance. He got back in the car and retraced his drive as he followed us back to Jackson.
I don’t remember much after the steroid shot and being put in the ambulance. The medicine gave me the tremors, so I remember shaking a lot. The ride from Brookhaven to Jackson was in the middle of a horrible thunderstorm. The blood pressure cuff was set to check me every six minutes, so I counted the times and knew by the time I reached eleven, we’d be in Jackson.
We arrived at UMMC shortly after midnight. I was checked again, and I had progressed in my labor.
The plan stayed the same; they would pump me as full of magnesium as my body would take, monitor the baby’s heartrate, and hopefully I’d hold on until the next steroid shot on Tuesday evening.
Mom and Dad arrived. I wasn’t allowed to eat anything other than ice chips; eventually they gave me a popsicle. They tasted divine. I had four popsicles on Tuesday. The magnesium continued to weaken my body; I couldn’t see well, so I mainly kept my eyes closed and tried to carry on a conversation with whoever was in the room with me.
Tuesday evening came; they gave me an extra dose of stadol to help with the steroid shot.
Since I had made it that far, the doctors decided to take me off the magnesium at the 24-hour mark after my last steroid dose. At that point, being at 29 weeks, the potential harm of the magnesium to me (loss of reflex in my legs, cardiac issues) and to Bea (loss of bone density) outweighed the potential harm of an early birth.
I continued to be stable, with contractions being sporadic, and I was given clearance to move up to the women’s ward late on Tuesday night. I could also eat for the first time.
The majority of Wednesday was spent sleeping and getting my bearings straight. And eating! I recently found my list of desired food that I gave to my mom on my Notes:
I had not had a contraction in twelve hours, as of Thursday morning. I met with the Maternal-Fetal Medicine doctors after getting a detailed ultrasound to determine the exact gestation age of Bea. My conversation with the MFM docs was encouraging; they said I was stable enough to go home the next day, and that with modified bedrest, I could potentially carry Bea another 5 to 6 weeks— or I could go into labor that day. It was still a coin toss, but all signs pointed to a Friday discharge.
I started having contractions around 8:30; at the time, I wasn’t sure if it was stomach cramps from the gut trauma of eating for the first time in three days, or if they were actual contractions. By 9:15 the one male OB I had interacted with came in and checked me, and I hadn’t dilated anymore. Because of that, he said to put me on a bolus of fluids and gave me two Tylenol and a Benadryl. He said if the contractions stopped with the meds, it meant they were just Braxton Hicks and my body was just reacting to everything that had happened over the past four days… if they didn’t stop, we would know it was the real thing.
Forty-five minutes later, I was screaming in pain and I told the nurses that this was clearly not Braxton-Hicks. The contractions were getting to be extremely painful- worse than the ones I experienced the few days before that originally sent me to the hospital. Once the contractions got five minutes apart, the nurses decided to take me down to the L & D floor. They brought in a wheelchair while I was in the middle of a contraction, and I said there was absolutely no way I was getting out of bed at that point— and when they went away to get the bed, I realized I just put off going to get my epidural by two-three minutes it took to get the bed. Mad at myself, as soon as the bed was brought down I jumped out of my own bed and ran to the gurney, which surprised the nurses to see me move that fast. They proceeded to replay the situation to the nurses they passed in the hallway on the way to L&D (“You shoulda seen how fast this girl moved!!”)
Coming out of the elevator, and in the middle of a contraction, we rolled by the male OB from earlier who had the gall to ask “Hey, how’s it going?” to which I replied tartly, “How does it look like it’s going?!” I waited until I thought it was out of ear shot and told the nurse, “When you ask a stupid question, you’re going to get a stupid answer.” Mom said I said it plenty loud enough for the OB to hear.
The sweet labor and delivery nurse that had been with me the first night in the hospital- Erica- was there, and even though she wasn’t supposed to stay with me through the delivery, she did. They wheeled me into a delivery room where they put me on Stadol which immediately relaxed me. The anesthesiologists- two, and I’m not sure how far along they were in residency- arrived, and it took them THREE tries, possibly four, to get my epidural in. At this point my husband was driving up to Jackson- I had sent him home to get back to work since I had been doing so well. He arrived while they were trying the third time to get the needle into my spinal cord.
In addition to being overwhelmed that I was giving birth, I really was cowardly when it came to the epidural. What I’ve realized now is that I had a full spinal block instead of an epidural with Gracie. I assumed that if I was able to feel my legs and move them, that I would feel everything when I gave birth. I had been through so much pain from the contractions, and I knew that they were only going to get worse, so I freaked out when I could still feel my legs. I also thing I was physically and emotionally exhausted from the entire week, and I just didn’t have any reserves left to rely on to get me through that point. Overall, wasn’t my finest hour and I did apologize to the nurses afterwards for being such a chicken. Turns out that I didn’t feel any pain, but I was able to be more actively involved in the labor and my recovery was a lot faster.
Once the epidural kicked in, Asa arrived and I was able to rest for about thirty minutes. Bea’s heart rate dropped during one contraction so the resident came in and broke my water. They laid me on my side and I had about four contractions afterwards. I told the nurse that I was feeling pressure and she went to check me and I saw her eyes get really wide…. They wheeled me into the OR where I was going to deliver.
I was so scared, and either from the medicine or the cold or the fear I was shaking uncontrollably. I hated delivering in an operating room. It intensified the fear I had for Bea and how traumatic the entire week had been.
A NICU nurse leaned down with two receiving blankets in her arms and smiled and said “I’m going to be the one to take your baby.” I started crying and thanked her… she started crying, too. What I didn’t know at the time that the nurse was Ashley, Aileen’s daughter. Aileen is like family to us; she kept Gracie while I worked back in Memphis, and Ashley spent a lot of time with Gracie when she was home, too. Later, Ashley came to my room after the delivery to say hello and she escorted us back down to the NICU to meet Bea. It was one of the most obvious ways God showed that He wanted Bea born right at that moment.
After about five really good pushes, Bea popped right out. I had hoped that I would hear her cry, although I knew that was asking too much since she would be so tiny. But she did, and it was one of the most comforting sounds I’ll never forget. She also had a 9 Apgar score, which shocked EVERYONE, given how early she was, and that it was rare to get that in a full term baby.
So, Beatrice Lane was born at 1:29 am on December 2nd, 2016. She weighed exactly three pounds. And she had hair on her head! The NICU doctors said that she was large for a 29 weeker, and that if she had been full term, she would have been quite large. So maybe I’ll get my fat sleepy baby this time after all.