When Jack was born: Birth Story, Part 3

Part 1

Part 2

So, I was admitted to Carolina Medical Center: Main and admitted to their Maternity Ward’s ICU section. There are apparently two floors of this section: one is for women who are super duper high risk and could deliver any second, and need constant monitoring and a dedicated nurse (4th floor). The other is for woman who are high risk but they are trying to keep pregnant for a bit longer… like those who are leaking amniotic fluid, and are on bed rest (5th floor). This was apparently a big difference that comes up later.

When I am admitted to the 4th floor, it is past midnight and I can hear women in labor all around me. The nurse is admitting me and asking about my health history while I hear a woman across the hall SCREAMING and then a baby wailing only seconds later. It felt like a baby was being born every couple of minutes. I ask the nurse, “Wow, busy night?!?” and she says, “actually, it’s pretty slow tonight.”

The next week is a blur. I was on mandatory bed rest – could not get up even to use the restroom. Leg wraps were put around my calves, and the wraps would will with air and then deflate, supposedly massaging my muscles and decreasing my risk of a blood clot in my leg. My blood pressure was taken every fifteen minutes, and it would always set off the “dangerously high” alarm. We learned how to turn that alarm off – I didn’t need a reminder that my body and my baby were in danger. I was not allowed any kind of stimulation – no visitors, no flowers, very little TV, and no iPhone. Once in a while, my pressure would go down a bit and I’d grab my phone, furiously emailing and texting every to get some sort of connection to the outside world.

The first two days, I was on magnesium on the 4th floor, and taking steroids to help Jack’s lungs develop. The doctors (main doctor and several 2nd, 3rd and 4th year residents) could not tell me anything past what they were doing right then: monitoring me and taking things on an hour-by-hour basis. After the second day, the doctors started to say “Hey, maybe you’ll go to the fifth floor soon!” but they did not tell us what that meant. Eventually, we grabbed a nurse and asked. The fifth floor meant I could use the bathroom, take a shower. So the fifth floor meant freedom.

On the third day I was transferred to the fifth floor. I saw my reflection in the mirror and was flabbergasted – I was so swollen and huge, I did not recognize myself at first. How had I suddenly gained so much weight? It was all the fluid being retained in my body.

I was on the fifth floor only about 24 hours. That night, my pressure spiked again and I had to be transferred back to the fourth floor. Erik and I were convinced that Jack would be born that night. Instead, I was put back on magnesium and bed rest for two more days. I continued to swell up – my legs and arms showed what is called “pitting and denting” – if you pressed down on my arm, the impression made from your fingers would stay and slowly rise up, like memory foam.

There was more talk of being transferred back to the fifth floor. We asked why I could not stay on the fourth floor, and no one gave us a straight answer. Finally, a doctor admitted, “Because of insurance.” It wasn’t a good answer, but it was honest. Fourth floor meant more hands-on care, faster response from nurses and doctors. That meant more staff was needed, and the cost was higher. Insurance wouldn’t let that happen.

Back to the fifth floor, and I was only there about 16 hours before I was transferred again at 3 am. Erik had gone home on my insistence to get a real night’s sleep. I was more upset about him having to come back up in the middle of the night than I was about being transferred back. As the fourth floor unit came downstairs to transfer me back, I was making jokes. But then the fifth floor nurse gave me a hug as I left, which was more personal than any connection I’d ever made with a nurse. Naturally, I assumed that I must be dying if she was giving me a hug.

My blood pressure was climbing, climbing, and I was pumped full of every medicine they could give me to get it to go down. I was perfectly calm during all of this (because of the drugs, a bomb could have gone off in my lap and I would have shrugged it off) but was curious as to how high my numbers were getting. Did you know blood pressure can get as high was 225/150? Because mine did.

Another round of magnesium, another two days of bed rest, and I was starting to lose my mind. If I had been able to be stable on the fifth floor, the doctors said they would want to keep me there as long as possible so Jack could grow. But my body had other plans. On the third round of magnesium, I cried to Erik and told him that I did not know how much more of this I could take. Somehow I knew that Jack was strong enough to be born, but I was not strong enough to continue the back-and-forth of this hospital “rest”. Erik grabbed a doctor and went outside to talk to him.

Later that morning, the attending doctor comes in and tells me that they have decided to induce. They expected me to be worried. I said “YES let’s do this!” The doctor told me they would start me on pitocin to start contractions, and see how I progressed through labor. In order to not stress my body out more during labor, we were told that I would need an epidural as SOON as the contractions became uncomfortable. (This is important later). As the doctor went though everything that would happen and said they were aiming for a vaginal delivery, the 30 weeks of “I can do this!” attitude and a week of “I MUST DO THIS RIGHT AWAY!” attitude disappeared, and I immediately thought, “I can’t do this.”

Part 4: the birth coming soon. It includes me cursing at a doctor, another doctor accidentally breaking my water (“oops”), and more.