Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Admitted ...

I had never been a patient in the hospital. Aside from having my tonsils removed in the third-grade, I had never even been beyond the visitor sections of one. I’ve never broken my arm, had my appendix removed or anything like that. In general, I’ve been in pretty good health my entire life. 

So, when I was first admitted to UNC Women’s Hospital, I was actually a little ok with it. After the initial shock and dismay that the first hospital rendered, I was pleasantly surprised at how calm and collected the UNC nurses and doctors were. They said things like “weekly ultrasounds” and “when you’re discharged in a few days, you’ll probably be on strict bed rest”. 15 hours earlier, we were being told that we may not last long enough to receive the two steroid shots a day apart.

These words gave us something that the first hospital stripped away: hope. Hope that maybe we could just carry our baby to near full-term. More importantly, hope that even if we didn’t- our baby would still be ok. As one doctor put it, “You’re practically full-term to us anyway”. I knew I wasn’t, but it was such a comfort to hear that we were in knowing hands.

Anyway, being admitted to the hospital was a small relief for me. I wouldn’t have to answer my Blackberry (it was hidden from me anyway and the email function was disabled), I didn’t have to deal with work stressors, I didn’t have to cook or clean my house, deal with our dogs (which I hadn’t done since I found out I was pregnant anyway) or do any of the other mundane daily tasks my life usually demanded. I would finally be able to relax and for once- simply concentrate on being pregnant. They even had people come in every day to ask what I wanted to order for my meals! It was like staying in a hotel (of course, a very, very expensive hotel). This novelty quickly wore off.

Within 2 hours of getting checked into my antepardum room, I was hooked up to an IV for 12 hours of Magnesium Sulfate treatment. “Mag”, as its known, is administered for two reasons: protection of the unborn child’s brain (to minimize the risk of Cerebral Palsy) and to stop contractions if needed. It was given to me for the first reason.  

Regardless, it was brutal. For the first 2 hours, I was given a very, very concentrated dose during which I felt like a menopausal old lady. A side effect of Mag is extreme hot flashes. When I saw my poor mother shuffling around my room in two sweatshirts, socks and three blankets, and I was eating a popsicle with ice chips and cold packs stuck to my arms and legs…I knew we were there. Another side effect is frequent bathroom trips. I was being pumped full of fluids for 12 hours… you’d have to pee too. The problem with this was that I was hooked up to three monitors, a blood pressure cuff and I was pregnant. It was difficult to get out of bed unassisted. So, every hour basically, I rang for the night nurse to come and help. We became close friends that night.

Speaking of blood pressure cuffs; during my hospital vacation, my BP was taken every 30 minutes during the first 12 hours of Mag, and then, about 6 times a day every day after. I began to live and die by the blood pressure reading times, as I knew that any amount of physical activity too close to a reading would result in (what I thought were) unusually high readings. It affected when I sat up, laid down (on the left side for the best readings!), when I ate breakfast, when I took a shower, brushed my hair, my teeth. Basically, if I knew I was due for a blood pressure reading- I would sit as still as possible, breathing slowly and deeply, thinking happy, blissful thoughts until the nurse came in and read it. Once, I even asked my doula (a licensed massage therapist) to come just before my reading was due. Of course, with preeclampsia, I learned no amount of serenity or positive thinking will lower your blood pressure.

Being a trained scientist (really, I am- I know it’s hard to believe now!), I passed the time learning as much as I could about premature babies.  Casey did the same. We read every article we could find. Of course, the first thing the nurse said to me when giving me a laptop was “Don’t Google preemie picture and statistics”- which is exactly what I did. With each passing day, I frantically searched the chances of survival for a 27 weeker, a 27 and one day weeker, a 27 and 3 day weeker, etc. I knew each day that I stayed pregnant, the higher the chance our baby would have at survival in the NICU. When I made it to 28 weeks, I felt like I had won the lottery! The baby’s chances went from 85% to over 90! 

I don’t know why people say that pregnancy lasts 9 months. Its 40 weeks, folks. That’s 10 months. Take it from a preemie Mom, when days; hours make a difference- a month is like eternity as far as development is concerned!

Anyway, I continued to tick off days. I never really thought I would be there for months, or even weeks. I knew deep down that it would be a matter of days. But, when I had been there for nearly a week, Casey and I visited the NICU so we could know exactly what we were getting into. Now, I know that the doctors and nurses thought this NICU visit would be comforting to us (and to Casey, it was). However to me, it was probably the most traumatic part of the entire stay. I knew our baby would be around 2 pounds and that it would be at least a 28 weeker- but you just cannot imagine how small a two pound baby is until you see it in person. Two pounds is tiny. Not to mention- to be in rooms of these tiny babies, surrounded by crying mothers and fathers, some being prayed over, hooked up to machines that, in some cases , are larger than a filing cabinet… it was intense. 

I tried so hard to be brave. I kept welling up throughout the tour. The charge nurse kept asking if I was ok- I lied and said my contacts were bothering me. It wasn’t my contacts. It was my heart. I was absolutely heartbroken that because my body failed; our child would spend their first days in this “horrible”, loud place. (Note: the NICU is not at all loud- but at that moment, the sounds of the machines, alarms and cries seemed to echo directly into my ears.)

The hardest part of all of this hospital business was that I felt just fine. I had no other symptom besides a high blood pressure reading and that was very frustrating for me. I kept thinking that maybe this was all just a mix up; that I shouldn’t really be there. The doctors had made a mistake and that my pregnancy was in fact, a normal healthy, low-risk pregnancy. I would have the natural, holistic birth I dreamed about.

But alas, this wasn’t the case. Eventually, even a high dose of medication couldn’t bring down my blood pressure. Daily, it slowly crept up with every reading. I would get so nervous every time the  nurse came in to check it and when it showed an unfavorable result- I would feel so helpless, so disappointed, so guilty that I couldn’t do better (typical first-child syndrome). I knew that keeping a low reading, or at least maintaining the reading I had when I was admitted was vital to staying pregnant. I was failing.

8 days after being admitted to the hospital, my blood pressure reached an unacceptably high number. I knew, Casey knew, the nurses knew that today would be the day I would be induced. When lunch was delivered, the nurse said “Don’t eat yet; they may want to induce you in the next few hours.” I shoveled in the food as fast as I could (which turned out to be a good idea, considering it would be the last food I ate for nearly 4 days). 

At 2 in the afternoon, a doctor from my “Maternal Fetal High-Risk” team came in to say that it was time. We were headed down to be induced. Whether we were ready or not—Baby Collins was going to make his/her debut. I was so excited, worried, scared, happy but most of all- trusting the Lord that it would be ok.


  1. I can't get enough of this! Write a book already!

  2. Thanks for sharing your story. It's very similar to mine. My preemie was born 2/7/10 due to precamplisa. I am a very healthy active person so this it us out of no where as well. Our baby is now a healthy 18 pounder.

  3. Thanks Sawyer and Jackson! WE never know who will read this - we really started writing for our own healing, and for marking how far we as a family have come. We'll be posting the rest of the story in the coming days, so check back if you'd like! Glad to hear your baby is nice and healthy!

    C,A, & BK

  4. I just started reading your blog and am very intrigued. I am disappointed in myself that I didn't journal my journey. I had preterm contractions starting at 24 weeks. I was on bed-rest from that day on. My little one somehow managed to stay cooking until 40 weeks to the day of artificial insemination. Many prayers during that 16 weeks. I should start journaling today. He is 18 months old this month! TTL!