***WARNING - This post includes frank and graphic descriptions of a medically challenging pregnancy and delivery. I'm talking blood, swear words, and (gasp) moments of doubt about my heart, my faith, and my desire to go through the whole ordeal. If you're going to be offended by any of these things, don't bother reading any further. Don't say I didn't warn you...***
If there was ever a doubt in my mind as to whether miracles are possible, this little man erased them.
Connor was born in the fall of 2007, and everything about his birth - and the 37 weeks prior to it - was miraculous.
This was an unplanned, and unexpected pregnancy. Our daughters were approaching the end of elementary school and we assumed our family was complete. I was looking to make a career change, and adding a new baby to the mix was not part of the plan. I'd be lying if I didn't admit that, upon learning we were expecting #3, I was a little uncertain about my feelings.
At 6 weeks, I experienced cramping and bleeding that sent me rushing to my doctor's office. The nurse practitioner who examined me used terms like "what appears to be products of conception" while describing what she observed. In other words, it looked to her like I was having a miscarriage. I was frightened and a little disappointed, but I guess because I was still struggling to process the whole *holy crap, how are we ever going to afford another child and now I'm never going to be able to leave teaching and shit, we don't have family close by anymore and now we have to find daycare and jeez how expensive is that going to be and besides I'm too damn old to be having a baby and do we even want to be starting all over again with this baby stuff* thing, a teeny-tiny little part of me was thinking that God was letting us off the hook and not expecting us to take on more that we could handle.
Imagine the surprise and shock in the room when the NP brought out the ultrasound to verify her suspicions and instead found an itty-bitty, perfect little 6 week heartbeat. At that moment I started to cry, and I admitted to myself that I kinda-sorta did want this baby after all.
A month and a half later, the long Easter weekend was about to begin. I finished the work week on Thursday and was looking forward to having Good Friday off. I'd felt some little twinges at work on Thursday, but assumed it was that "round ligament" crap the doctors always talk about in pregnancy. We went to bed fairly early, and I didn't think anything unusual was up. At about 1 AM, something caused me to awaken.
I don't remember exactly what happened next, but I remember sitting up in bed and hearing my husband say, "Oh, Honey!" I jumped out of bed, from a pool of blood that extended from my mid-back to my knees. I was dizzy and my heart was racing as I grabbed the cordless phone and stumbled to the bathroom. I called my OB/GYN's office and stood on the cold tile by the toilet. As I spoke with the nurse on call, I told her I was afraid to sit on the toilet, even though I had the urge to use the restroom, because I was afraid everything was going to, er...come out. She calmly told me that if it was going to happen, there was nothing I could do about it. I needed to use the toilet, she said, to take the pressure off the uterus.
As I sat on the toilet, I could hear my husband stripping the blood-soaked sheets and mattress pad off our bed and filling the tub in order to try and salvage them with a cold water soak. He fumbled for his cell phone, calling his brother and sister-in-law to see if they could come to our house and stay with our sleeping 9 and 8 year old daughters. He knew a trip to the hospital was inevitable.
The on-call nurse advised my husband to call an ambulance, due to the volume of blood loss I was experiencing. During my first-ever ambulance ride, I remember thinking that I don't know how folks with gunshot wounds, broken bones, or large pieces of metal embedded in their bodies could tolerate the jostling and bouncing of the rig. Man, was it rough! I also recall hearing one of the paramedics. who was seated next to my hip, whisper, "Dude, she's losing a LOT of blood!" to his partner. Ummm...not reassuring.
I have never experienced such humiliation as when the nurse and assistant in the ER began cleaning me up prior to the doctor's exam. I realized in that moment how helpless and fragile the elderly must feel - those who are in nursing homes or even those being cared for by loved ones. To be totally dependent on others for things as personal as cleaning up your private messes, well, it's just hard. Really hard.
When the doctor entered the room and began examining me, I remember experiencing what felt like a huge gush. I recall hearing him catch his breath and say, "Um yes, there's a lot of blood and I'm seeing what appears to be products of conception". That damn term again. I guess it's supposed to sound kinder and gentler than "Okay lady, I think I see little parts and yeah, I'd say you lost the baby judging by all the carnage here..."
My husband started to cry and was saying something about us being able to try again soon. The doctor began what sounded like a textbook lecture on how nature recognizes when there's a problem and corrects mistakes when it's not meant to be. The fact that I was right around 12 weeks at this point indicated, in his opinion, that this was a case of perhaps a genetic anomaly or some other problem that would cause a baby to be unable to develop fully.
He ordered an ultrasound to check how complete the miscarriage was. As he prepared to leave the room and send in the orders for my scan, I asked him what they would do. He explained that I would - depending on the results of the ultrasound - be sent home to allow nature to take its course. I was petrified at the thought of being told to go home and lose whatever was left of my baby in the toilet. I was panicking at the realization that at this stage I might actually be able to recognize little body parts. I started to lose it. The doctor left and went to go call my OB/GYN and I was wheeled into ultrasound.
My husband was not allowed to join me in the ultrasound room. The tech who performed the scan told me I was not going to be able to see the monitor while he did his work. It was just policy. I figured it was done this way to keep hysterical moms from freaking out when they no longer saw a heartbeat on the screen. He had the sound turned off as well, so I was not able to listen for that little pock-pock-pock-pock you expect to hear.
After about five minutes of small talk and unreadable facial expressions, the ultrasound tech looked directly at me and said, "I'm not supposed to show you anything, but I think you'll want to see this," then turned the monitor to face me. There on the screen was my baby, bouncing around at the end of his umbilical cord, apparently unfazed by whatever else was going on in my temperamental uterus. The tech told me he was seeing what appeared to be a perfectly normal 12-13 week fetus, with no signs of stress and good blood flow.
The ER doctor met me back in the exam room within minutes and was stunned. He was convinced I'd been having a miscarriage and could not explain what was going on. He told me that I might still be in the very beginning stages of a miscarriage, and the next few days would be telling. I was discharged (barefoot, as I'd been brought in by ambulance and my husband never thought to bring shoes for me) and ordered to call my own doctor as soon as her office opened in the morning.
TO BE CONTINUED...