***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...***
I still get goosebumps sometimes when I look at my son and think about all we went through to have him here today. The fact that he is cute as hell doesn't hurt, of course, but that's just my opinion.
Following two instances at 6 and 12 weeks pregnant where health care professionals assumed I was in the process or on the verge of miscarrying, I wasn't taking anything for granted. The ER doctor who treated me at 12 weeks sent me home with instructions addressing my anemia (from massive blood loss) and orders to follow up later that morning with my own OB/GYN. He was not especially optimistic, quoting statistics that brought into focus the distinct possibility (or rather, probability) that this pregnancy was on its way out.
My husband and I returned home to our still-sleeping daughters (who were in the care of my brother-in-law and his wife, and I headed straight to bed. Every trip to the bathroom was a nerve-wracking experience as I feared what I'd see left behind. Fortunately, our mattress pad - and my husband's quick action - had done a good job of saving our mattress from what might otherwise ended up looking like the scene of an axe murder. Our sheets were a total loss though.
I called my physician as soon as her office opened and made an appointment to see her later that day.
Dr. M was supportive but cautious during our office visit. She did another ultrasound and was pleased with what she saw as far as the baby's position and that of the placenta. She could not ascertain the exact cause of my heavy bleeding, but suspected a subchorionic hemorrhage. I was told to take it easy for a week or so, and return to her office for weekly ultrasounds to check the baby's growth and the health of the placenta.
Now, with my first two pregnancies ultrasounds were major events, scheduled in advance. They were precious opportunities to nab a couple snapshots of the little one inside me, as well as a few moments of video footage. Truly valuable stuff. With Connor, I was to end up having so many ultrasounds I would eventually lose count. The staff at my doctor's office generously printed out sweet pictures of my little guy each time, and it honestly got to the point where (I can't believe I'm admitting this) I'd say a half-hearted "Thanks," and shove them in my purse. Seriously, I was getting tired of all the photos. I have an entire manila envelope filled with pictures of my gestating son, starting at 6 weeks, then 12 weeks, then every stinking week after that until 32 weeks...plus a couple more bonus shots between 32 and 37 weeks.
I had a grand total of 36 prenatal office visits just with my OB/GYN. This does not include the visits with the perinatologist who consulted on my case, nor the "routine" ultrasounds at the imaging center at specific stages of pregnancy (you know, where they measure all the important stuff and looks for indications of certain conditions or risk factors). Thank God for my husband's platinum health insurance package!
Other than earning frequent flier miles at my doctor's office (yeah, I wish) and collecting a ridiculous number of ultrasound snapshots of my growing son, the rest of my pregnancy was relatively uneventful. I did suffer from the most insane case of pregnancy-induced insomnia on the planet, but as far as physical problems, the pregnancy was pretty mellow from 12 weeks on. I was working full time as a 4th grade teacher, and I was 38 years old, but all things considered it went pretty well!
Here in Arizona, many schools take time off in early October as a "Fall Break". Considering that school starts here in early August, and that it's usually still in the high 90s come October, a week off is definitely in order. Well, my son's official due date was October 21, so I'd planned on working until Friday, October 5th. The following week was our Fall Break, so I figured I'd be able to wring an extra week of maternity leave out of the whole situation if I could just make it to the 5th. Connor had other plans...
I went for my weekly visit with Dr. M on Monday, October 1. She was a little concerned by the baby's heart rate, which was dipping somewhat, so she asked me to go to the hospital for a few hours of fetal monitoring. I followed orders and headed downtown for what was, quite possibly, the most boring two hours of my life. Since my husband was home with our daughters, I was alone in the hospital, tethered to the bed by those annoying fetal monitors. Fortunately, Connor's heart rate was in the acceptable range, so I was sent home and told to report back to the hospital in two days for another session. I did a little happy dance because there was a very boring-sounding mandatory meeting at work that Wednesday and I was thrilled to have an excuse to duck out. Come on, at the end of pregnancy, sitting in meetings just sucks!
I continued about my business, teaching and taking care of my family and trying to finish up all my lesson plans for the substitute teacher who would be taking over my class during my time off. On Wednesday morning, I walked my students to their music class and returned to my classroom. At one point it felt as though I had experienced a loss of bladder control, but I couldn't be sure. All you moms out there know what I mean. With my two previous children I never had a spontaneous rupture of my membranes. In both cases, the doctor had to break my water toward the end of labor. This time was different.
I had about twenty minutes before I needed to reclaim my students, so I informed the teacher across the hall that I thought something might be up. I let her know I was going to the ladies' room to check on things, and "If I'm not back in 15 minutes it means I'm giving birth in the staff restroom so could you please go get my students for me?" She laughed and told me not to worry about it.
Once in the ladies room it became obvious that something was up. I immediately informed my principal that I thought I was in labor (although I wasn't feeling any contractions) and would need to leave as soon as possible. Of course, I had all my lesson planning complete - copies made, resources gathered, books collected - for the weeks following Fall Break through late December (my anticipated maternity leave). I did not, however, have anything prepared for the two and a half days left in the week. I fully expected to make it until Friday, plus have a week or so off before the baby actually came, so this was not in my plans! Those of you who are teachers know that it's ten times the work to plan for a sub than to "do it yourself". Now I found myself running around (yes, with ruptured membranes) making copies and laying out materials for whoever was going to cover my class for the next few days.
The ladies in the office and copy room were yelling at me to JUST GO! I reminded them that my husband still needed to get back down this way from his work in Scottsdale (because I was not about to attempt to drive myself to downtown Phoenix while in labor), so I had a good thirty minutes or so before I had to go. They thought I was crazy. I later found out just how crazy I really was, and how very, very close I could have come to a very, very bad outcome.
More to come...