During my pregnancy I was unknowingly suffering from a condition called Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction, and starting around mid-November my condition had worsened enough that I wound up essentially on bed rest, unable to even stand for more than 5 minutes without excruciating pain.
Throughout December and into January my condition worsened, finally reaching a climax on Wednesday, January 12th. I spent the whole day in bed, writhing in pain, trying to figure out what to do since I neither had a doctor, nor proof of my insurance yet. And without insurance, every doctor wants some equally insane and out-of-the-question amount of money. One wanted $50, one wanted $300, and another wanted a laugh-in-your-face-worthy $1,000. Yes, $1,000 for a freaking office visit. To be reimbursed later, of course. Like it somehow matters.
Anyway, the whole thing was extremely frustrating because I actually had health insurance at this time, (retroactive from the date of my marriage to Jesse) but because his HR department was dragging their heels/screwing up, I didn’t yet have any way to prove that I had been enrolled. Even though they’d already withdrawn the payment for said inaccessible health insurance from his paycheck.
My pain continued to worsen as the day went on, and by nightfall I was in far too much pain to sleep. Every position hurt. Shifting positions hurt more. My hips and back were in agony and peppered with the occasional and utterly sporadic sensation of someone cracking me in the tailbone with a sledgehammer. Oh, yes, random back labor. However my random contractions were not the issue, and I knew they were way too far apart and irregular to be actual labor. (Hours apart. Seriously.) Unfortunately, the pain I was in wasn’t getting any better either. It was only getting worse. I spent the entire night in tears from pain, occasionally waking my husband up to rub the back of my hips in a vain attempt to try to alleviate some of the pain and trying to figure out what to do.
The next morning (Thursday, January 13th) I couldn’t take it anymore, and my husband frantically called person after person to try to find some sort of proof of insurance so I could get in to see a doctor and potentially get some relief, or at least get in and be seen so I could schedule my Cesarean section and have a light in the end of the tunnel on when the pain would end. He finally got some stuff pushed through and then was able to print us both (he’d lost his own insurance card previously) off temporary insurance cards to use.
Now I was calling different offices, desperately trying to get in to see a doctor, and soon. Especially since I would be 39 weeks along exactly the next day. I finally called the office of the doctor that had seen me on my last (the second of two) ER trips about contractions and pain that I was experiencing. When I called this doctor, the nurses for his office told me that they wouldn’t give me an appointment or accept me as a client because I was “too far along in [my] pregnancy,” and that unless I could “hand deliver [my] complete medical records today it [was] impossible.”
Naturally this distressed me quite a bit because I didn’t see how, as long as the baby was still in my uterus, it was possible for me to be “too far along” to be accepted by a doctor. What if I went overdue and needed to be induced? Its dangerous to carry a baby past a certain gestational age, and if no doctor would take me because I was too far along, my baby could essentially become trapped. And no ER or labor and delivery ward would accept me unless I was in labor.
Anyway, the nurses for this doctor’s office informed me that if I was in pain I should call Labor & Delivery, and that they would instruct even their own patients to do so at this point, despite my protests that I’d already contacted them and they would send me home if I was not contracting. I hung up, in tears, distraught that no one would help me. Not knowing what else I could even try at this point, I laid back down in bed and cried.
After a while and discussing it, it seemed like my only option was to try to force myself into labor so that the hospital would actually help me, so Jesse and I got the bright idea to go out to breakfast (we’d been craving it for a while) and then try to walk around Target until I started contracting enough to go to Labor & Delivery. So, we headed out to IHOP. I barely made it through breakfast, quickly losing my appetite and leaving the majority of my breakfast untouched. By this point it was bad enough that I decided to say “screw it,” and we went straight to L&D, me praying they would help me and not just send me home.
We got to the hospital at 2pm and were directed to Triage 1 where they put me in a gown and on both the fetal monitor and the one that monitors contractions. Checked my cervix and I was at 1cm and very thick. I explained about the pain to them and they began putting in calls to the on-call doctor, a wonderful man named Watts. I was so worried that they were going to send me home because I was not contracting that it was all I could think about outside of the pain and I couldn’t stop crying. Anyway, all the stress and fear that they would turn me away without helping me elevated my blood pressure. So over the course of the three+ hours they had me on monitoring, my blood pressure just kept climbing and climbing.
Fearing pre-eclampsia, they told me that they would be keeping me overnight for observation. They moved us to a regular room, drew a bunch of blood, and set up an elaborate system for me to collect all of my urine over a 24 hour period and that I was to be NPO, or nil per os, which means “nothing through the mouth,” after midnight since they needed to do an ultrasound in the morning to confirm gestational age and just in case they’d be able to perform the Cesarean section tomorrow. Once I was all settled in, Dr. Watts came in to talk to us. I explained everything to him and this wonderful, wonderful man told me that he would try to deliver my baby either Friday night or sometime this weekend if he could line up the anesthesia, or worst case scenario, if I didn’t have pre-eclampsia (which would necessitate an emergency cesarean) and he couldn’t get approval for this weekend, I’d leave the hospital with a c-section scheduled. Monday at the latest. I was so happy and relieved I could have kissed him!
At this point, all settled into the room I’d be in for the next 24 hours and also actually having some news/information to share, we set about calling all the grandparents. At this point I was so elated and relieved and finally being helped, at finally having someone care enough to do something about it that a kind of euphoria set over me and I actually had some pain relief. Finally. Worst case scenario, I’d leave the next day, knowing when it was all going to be over and I’d have my baby.
The overnight stay was very uneventful. Lots of waking up for blood pressure monitoring and collecting my urine in a jug on ice. Thankfully my parents were able to keep Andrew overnight so that Jesse could stay in the hospital with me. We tried watching a movie, but we both got so tired that we wound up shutting it off before it really even got rolling. (We were trying to watch I Hope They Serve Beer In Hell since its so inappropriate for Andrew to watch, we don’t get to watch it very often.)
The next morning (Friday, January 14th), I went and had my ultrasound bright and early. Everything looked great and they predicted Nathan to be nine pounds, seven ounces. Not long after I got back to my room Dr. Watts came in to talk to us and told me that I’d be having my son at 6pm that night. And just as Dr. Watts was telling me that I could finally eat something, but I needed to be done by 11am (it was around 10am at this point), the anesthesiologist nixed it and said nothing but ice chips until noon, then nothing at all after that. I was starving by this point, so I wasn’t too thrilled with the news. However, better that then not being able to have my c-section. Besides, I could always have a big, fat, juicy burger after it was over, right?
The doctor had them bring me up a clear liquids tray, telling me that I needed to be done with it by 11:30, but I could have as much as I wanted before then. The tray had iced tea (which I can’t drink), something else (which I was too scared to try… it was some brown liquid in a bowl and since I hate beef…. well, I wouldn’t try it), warm Sprite, a little container of jello and a little container of some sort of Italian ice. I ate the jello, iced the Sprite, and was waiting for the Italian ice thing to thaw enough for me to be able to get a plastic spoon into it since it was frozen solid, when a nurse came in to check my vitals, and as she left, she stole my tray. She didn’t ask or say anything, she just took it and walked out. By the time I realized what she was doing, she was already out my door. The woman stole my jello.
So by now I was pretty irritated that I wasn’t being allowed any food and the little bit of sustenance I’d been allotted had been taken from me, when at 10:30 the nurse came and told me I could have a clear liquids tray until noon and that she’d already ordered one for me and it should be up shortly. So I patiently waited, listening to my stomach growl, for the food service people to bring me my chicken broth and jello. Finally at 11:45 the nurse came back in and said she was going to make me some chicken broth so I’d still have time to eat it since she still hadn’t seen my liquids tray anywhere. She came back in with my cup of broth at 11:50, and brought a little single cup of jello with her as well as a warm Sprite. Normally I loathe chicken broth, but it had been over 12 hours since I’d had anything solid to eat and I was still starving. I chugged the chicken broth (eff that spoon!) and scarfed my jello. I finished with both right at 11:58, when food services came in with my tray. I scarfed another thing of jello and slammed more chicken broth in less than the two minutes I had left. And I gave the Italian ice a rueful look as the clock rolled over to noon.
The wait until 6pm was pretty brutal. Jesse was super nervous, having trouble wrapping his head around the sudden knowledge that we were going to have a baby in just a few hours. I was mostly excited and starving. I had the experience of a previous c-section to help me handle the shock of attempting to wrap your mind around the “I’m going to have a baby at exactly this time,” thing. The family (my parents, Andrew, Jesse’s parents, and Jesse’s sister) all showed up before the surgery, excited to meet the newest addition to the family.
When the nurses came to wheel my bed down to the operating room the trip was a lot of fun because apparently the bed I was on doesn’t steer too well. It was like we were playing bumper beds. Anyway, when we got down to the OR it was time for my spinal. I felt like I was about to teeter face-first off the bed while the anesthesiologist was placing my spinal block because of how you have to scrunch up and lean forward, bending yourself around your baby as much as possible to stick your spine out. The little bitty nurse they had helping me balance didn’t help either. I just felt like I’d fall onto her and crush her with my big ol’ preggo belly when I went, not like she’d stop me from going.
The spinal was almost immediately effective and they had to help me lay down. It was like an instant wave of “whoa, I feel good.” After they got the curtain up they let my husband in, and since thankfully this time I didn’t get strapped down like I was being crucified, I was able to actually hold his hand. They gave Jesse a little chair to sit in, up by my head so he could talk to me while we waited. It was so nice having him right there with me, where I could see and hear him. The whole time I felt this sort of serenity, this utter calmness. I’ve never been so confident in any doctor or medical team with anything. Even during a regular doctor’s visit, like just a yearly physical, I’m utterly confident that they’re going to somehow screw up, but at this hospital, I was beyond certain that everything would be fine. In fact, my entire experience with this hospital from start to finish has been so wonderful that if I were going to have anymore children I would refuse to have them anywhere else. So, if you’re anywhere near it, Overland Park Regional Medical Center is the place to have your children.
Anyway, the spinal has morphine in it. Aaaaaand apparently, morphine does give me the very common side effect of being itchy. It started slowly, with my left palm, and then it attacked my face. Fortunately I was allowed benadryl to counteract it because my face got really itchy. But the morphine did have a much more amusing side effect on me. I got a little high. High enough that in the middle of my tubal ligation (after they’d taken Nathan out, of course) I started singing “Can’t Touch This” much to the amusement of the OR staff and my husband.
Nathan Joseph was born at 7:06pm CST, weighing 8 pounds, 3.8 ounces and 20.5 inches long.
They got Nathan all cleaned up and brought over to me, where Jesse got to hold him down for me. I planted a good one on his cheek and I got to touch him. His APGAR score was 8/9 and he had perfect coloring and a lovely, lusty cry. Perfect health. The only problem or complication was that he had a bit of fluid he was having trouble getting up, which is perfectly normal and quite common with c-section babies. It was nothing to be concerned about, just meant he needed to have it suctioned out a few more times than normal.
Anyway, they finished me up and wheeled me into recovery where everyone, my mother, father, Andrew, Jesse’s mom & dad and sister were all waiting for us. Nathan got his first bath right there in the room with me and got to hang out in a warmer right there too. At this point I was so hungry, tired, and itchy that I was a little out of it. Not to mention still a bit stoned from the morphine. But I was doing good. I wanted to incline my bed enough to sit up instead of being stuck at the silly like 20 degree angle they were keeping me at but the nurse said I couldn’t because it was against their policy. Apparently they like to take the recovery a bit slower there than what I was capable of doing. I was disappointed that I couldn’t sit up enough to give Nathan his first feeding, and had to delegate it to someone else, but it was okay when Lacey (Jesse’s sister) lit up the way she did at being able to feed him. It made her so happy that it made it worth it to just be able to lay there and watch, scratching my itchy face.
After a while (I’m really not sure how long) they moved us to our Mother Baby room, where we would stay until we were discharged from the hospital. Around this time Jesse’s mom went ahead and went back to our apartment where she was staying to babysit Andrew for us, and Jesse’s dad and sister went ahead and left to head back to Clinton since its an hour drive and it was already after 10pm. My own parents only hung out for a little bit longer, then headed home themselves, leaving Jesse and I to bond with our beautiful baby boy.
We spent the majority of the time snuggling and dozing in and out, periods of time punctuated by vitals checks for both Nathan and I and the diaper changes and feedings. Two things I learned as far as my own recovery goes: heating pads are the best thing on the planet, and when a doctor tells you to breathe out slowly during an exam, chances are you should force yourself to do it because it really does help. Fundal height checks, where they mash on your super-sore post-op uterus are extremely painful… when you hold your breath like I’ve always done instinctively. However, this time, I forced myself to exhale slowly as instructed, and they were at worst, highly uncomfortable, at best I didn’t feel them. And the level of discomfort depended entirely on how well I did my breathing.
Unfortunately I still wasn’t allowed to eat, even back in my Mother Baby room. Completely NPO still. In the morning they would see about letting me start a liquid diet again and have a “slow return to a normal diet.” I was beyond starving and beyond frustrated. I’d been looking forward to Chinese food as a reward, which I was now not going to be allowed. My parents promised to come back the next night after work and bring Chinese food for all of us since by then I’d definitely be allowed to eat.
Saturday morning rolled around and the sudden urge to relieve myself came over me. I immediately asked my nurse to have my catheter removed so I could do so, since I really didn’t see a way to do it with it in place that wasn’t problematic at best or impossible at worst. Normally they don’t expect anyone to have their catheter removed until about the twenty four hour mark, but I was at 12 and demanding its removal. She of course had to call the doctor to get approval. Once word came back that he’d allow it, they had to do the “dangle test” which is where they help you sit up and dangle your legs over the edge of the bed and see how you do before they allow you to slowly stand. I practically leaped off the bed, ready to go, and in more ways than one.
My excursion to the bathroom went off without a hitch, so I immediately began pestering them about a return to a normal diet as well as having my IV removed. After some more calls to the doctor and more than a few comments about how far ahead of schedule I was my IV was locked off and I was told I could eat whatever I wanted. I’d been so starved for so long that when I got some food I scarfed it, and by the time my parents came by with Chinese food, I wasn’t even hungry anymore so I contented myself to saving mine, and just snuggling Nathan while they ate.
Eventually they left and we settled in for the night, with Jesse agreeing to take the night shift this time to give me some rest. I’d done the brunt of it the first night because I knew he was exhausted from taking care of me since Wednesday when I was crippled with the pain. I laid down to sleep around 10pm, knowing the nurses would be in to collect Nathan around 4am for his hearing screen and some routine blood work.
It was around 5am on Sunday the 16th that the nurse came in and woke us up to talk to us. Nathan was having periods of elevated respiration and it wasn’t a big deal, it just meant they needed to keep him for a bit and run some tests. She stressed that he was fine and there was no big deal so we should go back to sleep. Once she left I quickly googled what elevated respiration levels in newborns were indicative of and finding that it generally meant either wet lung (which I knew he’d had) or pneumonia (which I didn’t think was likely) I drifted back to sleep.
It was a while later when we woke up that we discovered that Nathan had been placed in the NICU (a precautionary move they do as part of procedure anytime they’re testing a newborn for something like that), and finally, we could go see him. They had him in an oxygen tent that looked like a spaceman helmet of some sort as a precaution and to ease his breathing, and were starting him on a two-day round of antibiotics as a precaution while they waited for the test results to come back. It was heartbreaking to see him there in the NICU like that, with all those wires and an IV in his arm, which was tapped to this little cushioned board thing, effectively turning his hand into some sort of flipper. I don’t know how long we sat there in the NICU, with me crying, looking at him, but eventually neither of us could take it anymore. Staring at those machines, watching his respiration levels go up and down, its enough to drive a parent mad. So we went back to our room and got a call around noon that they’d be taking him out of the oxygen tent and seeing how he did on it. If he had no problems for an hour they’d be moving him to the PCN or Progressive Care Nursery, on our floor, which was much less intense. He passed and finally got all settled in around 2pm. At which point the pediatrician came in to explain what was going on. Apparently wet lung + newborn having problems regulating his body temperature = pneumonia. Fortunately since they caught it so early (within a few hours of development) they were able to knock it out quickly with antibiotics. Unfortunately, they needed to keep him for a full seven day round of antibiotics to make sure that they completely killed it and that it wouldn’t come back later, stronger, and suddenly resistant to the drugs they’d been using to treat it. That meant I’d be going home on Monday… without Nathan.
The week without him was beyond difficult to bear. I missed him all the time and if I let myself dwell on it, I started crying. I know it was for the best, but it didn’t really make it any easier to swallow. Fortunately now that I have him home, I don’t have to let him out of my sight again for a very long time.