Monday, September 15, 2008

Baby Story, Part 1: Admittance to Hospital

A lot has happened since I last posted. While I suspect those who read this blog are aware of the changes, I thought I'd use it as catharsis and document the recent events. Since I'm wordy, it may take several installments.

Since I last wrote, Eric and I took a trip to Iowa to visit our families. On Sunday, August 17, Eric's family hosted a baby shower for me. I had been experiencing some swelling in my feet and ankles, and while I had been monitoring the situation, I wasn't too concerned since it seemed to coincide with the humidity, and as the temperatures dropped, the swelling receded. On Monday, however, for our drive back, I did my best to walk at every opportunity.

Tuesday morning, I noticed swelling in my face. I prepared for work, waiting for Eric to say something about it (I'd once warned him about such swelling, to alert me to it if I suddenly swelled up). On our way to work, he still hadn't said anything, so I asked him if my face looked swollen to him. He responded with, "That's it! I knew something was different, but my first thought was that you had put makeup on this morning, so I didn't want to say anything." Eric is adverse to makeup as a general rule, so he thought he'd keep his mouth shut if his hormonal wife needed to put on some for returning to work.

As soon as I arrived at work, I called my doctor's office and explained the situation. It took them two hours to contact the doctor on call and get back to me, but then they asked me to come in. I left my work computer on, hoping I would soon be back at my station, and Eric and I went to the office.

My blood pressure was normal, and the diastolic number was even lower than normal. However, there was protein found in my urine sample, I had started having some white spots in my left eye, and the swelling was a concern as well, so I was going to be in the hospital overnight for observation. Furthermore, since my appointment two weeks earlier, my weight had increased something like sixteen pounds, and I certainly hadn't been eating any more than normal to explain the sudden gain, mostly from water retention. As Eric drove, I called my boss to explain the situation.

At the hospital, I was making a list of what Eric could bring me for the overnight, including my laptop to monitor work email and stay involved in life in general and thank-you cards for the baby shower gifts.

I was to undergo a 24-hour urine collection and have another ultrasound. I felt silly being taken down to the ultrasound in a wheelchair, but I assumed it was regulation. This third abdominal ultrasound did reveal that we would be having a girl. At one point, the blood flow to our daughter was constricted, but later upon a more thorough monitoring, it had regulated, so the assumption was made that she had been laying on the umbilical cord.

Once I arrived at the hospital, my blood pressure soared. I wrote most of it off to nerves, as I felt uneasy being admitted so early. I suspected it would go down once I would be able to get to sleep and my mind stopped racing. I composed a couple messages to work, explaining where I had been in my preparations for the upcoming new-student orientation.

I told Eric there was no need to spend the night with me that first night, as I figured it would be pretty straightforward and uneventful and the chair available to him looked anything but comfortable. I was put on blood pressure medication, and before bed I was given a dose of Ambien. I was told it wouldn't be enough to make me fall asleep, but once out, it would help me have a deep sleep.

Ambien has been known to have some interesting side effects on a small population taking it. Apparently I am one of that number. When I awoke needing to go to the bathroom, I was quite disoriented and it took much internal coaching to remember where to go. I threw up three times, and each time I was so foggy as to how to react. I was able to find my remote for calling the nurses, and I had to stare at it repeatedly before I could decide on the proper button to push (for those of you unfamiliar with them, there are two buttons for turning on lights and another, with the picture of a nurse, for contacting the nurses' station).

Then when the nurses would come and help me get cleaned up, they asked me to stand up and walk to the bathroom. And then, when I seemed unable to respond, they helped me up and said, "Okay, now walk straight." When I would react by walking elsewhere, they came back with, "Here, we'll just push you in the right direction." Once in the bathroom, I knew I needed to wash my hands and somewhere I would find water and soap. I really had to be shown how to do everything. In my mind, I could hear what was being said, or think about what action I wanted to take, but it took such a long time for me to communicate to my hands or legs ("Now I need to dry my hands. Somewhere I should find a towel hanging up. Where is it? What do I do when I find it? I should pick it up. Hands, do you see that towel hanging up right in front of you? You do? Now pick it up. ..go ahead...pick it up, already. Okay, now dry your hands. You know, wipe each hand on the towel until the moisture is gone. Hmm, let's try this again.").

Eric saw me at breakfast the next morning, where I was still groggy. I would try to wipe my mouth after eating, and would promptly drop my napkin directly into my plate of biscuits and gravy, which I was still working on. After repeated bemused suggestions ("No, Faith, don't put the napkin in your food" and the like), he finally took over and fed me.

Several nights after, I would be asked if I wanted Ambien (the first night I wasn't given the option to refuse). I declined every time, explaining that it had made me loopy. The first nurse I told responded with, "That was YOU?! Not that we're gossiping, but it was such an unusual reaction! You only had 5 mg, and we normally give 10 mg without batting an eye!"

So now it was Wednesday, August 20. My blood pressure had lowered, but my left eye had gone from having spots I could blink away to a more constant blurriness. I had some visitors throughout the day -- the knitting crew stopped by, as well as a professor from work who had gone through a similar situation a year earlier with her pregnancy. She was hospitalized the first time at 24 weeks, and finally the third hospitalization around 32 weeks resulted in an early delivery to a healthy baby girl. She brought some resources and answered all of our questions. In my mind, this was what was in store for us, and I figured after everything was regulated, I would be sent home for a time to wait things out.

We were being told our baby would be premature, it was just a matter of how premature she would be. In preparation, a doctor who specialized in high-risk pregnancies ran another, more sensitive ultrasound this day, and we met with a doctor in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU); he explained what having a baby at 24 weeks would be like. Admittedly I thought this was premature, as I still thought everything would hold off.

I was given another steroid shot to hasten fetal development. Eric read in a preemie book that each shot can be the equivalent of one gestational week of development, and they had given me my first the day before.

After the professor left Wednesday night, my blood pressure was elevated again. I wondered if it was a temporary rise, due to the discussion we had been having, but I did ask Eric to stay with me overnight. Given my first night of confusion, I was pretty tired and slept through most of the night even with the interruptions for medication, but Eric said there were a couple blood-pressure readings that were elevated to a frightening level (one was something like 200 over 140).

Early Thursday, August 21, around 5 AM, I was pretty hungry. I am naturally more of a grazer, and my unfinished meal from the night before at 7 PM seemed far removed. The nurses found me a bowl of cereal since the kitchen wasn't open for room service yet. I had most of it. This morning they also checked my weight again. It had increased around 8 pounds since 48 hours earlier. I saw pictures of myself from this day, and I don't look at all healthy. My face, and presumably the rest of me, was quite swollen.

Around 7:30 AM, my doctor came in to let me know it was time to deliver given the status of my early-onset pre-eclampsia. The results from my urine monitoring had something like 8 grams of protein (a normal level is something like 150 mg/day), and I wasn't expelling as I ought to have been (see: insensible weight gain). He was explaining the surgery I was about to have and the incision. The anesthesiologist also met with me, and here the consumption of cereal was revealed. I wasn't going to have a sedative for the surgery because of it, but I would still have the spinal.

Eric called his parents as well as my dad. My dad had returned from the Czech Republic the night before. He hadn't yet read the email Eric sent to him letting him know of my hospitalization, and due to his jet lag, he was disoriented on the phone. Eric, after relaying his name, even had to tell him who he was ("your son-in-law"). He soon came to when Eric brought him up to date.

Next post: Delivery.

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