Monday, December 10, 2012

Notes from the NICU: Pre NICU

Physically, my pregnancy was very easy. I never got sick, I never got fatigued, my cycles didn't change, I didn't gain any weight to speak of. It was so easy, in fact, that I didn't know I was pregnant until my 20th week - halfway through a normal pregnancy.

All of that changed one Thursday evening. I was driving home and felt a very brief, very intense pain, and then a sensation as though I had started my period. Which of course, was impossible - I was 24 weeks pregnant.

I got home, checked to see that I was in fact bleeding, calmly told Peanut that I thought I was in labor, laid down on the floor and burst into tears. When I called the doctor, she advised me to go immediately to the emergency room, so we got in the car, me sitting on towels and holding a bag in case I threw up, and we drove to the hospital the doctor recommended – I hadn’t even had time to pick one

The bleeding had become much heavier by the time we got to labor and delivery, and I was starting to get scared. I was hooked up to a fetal monitor and got to hear my baby's heartbeat for only the third time in her life. I also learned that what I thought was the baby rolling over was actually contractions - I'd been having them about every five minutes for three weeks. I was given multiple shots of drugs to stop labor, steroids for the baby’s lungs, and Rhogam, which you need if you have a negative blood type.
After eight hours in the assessment area, in a bed that is more like an ob/gyn exam table than a bed, I was moved to the labor ward. All around me were women in active labor, who were being coached by nurses and doctors about when to push and when to breathe. And then there was me, with every attempt being made to stop my child from being born. I was put on a magnesium sulfate drip, known to those of us who have experienced it as The Mag. The Mag also helps to stop labor and since it's given via IV instead of a shot, it is more effective over a longer period of time. However, it is a fate almost worse than death. I cannot adequately explain how awful I felt. It was like having the flu and then being run over by a truck, and then being beaten with a sack of pennies. At first I was starving and then everything started coming back up. I had hot flashes of such intensity that a cold cloth pressed to my face became warm to the touch in seconds. I became so weak I couldn't get up to go to the bathroom without starting to black out.

Time passed. This part is kind of fuzzy, aside from how horrible I felt. After a few days I got weaned off The Mag and I felt like a totally new person. At this point, I still thought I was going home. I knew I would be placed on bedrest, but my doctors kept giving me tentative going home dates – usually “the day after tomorrow”. I know now that they had no intention of sending me home, and I’m really, really glad I didn’t know that then.

I should have been tipped off when they asked a neonatologist from the NICU to come talk to me about what premature birth would mean for my baby. She gave me a very good overview of the difference in outcomes based on gestational age, and said she'd like to see me stay pregnant until at least 28 weeks, or better yet 30, or even better 33, at which point she would not mind the baby coming at all. I liked her, but I thought it was overkill for her to come visit. I mean, the contractions had mostly stopped, and they weren't effective (meaning my cervix was still tightly closed and my water hadn't broken). It was just some bleeding, which had been controlled down to almost nothing.

Peanut came to see me every day. The fold-out couchchair in my room didn't seem that comfortable, and I wouldn’t sleep well if I thought he wasn’t sleeping well, so I sent him home to sleep every night. After four days I was moved to the post-partum unit, which I found out later is also a high-risk pregnancy unit. My digs were pretty nice - adjustable bed, tv with dvd player, cable, and on-demand educational health videos. I had a fridge and a microwave, my own bathroom, free wi-fi. The nurses were all top notch. The food was really pretty good - I could call down and order anything I wanted all day and they would bring it up.

The morning of the day that would become Baby M’s birthday, I ordered a huge breakfast – oatmeal, toast, hardboiled egg, bagel with cream cheese and fruit. I figured I could use the time in bed to gain some weight. About an hour after breakfast, things went south.

To be continued…


  1. What a scary experience. I agree, kudos to your doctors for making you believe you'd be going home any day. For myself, I would have gone into panic mode if I believed otherwise, and that wouldn't have done any good for you or Baby M.

    Thank you for deciding to share your story here on the blog. It'll benefit others to read, and it sheds more light on your experiences which is always good for readers. <3

    1. I had already done some reading about bed rest, and it doesn't work as well as doctors have always thought - and particularly in situations like mine (it would be more effective with a weak cervix, for example, but it won't stop an abruption). If we'd gone home...well, I'm not sure we would have gotten back to the hospital in time. They definitely made the right choice, both in keeping me there and not telling me for how long so I couldn't check myself out against medical advice.


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