Monday, July 18, 2011

12 hours of observation - A Love Story

So. When last we saw our heroine (me) she had been left hanging on the phone call that could change her life in a flash, the induction call.

Cut to early morning, grey light just beginning to filter through the blinds. A young (I can dream) blonde woman lying in bed, on her side, asleep. Suddenly, her eyes fly open, and a hand fumbles under the sheet, coming back wet. A look of mixed confusion and horror comes over her face.

Yup. I totally thought my water had broken. Apparently this is because I am a very silly woman. I was wrong. However, I called the Labor and Delivery (L&D forthwith) department and dutifully told them that I was leaking fluid, how much it was, how far apart my contractions were, how painful they were (more painful than a stubbed toe, less painful than a broken bone. I was helpful) and how long they were lasting. After a long pause, I was told to come in for observation. I promptly woke up TJ, who I had courteously decided to let sleep until I knew what was going on, and told him to take a shower because (in Angie's words) it was FREAKING GO TIME.

A flurry of activity followed this call, as I'm sure you can guess. However you might not realize how much of that was trying to gauge how long we'd be there, and the appropriate amount of food to bring. Apparently I take after my father, who when it was suggested he make his own food for the labor of his firstborn went into a cooking frenzy for multiple days. In his case it turned out to be a good thing, as my mother was in active labor with my older brother for 72 hours before she had a C-Section. Even after that, she was afraid people would think she was a wimp for taking the easy way out. After 3 DAYS.Yes, that is the kind of strong woman who raised me. I, however, was not in labor for 3 days. I was not even in active labor for 1 day. However I was not thinking very clearly, and essentially my process went "hospital food is nasty. We have good food. Let's take good food and not eat the nasty." My thought process forgot to consider the possibility of not having a refrigerator available. So into the cooler went fruit, and cheese, and some delicious kielbasa I bought at the farmer's market from a man who seemed a bit too gruff until I realized he was cranky and Polish, two things I identify with greatly. In went juice, and crackers, and oh so many delicious things to snack on. And then we were ready. Except TJ was still in the shower. So we loaded up Angie's car and waited for him to emerge, pink and clean. When he did he let us know he was planning on taking his own car, and would meet us there.

All our test runs to the hospital had taken about 15 minutes. This one took 6. Somehow I walked myself up to the L&D without the use of a wheelchair, carrying my purse and medical folders while Angie carried the cooler, my overnight bag, and her laptop. Angie is Much Woman, Small Package. The check-in process took less time than we had thought it would, since we had done all the pre-admission forms weeks before, and had called to announce our impending presence. We were escorted to an observation room after only a short period of nervous banter and stress-jokes. I specialize in stress jokes. I am hilarious when I am scared.

The observation room is a small, windowless cubicle in a short hallway. It contains a steel slab bed with a foam pad on it, a chair, a stool, and a few random computerized things. One is actually a computer. Another is the monitor. No not the computer monitor. The monitor they hook to the outside of your belly to measure the interval and duration of your contractions, the baby's heartrate, and the fetal movements. It became very apparent very quickly that L. Itsababy was awake, moving, and that my contractions were indeed 5 minutes apart and about  a minute long. We finished my admitting paperwork and I started waiting for a real room.

And I kept waiting. And waiting. And waiting. My nurse, Hilary, who had introduced herself immediately after I was admitted came in and told me that an OB would be with me shortly to check my amniotic sac, but since I hadn't yet overflowed the maternity pad and chucks (blue absorbent pads covered in cotton and lined in plastic) they had under me in the four or five hours I'd already been waiting, they were pretty confident that I had been mistaken. When Dr. Holland came in and checked me 10 minutes later, it was confirmed that I was, in fact, not in active labor. I was in what is known as "latent labor," a kind of warm-up period. Think of it as stretching before a marathon. They decided that this would therefore be the ideal time to set up my IV saline lock.

I am what is known as GBS Positive. i have a form of Strep, Strep group B, which can be transferred at delivery if there is no antibiotic given to the mother. So they had to have me on Penicillin, one bag every four hours, between the time the induction started and the time I delivered the baby. Since I was also considering IV pain meds, and would be on the IV Pitocin, I opted for the saline lock. While part of me is glad I did, part of me wishes I could have done this med-free, if only to avoid the hassle that ensued from that lock.

I apparently have troublesome veins. By this time Hilary had gone off shift, and had been replaced by Kelly, another lovely young lady. Actually one of so many lovely women who took care of me that I started taking pictures of them, knowing no one would believe that so many gorgeous women work in L&D without physical proof. As such I have pictures to present later of almost every woman who worked on "my team." I'm just missing a Dr. Bader, a Young Kim, and a Sungmi before I have collected them all! I think. I don't really know. The drugs were good. Anyway, my veins: they call me a "hard stick," which I of course mentally retort with "that's what she said" and then giggle to myself. Kelly tried both the vein in my right wrist and the back of my right hand. The same thing happened both times, which is to say that the IV went in, but when she tried to retract, the vein blew. Then she called in reinforcements. After four nurses checking for places to stick me (again, mentally giggling) and a few more blown veins, they called in the BIG GUNS. Liz from Anesthesiology finally got the vein in the back of my left hand to function, after a shot of lidocaine and four pitchers of water. I hate lidocaine, btw. Nasty evil burning painful stuff. I like what it DOES, of course (numbs like whoa) but the actual injection is not very fun. Liz then decided since she was already there, and I had put in my birth plan that I was considering an epidural, that she would do my epidural paperwork then, and get it out of the way.

Liz then sprung on me something I was not quite prepared for. Since my epi paperwork was finished, I was now NPO solid. That is to say, I was no longer able to eat solid food until after the epidural wore off. At this point I had been in the observation room for almost 8 hours, and had eaten almost nothing. A cafeteria turkey sandwich had graced my stomach perhaps five hours prior. Remember that giant cooler I packed? Apparently when I'm that nervous I have very little interest in eating anything that cooler contained. Cheese? No thanks. Sausage? What was I thinking? Fruit? Who has time to eat fresh fruit? It's all messy and then you have to find a place for pits/seeds/cores. But mention just once to a pregnant lady that she can no longer eat, and suddenly she's ravenous. Too bad for me. Less bad for my mother, brother, Angie and TJ, who were by this point taking turns staying with me in the ONE VISITOR ONLY observation room.

Another shift change came and went, along with a visit from my Medical Student, the lovely Amy Wasterlain. Let me tell you right now, this girl is going to make one HELL of a doctor. She's absolutely fabulous. Communicative, easily understandable, knowledgeable, gracious bedside manner, personable, and quite obviously sharper than the average tack. Amy told me that while Kelly was going to be staying with me as my nurse, she herself was going home, but that she'd see me tomorrow and probably the day after. Another few hours came and went, along with an unexpected surprise in the observation room next to mine. Apparently, since there was such a shortage of beds, the woman who had been admitted to the room next to mine had actually GONE INTO LABOR AND DELIVERED A BABY without getting to leave her observation room. I suddenly was very happy I was not in active labor. Those steel beds are hard enough to deal with, without having to be in a situp labor position on them. And then Kelly came back in with fabulous news. Several women had recently delivered, and they were being moved to the Mommy and Baby (forthwith M&B) ward. I was going to my own L&D suite, and I was going to start my induction. I hugged her. Really, I did.

I had been there for 12 hours, and it was just starting.

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