I’m Not Going Home, Am I?

{Bo’s Birth Story: Part 1 of 2}

I was 30 weeks pregnant and had just sent an unfiltered email, starting a raw conversation with a friend. I was exhausted mentally and emotionally and I was so swollen that it hurt to move my feet. Ben got home and went to our last home birth appointment, unknown to us, where our Midwife said ever so calmly, “I think it’s time to transfer care.”

I’ve always felt embarrassed about crying in front of other people. I wasn’t one of those pretty criers. My tears were often paired with snot and sounds similar to a bear in heat. I could feel the tears wanting to pour out of my eyes and was nervous to open my mouth and ask a question in fear that the tears would come fiercely and even more afraid that I wouldn’t be able to make them stop. I choked them back and replied, “for just like, a 2nd opinion?” Our midwife continued to explain to us that my blood pressure was high. Too high. In the high risk zone and that I would not be having our baby at home. I remember that all I could say in response to that was,

“I’m sad.”

We asked if we owed any money and then we left. I was quiet the entire way home and the next day I made an appointment to see the last OB I’d seen who had taken my IUD out, pre-baby, pre-pregnancy. I liked Dr. Smith. He was gorgeous and somehow thinking that didn’t freak me out for him to be all up in…there. I grew widely nervous that I was going to walk in their office and that they were going to look at me with their judgy eyes. They would have those I told you so looks on their faces and I would have to say that they were right and I failed.

We walked back to my room. I stepped on a scale for the first time at a prenatal appointment since learning that I was pregnant and then I was sent to pee in a cup. When Dr. Smith returned, he sat in front of me and looked at me, and then Ben, and then touched my knee and said, “Everything is going to okay. We’re going to get through this.” Not exactly the kind of first words you want to hear from the man who is going to be helping you deliver your baby. I figured that we still had 9 weeks, maybe more, and that he was going to fix whatever problem we needed to get through. Then my heart dropped as the words pre-eclampsia rolled out of his mouth.

I read about Pre-eclampsia. It was one of the gray boxes in my pregnancy book. One of the boxes that, in the beginning of the book, directed you to stop reading if it provoked fear or anxiety in you while reading. I read the gray box. I read all the gray boxes. My favorite TV show is Law & Order: SVU. I had to read all the gray boxes. Some of the words in this gray box included seizures and death. It was serious and I had it. In the cloud of conversation, all of the sudden my prenatal appointment had turned into a hospital admission to the Labor and Delivery Unit and I was hearing things like, “We’ll be lucky if you make it to 34 weeks.” I was given a hospital band and an ugly, oversized gown to change into and a nurse greeted me like it was normal for me to be there. It was not normal. I was not ready to deliver my baby. We stayed for a few hours while they checked my blood pressure every 5 minutes, gave me a shot that would accelerate the development of my underdeveloped baby’s lungs and then finally, I was instructed to go home, get in bed and stay there.

I had met with my Manager that day, before my tough conversation and before my appointment. We set up a game plan to start the process of finding a stand-in for my maternity leave, made a check-list of the things I needed to get done and have a steady plan so that my ministry would not skip a beat in my absence. I said, “Okay, this all looks good and doable. I’ll probably be back after my appointment and knock some of these out.” Little did I know.

We arrived back home and I walked upstairs, put on some sweatpants, took my bra off, and got in bed. It was a Wednesday around 4 o’clock. Thankfully, Ben had won the TV-in-the-bedroom fight that had gone on for 3 years and I knew I could count on an endless Law & Order marathon. I was surprised at how calm I was feeling. With an enormous amount of responsibilities weighing on my mind with work, the unsettling emotions of the email I had sent earlier that day and my daydreams of the beautiful, snowy home birth by the fireplace  now replaced with the undoubtedly hospital birth and likely C-section, I was calm. Maybe it was the very real fact that I needed to do all I could to keep my blood pressure at bay. Or maybe it was just denial. I didn’t know who to tell or who I should call. I didn’t want to tell anyone because it would make it all real. Ben had posted a cry for prayer on Facebook, which was surprising because he hardly takes to Facebook. Queue the texts and phone calls from all the people we love and love us. If there was ever a time I look back to and am overwhelmed with the outpouring of assurance and care of community and the real love of our brothers and sisters in Christ, it is this time.

Bed rest wasn’t so bad. I had probably watched an entire season of Law & Order and was going to bed completing day 1, hour 5 of bed rest. I had been instructed to collect a larger urine sample to find out the severity of the protein spilling, a telltale sign of pre-eclampsia. My Mother-in-Law drove me back to the hospital to provide the sample where I was admitted again to Labor and Delivery to see how my blood pressure was and to administer shot 2 of 2 for my sweet baby’s lungs. I went home that day anxious to find out my results. The number would give us insight to how long I would stay pregnant. I climbed back in bed and rounded my first 12 hours of bed rest.

I typed in my Google search bar, “Bed rest workout videos” because, believe it or not, those exist. I was confident and determined that I would be on bed rest for at least 9 weeks and make it to 40 weeks so it seemed like a solid investment of time. Another season of Law & Order and 2 movies later, I was going to sleep on the 2nd successful day of bed rest.

Before I had left the hospital the day before, Dr. Smith said that if I got a headache that did not go away with Tylenol to call in. I woke up Friday morning, day 3, and Saturday, day 4, with a dull headache. I took some Tylenol and it went away. Crisis adverted. Friday and Saturday are a blur. I was starting to feel like I was a part of my mattress. How do women stay on bed rest for months and months and not go crazy? I officially hated bed rest and thought surely I would die in this bed. Did I mention that I’m an extreme extravert? I rehearsed my Hypnobirthing affirmations and would tell myself, only 8 and a half more weeks. 8 and a half weeks. 8 and a half.

Sunday morning arrived and it was the first Sunday that I had missed in years. I woke up naturally around 7am and just starred at the ceiling. I grew anxious as the minutes passed, wondering if everything was okay with the room I was responsible for. 9am passed by. I would be in our pre-service meeting. 9:15am passed by. Check-in is open. 9:30am. Service is starting. 9:45am. Worship is finished, we should be starting the lesson. As my mind visualized the service and all the working pieces, I came to and thought, “Is that a headache?” This one felt a little more foggy and deeper than the last two days. I took some Tylenol and waited for it to kick in.

My mom had sent me the best bed rest care package ever. A box full of my old journals, picture albums and years of artwork, school work and letters from my life. What an embarrassing and fun trip down memory lane.

***Note to self: Remember to burn those journals when I’m done writing this*** 

Second service was nearing the end so it was around 12:30pm and I noticed my headache had not gone away yet. I decided to take another Tylenol for good measure and prayed it would go away. Ben came home around 1pm and fed me lunch. I took a nap and waited a little longer for my headache to go away, I mean, it was barely a headache. It barely was bothering me.

It was 4pm and I slowly got out of bed, put a bra on and walked downstairs to where Ben and my Brother-in-Law, Evan, were watching a football game. I told Ben that I had woken up with a headache, I’ve taken two rounds of Tylenol and that the headache has not gone away. I called the on-call doctor who said she thought I should come in and just get checked out. Ben was really invested in this game and I could tell he really didn’t want to take me to the hospital. I know this because he told me that he didn’t want to take me to the hospital and to just drive myself. Oh, the early days of marriage are such a treat to recall. After a heated “discussion” that included spouts of passive aggression, threats and the Look, he peeled himself off the couch and drove me to the hospital. I remember thinking I should really stop and eat something because the last thing I ate was my lunch at 1pm. I didn’t want to be stuck at the hospital for too long, but I figured it would be just a couple hours like usual and then I could eat after.

When we got to the Labor & Delivery Unit they admitted me and checked us into a room and begun triage. They immediately took my blood pressure, which was through the roof. I remember seeing the numbers 175/110. For those who don’t know, 120/80 is the top of ‘normal’. Ben asked me if he could leave and continue watching the game and I said that was fine, that I would call him when they discharged me. He kissed my head and left and I started my Hypnobirthing to try and lower my blood pressure by sheer will. About 15 minutes later, the nurse came in with a large IV bag and behind her followed 2 EMTs and a stretcher. I looked at her and said, “I’m not going home, am I?” She looked at me and said, “No, not tonight.” An IV was placed and within 5 minutes, 500 ml of Magnesium was pumped through my vein and I felt like I was hit by a semi-truck. I reached for my phone and called Ben and said in a calm and somewhat drunk-sounding voice,

“You’re going to need to come back.”

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