Mrs.4444 was writing this morning about a time she came close to dying, and asked for our own stories. I thought this was fascinating (obviously, I am writing about it, aren’t I?), and ironically enough, mine is also a childbirth story. So be warned, my friends!
I was 7 months pregnant with Sam, 33 weeks to be exact, and I woke up not feeling well at all. I was lightheaded and shaky, just not myself at all, just-off. I also have blood sugar problems when pregnant ( low blood sugar, actually), and that was what it felt like to me-so I very dutifully drank some juice and had some jerky (I don’t know if this is what “the experts” say to do, but it was what my OB with Hannah to do-drink a sugar and eat with a protein and all will be well; jerky and juice worked the best for me). Started to feel better but still not GREAT, so I waited a little while and did the same thing, and that helped even more. I was basically okay then, but still felt a little bit off. Still, what do you do? Call the doctor and say, “You know, I just feel a little bit funny today; no particular reason, no major symptoms, what should I do?” No, no, of course not (and for the record, in talking to my doctor after the fact, he said that it would not have changed the outcome a whit HAD I called).
We were supposed to be going to a dinner show in a town about 90 minutes away that night, my mom and grandma and one of my sisters and I. I had only planned on going since the night before, as the other person with whom they were going canceled and there was an extra ticket. The stars aligned perfectly and I was able to get a sitter for Hannah and Eli, so even though I wasn’t feeling 100%, I thought “Hell, I am pregnant, I am NOT going to feel 100% until after I have this baby.” So off we went. There were several stops along the way (my mom had to stop at a bar in every tiny podunk town along the way; she was already half-drunk when we left home, and I think she was just trying to maintain that buzz. She wasn’t driving, by the way), so I would get out of the car and stretch my legs and have some milk or juice, and other than just being tired, I was still basically okay.
We were just coming around the last curve above the town we were headed to, and I felt a little “pop” in my belly; it felt like the sound a big bubble makes when it pops. I didn’t say anything for a minute because I was all like, “and just what in the hell was THAT?” but then I felt warm and wet and I knew. “Um, guys? I think my water just broke.” My mom, even in her half-drunken state, was very calm and matter of fact, saying, “I think there is a clinic here, we can just stop at the gas station and ask someone if they know where it is.” Grandma pulled into the gas station and went in, and told us that the clinic was no more, that everyone had to go to the next town to see a doctor. I was starting to panic just a little, thinking “okay, I know that it is not a good thing happening here, I know that I need to find a doctor, what the hell are we going to do now?” My mom was funny, sitting there kind of tapping her fingers on the door while she thought, and then she bolted upright and said, “Well look at that!” Pulling up to get gas was an ambulance. With EMT’s in it. She jumped out of the car and hustled over and pretty quick one of them came over to check out the situation. I hadn’t gotten out of the car yet, so she asked me a couple of questions and was very kind and calm when she said, “Okay, let’s get you out of here and into the ambulance, as we should probably get you to Twin as soon as we can…” so she helped me out of the car and instead of nice, clear amniotic fluid, it was blood. Bright red blood soaked into my grandma’s car, bright red blood all over me, bright red blood running down my legs. Needless to say, the whole situation took on a much more urgent tone. I was promptly ordered to strip and put on a gown, I was hooked up to all sorts of equipment and they started an IV, and I had my first ambulance ride. It was scary as hell-the male EMT was in the back with me on the phone with the hospital, giving them a minute by minute update (“Am I having a contraction? Why yes, I am, thanks for asking!”), and the female EMT was driving like a bat out of hell, sirens and lights on full force. There were a few highlights, though. Okay, ONE. There was road construction on the way to the hospital, and Ms. EMT was hanging her arm out the window flipping people off and yelling, “Get the fuck out my way; can’t you see the goddamned LIGHTS flashing?” Maybe not entirelyprofessional, but just what I needed to hear. At that time, the thought was that my water had indeed broken, but that there was blood IN the amniotic fluid for whatever reasons. Baby was still okay, but it was still not a good thing at all.
Fast forward to the hospital itself, where I was immediately whisked into a room and they began all sorts of tests and hooked up several different monitors. One doctor walked in the room and asked me if I had been drinking, at which point I said,”Of COURSE I haven’t been drinking!” He replied, “I don’t believe you,” and ordered a blood alcohol test; I was angry and confused until I realized that as soon as a person walked into the room they could smell a very strong alcohol odor-it was my mom in all her drunken glory. Needless to say, the BAC came back negative.
Finally, the OB doctor on call came in-she had been called away from her daughter’s high school graduation!-and was examining me, and she said that my water hadn’t broken, it was all blood. As she was sitting there examining me, though, my water DID break, and it was bloody as well. I don’t know, I was already scared but when she stood up and called for the NICU staff “stat,” as well as started barking orders to the nurses to load me up with fluids and Pitocin “30 minutes ago!” that I really began to freak.the.fuck.out. They couldn’t do an emergency C-section because I was already bleeding too much AND the baby was already in distress, so the goal was to try to get the contractions going hard and fast in order to try to save the baby. She did tell me, very seriously, that if it came down to it there WOULD be a C-section but that the baby wouldn’t live if I had to have one. Blah blah blah, already compromised, blah blah blah, the spinal would compromise it too much… Isn’t THAT lovely?
And all this time, I was bleeding. They kept changing those blue pads underneath me and they would be soaked. With every contraction, more blood. Thankfully, thankfully, it went very fast; I got to the hospital at about 6:30 and Sam was born at 9:30. It was surreal; I kept telling my mom, at the end, that I really couldn’t stop myself from pushing so she needed to go get the doctor; I heard her step out into the hallway and scream, “Get in here NOW!” and I remember hearing thundering footsteps as they all ran down to my room. I think we counted, later, 16 people; we had the NICU staff with their table already set up for baby, we had X-Ray and Lab and a surgeon standing by, plus my ever lovely Doctor. Baby’s head had already popped out by time they got down there, and if you don’t know how hard it is to NOT push when you have a HEAD sticking out of you, well, I hope you never do.
So they got baby out and he cried and they held him up and said, “It’s a boy!” and took him over to their table; I didn’t see or hear much of anything else, because while they were getting HIM stabilized, the other people were working on ME. It was horrible; absolutely horrible. I could hear the doctors doing whatever they needed to do to the baby, and the room wasn’t at all quiet, but underneath it all I could also hear a steady drip,drip, drip like a leaky faucet, only it was blood dripping off the bed onto the floor. Drip, drip, drip.
I kind of faded in and out, woozy and weak and kind of looking at myself from the corner of the room. It was really strange but also kind of restful. I don’t know if I was dying or not, really. I just know that I could see myself, and I could see Dr. Johnson kneading my stomach as hard as she could (I actually had fist-sized bruises all over my belly the next day, and they didn’t fade completley until about two months later) while sticking her UNGLOVED hand in to get the placenta out. I could see two nurses on either side of the bed, one squeezing this bulb that was attached to my IV bag (I later found out that it was a fluid push) and another shooting some kind of drug into me.
I still don’t even really know what put me back in my body, so to speak. But I was suddenly there, listening to Dr. J tell me that I had experienced a placental abruption and looking at this large, slimy lump of placenta and her showing me the tear. At the time, I was more impressed by the fact that she had blood-MY blood-caked in her cuticles and her plain gold wedding band. The words, “She didn’t have time to put on gloves…” kept spinning through my head over and over, and probably scared me almost as much as anything.
Still, I obviously didn’t die, and neither did Sam. I was sick and weak for a long time; my hematocrit was 19 (normal runs between 35-50), and had we been in a smaller, less modern facility, I would have had to have blood tranfusions. As it was, I was in the hospital for 4 days, and I got all sorts of drugs but Ireally don’t remember what kind. They wouldn’t let me leave until my hematocrit was up to 22, I know that. Sam was in the NICU, born at 33 weeks-4 lb. 3 oz., 16 inches long, and even though he looked TINY to me, the NICU guys said, “Oh, no, for his gestational age he is HUGE.” And even though we were both rather ill for quite some time afterward, we are obviously both well and healthy now.
Thanks to Mrs.4444 for the blog fodder today, and for the reminder of just how lucky and blessed I have been. And I would love to hear if YOU have had a near-death experience as well; I am morbid like that!