I’ve Been Slacking

So, when I say I’ve been slacking, I mean that I haven’t been keeping you, my adoring audience, properly updated on things as they happen.

Let’s back up almost a week to Thursday.  Right around 5 o’clock p.m. (naturally, right after the office closes), I notice that I haven’t noticed nearly as much movement from the babies as normal.  I’m unsure if this is because I just haven’t been paying attention, or if there’s an actual problem.  I know I have one more day before the weekend, and I also know that I have a doctor’s appointment on Monday morning, so I’m waffling on whether or not to go through the trouble to me and the doctors and nurses that comes with making after-hours calls.  Andrew convinces me (and it really doesn’t take all that much convincing) that it’s far better to be safe than sorry when it comes to our children.

So, I call my OB’s office, leave a message with the answering service, and within 10 minutes (awesome response time, btw) I get a call back from an actual nurse who spoke to my actual doctor saying that she wants me to head on over to Northside Labor & Delivery and get checked out; she’s going to call ahead and let them know I’m coming.  Fantastic.  I tell Andrew about the instructions, he leaves work early (he gets off at 7 normally) and picks me up.

We get to the hospital, sign in, and are put back in a room by about 6:30.  The nurse is there almost immediately and instructs me to get into the provided gown (which, much to my pleasant surprise, fit).  Incidentally, there are special labor and delivery versions of hospital beds.  They have fold-out leg braces for pushing and even a pregnant stick figure for illustrating how the head of the bed raises and lowers.  Who knew?

Anyway, I get situated on the bed and the nurse comes back and attaches me to some monitors.  There’s some sort of contraption that measures the heartbeat and movement of each baby (one for each, I should say), and a separate monitor to measure any contractions I might be having.  This setup and period of measurement is called a “nonstress test” (or NST).  It’s called this because neither I nor the babies are “stressed” either chemically or physically into behaving any differently than we normally would.  I settle in for some data gathering.

After a while, the nurse comes back in with a large, insulated mug filled with ice water.  She tells me (because she can monitor my results from the nurses’ station) that the babies are doing beautifully, but I’m contracting.  A lot.  About every two minutes, in fact.  So, I need to drink this water, and another mug after that, to see if that can slow/stop the contractions.  If not, they’ll hook me up to an IV and hydrate me that way to see if that’ll do it.

I was completely floored.  I had no idea I’d been contracting at all, much less that I’d been contracting that often.  I mean, I knew that I would contract on occasion.  But just Braxton Hicks contractions (sporadic, usually painless tightenings, sometimes called “practice” contractions, and are common in the later stages of pregnancy, particularly the third trimester).  And my Braxton Hicks contractions (to this point) had been completely painless.  In fact, unless I press against my belly with my hand, I generally have no idea whether or not I’m having a contraction at all.

So, I’m trying to hydrate myself and stay as relaxed as possible.  I drink and drink and drink, but the contractions keep up.  In fact, they get worse, to the point of being painful.  The sensation is truly baffling.  It hurt more in my lower back than it did in my abdomen (follow the link to learn more about back labor).  And boy, did it hurt.  I like to think that I’ve dealt with a fair amount of physical pain in my life, what with various surgeries and Crohn’s flares, and that I’m not particularly a weenie when it comes to it, but this… was different.  Of course, no two stimuli produce the same type of pain, but this boggled me.  I think the worst part was that it would come and go as the contraction strengthened and lessened.  The pain never settled at a particular level, so there wasn’t any getting used to it.  I handled it (Andrew says like a pro), but I was not particularly happy about it, and it reinforced my decision to go with an epidural for the real deal.

So, at this point, I’m loaded up with ice water, strapped up with monitors, and contracting painfully.  Naturally, I have to pee.  Normally, this wouldn’t be too big of a problem, but under these circumstances, I have to call in the nurse, get unhooked from the stupid machine, lever myself up and off the bed, then waddle my way across the room to the tiny closet of a bathroom.  Oh, and they want a urine sample.  Again, not normally too much of a problem.  But this is not normally.  This is me at 31 weeks and 5 days pregnant, and even if you’ve only got one little creature in there, at this stage of the game, a pregnant woman never “kinda” has to go to the bathroom.  At this point, every single pee trip is a Defcon 1 situation.  Fabulous.  Thankfully, we somehow manage to make this happen without incident.

Now they have their urine sample, I’m not in danger of wetting the bed, and it’s been decided that it’s time to plug me up to an IV.  Concerned about the now painful contractions (as previously stated, Braxton Hicks contractions are usually painless), they want to do a particular test for preterm labor called a “fetal fibronectin test” (or fFN test, if you like).  This particular test is not especially useful in telling you whether or not you’re actually in preterm labor, but it’s extremely accurate in telling you if you aren’t.  If that makes sense at all.  Example, a positive fFN test just means that your body is getting ready for labor.  It could start that day, it could start in three weeks.  Whatever.  A negative fFN test, however, means that you’re not in labor, and it’s extremely unlikely that you will go into labor in the next couple or so weeks.

Hooray.  I’m all for this.  And it’s a good way to pass the time until the IV team shows up to access my port for the fluids.  It’s a bit uncomfortable, but so is riding in the backseat of a Jetta, and I did that for 10 hours straight, once.  No problem.

So, Brian from the IV team shows up to access my port.  Sweet guy, built like a linebacker.  Seriously.  I know who they call now for unruly visitors.  So, he accesses my port, no problem, and cheerfully wishes us luck and wanders off to start someone else’s IV.  Bless him.  Side note, my power port is rated up to 300 PSI.  I had no idea.

Now it’s time to hang the bag of saline and see how we do.  The nurses have this stuff running wide open.  Thankfully, I start feeling better.  And my lab tests come back.  Both the UTI test and the fFN test are negative.  Excellent.  I foresee being able to go home soon.  We finish the first liter of saline, and they hang another.  Unfortunately, the contractions, though not quite so frequent now,  start to become painful again.  I hate to mention this because I know it means Andrew and I having to stay longer, but I feel I need to.  Some consultation happens and it’s decided that I need to stay overnight.  If I want, I can have some medicine for the pain and something to help me sleep.

Thinking I’ll probably get some Tylenol and Benadryl, I say sign me up.  I send Andrew off to get us some food (at this point it’s midnightish and neither one of us has had any supper) from the McDonald’s one floor up.  Just before Andrew comes back with the food, my painkillers arrive.  Not Tylenol, but Percocet.  Two of them.  I have no idea what strength.  I take them, I eat, I get kinda high.  Shortly thereafter, they bring me my sleep aid.  Not Benadryl, but Ambien.  I have no idea what strength.  I take it.  I drift into a very foggy drug-induced sleep while Andrew (God love him) settles into the terrible hospital recliner for the night.

The next morning, the on-call doctor from my practice stops by, checks the readouts from the monitors (which have been on all night), and tells me I can go home.  Thrilled, Andrew helps me out of the stupid gown and back into my clothes, then takes me to breakfast.  He’s taken the day off (awesome).  We go home, I reassure appropriate parties that I and the babies are fine, and then I fall asleep on the couch.  Apparently, I hadn’t quite slept off the drugs just yet.

And that’s that.  Monday morning, I go to my doctor’s appointment as scheduled and tell my perinatalogist the story.  He assures me that I have very little to worry about.  Yes, the contractions can be uncomfortable and annoying, but they’re not causing any cervical changes at this point, and the babies are doing great.  In fact, our bubs are about 5 lbs. each now, and that’s almost a safe birth weight.  Hooray!  And I’ll almost certainly make it to November before the birth day, so they’ll be even bigger then.  Hooray!

Andrew and I have decided that it’s finally time to go ahead and pack The Bag in anticipation of the real thing.  We’ll likely take care of that on Saturday.

And I’ve apparently carried on for quite a while, so I’ll just shut up now.

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