Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Birth of The Cupcake

On Friday, March 26th I ate a large, late (9 pm) dinner, and I knew that it wouldn't let me sleep while it was still digesting. Heartburn hit, so at midnight Senpai went to bed and I stayed up. At 2 am I woke up Senpai with some alarming news, "We need to go to the hospital." A blue moon was on its way and contractions had started.

It had happened before: I had started contracting for 30 seconds out of every minute on Thursday, February 26th. On another full moon. You can’t tell me that’s not weird. The baby was 29 weeks old then. The cure at that time had been IV fluids because I must’ve been overly dehydrated. I am fully convinced that if I had not delivered Rosemary in March, contractions would have started up again on the next full moon in April.

We went to Belleville Memorial, the hospital in our area that I had planned to deliver at. A pelvic examination found me to be 2 cm dilated and 50% effaced. They injected me with one of two doses of a steroid to help baby's lungs develop, just in case. Since the pregnancy was only 33 weeks along though, by 11 am Belleville had put me in an ambulance to transfer us to St. Mary's Hospital in St. Louis, because they have a NICU. Once at St. Mary's, a team of doctors named Bulgar, Wheat, and Vlastos diagnosed me with something called HELLP Syndrome. Dr. Vlastos described it as two steps above pre-eclampsia. I was started on an IV drip of Magnesium Sulfate to act as a muscle relaxer for my uterus, and also to prevent the onset of seizures. It also made my skin hot and gave me double-vision. I was put in a small room (it had originally been a closet) with every intention of being watched for the next couple of weeks until I'd be more ready to deliver. Senpai and I buckled down for the waiting game it seemed like we'd play. I honestly hoped it wouldn’t be too long, though, because it was very hard to entertain myself by reading books or watching movies with blurry, double-vision. While at home we had been watching "Avatar: The Last Airbender." We were so very close to the end of the series and Senpai insisted we continue watching the DVDs in the hospital, but I could only get through an episode or two before my eyes gave up trying to focus. On Sunday morning I got the 2nd dose of steroids for Rosemary's lungs.

Sunday night, leading into Monday, I did not sleep a wink for thrashing around on the bed, moaning and screaming like a banshee. My liver felt like it was going to explode and there was nothing the nurse could do for me. The funny thing is that Senpai did not stay with me that night. He had called the nurse's station in the morning to ask how I was: "Oh, she's fine," was the answer, of course. I called him at work at 7 am with some different news, "Come! Now!" was pretty much what it boiled down to. I had hoped to catch him before he left for work that morning, but, in my pain and delirium, that did not happen.

On Monday morning the doctors all conferred and started up pitocin; the only cure for my pain was delivery. After the hellish night I’d just experienced I was in no mood to go through labor. I REALLY wanted a C-Section, against my better judgement, but my platelets and other clotting factors were not ideal for major surgery. If you look up HELLP Syndrome on Wikipedia, it’ll tell you that the most extreme classification is when the patient has a platelet count of less than 50,000; I got as low as 15,000. I was at a loss: I could barely suck in a full breath of air due to the liver pain, and they wanted me push a baby out?? Somehow it did get easier to breath, and I slept away the first labor pains in the new, large room they had moved me to; I was too exhausted to let those little contractions bother me. Later in the day, after I woke up for good, I moved over to a birthing ball, and that helped me through the rest of the contractions. My laptop was playing my soothing Tibetan Singing Bowl music. Senpai asked if he could turn on the TV. Ha ha, no.

Around dinnertime, at 6 cm dilation and 80% effaced, the doctors wanted to break my water. I knew once that happened things would start getting ugly, so I asked for Stadol. I couldn't have an epidural due to the steroids I was on, and I had psyched myself up throughout this pregnancy to not have one anyway, but I still wanted something to take the edge off. They broke my water (it was clear, yay!), I felt that first lousy contraction, and then they injected the Stadol into my IV line and I felt like Alice in Wonderland. It's hard to describe. It's not that I passed out, or went to a "happy place," but I drew away from the craziness and sucked on my reserves until I was needed... everything else just faded into the distance. The hard part was not pushing. Because Rosemary would need extra care once she was delivered, we had to wait for an operating room to be made ready for us, instead of just delivering in the room we were in. Once in the OR, Senpai said at least a dozen people were all gathered around the bed, waiting for the big show. Because I had not been given an epidural, exactly when to push was left up to me, which I very much appreciated. Little jokes were tossed around the peanut gallery between my efforts, but I barely noticed (Senpai said he had asked the docs, "So if you're all here, who's delivering the other babies?"). Each time I whispered, "Push," the nurses and Senpai had to convince me to tuck my chin to my chest; it was just so easy to let my head loll back against the bed. Finally, within only a half hour of pushing, Rosemary came forth. I felt her little body slide out of me with no pain whatsoever, only relief.

She was immediately taken to the other side of the room for close monitoring. It’s amazing how I was there, yet, through my position and exhaustion, I can’t exactly say I witnessed my baby being born. Senpai, wearing his blue scrubs, was able to go over and snap pictures (he tells me he cut the umbilical cord), while I still lay there with the doctors convincing me to deliver the placenta. I couldn’t pay attention to them because my heart was on the other side of the room. At the next contraction, it felt like someone actually grabbed the cord and ripped the placenta out of me. Whether or not that happened, I can’t say for sure, but it felt disturbing.

Happy Rosemary Day!

A nurse brought my baby over for me to see: she was bundled up tight in her wrappings, and all I saw was a red little face and lots of fuzzy hair under her stretchy hat. The nurse held her far enough away that I couldn't touch her. Within that short moment she was quickly whisked away to get settled into the NICU. Rosemary was delivered at 9:29 pm, and I didn’t get to touch her for the first time until 12:20 am. I was physically at the end of my rope, but, alone in the big room once again, I was determined to see my baby that night. After the nurses had checked me out and put me back together as best they could, I made them move me to a wheelchair and wheel me down the hall to NICU.

Rosemary was splayed under a heat lamp in a large, open bed. The bed was higher than my wheelchair; I had to raise my elbow over the edge of it to touch her. I don’t remember noticing it at the time, but in pictures of that night she had a breathing tube attached. We hadn’t been there for too long before I started to pass out in the wheelchair, and the nurses wheeled me back to my room. I’ll never forget the names of those wonderful ladies who took care of me that night: Susan and Yolanda.

Happy Rosemary Day!

The next morning, Tuesday, the day nurse learned of my intention to breastfeed. A breastpump was wheeled in and I was instructed in the use of it. From that point on, pumping 15 minutes every three hours would become part of my daily routine. I had trouble learning how to pee again. I was being pumped full of IV fluids, but my bladder didn’t want to empty on its own; my body was swollen as all heck. I was given a shot of something called Lasiks that helped me go again. Since the baby had been delivered, the doctors took me off the steroids they had used to raise my platelet count. That night I once again experienced the excruciating liver pain. Susan and Yolanda were at my bedside as I whimpered, "10! 10! 10!" This time they could give me morphine. The morphine melted the pain away within seconds, but it also disappeared after what seemed like only a minute; I was surprised at how quickly it wore off. They gave me two doses of morphine, then one dose of some other painkiller, before deciding to start the steroids again. The pain went away and I was able to mercifully sleep.

I was still in that big room in the Labor & Delivery ward. Every time a new day nurse took over my case, she was always surprised that I had delivered already. I was kept in that room sleeping, pumping, eating, and getting shot full of steroids until Friday when my platelet levels were finally good enough for my care to be downgraded. I was moved to a smaller room in the post-partem section. I had been with Rosemary in the NICU when my stuff was moved, so I had to call Senpai at work and beg him to come back to the hospital to help get the room together. The way I said it, "Everything is confused!" I was still very exhausted and it was hard for me to move around with the IV cords. Senpai quickly made the trip over and plugged in the breastpump, organized my pumping supplies, plugged in my laptop, put toiletries in the bathroom, and stowed other miscellenea into drawers. I have a hard time believing now that I couldn't do those simple tasks myself, but that just goes to show what sorry shape I was in.

I gradually grew stronger, and then I was discharged on Easter Sunday. Without her.

So that was Rosemary’s birth. Her stay in the NICU is another story.


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