I've been promising to write about my hospitalization and subsequent delivery for the last six months now. I haven't pulled together the story of the actual deliveriy yet, but here is the VERY LONGWINDED story of my hospitalization... and this is just the readers' digest version! I've been writing this since the end of February, but just in tiny little chunks, so bear with me if it's not entirely coherent!
I’m on my way out to Winchester, VA to visit with Jess and her husband and their Five Little Monkeys. Since Jess was one of my biggest supporters in the latter part of my pregnancy and through my hospitalization (even going so far as to post updates for me while I was internet-less in the hospital), I figure there is no better time than now to finally start writing my epic post about my last few days in the hospital and my subsequent delivery at 33 weeks of my 3 little miracles, Abby, Ellie and Sam.
So, to recap, I was admitted to the hospital on September 11, 2007 (which happened to be my admitting perinatologist’s birthday), because my blood pressure was creeping out of control, my liver enzymes were elevated, the contractions weren’t getting any better, home monitoring wasn’t helping, and the terbutaline, procardia, and indocin weren’t keeping things at bay any longer. While the contractions in and of themselves weren’t that worrisome (I was far enough along that they weren’t going to stop labor if it happened), the elevated liver enzymes were worrisome, as was my blood pressure. I went to my check up knowing full well that I was likely to be admitted that day. We’d been playing this dance for weeks, really. They’d been offering to admit me for a while, and I had almost taken them up on it several times. If I hadn’t had an almost-four-year-old at home, I would have been in the hospital a couple weeks before, because I was having such a hard time managing at home. What I hadn’t been expecting was to hear my doctor suggest that if they monitored me for a day or two and felt it was necessary, they’d deliver me. DELIVER ME? WHAT? As far as I was concerned, I still had at least two weeks left! And here my doctor was talking about delivering me in the next day or two. Gah!
Anywhozit, I got all checked in, and my nurse got me hooked up to the dreaded monitor because the perinatologist that admitted me had ordered non-stress tests (NSTs) qshift. That meant that at least three times a day, they strapped on three fetal monitors plus a toco monitor to my enormous belly for about an hour in order to get at least 20-30 minutes worth of readings for all three babies. Suffice it to say, that was all sorts of fun. The good news is, I was having so many contractions (at least 10 per hour) that the nurses FREAKED OUT every shift even though I tried to assure them that it was totally normal for me. So every single shift they would call my doctors to make sure that it was okay to do nothing. Needless to say, when Dr. G. came on call a day or two later, he put a stop to the NSTs real quick. He asked me if I felt like I was comfortable judging for myself if things changed significantly enough so that I could alert the nurses. If I wanted to continue with the NSTs, he was fine with it, but he thought it was probably a little silly. I agreed, particularly since they were waking me up in the middle of the night to deal with the stupid NSTs. He ordered Percocet for pain because the contractions were really painful, and they also ordered Ambien to help me sleep if I wanted it, though I don’t recall ever actually taking it while I was there.
I wrote in my notes on 9/12:
5:30am- nurse took me off the monitor finally. Now I’m wide awake, b/c it’s pretty close to normal wake up time anyway.
6:10am- Babies are kicking away, just as awake as I am. I’m still in a lot of pain fr. contractions, but I could care less, which is essentially what Percocet does for me, which is why I don’t really bother. I know it’s fantastic that I made it to 32 weeks, even though my goal was (and IS 34. Still, I’m scared about it. I did not want this. I went to my appt. yesterday completely prepared to be admitted to the hospital, but absolutely UNPREPARED to hear the word ”deliver,” let alone when grouped with “in the next day or two.” That left me completely incapable of processing anything else.
I am supposed to have a “NICU Consult” today. Hopefully that will help ease my fears, but I worry it will only solidify them. I know logically that triplets born at 32 weeks do really well. And I also know that it’s not a sure thing that I’m going to have to deliver yet. But I’m completely freaked out nonetheless. Hopefully the neonatologist will be able to help calm those fears somewhat. I know that we’ve already passed the point of serious concern re: intraventricular hemorrhage (IVH). And I got my 1st of 2 betamethasone shots yesterday, so that should help with concerns re: lung development. So we’re in good shape.
Dr. G. should be coming by this morning. I should apologize for having him woken up at 4:30 in the morning. I do hate waking doctors up- it makes them less alert during the day to do things like c-sections! (Speaking of which, I think I’ve pretty much kissed my chances of avoiding a c-section goodbye) Anyway, I’m curious what he’ll have to say about the game plan. He seems to be the most cautious and conservative of the three doctors in the practice. My guess, though, is that at this point, all three doctors would pretty much havce the same approach given what’s been going on. At any rate, it’ll be good to see him. I had thought I’d be seeing him at my appt. yesterday, but it was Dr. M.
Much Later-Dr. G. came in at 7:30am. Asked what was going on last night [I’d had tons of contractions through the night and he’d been called a couple times about me]. I told him the number of contractions was fairly consistent with my normal rate, but the intensity/pain level of each contraction was much higher than usual- except for the night my terbutaline pump hadn’t been working. Dr. G. suggested that we might re-start the pump for the sake of my comfort level. He isn’t looking to hold off labor at this point – if it happens, it happens, but there’s no good reason for me to be in that much pain. Fair enough.
My notes over the next several days are really sketchy because it was Rosh Hashana and I couldn’t write anything or use the computer. It was weird to be in the hospital on Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year. I couldn’t use the phone or electricity or anything. I did have some visitors, because fortunately, the hospital is walking distance to my house and my community, so it could have been a lot worse. Also the hospital arranged to have Yeshiva students come in to blow the Shofar for the Jewish patients. I was at a Catholic hospital, so it was a little surreal to have a nun come into my room to ask if I’d like to hear the Shofar, but it was great that they did that for us. Also, Pastoral Care Services made sure that apples and honey were on my dinner tray every night.
I had a sonogram on 9/14, with a BPP. They didn’t do growth measurements, but the sonographer could tell from the Doppler that Baby C was smaller than the other two. She seemed worried, but Dr. G. was running off to an emergency procedure, so I didn’t get to talk to him. I assumed that if it were anything to worry about, he would let me know after he reviewed the pictures later in the day. I didn’t hear from him, so I assumed all was well. I asked Dr. M. about it the next day (Saturday) and she said that particular sonographer is very jumpy and that she and Dr. G. talked about it and looked at the pictures and didn’t think they needed to be too alarmed just yet. They would be doing a growth ultrasound on Tuesday, when they’d know more about what was going on. And not to worry anyway, because she’d scheduled my c-section for next Friday, the 21st, so the end was in sight.
Uh. What? First of all, what c-section? I was still holding onto the thought that we were going to get me to 34 weeks. The 21st would only be 33 weeks and 2 days. Second of all, if I made it to 34 weeks, Dr. G. and Dr. P. said we could talk about a vaginal delivery and avoid the c-section. I knew Dr. M. wouldn’t do a vaginal delivery, so she and I had never discussed it, plus I nearly never saw her during my pregnancy, so it just hadn’t occurred to me to discuss this with her. But what do you MEAN it was scheduled for the 21st? Worse, the 21st was right before Yom Kippur, which was just NOT going to fly with me, unless I went into labor and just didn’t have any way around it. No way was I going to PLAN to deliver my three babies just hours before my husband would be completely unavailable to me for a full 25 hours. No possibility.
The most horrible part about it was that she told me this on a Saturday when I couldn’t call anyone, I couldn’t talk to my husband (he was sick, so he didn’t make the walk down to see me…it’s about 2 miles, so it’s completely doable, but when you’re not feeling well, it’s sucky). I was in a blind panic that they were going to make me do this on the absolute worst time. Dr. M. was convinced that the real reason I was upset about it was that there was a date on the table and that it was hard to imagine the concrete-ness of it all. While it’s true that there was probably some element of that, it’s really hard to describe how horrible it would have been for me to have delivered three babies and had them in the NICU with me recovering from major surgery after three months on bed rest and not have my husband even remotely available to me. Even if he skipped out on shul and stayed with me at the hospital (which would have been hard for him to do because remember there was still J at home to take care of), he would have been fasting, and Seth is not terribly functional when he’s fasting. Yom Kippur is a full 25-hour fast. No food, no water, no nothing, so it’s not pretty. While I would have been exempt from the fast, he would not have been. Delivering on the 21st would have been miserable and horrible at best.
I spent the entire day in tears, absolutely panicking. Two friends came to visit and I burst into tears the second they walked into the room (the first friend was the one to break the news to me that Seth wasn’t going to come visit that day, which was the last straw for my nerves that day). I had put up with an awful lot of discomfort, an awful lot of pain, an awful lot of fear and uncertainty through 7 months of pregnancy. And dammit, I’d mostly done it with a smile on my face. I had been fairly graceful about it all, looking back, but that day I absolutely hit my limit.
Finally, the sun set, and I called Jess and completely lost it. Jess had been commenting in all our conversations about how unflappable I’d been. When I was admitted and they started talking about preeclampsia and cholestasis and delivering and whatever, I’d really been okay. I was calm, I was at peace. I was just trying to hold onto my babies. But poor Jessica didn’t know what to do with me that night. She listened to me blubber and she told me it was okay to be upset and she told me she understood, even though she was probably thinking that it was a mistake to have ever given that total nutjob her phone number. I sobbed and sobbed into the phone and told her it just couldn’t be and I couldn’t let it happen and how I just felt so completely out of control and I begged her to find a way to stop it, even though I knew there was nothing she could do.
Poor Jess. Jess had never heard me so out of control. Jess had absolutely no idea what to think of me that night. She calmed me down. She told me she understood why I was upset. She told me that she would be upset too. She told me it would be okay. She told me that it was okay to tell the doctor that I was NOT okay with having a c-section the day before Yom Kippur if it was elective. Going into labor and not having a choice? Okay. Doing it on purpose? Not okay, and it's okay to tell the doctor that. And then, poor Jess had the misfortune of having to update my blog. The poor dear had no idea what to say. She didn't want to betray my state of mind and tell the whole world that I'd completely lost my shit, but she couldn't very well say that I was completely okay either. She did a pretty good job
I remember I was having horrible, uncontrollable migraines and headaches while I was in the hospital. Percocet wasn't helping them, and there wasn't much else we could do for them. The itching from the cholestasis/preeclampsia was nearly unbearable. I could hardly move, which wasn't so bad because I wasn't really allowed to move anyway. The contractions were fairly regular, but that wasn't the end of the world once they took me off the qshift monitoring. So long as the nurses weren't freaking out about it, I was okay with it. I still dream of having a pregnancy where I don't know what it's like to have 12 contractions an hour every hour for three months. I still remember having a doctor tell me he wasn't worried about me having 12 contractions an hour. "That's not what labor's like... When you're in labor, you won't have that many contractions. You'll have contractions about every 4-5 minutes." Uh, yeah, you do the math, okay? I'll wait. See my point? Yeah.
Anywhozit, the days passed and blurred one to the next. Sunday, the 16th, was J's 4th birthday. Seth brought him to the hospital to open presents and have cupcakes in my room. I broke the rules and curled up on the couch with Seth while J played with the adjustable bed (it goes up! AND down!) and watched cartoon network (seriously! there are NO kid-appropriate shows on that channel!) It was quite possibly the best birthday J has ever had. He loved that adjustable bed! :) The nurse was pretty amused by his jumping around, which I was pretty happy about, because it distracted her from scolding me about being out of bed. But, eventually it was bed time for J and I was alone again.
The lack of internet at the hospital was definitely getting to me, and when Seth and J left that day, I felt more alone than I did on most days. For some reason, the emptiness of the room resonated more than ever, perhaps because J's exuberance at turning four was so clear... He was so excited to turn four, because, you see, now it meant that at his NEXT birthday he'll be FIVE and five is his VERY FAVORITE number. So now he's even closer to his very favoritest birthday EVER. What more could a boy ask for? But when they left... oh it was beyond quiet in the room. The silence was deafening. Even the TV didn't help. Monday was even worse. I looked forward to Tuesday because I was scheduled for ultrasounds on Tuesdays and Fridays.
And so, Tuesday came and they brought me down for an ultrasound...
There was a student nurse at the ultrasound and she asked permission to stay for the ultrasound and I said, sure what the hell. I mean, everyone else and their sister has seen my insides, why not someone else? And really, how many sets of triplets was this student going to get to see while she's in school? How cool am I? I remember I freaked out the nurse because my legs and feet were really swollen and I guess my hands must have been too. I might have been more freaked out about it myself had the ultrasound itself not have been cause for so much activity the rest of the day. Baby C hadn't grown at all. Again. Baby C was a very small baby. They estimated the baby to be about 2 pounds, 14 ounces at best, compared to baby A, who they thought was 4 pounds, 4 ounces (in retrospect, they were a little optimistic on both counts, but really not that far off, actually. I can't remember what they estimated Baby B at, but I think it was 3 pounds 14 or 15 ounces, which was the closest to accurate). The sonographer disappeared to talk to the doctor, but it was clear that she was worried. I chatted with the student nurse for a long, long, long, long time. Eventually she got pretty nervous and she disappeared to figure out what was going on with the doctor and sonographer and they all came back to talk to me.
Dr. M. came in, took a look at the pictures, poked around at the babies, and said, "I want to deliver you. Today or tomrorow at the latest." And yeah, a vaginal delivery was out of the question. Baby C (who I now know is Abby) would not have done well with a vaginal delivery. While she might have survived the delivery, she probably would have ended up with a prolonged NICU stay as a result. It wasn't worth the risk of course. I was despondent, but I obviously wasn't going to put my baby's life in danger.
I went back to my room and called Seth and told him he needed to take the next day off of work. And I called my dad and gave him the news. And I called a couple other folks, including Jess and my mom of course. And then I quietly freaked out. Remember how I wanted NOTHING TO DO WITH A C-SECTION? I still wanted NOTHING to do with a c-section. I was still utterly terrified of having an epidural. I was still utterly terrified of not being able to feel my lower half. I still didn't want to have my babies whisked away from me without the joy of a normal delivery. I was angry. And worried that something would get forgotten or overlooked or whatever.
AND OH CRAP.
WE HAD NO NAMES! Well, clearly we could NOT have these babies! Seth was given directions to get a babysitter (my mother) for after J went to sleep that night so that he could come to the hospital to go through the baby name books AGAIN to look for names (AGAIN) to see if THIS time we could come up with SOMETHING that seemed like a reasonable list of names that MAYBE would work for our babies when they arrived. As it turned out, we weren't terribly successful, and this was probably largely due to the fact that we didn't know what we were having. It's amazing how hard it is to make a list of names when you know you've got three babies coming, but you don't know what flavor of babies you've got. Impossible, really.
I was convinced that I couldn't possibly deliver the babies if I didn't at least have a list of possible names, so we did make a list of possible girl names, but we never did come up with a list of boy names. For this reason, I was absolutely certain that we were having three boys. I was also convinced, by the way, that I could not deliver my babies until I was done knitting my three hats for them... but I finished the three hats I was knitting and needed to sew one last seam, but Seth accidentally threw out my needle... so I said I would NOT deliver those three babies until he found me another needle. Suffice it to say, he didn't find me another needle, I didn't finish the hat before I delivered, the doctor wouldn't delay the surgery for something that dumb, but the hat got finished when they were a few days old. Sigh.
But I digress...
Seth and I did NOT come up with three perfect names that night. Seth and I came up with a list of about 15 girl names that I didn't hate, but nothing in combination (in other words, they were just random names, not first-middle complete names) and ZERO boy names. I had NOTHING, and I mean NOTHING for the possibility of having a boy. Eventually, my poor, weary husband had to go home, knowing that he had to be back at the hospital early the next morning so as not to miss the main event, names or no names.
This post is long enough, so you'll just have to wait for the story of the birth itself! But rest assured, I AM actually working on it.