Flashback: Off to the Hospital, first Triage?

It is hard to believe that just over 2 weeks ago, the little person who I now hold in my arms, was still nestled in my tummy safe and sound, coming to the end of a nine-month-long incubation.  It was always very challenging for me to consider that when I truly start to go into labor, how would I actually know?  Everyone would always give me the generalized quote, “you will just know.”  This, surprisingly enough, never really helped me out too much with being able to differentiate false labor from what the real deal would actually feel like.  Having been checked with an internal exam just the day before, on Wednesday, September 29th (hoping to see if the dilation of my cervix had progressed any farther), I awoke on the morning of September 30th with some expected cramps and a small amount of bleeding from down below.  I had been warned that this is a natural response to being checked once your baby’s gestation is far along, because the cervix is really getting ready to prepare for the delivery of your baby.

This week’s appointment was my 39th week of pregnancy milestone.  I was almost at my official due date of October 4th, but not quite there yet.  Unfortunately, the discouraging result of my internal exam in the office was the fact that my cervix was just 1 cm dilated, which was the same, unchanging measurement from the past 3 weeks of doctor’s appointments.  Even after trying all sorts of home remedies like eating fresh pineapple, consuming spicy foods, and spending lots of intimate time with your spouse… it still did not appear like my body was responding to any of these attempts to bring on natural labor (although it was very fun!)  But, on the morning of Thursday September 30th, I just felt different.

I told myself, that I had to go to work, despite the small amount of bleeding that I noticed when I went to the bathroom right after I got up.  I figured that it might just be from my exam, and I didn’t want to take sick time from work if I could physically go to work and perform my duties as an operating room nurse.  So, I made it into work, and luckily had a relatively easy assignment of taking care of patients in our holding area who need to be prepared for surgery.  Thank goodness, this is mainly a sitting job, and requires a lot of paper work and looking through the paper chart of each patient who comes to our operating room for a procedure.  As I sat there performing my duties, I became concerned that I wasn’t really feeling my baby moving around a whole lot in my tummy.  It was also at this time, that I definitely noticed that the overall cramping that I had woken up with was now becoming worse, and some uterine contractions were starting to catch my attention as well.  I thought this was most likely false labor again, since I had quite my share of it throughout my pregnancy.  However, I thought since I am so close to my delivery date, I better call my MD’s office and express my concerns.

After my call, I was instructed to try my best to count my baby’s movements over the course of the next hour.  Also, it was tentatively arranged that I would go up to the Triage part of the labor floor on my lunch break at 1 pm, to be checked out and reassured that everything is okay with my baby, Will.  Fortunately, soon after my phone call to the MD office, I did feel the familiar subtle movements of little Will in my tummy, and I was so relieved!   Apparently, it is a known fact that mothers who are coming to the end of their pregnancy can expect to feel less movement from their baby in their tummy, because there is so much less space for the baby to move around in, and overall less amniotic fluid in which they are free to swim around in.  Even though I kept reminding myself of these little facts that I was using to try to keep myself calm, I could not ignore the fact that I just basically felt different today.

Finally, I was able to go up to the labor floor at 1 pm, and I honestly felt like I was doing the right thing for both my own peace of mind and for the health of Will.  The very first thing they did was to hook up my tummy to two different monitors.  One was for monitoring the baby’s heart rate.  It was such a wonderful feeling getting to hear his rapid little heart rate as soon as the monitor touched my tummy.  The second monitor, called a tocometer, was placed on the top of my tummy and was able to measure the frequency and severity of my uterine contractions.  So, after an initial evaluation of the monitoring, the doctors determined that I was indeed having legitimate contractions and noticeable cramping that could be seen by these rhythmic printed out waveforms on what looked like a register tape.  It also graphed Will’s heart rate in response to the contractions that I was having.  The next item on the agenda while I was in triage was to check the current measurement of my cervix with another internal exam by an OBGYN (obstetrics, gynecology) doctor.  Hoping to see some improvement from yesterday, I was checked by one of the resident doctors who would be caring for me while I was in triage.  Despite the contractions I was having, it was determined that the opening of my cervix was still only 1 cm.  Therefore, the contractions were not the “real deal” and they would not be enough to bring on any kind of real labor.  Still, the doctors agreed that they would let me walk around the unit for at least an hour, and then they would monitor me again and recheck me again to confirm that my status was unchanged, before letting me go home.

It was at this time that I was trying to play catch-up with John, so I could inform him of my current situation.  I didn’t really want him to have to come to the hospital, if it was just going to wind up being really nothing at all.  Knowing his overall dislike of hospitals in general, I have always tried to keep him as far away from the hospital as possible until it is absolutely necessary that he be there.  This triage visit was no different in my mind, especially after the doctors were more or less leaning towards sending me home after my walk around the unit.  John was very supportive to me during this experience, and as he often does, I enjoyed his use of humor and sarcasm to help me get through the disappointment of yet again having simply another case of false labor.

After my walk was over, and after my official recheck was done showing that my cervix was still only 1 cm… there was one last item on the agenda to do before they would send me home.  The doctor explained that because I had been feeling decreased fetal movement, there was an ultrasound-guided test they could perform in order to make sure that the baby had enough amniotic fluid surrounding him that is necessary for him to be able to breathe effectively while in my tummy.  I learned that this was called an AFI, standing for amniotic fluid index.  It allowed the doctors to use an ultrasound probe on my tummy to measure the 4 different pockets of amniotic fluid that surrounds the baby and determine if there is enough to safely allow the pregnancy to continue.  If there would be any sign of a leakage of amniotic fluid, seen by a decrease in the amount of total fluid, than an induction would be required in order to prevent any further complications that occur when there is not enough fluid surrounding the baby.  This was also very reassuring for me, because it allowed me to know that the small amount of bleeding that I continued having was just from my cervix.  The doctors were able to confirm from the test, that indeed my overall level of amniotic fluid was within normal limits and there was no sign of any rupture of my membranes (meaning that my “water did not break” … yet.)  After this final test and getting my instructions for knowing when to come back to the hospital if and when I actually do start to think that I am experiencing the real deal, I was free to go.

It is funny the feeling that I remember having, just as the nurse in the triage room took me off the monitors that were showing I was simply having false labor.  I must speak freely here, and share my absolute “gut feeling” about the status of my condition at the time.  Can you actually believe that I could feel what appeared like my contractions were getting stronger?  It really seemed like against what the medical advise and all the testing was showing… I continued to feel an uneasy sense that there was just something different about today.  I knew that they could not keep me in the hospital just because of a “gut feeling” that I had, but I can only look back now and wonder to myself, if this was actually the start of what would eventually become my unforgettable labor with Will.  ;o)

Flashback: Off to the Hospital

As we adjust to having a cranky, insatiable miniature person in our home, I though I’d revisit last week’s events that led up to Will’s big entrance. This is the untold story.

Last Thursday night, Sept. 30, Amy had been struggling with more intense contractions than usual and decided to get checked out after work. They informed her that she was still only 1cm dilated… Which showed no progression in 3 weeks! Her due date was Oct. 4 and time was getting down to the wire and we had BOTH been growing very uncomfortable. Docs had told Amy a month ago that she would deliver and here she was still pregnant, in a lot of pain and showing no progress. Thanks, Doc.

That night, she picked up some Italian food from a restaurant near the hospital that she works at and we sat down to watch a movie (upon learning that one of our favorite actors, Tony Curtis had died the night before, we decided to honor him by watching Operation Petticoat). As Amy often does after eating, she passed out on the couch while I went upstairs to my office to work. Over the course of the next several hours, I could hear her usual pregnant snoring, but this time, it was different… She was stirring more while sleeping and even groaning in pain. The contractions were getting much worse.

The next morning, I awoke uncharacteristically early to find that Amy was staying home from work – something she just doesn’t do. I think if our city was being ravaged by a hundred foot marshmallow man, she’d still feel compelled to report for work (after all, a cataclysmic event like that one would likely cause injuries… so they’d need a nurse, right?). I carried on with my usual work duties, feeling that there was a very good chance we could end up on the labor and delivery unit soon. Just as I was wrapping up my work, I received a text message from my wife… “Are you getting my messages??”

See… Amy and I both have Blackberry phones, so we have this addicting little way of communicating from anywhere we might be in the world… by Blackberry Messenger. But since Blackberrys really aren’t very good phones, they tend to lock up or run out of memory faster than Superman changing into his jammies. So, apparently, when she needed me to be receiving her messages the most… I just wasn’t.

Upon receiving the text, I dashed to the bedroom where she was sitting in her bathroom using labor breathing techniques to get through a contraction. She told me to call my mom and let her know that it’s time to go to the hospital. What was serious about that was – she’d been having contractions for well over a month. We’d hoped it was “time” many, many nights. And every time she got a nasty contraction, she insisted it wasn’t time and that they’d have to get a lot worse. And now they had.

Things needed to be done before we could leave, so we carried on with getting showered and packed and ready to go… in the most calm way you’d not expect, actually. No running around frantically. No leaving the mom and driving off to the hospital without her. We actually kept our wits about us!

Around 12:30/1pm ish, I drove Amy to the hospital… which was maybe 5 minutes away, and played some soothing tracks from Jars Of Clay’s latest album, The Shelter, as she used labor breathing throughout the car ride. We parked and, despite calling ahead for a wheelchair, we were not met with an escort at the hospital entrance. As we walked down the hallway, I stopped a wonderful nurse who ran off to get Amy a wheelchair. Before long, we were at the Triage, and me, Amy, and my mom found ourselves in a closet-sized hospital room in the Triage. It was stuffy, tiny, and extremely uncomfortable. Even Amy’s hospital bed was much too small for her. The poor girl rolled back and forth in discomfort as she tried to get through the breathing. The nurse watched her breathing technique in awe and remarked that we should have a video camera to tape her breathing as an example for other women in labor to use. Nice, but not practical. “Hey hon. Look here! Yup. SMILE! No, no… not grimace…. stop rolling… you’re gonna look goofy on this video!” Yeah, I don’t think that would have worked out. And she probably would have had me swallow the electronic device quite forcefully. (I jest.)

After much too long, we were moved to her actual delivery room and the waiting began. When asked if she’d take an epidural, Amy emphatically replied, “YES!” which surprised me after all the talk she’d had about not wanting one. Yep, poor kid. The pain was that bad…

I waited around with my parents while Amy adjusted to the epidural and even nodded off for an hour or two of sleep. Later that evening, before 6:30pm, her doctor came in to check her. She was 8cm dilated (we needed her to be at 10) and he broke her water. The waiting game continued… At around 8:15pm, we were told she was officially 9cm dilated… but the waiting had to continue.

When she had reached 10cm, it was around 11pm and they began prepping her for pushing. See folks, I know my limits. I have a weak stomach when it comes to blood and gross stuff. I don’t like gory movies or stories about hospital procedures. I’m a wuss. I know I am. I’m okay with that. So when it came to watching the birth, I checked out. Sure, I was in the room. In fact, I was beside Amy’s bed all the way… by her head… and kinda behind the bed a bit. My mom was the real trooper. Amy had wanted her to kind of be her support coach of sorts through the delivery and so she helped Amy with the pushing and did a phenomenal job. I, on the other hand, did not emerge from my hiding place until everything was cleaned up. Yeap.

“Have you been bad?” a nurse peeked around my mom to confront little old me in the corner.

“No, no. I’m a wuss!” She seemed to understand.

At around 11:25pm, Amy began pushing. With each push, the nurses and doctors kept expressing their amazement at how strong of a pusher she was. I believe “Power Pusher” are the words they used.

And a power pusher indeed! They said it took most mothers a half hour to get as far as she did with her FIRST push! And at 11:59pm, little William “Will” Peter DiBiase was born! Crazy.

I could hear him cry, and my fears felt the same way… life would never be the same! Then I could tell that the nurses had some concern in their voices… he was breathing heavily with his abdomen. Apparently, that’s no good.

As they cleaned up both mom and baby, I kept hearing a nurse express how much poop Will kept dispelling. Apparently every time she got him clean, he pooped again. Each time, her voice became more and more surprised, “HE POOPED AGAIN?!!!!?!!” It was pretty funny. But I was concerned about their concern for his breathing.

After he was cleaned up, they handed him to Amy and after a few minutes, they handed him to me.

For the first time ever, I was holding my son. MY son. Wait… my son?! He was fussing a bit and looking around, making little grunting noises. Then he looked directly at me and froze. It was as if he knew who I was? He then looked away and started to fuss and then did it once more… looked at me and stopped. It was pretty cool. And if it weren’t for that connection, I think I would haven’t felt any connection at all.

They soon took him away to weigh him and then take him to the nursery. Will weighed 7lbs, 9 oz and was 20 inches long.

My parents left soon afterwords and Amy and I were left alone in the delivery room. After more waiting, a nurse came in to inform us that Will had pneumothorax — pockets of air in his chest that didn’t belong there. They were concerned enough to admit him to the NICU… and Amy’s greatest fear was realized… she’d have to go to home without her baby.

Will spent the next couple days in the NICU. I slept on the midget-sized couch in the delivery room the first night, not getting any good sleep and feeling more like the living dead the next day than a new dad. I had gotten the weird opportunity that night of following the nurse as they delivered Will to the NICU. It was such a bizarre feeling. We were no strangers to having pets in intensive care (oh, you pet owners understand!), but this was weird… a baby… that was ours somehow… was now in a situation we’re kind of familiar with. It was odd.

But on Sunday night, October 3rd, after both mother and baby had shown a lot of improvement, Amy was allowed to come home, but Will had to stay in the NICU. On Monday, Amy spent most of the day at the NICU to care for him, and they finally had taken the ugly feeding tube out of his nose. Then, by Tuesday night, October 5th, I was able to pick up Amy (who was visiting him) and baby at the NICU to take little Will home. And so our adventure began