Thursday, February 24, 2011

Her Life is in His Hands...

"For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, they are plans for
good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope."

--Jeremiah 29:11 (NLT)

I am still processing the events of the morning - it was one of the scariest of my life. I posted this story on a baby forum that I'm a member of, but I feel like I should recount it here, too, if only to remind me in the future how blessed I should feel for each day with Carys. I suppose I should start in the beginning...

I went to bed last night with some slight back pain, but didn't think much of it because it at the stage of pregnancy I'm in (well into my 2nd trimester at 22 weeks, 3 days) that's pretty par for the course. I managed to drift off to sleep, but woke up at 3:30 am in agonizing pain that radiated from my back to my abdomen accompanied by what I thought were cramps. I didn't know what was going on, and it scared me - I was made even more nervous by a lack of fetal movement. Carys must have been sleeping, but I prodded her until she moved around and I could breathe again. At that point going to the hospital crossed my mind, but I couldn't stop thinking about the portion of the expense that wouldn't be covered by insurance and ultimately decided to try to wait it out until 8 am when my doctor's office opened. The pain seemed to subside after a while and I was able to go back to sleep. A couple of hours later, I was awakened again by incredible pain in my back and radiating through to my abdomen. I laid there awake for a while, still stubbornly intent on waiting until 8 to call the doctor. A little past 6 when it became clear the pain was not going to go away, I woke up J and asked him what I should do. I ended up calling the hospital and speaking with one of the nurses in the Obstetrics department. She asked me a few questions, but when I mentioned my 'cramps', she asked me how soon I could be at the hospital. I told her 15-20 minutes and she told me they would be ready for me.

This is when things started to take on a more serious note. When we arrived at the hospital, they did my intake quickly and sure enough, a nurse was waiting with a wheelchair to bring me up to Labor & Delivery. As soon as we reached the room, I was instructed to change into a hospital gown and they hooked me up to some monitors, including a fetal heart monitor. She turned on the speaker while she tried to locate the heartbeat, and the three of us listened for it together. She was unable to find it, and my heart dropped out of my chest. Even though I had just felt her moving, my brain was screaming that something was wrong. It was the first time that the thought that I might be losing her sunk in. Before I had a chance to panic, however, she tried a different way to find the heartbeat (that we weren't able to hear... I'm not sure what the piece of equipment was, but it wasn't a Doppler, we couldn't hear the heartbeat) and within a few minutes told me the baby's heart rate was about 130 bpm. It turned out that Carys is still so small that a regular fetal heart monitor was unable to accurately pick up her heartbeat.

As soon as it was determined that the baby was not in any clear distress, they turned their attention to me. I was in pain still, but I felt that it was manageable. The nurse did a fetal fibronectin test (it determines the risk of premature labor based on the presence of the glue-like protein that attaches the amniotic sac to the lining of the uterus). She also collected a urine sample to check for bacterial infection. She told me that a lab tech would also be up to collect a blood sample, and that the doctor wanted to start an IV to make sure I was adequately hydrated. She asked if I wanted her to call the doctor and ask her to sign off on some pain medication... I initially declined (thinking I could handle it without help), but the nurse thought it would be best to at least get the doctor's clearance on it in case it worsened. I ended up being really glad she did, because not long after she left to go call the doctor, my pain started amping up with a vengeance. Within 10 minutes I was in agony - my body felt like it was ripping apart in the middle. Every muscle in my back/abdomen would clench, the pain continuing to build as they tightened, and then they would release, bringing me momentary relief. It happened over and over like clockwork. I have been through some painful experiences; broken cartilage in between my ribs after being bucked off a horse, an ovarian cyst the size of a hen's egg bursting without warning, a major knee injury and then later reconstruction and recovery, and an illness in childhood that made my liver swell up like a football... I have never felt anything remotely close to this in intensity. J pushed the call nurse button and she said she would be right in with the pain medication.

In order to administer what the doctor ordered (morphine push), they had to place the IV.
I am a notoriously difficult stick, and the poor nurse tried on both arms before blowing out a vein and calling in reinforcements. Not only are my veins small, they roll and it later turned out that I was dehydrated. After a second nurse arrived, she started trying to find a site on the inside of my elbow for the IV placement. At this point, I hurt so bad that tears were streaming down my cheeks and my stomach was rolling. I managed to sit still for one more stick, and it was the one that worked. They administered the morphine right away, and after a minute or two, although I was still hurting, it had taken the edge off enough for me to be able to relax. The nurse explained that I was presenting symptoms of kidney stones, and that as soon as the lab work all came back to confirm they could start treating me for them. The only thing left was to get the bloodwork done and wait for the doctor to get the test results and come up to discuss them with us. We had to have two lab techs try to get the blood also, resulting in 3 more sticks. Luckily the last three were post-morphine and although it hurt, I didn't care as much.

We waited for about 3 hours for the results and to talk to the doctor- she told me that to her surprise every bit of my labwork had come back normal. The bloodwork was great, and the urine didn't show the presence of any bacterial infection. My white blood cell count was actually better than most pregnant women. This ruled out the presence of kidney stones. It turned out that the pain I thought was cramping and back pain was actual contractions. Not Braxton Hicks, the real deal. The kind that are a prelude to labor. She said although she suspected they were brought on by dehydration, there's no way to be sure. I was instructed to hydrate and rest. If I have more contractions, I'll be readmitted to the hospital and given medicine to stop labor. The saving grace was that my cervix remained long and closed despite the contractions, and the fetal fibronectin test came back negative. So, for the meantime, baby girl is safe and sound where she's at. It shook me, however, how serious the doctor and nurses were about the posed danger from the contractions and how adamant they were that if I start having them again like I did today, to get back to the hospital ASAP.

She's just too little. She's still 2 weeks away from being considered 'viable' outside of the womb. If she had been born today, the chances of her being born without major medical issues (and at the very least surviving) wouldn't be good. J and I held it together (mostly) at the hospital, but as I sat in the car on the way home, the reality of the situation hit me and I couldn't help but cry. I have had this gift from God in my womb for almost 6 months - on a daily basis, I can feel her moving, stretching, kicking... she holds our hearts in her tiny little hands. Although I've never met her, I love her with every fiber of my being. I would lay down my life for my child in an instant. She will forever be my baby, no matter what happens to her, or me. And I cannot imagine saying goodbye to her.

The lesson that we are relearning today is that God is the only one in control. When we asked the doctor what we could do to keep it from happening again, she literally shrugged and threw up her hands. "Hydrate and rest, that's all you can do." That's not entirely true, however. We can also pray and there is a lot of that being done on our behalf. I trust that God has a plan for us, and that He didn't give us this precious little girl in the special way He did for nothing. No matter what happens, we have to keep our eyes on His faithfulness. He was faithful to give her to us when our struggles with infertility had us beaten down and defeated. He was faithful to carry us through the first trimester safely, and I believe He will be faithful to see us through to the end, whatever that might be. I trust that He will not give us more than we can handle with His help. I am so thankful for every moment He has given us with her, and as a dear friend told me I would have to do, I am giving her back to Him.

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