September 21, 2009

Part 3 of the Birth Story, or How I Almost Died

I've been debating on whether to write about the events that occurred after Luke was born for a couple of weeks now. We were really hesitant to share this part of the story in any public way at first. We never mentioned it on Facebook, nor did we share it en masse with the congregation. I think our reluctance came not from a need for privacy, but from the desire to not freak everyone out when the situation resolved itself rather quickly and I was fine.
However, now that some of the initial zombiness of having a newborn live in your house has worn off and I've had more time to think and gain some perspective on my little medical emergency, I think it may be okay to write about it.

Before I start on Part 3 of this exciting Birth Story, I want to assure you that I am fine. Luke and I were still discharged less than 48 hours after his birth. My 2 week check-up with my Ob/Gyn went well. And beyond the mind-numbing exhaustion of never getting more than 3 hours of sleep at a time, I am physically in great shape and healing fast. I've already lost most of my pregnancy weight and I've worn non-maternity pants 3 days out of the last week. Including jeans that ZIP! and BUTTON!
Okay, now that I've hopefully waylaid any potential fears about my health, I'm just going to go ahead and be dramatic, cause there are hopefully going to very few times in my life that I get to say this...But about an hour after delivery, I almost died. Luckily, I was so out of it that I didn't have to deal with the panic of that reality until a couple of days later. When, unluckily, I was pumped full of outrageous hormones that made me cry. A lot. All the time. It was fun for everyone.

Now, however, I am feeling better and have lost about 5 pounds of extra hormones, so it's not so hard to revisit those scary hours anymore. So, here we go...

After Luke was born, and they had taken him to get cleaned up, things progressed normally for me. The placenta was delivered and I got all "repaired" without any complications. They turned off the epidural and took out the Pitocin drip. I was really looking forward to getting a nap and getting to hold Luke again. My mom had managed to make it to Charlotte just about the time of the birth, and we finally got her text messages at this time and rescued her from the waiting room. She came up and got to meet Luke before he went to the nursery for his bath.

The plan was to let my legs wake up, and as soon as I was able to stand long enough to get to the bathroom, we would be moved to the postpartum wing. Luke was doing well and we were planning on keeping him in the room with us as much as possible.

My left leg was having a hard time waking up. Even after the epidural had been off for over an hour, I still had no control over it. So, as I laid around waiting for it to get feeling again, I began noticing that my bleeding was happening in these little gushes.

I knew that there was going to be a lot of blood, even after the delivery. The nurses, obviously, prepare you for it and help you take care of it all. They gave me instructions to let them know if it felt like I was soaking through the pad they had placed under me. With these little gushes, I kept having to tell whatever nurse was coming in about it so she could help change the pad. Eventually, it began to be too many pad changes and the nurses began to worry. My doctor was still with another patient, so they brought the nurse midwife who had delivered me back in to exam me. The top of my uterus felt nice and hard and everything seemed to be completely normal. However, after another few pad changes, they were still worried. So they did another exam and checked my uterus for clots. They did this a couple of times, but everything seemed to be clear. I appeared to be clot-free, and there didn't seem to be any piece of the placenta left behind, or any other "normal" complication.

So, they tried to reassure me and helped me turn on my side so that I could rest. The nurses kept monitoring the bleeding, and eventually my doctor made an appearance to check in. As I rolled over to my back to get more comfortable, I felt a much larger gush of blood. As I looked down, I could see an alarming amount of blood flood onto the bed. And it didn't stop gushing. After this point, my clarity on the time line and events gets a little fuzzy. I know that all of a sudden, my bed was flattened and the room got crowded with people. I was incredibly hot and sweaty. I don't know exactly what all was happening below my neck, but I know I was hyper-focused on getting Travis to wipe my face with a cold cloth.

While I keep calling this whole situation scary, I wasn't really scared at the time. I think I was too out of it to really process the seriousness of what was happening and what could potentially happen if they couldn't figure out why I was bleeding. But I know it was a really scary situation for Travis and my mom. (And also apparently for the rookie nurse that was in the room who didn't know how to put her game face on. Both my mom and Trav noticed her and didn't exactly appreciate her panicky looks.)

And while they had turned my epidural back on and started pumping me full of drugs, all the poking and prodding on my stomach hurt so bad. I didn't have any response except to moan. That's all I could do. Just moan and close my eyes. My blood pressure was dropping like crazy and my heart rate was through the roof. Apparently, my BP got down to 50/30 and my heart rate got up to 160 and stayed way up for many hours. I couldn't see the bleeding anymore, and beyond the ceiling tiles and glimpses of Travis' face every once and a while, I couldn't keep my eyes open long enough to see anything, so I wasn't really aware of what all was going on.

They tried a lot of things, but they were still uncertain why I was bleeding when everything seemed to check out ok. I know they used the ultrasound to check my uterus for any tears or placenta pieces, but that didn't turn up anything either. At some point, and honestly, I have no idea when they came to this conclusion or how they did, they seemed to decide that the bottom half of my uterus was not contracting the way it should. My doctor made a point of coming to my side and talking to me about what they were going to try and what the consequences would be if it didn't work. They were going to insert a balloon into my uterus and slowly fill it with liquid until it put enough pressure on the bottom part to stop the bleeding. If that didn't stop the bleeding, we were heading to the OR. I don't remember being scared by this, but I do remember thinking that it was going to be a pain to recover from that and how I was dreading being stuck in a hospital bed for a long time.

I didn't exactly have a lot of perspective at that point in time. Obviously. No thoughts about losing my uterus at 27 or what might happen if you just keep bleeding and bleeding. No panic about leaving my brand new son without a mother. Just focused on the inconvenience of recovering from surgery. Maybe for once, my ever present pessimism wasn't working and my brain didn't even go to the worst case scenario. I wish I could have granted that oblivion to Travis and mom. I'm sure they were way too aware of the seriousness of the situation.

After this point, the story speeds up and loses it's gloominess. The balloon worked like a charm. My bleeding slowed dramatically and within a few hours was back to normal. After having a blood tranfusion later that night, my BP came back up and my heart rate eventually slowed. Within 12 or 14 hours, I was moved to post partum, and 24 hours later I was cleared for take off. The first 24 hours after the crisis were incredibly uncomfortable...lots of failed IV attempts, BP checks every 15-30 minutes all night long, compression booties that made a lot of noise and were hot and uncomfortable, catheters, and my left leg didn't wake up until almost 36 hours after the epidural was turned off. But it was only 24 hours, and I survived.

It was not exactly the post partum experience I was planning for, and unfortunately, there isn't anything from stopping it from happening again. They'll be able to treat it more aggressively and plan better if it happens next time, but there doesn't seem to be any explainable reason for why it happened at all.

But that's it! I bounced back so much faster than I thought I would physically and I finally was able to process all of least as much as I cared to. I don't really want to spend too much time dwelling on the what-if's since we were so blessed to get such a great outcome.

So no more birth stories. But there is this pretty adorable baby who lives with us now who I am sure will provide much fodder for writing.

1 comment:

  1. I want to say that I am so grateful to you for posting and writing your entire birth story and experience. When we had Elijah, it was a bit traumatic at times and had plenty of things that I had not planned for (like a 12 minute contraction that resulted in the room filling with people and me dissociating a bit as you did).

    At first I was somewhat disappointed that my birth had felt so out-of-control, and it has been so helpful to hear from other mothers who had similar experiences - some parts positive and some parts traumatic, negative, or scary! Thank you again for posting your whole, real story!

    And congrats again on your beautiful baby!