As I lay there Wednesday night I realize a little bud of hope is blooming in me. This situation has not changed since 3am when I arrived here so why couldn’t it remain stable for days or weeks. Maybe Dr. Carter is right and if I just stay positive… I think again and again that we’d only need 2 and a half weeks to make it to 24 weeks and maybe the babies could survive. Each hour brought us closer….18 days…maybe we could make it…maybe it was possible.
Later in the evening, MC and MB come. Apparently, there was a bunch of frantic calling around the yayas because Busybody Coworker had called SC but nobody really knew what was going on. Eventually, MC calls my sister in law and gets the story third hand. MC and MB decide to head down to the hospital to see if they can get in to see me. I can’t recall what we talked about but I believe it was pretty calm. Everything was still stable at this point and no one knew what was going to happen. Around 11:30 I tell them I need to close my eyes and they need to get home because there’s school tomorrow.
I watch TV to distract myself. “Shark Tank” and then “Modern Family”. I remember thinking it had been a very long time since I’d watched so many commercials. Dr. Connor comes in during this time. This is my favorite doctor from the practice who is also pregnant and who I feel would be my friend if we didn’t have a medical relationship. She’s taken time away from her shift in the ICU to come see me. I see in her eyes that she doesn’t have a hope for us. She sits with me for awhile and holds my hand and tries to be comforting. She even cries a little and hugs me. There’s nothing she can do either.
I am checked a couple times during the night. Dr. O’Neil is taking care of us now. After one exam she tells me there is more of the sac slipping out and it’s only a matter of time before it breaks. I think there’s another time she tells me the cervix is starting to dilate and that the cerclage will cause it to tear the muscle soon. In the dead of the night she wants me to make the decision to have a procedure to take the cerclage out. I tell her I don’t feel qualified to make that decision. She heads off to confer with Dr. Carter. When she comes back she says they’ve decided to wait because it’s the middle of the night and my support people aren’t there.
Sometime in here I think I started having contractions. They feel like mild gas pains at first and they go on for a long time before I realize what they are or say anything to anyone about them. They could have started sometime the next day though, I’m just not sure. It is clear to me now that once this whole thing started, there was no stopping it. Mother Nature is a cruel bitch and she heartlessly rolled forward like a runaway freight train.
The next morning I’m again faced with who to call. I just want to spare my parents as much as I can. Finally, I text MB who calls off work and comes to sit with me. We watch cooking shows to distract ourselves and we cry on and off.
Around 10am Dr. O’Neil comes and tells me it’s time to take the cerclage out. I can’t remember if there was an exam in there but it seems she thought detrimental damage was eminent. Also, there was another ultrasound sometime too. Whether in the middle of the night or in the morning, I can’t recall but I do recall that although they told me the boys were moving a lot, we’d reached the stage where the monitor was tilted away from me. That 4am ultrasound in the cold room at the Assessment Unit was the last time I saw my Sparks moving.
I’m not sure why but seems like it took a long time to get ready for the procedure but at the same time it was a rush too. Groups of doctors came and went trying to explain their part of the procedure. I had to sign papers. It is explained to me that when the cerclage comes out, the babies could come very quickly afterwards. I start to panic. I call my mom and try to explain very quickly what is happening and I’m cut off by another round of people wanting to prep me for surgery. It occurs to me that I want these babies baptized so I frantically call Pastor Jackie and explain the situation while crying.
The good looking Asian, I think, anesthesiologist, Dr. Montana? and his students spend quite some time explaining things to me. They planned to do a combination spinal tap/epidural. I think what this means is that they inserted the lines for both. The spinal tap to be used during the procedure and the epidural to be used for whatever might come afterward. The anesthesiologist himself was a smartass kind of guy. I probably would have found the crap he was joking about funny if the situation was different. I had eaten a few bites of eggs when they brought the tray which was apparently someone’s mistake and he made me drink this Godawful stuff so I won’t get sick on the anesthesia. He said it was like really strong sweettarts but in actuality it tasted like someone else’s bile. He joked about trying it himself so he knew how awful it was. I actually teared up and my nose started running after I drank it. I remember saying I’d never experienced anything quite like that.
MB asks if she can be in the procedure room with me. The anesthesiologist said he was not ok with her being in there while the spinal lines were being done but she could come in after that. He gives her very specific instructions about where she can stand and they bring her a paper spacesuit looking outfit to wear. We would have joked about it in different circumstances. She looked pretty funny.
There was another doctor who was there sometimes. Maybe she was the daytime doctor? A very small blond woman with glasses, Dr. Houghenfort or something. Once they take me into the procedure room, there is a lot of fussing around. I’d left my bra on when I’d put on the hospital gown the night before and they make me take it off. It’s a nuisance because of all the wires and tubes. They had me sit on the side of the table and make my back into that C shape they like to have for epidurals. Anyway, it was this Dr. H who stood there in front of me during this time, encouraging me. I remember she had a silver Tiffany necklace, the one with the chain and the heart. I stared hard at that necklace or at her id chain when all the serious poking was going on.
It seems to take a long time to get the spinal lines in place. The Asian doctor is talking to a student who is actually inserting the lines. He tells her step by step exactly what to do and constantly asks me what I’m feeling and if it’s on the right, left or center. There are a couple of seriously painful sticks and a burning sensation but when the lines are in place my lower half immediately starts to deaden. Afterwards, I hear the student in the corner asking the doctor a lot of questions about what she just did. Later, I will wonder if it was her first time.
There is a lot more fussing around. I try to help scoot my half dead body where they want it. People are manipulating my body which is a very strange feeling. My legs are placed in medieval looking straps attached to poles. A white sheet is hung across my chest and MB is allowed to come in. Later she tells me she’s never seen anyone’s legs bent that way.
The procedure proceeds and MB tries to comfort me and stroke my forehead. It seems now that all the fussing beforehand took way longer than the actual procedure itself. When we get back to the room, Pastor Jackie is there looking like she just ran out of her garden to rush to us. Later, she tells me she was cooking for a church dinner. I guess we all sit around for a while waiting in trepidation. My parents arrive soon after we get back from the procedure. I can tell my mother is surprised to see Pastor Jackie. I try to get MB to go home…she’s been there for so long but she won’t go. Later, Mom says she was like a mushroom growing there.
After some time Dr. O’Neil comes in and wants to talk over inducing labor. She talks about what she saw during the procedure and basically says birth is a sure thing now and induction is the way to go. Every single doctor has said it’s a sure thing and I don’t want to linger and linger in the hospital. There is a little conversation among us in the room about it and it seems general consensus is to induce. Dad hasn’t said a word and when I ask him what he thinks an emotional stricken look comes over his face and he agrees it would be best. I ask for the doctor to come in and check me one more time. She says again that even more of the sac is slipping out and did I feel a change? I say I didn’t feel any change, I just wanted to be checked one more time before they begin inducing. I tell her I was hoping for a miracle. They hook up the pitocin and we all wait some more.
Sometime at the beginning of this hell, the hospital chaplain stops by. Pastor Ellen and Pastor Jackie realize they were maybe acquainted or tried to be when Pastor Ellen worked at our Local Hospital. I’m surprised to learn that there are 12 full time chaplains at the Big City Hospital. When it comes time to pray, Pastor Ellen suggests everyone lay hands on me. I’m not too keen on the idea but realize as she’s praying I can feel everyone’s energy around me. It is a very calming feeling. Pastor Ellen says she’ll come back with parking passes and then leaves.
And then the nightmare really gets underway. I had been having contractions for a while but wasn’t aware that they were contractions. Now, they get more and more intense and I’m sweating with each tightening of the uterus. Even if this had been a healthy full term pregnancy, I was never interested in being a hero. No matter the situation, I wanted good pain management. It had been explained to me earlier that I could hit a button that was hooked to the epidural for more pain medicine if I wanted it. The button doesn’t seem to be working.
I hit the nurses call button and tell them I’m having trouble with pain. At this time, the social worker comes in and sits down to tell me about support groups and services. While she’s in there, some young blond guy in scrubs with a scruffy beard, a doctor? comes in and messes with the epidural machine. He doesn’t say anything because the social worker is talking. He just unlocks the epidural thing and does something to it then leaves.
The contractions continue to get more painful and more intense. I hit the pain button a few times but it doesn’t help. A nurse comes in and when I complain says she’ll get the anesthesia nurse to come. There’s a lot of waiting and I’m feeling more and more miserable. The nurse finally comes in. She and the regular nurse discuss how I shouldn’t be able to move my legs as well as I can if the epidural is working. When she opens the epidural box she exclaims that it’s on a “2” and should be on about “14”. She and the regular nurse ask each other how this could have happened. I have no idea what it really means but she’s an angel to me when she turns it up and I hear the repeated clicking of the epidural machine and feel that cool blast of medicine going into my back.
It doesn’t help. More and more pain comes. The emotions from the fact that I’m going to give birth to two babies who are dead or going to die seems to fade, I can only concentrate on managing the pain. People who are talking to me faze out as the pain comes. Waves of it come over me and I try to curl my body up to bring some relief. I nearly start to whimper when I feel the first tightening of my abdomen because I know it is going to grow into pain that’s worse than anything I’ve felt before.
I hit the pain button time and time again. Sometimes I think the next contraction is a bit milder and that maybe the medicine is starting to work but the pain always comes back far worse than before. I hit the nurse’s call button and they send in the anesthesiologist with a “bolus” of pain medication which they shoot directly into the epidural line. They tell me it should work within 20 minutes. It doesn’t. It’s so bad now that I beg any nurse who comes in for help. When they ask me to “rate the pain” I do not hesitate to tell them it is above a 10.
Again they come in with a bolus to shoot into me. Now I’m told that if this doesn’t work it means the epidural line has been placed in the wrong place in my bodyand they will have to take it out and put it back in properly. I’m barely aware of who is there or what is going on because it takes everything I have to manage the pain. Thankfully, MB has her eyes and ears on everything. She continuously says things like, “They said it would take 20 minutes, it’s been 17, you’d better hit the call button.”
Pastor J and MB both commented about seeing me in this much pain. I continue to pull my knees up and tense my body during the pain, I guess “writhing in pain” would be the expression. My face is hurting from clinching it during the contractions. The blood oxygen monitor beeps and beeps every time I have a contraction because I gasp and hold my breath during the crescendo of the pain. Later, my mom tells me she couldn’t tell I was in that much pain because I was so “still”. My only guess is that she was so distraught seeing me in such pain that she was in denial about it.
I’m hazy on the whereabouts of my father during this time. At one point, he decides to “take a walk” and is gone for a very long time which upsets my mother who decides to go “look for him”. Keep in mind this is a huge big city hospital with many city blocks for their campus and it’s across the street from a big park. Later, Mom tells me she did walk around for a little while looking for him but had no luck so sat down on a bench and he happened to wander by at that moment. I don’t blame either of them for taking a break. This was by far the hardest, most agonizing thing I’ve ever had to do and I can’t imagine the anguish of watching your child go through it knowing there’s nothing you can do to help.
I do know that when he comes back to the room, he says something meant to be funny to Pastor J. Something like, “I’m back so quit talking about me.” She laughs awkwardly. I know these things happened but I’m just not sure when. At some point later, Dad decides to go home. I hear him discussing it with Mom. Mom asks doesn’t he want to hold the babies. He is emphatic that he doesn’t want to. I think but do not know for sure that it’s later in the story, when they think I’m asleep and everyone thought nothing would happen anytime soon.