24 hours of hell (aka I somehow avoid the ICU)
So…Bubs is safely out and stable in the NICU, breathing with the help of CPAP. The Moose takes the first few pictures of her and comes to update me on how she is doing. The midwives switched shifts at 11pm and I was left in the hands of a midwife who is extremely interested in and knowledgeable about pre-eclampsia. I had constant company for at least the two hours after bubs was born. The Moose came and went between my room and the NICU and eventually, when things were settled down enough, he went to his room at the backpackers where he had secured lodging for the night. I chatted about politics and the environment and hospital waste with the pre-eclampsia midwife (as she shall now be known) for a while, and I think I was reasonably coherent at the time.
I am writing this nearly 3 weeks later, so some things are a bit hazy, but the one thing that I remember more than anything else was my sense of the world shrinking. The only things that seemed to exist were the things within my room. I didn’t think about bubs. At all. The Moose said she was doing fine, and I think I just took that for granted.
The thing is, magnesium really knocked me around. I thought I was feeling good at first, that it wouldn’t be a problem, but as I progressed through the next 24 hours of it, I grew more and more lethargic, found it harder and harder to concentrate, or to even give a f*ck. I was on morphine and Tylenol for the pain, and I have no idea what was in the spinal block or how long that lasted or what effect it could have on me, but I am pretty sure that 99% of that hell was the magnesium. Like I said, my world shrunk down to include pretty much just myself and whatever was within arm’s reach.
So, after the first few hours of constant monitoring, lots of blood tests, and so on, the night (and the next day) fell into an hourly routine that began and ended on the half of every hour. The world outside of this reality simply did not exist for me. Because I was on fluid restrictions, and was receiving fluid through the iv with the magnesium, once an hour I was given 70 ml to drink. I think that is something like 3 oz. It had to last me until the next hour, when anything left (ha!) would be dumped and I would get a new 70 ml. As I was given that, my output through the catheter was measured, my ivs checked, my blood pressure checked, and my reflexes checked (let’s just say those went from pathologically brisk to nearly non-existent). Periodically throughout the night and following day someone would come to take my blood. All this would take 5-30 minutes depending on if the midwife stayed to chat (and I chatted a lot with some of them), and during this time I would sip on my 70ml. Then I would sleep for half an hour until they came back to start the whole thing all over again.
And every 4 hours overnight and 2-3 hours the next day the midwives would come in to express colostrum from me, as I couldn’t do it myself (hands were sooo weak, and still had iv in left and iv access thingy in right). This they collected in syringes to be sent to the NICU for bubs. I think if it hadn’t been for them, I would not have had such an amazing supply of breast milk for Bubs. I am so grateful for this!! As awkward as it is having nearly complete strangers playing with ones nips…
How I avoided the ICU…well, my platelets continued to fall, but thankfully they stopped just short of whatever level they send you off to the ICU. Since they were expecting me to get worse before I got better, they were keeping a close eye on everything. Thankfully I didn’t get that kind of worse!! Of course, I didn’t find this out until 2 weeks later, but I suppose there are just some things you don’t tell a woman with a high blood pressure problem.
Anyway water became everything to me as my throat dried out and my voice got raspy. I was obsessed with the time, watching the clock until the long hand hit the 6 and I would get my next bit of water. I was distraught to discover that the milk I put on my cereal was taken out of my water (and the iv fluid reduced to compensate). By the time breakfast had come, my throat was too dry to swallow toast, and I barely made it through the cereal. I did discover I could eat some toast if I dipped it in the milk. But by this point just the effort of eating and using my hands was getting to be too much (by the time lunch came I could eat only the soup, and by dinner time I managed only 3 bites of pasta and a couple bites of mystery dessert).
Pre-eclampsia midwife’s shift ended in the morning, and incompetent midwife came on. By this time I was feeling like ass and still had 15 hours of magnesium to go. Anyway this new midwife is probably perfectly competent in most things, but she admitted to pre-eclampsia midwife in front of me as they were doing the hand-over that she had never dealt with the after effects of pre-eclampsia, and didn’t really know what she was doing. This became very obvious to me very quickly as she took a very liberal stance with my fluid restrictions and output measurements. It took a lot of self-control to not drink up the extra water she accidentally gave me, but somehow I did it.
And then she tried to kill me. Or at least that is how I am interpreting it!
About 10am she thought it would be a good idea for me to go down to the NICU to see Bubs. I agreed, for one because I felt like I should want to (really I just wanted water and sleep), and secondly I felt pressured to do so. Had she wheeled me down in my bed things may have turned out a bit better for me. Instead she decided I should go down in a wheel chair.
Let’s just say that if you can barely use your hands to eat your breakfast, probably your legs can’t support your weight. In which case, forgetting to put the brakes on the wheel chair probably won’t help matters! Thankfully I managed to fall back on the bed when the chair pushed away from me. By the time I got into the chair, my hearing had gone and the room faded out. I had enough presence of mind to tell the midwife and the Moose to wait for a minute because I wasn’t feeling well. I didn’t know it at the time, but it was my blood pressure tanking and me nearly passing out.
The trip to the NICU nearly did me in. The chairs here have to be wheeled backwards in order to turn correctly, and me, my catheter and my iv were slow enough to move, but to me it felt like we were zipping along. I could hardly see straight and was feeling so nauseous! But we made it to the NICU, I managed somehow to wash my hands (though probably not well).
Bubs was so small, and with so many lines and cables and things, and she honestly looked a wee bit like a monkey! Her arms and legs were so skinny and wrinkly that compared to them her head and abdomen seemed gigantic! It was hard to feel any sort of connection to this poor little thing in an incubator, and as my blood pressure tanked again, I started vomiting. The midwife took my blood pressure just after this, and it was 90/50. And vomiting apparently raises blood pressure, so it must have been lower than that! Also, I vomited up half a litre of fluid. Half a litre that I couldn’t get back because I could only have 70 ml an hour! I was a little bitter about that.
At that point I had had enough and wanted nothing more than to get back in bed where I felt at least a little less like death warmed up. So my first glimpse of Bubs was really just a quick peak at a tiny scrawny baby. I will write more about this sort of thing in my next post, but I will say it has taken some time for this to feel real, and to feel a bond between bubs and myself (which I know can be perfectly normal).
Other highlights (lowlights?) of my 24 hours of hell:
· *My boss called, unaware that I was in the hospital, to see if the Moose and I would be coming to his wedding, which was a few days away. I was sufficiently out of it enough to freak him out, leading him to call the Moose to find out what actually had happened (I guess I was not overly coherent!)
· *A woman gave birth in the room next to me. Her screams never woke me up.
· *Another woman gave birth in the other room next to me, but she never screamed, just grunted twice and then bam, baby. I like to think that would have been me had it not been for pre-eclampsia. Of course, I was awake and sipping on my 70ml otherwise I would have slept through her too.
· *I posted a pic of bubs on facebook to announce the birth (after sending a quick email to my mom and sister). Of course, I was going cross eyed trying to do this, but I managed. My sister’s husband was the first to read the news (while facebooking on the loo), and announced it to my sister, who ran downstairs to tell my parents (who were living in the basement for a few months).
**And best of all, at 10pm, my new midwife came in to announce that the magnesium was finished! I cheered as best I could (a feeble but enthusiastic “yay!”), and within minutes of it coming out, I was already feeling better! By morning, I was much more awake and alert! I could even eat breakfast. And no more fluid restrictions!!! And the Moose took me down to see Bubs, and I got to do kangaroo care (or skin to skin or cuddles as I call it!).
More to come on my next post, Surviving the Fifth Circle of Hell (aka life on the post-natal ward).
Up next: Life in the 5th Circle of Hell (aka the post natal ward)