(Prelude: I never wrote about it, but on February 26 I was hospitalized with a kidney stone. After five days, we agreed to have a stent put in—not to solve the problem, but to make it tolerable until after the pregnancy when they could actually do something to get rid of the stone. But some asshole anethesiologist talked me out of the agreed-on spinal block, which was a safer/more rational form of anesthesia for a woman 33 weeks pregnant with twins—he did this moments before the operation when I was wacked out of my mind on morphine and desperate to do the procedure—into general anesthesia, which carried a much greater risk of aspiration. And so I aspirated some of my stomach acid into my lungs, woke up in the recovery room with instant pneumonia, and spent four days in the ICU trying to breathe, with the doctors freaking out because I was having preterm contractions and was in no condition for a c-section while so ill.)
I’ve been home from the hospital for two weeks, and still haven’t been able to get myself to write about it. Which is a shame, because my memories of those 11 days, or at least the back half of them, could prove useful in a med mal lawsuit someday. Which is a possibility, though by no means a guarantee. And I’m already having trouble remembering what it was really like, remembering the physical pain and claustrophobic panic of the ICU, the sinking feeling of being totally duped by my anesthesiologist, and the sure knowledge that if I’d just had the mental wherewithal to say “no” to his suggestion that I switch from a spinal block to general anesthesia, I could have been home already, maybe even working, rather than struggling to breathe and wishing I wasn’t exposing my babies to yet more medicines, x-rays, and other interventions I’d hoped to avoid.
But right now that seems so far away. I’m in another place entirely—waiting for my world to change. I don’t know when it will happen, exactly. And I don’t know what I need to do to get ready for it anymore. J’s been working 16-hour days for the past week, maybe more. I’ve actually lost track. And though I’ve had some friends come by, it isn’t the same as having a real life outside of the bubble I’m floating in.
When I first got home I was still recovering, still healing, and desperately weak. I lost 15 pounds in the hospital, which sounds great in theory, but so much of it was muscle mass. I’ve never seen my arms so skinny.
Despite my weakness, I had a purpose. Every day, I would have a new priority, just one thing to I would have to deal with. I only had a couple of worthwhile hours a day to get stuff done. The rest of the time I was sleeping or resting or trying to get my feet up to reduce the swelling (the swelling was so bad in the hospital that even my slippers wouldn’t fit—I came home in hospital socks—but it suddenly went away (thank God!) about four days after I got home). The first day it was setting the wheels in motion for my disability insurance to process, and figuring out how to work my sick and annual leave around that. And then there was all the baby gear, bedding, and clothing that had been unpacked and arranged by the group of family and friends that had come to set up the house while I was in the hospital, just in case we came home with babies. I had to find space in my closets for more stuff, find ways to arrange everything so I knew where it was. And because any day could bring the babies into my life, each day was critical for getting ready. In fact, last Tuesday night I knew I was at the brink of total insanity when I vacuumed the house. That’s right. I’m on bedrest, but I vacuumed. I just couldn’t take it. The floors were disgusting, and J is at wits end just doing the essential stuff, so I couldn’t ask him. I actually hoped he wouldn’t notice (and if he did, he didn’t mention it). In short, my nesting hormones had taken over and I was helpless to resist.
And then the next day I was done. Oh sure, there’s plenty more housekeeping to be done. The fridge needs cleaning out and the mountains of crap balanced precariously on my dressers needs a home. And I guess at some point I need to get out the bag of tubes and bottles and mysterious paraphernalia that goes with my breast pumps and figure out how it all works. (Though I’m planning on renting a pump from the hospital the first month, so I’m counting on them showing me how it works.) But the basics are in place, and, like flicking a switch, the nesting instinct has switched off. And the house is getting gross again, because suddenly I just can’t face it anymore.
Last week J and I were faced with an unexpected choice. We went to our doctor’s appointment last Tuesday, fully expecting to be told that two days later—when I hit 36 weeks—I was to go off the procardia (the anticontraction medication I’d been on since arriving at the hospital in late February) and we would let nature take its course. If I went into labor, we would do a c-section immediately. If not, we stick with the 29th as our scheduled date.
But the doctor said we could stay on the drugs all the way up to the 29th if we liked. It was our decision. Mind you, this “choice” probably gave us a false sense of control, because the procardia won’t keep me from going into labor if my body really forces the issue, nor does going off it guarantee that labor will ensue. Part of me desperately wanted to stop taking the drugs. But J really, really, really needed me to stay on them for another week. I know a lot of people won’t understand how someone’s job can be that important, but he has a show to finish and he has classes to teach. He’s trying to convince his university to hire him full-time, an event that could lead to him being a tenured professor, rather than a freelance lighting designer who’s gone all the time. We’re desperate for this to happen in the next few years, as I don’t fancy raising these kids on my own. And he’s got some important classes next week (though now it’s looking like Thursday’s class is less important). Besides, we all know that bigger babies are better, and 37 weeks is better than 36. So I decided to stay on the drugs, as hard as I was struggling.
And then, late last week, the pregnancy took a turn for the stranger and less tolerable. I was up all night last Thursday and Friday nights with contractions. By Friday I was timing them, and they were averaging 10 minutes apart. Not real labor, not enough to warrant emergency surgery. But not something I could ignore either. By 3 a.m. Saturday morning J and I decided that it was just too much to expect to stay on like this for another week, and I stopped taking the procardia. We fully expected to have the babies on Saturday. But despite stopping the anticontraction meds, the contractions slowed and faded in the wee hours of the morning. By Saturday afternoon I had given up and gone back on the procardia. I still had the occasional contraction on Saturday and Sunday, but it looked like we were back in the waiting game. So I put on my game face and decided to settle in for the long haul.
Then last night—Sunday night—the contractions started again. Again, just outside of the reach of true labor (averaging 8 minutes apart for several hours), painful but not so bad I could be sure of a c-section if I went to the hospital. (Mind you, the LAST thing I think I can cope with is more time in the hospital and coming home still pregnant. I refuse to go to the hospital with a false alarm.) Again, I called J at work at about 10 p.m. and asked him how he felt about having babies that night. This time I stayed on my drugs, though. And sure enough, after a long and painful night, the contractions slowed down around 5 or 6 in the morning, allowing me to get a bit of sleep, an hour at a time. And then they faded away almost altogether, appearing only once or twice an hour.
When this happened on Saturday I was pretty chill about it, despite the fact that the contractions caused me to miss my allergy shots, which I desperately need this time of year. But today has been different. I don’t know if it’s that I’ve been home too long alone, or whether the all-day headache (likely from aforementioned allergies) wore me down, or whether I’m just having another hormone shift. But instead of being chill about waiting, or excited about the babies, all I feel is empty and tired and depressed.
The contractions are back tonight with a vengeance—it’s been going on for hours. They are starting to hurt like hell, but they still aren’t more often than 8 minutes apart. I never knew someone could be in sort-of, limbo-labor like this for so long. It’s so frustrating.
I expected J to be on his way home at 10. My procardia dose was due at 9, but I figured I’d wait and talk to him. At 10:45, I called to see if he was ever getting out of rehearsal. As soon as I heard his voice I started to cry. He told me that he’s in as good of shape as he needs to be this week, and we agreed that I should just stop taking the drugs.
So maybe I’m having babies tonight, or tomorrow. Or maybe not. Maybe my body is just going to keep fucking with me for another week.
I’m so tired. And frustrated. And weak. I wanted to go into motherhood strong and hardy, geared up for the c-section recovery and the challenges again. Instead I feel like I’m limping toward the finish line, both mentally and physically. Which would be great if the finish line was actually the finish, instead of a whole grueling new beginning.
I’ve fallen down the rabbit hole for sure. But I’m not in wonderland yet. I’m just falling and falling, waiting for the bottom to rise up and meet me.