Monday, March 22, 2010

Down the Rabbit Hole

(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.


Anonymous said...

I am sorry that you had this terrible time in the hospital and that everything is so difficult right now.

I wish you lots of strength! And maybe there will be some sort of a finish line, at least one that compares to one in a triathlon...?

You will be done doing one thing (swimming/cycling; being pregnant) and doing something else (jogging; caring for your babies), so still strenuous, but a different kind and I hope this will help!

Sending lots of good wishes!!!

Kate said...

Wow, that all sounds so incredibly rough. I hope you have your babies suun and make a quicker recovery than you hink you will. You're almost there!

Sue said...

I'm so sorry. Contractions ARE exhausting and it's definitely no fun heading into childbirth, whenever it happens, feeling exhausted. Hang in there - it sounds like the end, and the babies you've been longing to meet, are in sight!

annacyclopedia said...

Oh, sweetie! What a rough month it's been! I hope that things let up enough to give you a few days to recoup before the babies arrive. Either way, you will get through all of this, and you won't feel this way forever. And once the babies get here, there will probably be a reserve of energy you didn't know you had - just because you love them and you're their mommy and you will be able to care for them perfectly and meet their needs. (I know it's hard to do, but if there is anyone around you can ask for help to deal with the house and meals and stuff like that, abandon all shame and just ask. Because you need someone caring for you while you care for the babies, especially if you are planning to breastfeed - you need to rest and focus on that in the early days and weeks. And J can't do it all, as you've identified.)

Wish I was nearby, because I would have you casseroled from now until kingdom come!

Sending love and strength and energy and all my best wishes for an easy birth and recovery. And although I've been quiet lately (I actually have all of your posts starred in my reader, I just never get around to coming back to comment...) I am here for you anytime if you need to talk.

kate said...

I am pissed, like so so so so so pissed at your anesthesiologist. At the very least, file a complaint with the medical board in your state. Per my mom (chief of staff of her state's medical board, until her retirement this last december...), anesthesiologists have more complaints filed against them and more disciplinary actions taken against them than any other type of practitioner, because so many of them are drug addicts, and thus, are either trying to dupe patients out of necessary medications to use them for themselves OR are high while practicing and making really bad decisions.

So, even if you don't decide to lawyer his ass, you should at the very least file a complaint with the medical board. They need to know what this person did, even if they don't take any action because of it (complaints go on record in most states and can be used in the instance of future violations or future decisions about continuing to extend practice rights to the doctor in question).


I am so very sorry that you are dealing with all of this as the final weeks of your pregnancy tick down. You are right. You should be happily and relaxedly feathering your nest in preparation for their arrival, not frantically hoping that the drugs work (or don't work) and wondering what you need to do to get ready. I am so pissed off for you.

But, all the same, I'm glad to hear from you. I was wondering if you were okay, whether the twins were here yet, and while I am glad to hear from you, I wish it was happier news. It's just unfair. I wish I was closer. I'd come over and keep you company, sweep a floor for you, or something (that'd be comical-- the wide-as-she-is-high pregnant lady trying to do housework! HAH.). But I'd be there for you nonetheless.

I really hope these final days before impending motherhood pass quickly and with as little drama as possible. This is the exciting time! You're about to meet your babies!! Screw all that other stuff-- don't let the Man get you down! Chin up, buckaroo! (etc., etc. Insert other pedantic encouraging statements here as necessary) Please do know, though, that I am thinking of you, and I'm with you in spirit, hoping that the rest of your pregnancy is a gentle float down a calm river, and wishing a hot poker up the rear for that crap-ass anesthesiologist... I'm excited to meet the new babies soon!

Malloryn said...

That is a LOT to go through for anyone, let alone someone pregnant with twins in the third trimester. I am so sorry to hear about that, and the ongoing contractions. I hope that things go smoothly from here on out, and that you have some helping hands during the first few weeks. The house will be clean again in time. Best of luck to you guys and I'm looking forward to seeing the kiddos!

Rebeccah said...

Oh my god, that sounds utterly exhausting and scary. I'm so impressed that you're even able to verbalize about it. I hope you have some close friends nearby to lean on for support if/when you need them. Having never been there myself, I can only imagine what the end of a nearly-full-term twins pregnancy must feel like, particularly when you've been in the ICU!!!, but I'm absolutely certain that you're doing the absolute best you can and I'm in awe of your strength in keeping those babies inside with all you've been going through. Wishing you the endurance to get past this last hill, and time to rest a bit when you've crossed the finish line. Please lean on us when you need to.

(Oh, and a triple curse on that f-ing doctor ... there is nothing worse than bad medical folks when you most desperately need good ones.)

Me said...

Sorry it's been so stressful and horrible. I hope the babies' birth goes well.

Good Egg Hatched said...

Oh. My. Goodness. I cannot BELIEVE what you've been through. Seriously. This is not to diminish your feelings of being stressed and overwhelmed in any way, shape or form, but sweetie, you've already been through the worst. Seriously, a c-section recovery is NOTHING compared to what you've been through already. If I can handle it, you SO can handle it. So I know it feels daunting and hard right now but soon it will be over and you will have your babies and they will keep you so busy that all this, as hard as it is at this moment, will be a distant memory. I promise. Thinking good thoughts for you!

Lorraine said...

What a way to wrap up a pregnancy! I hope that once they are out (and you've started recovering from the c section) you can have a period of relative calm as a new mother. Yeah, it will be exhausting, but it sounds like that will be nothing compared to what you've been through...

Lots of luck to you, my dear.

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