The Oral Report

Standing up in front of the class was never so much fun!

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Location: River City, United States

The rantings and ravings of a mom of three wonderful girls as she finds new love while working like a dog and shaking her fist at the system. You know. Pretty much like everybody else.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Flashback Friday!

Lately, when I've had more than 24 seconds to think about something, I find I'm trying to think of better names for my kiddies than the numbering system. It seems so inadequate for people I love so dearly. I'm gonna work on it and maybe, in the New Year, I'll have some new nicks for the girlies. Until then, you, and they, will have to bear with me on it.

I say this because this week's Flashback Friday! (sorry it's a little late this week) is about [Kid 3], and I'll be talking alot about her (and the other two actually) and it's gonna get annoying. The reality is, though, that I'm too busy to rename them for the benefit of this post. It's bound to be an excrutiatingly long one, so that only factors in that much more.

In fact, this Flashback is so long that I plan to split it into a two (possibly three) parter, with the conclusion next Friday (or the following one if it goes really long). In the meantime, though, grab a cup of warm cider (or a cold beer) and we'll start down one of the more difficult Flashbacks to date.

On December 22, 1999, I was pregnant. It wasn't something that had been planned, but we had decided that, despite my age (37), we'd give it a go. After all, it could have been that elusive son we'd both longed for.

My due date was March 31st (not that any of my children have ever paid ANY attention to that sort of thing), so I still had a good ways to go. The pregnancy, up to December 22nd had been pretty normal. Normal for me anyway.

I'd gotten Christmas shopping done and all but a very few gifts had been wrapped. I had a regular prenatal doctor visit scheduled for December 23rd, but my ob/gyn was going to do a glucose tolerance test as well. With a significant family history of diabetes, it was a ritual I'd gotten used to with all my pregnancies. I'm not diabetic, but there's an increased risk during pregnancy.

My mother thought it was terrible that I was going to have to avoid sweets for a few days before the test and actually encouraged me to call and cancel the appointment and reschedule. She had no idea I was sick, or she'd have never done so. I had no idea I was sick either. I felt fine.

But I wasn't. I wasn't fine at all.

I didn't cancel my appointment. I left work at lunchtime and ran over to the doctor's office. All the remaining tasks needed at work (and the few things at home) still needing to be done before the long holiday break cascading around in my head. I was sort of on auto-pilot as I signed in, went back to one of the restrooms with a specimen cup in hand.

If you've never been pregnant (and given the number of male readers, it's at least a possibility), one of the joys is peeing in a cup every time you go to the doctor when you're pregnant. Being knocked up allows you to get frequent flyer miles at your doctor's office. Really.

My doctor came out in the sitting area and reported to me that there had been a problem with the test and they wanted me to repeat it. After a couple bottles of water, I was happy to comply. At the time, I really thought it was a problem with the test itself. I had no idea that the problem was with the results.

The second test netted the same bad results. High levels of protein in my urine. Kinda personal, I know, but it's gonna get that way fast. Honestly, you ain't seen nothin' yet. If you would rather leave the room, I completely understand.

My doctor asked me to come to her office. Not an exam room. Her office. And finally, after all of that, it hit me. Something was wrong. Naive, I was. After two (relatively) normal, healthy pregnancies, to take for granted that they all would be. Foolish of me. Especially at my age.

I took a seat across from her and she proceeded to advise me she was going to make me an appointment with a specialist. Hmmm, okay. So, I say something to the effect of when, after the holidays, will this be. And she replies, "I want you to go directly from this office to the specialist's office. Directly."

"WHOA! Wait a minute, there, Doc. What exactly is going on???" She wasn't 'sure'. She wanted the specialist to confirm. You know how those doctors on ER try not to tell a patient it's cancer, or something, and tell them they really need to talk to the oncologist. But they know.

She was calm the entire time she was laying this on me. Trying to keep the patient from freaking out in her office, I'm sure. I'm not your average patient, though. Persisting, I said, "What do you suspect it is? And why?"

"Well," she began, "the protein level in your urine is pretty high.", and that was it. I'm thinking I should have gone to medical school...or read up on this stuff...or something, because I wasn't getting it. "I suspect it may be pre-eclampsia. Although, it could be something else. The specialist will be able to tell you for sure."

Now, I had heard the word 'pre-eclampsia', but I really didn't know much about it. That was all going to forever change, as I was going to get an education I could have never believed (or wanted), very, very soon.

To say that I was scared at that point would be a vast understatement. But, I asked the doctor what that meant and she proceeded to explain to me that it was a condition in which the body, for some unexplained reason, began reacting to the fetus as a toxic foreign body. Blood pressures would go up, organ shut downs were a risk, blood-clotting was a factor, brain seizures (oh, that was a great one to hear, let me tell you). "It's very serious," she informed me, "and you really do need to go directly from here to the specialist's office."

Gee, despite not having to deal with the fun of a four hour glucose tolerance test, I found I couldn’t chalk it up to a “good visit”. Part of me, kept thinking that my mother was right. I should have cancelled the appointment.

And so, at just over 25 weeks pregnant, I left my doctor’s office, and, instead of traveling the half mile to the specialist’s office, I went to my mother-in-law’s house.

I know, I know. I should have done what the doctor told me, but I was scared. Very scared. This was before I had a cellphone and my mother-in-law lived about two miles away and I wanted to talk to my husband. Badly.

So, when I showed up, I asked her if I could use her phone and that there was an emergency. Though this was my third pregnancy, Baron had never been to a pre-natal appointment. Not once. And this would be the day he’d see his first ultra-sound, too. But, I needed him. I got him on the phone and I told him, my voice shaking, that there was a problem with the pregnancy and that my doctor was sending me to a specialist and that I needed to go there right now. He wasn’t far from there and said he was on his way and would meet me there.

My mother-in-law and I were still very close at that time. She was, understandably, quite concerned, but I was kind of in a hurry. After briefly explaining the situation to her, I left to go to the specialist’s office.

Once there, I was subjected to a number of tests. My blood pressure (which had been checked like 30 minutes prior) was checked again. A good thing, as it had gone up dramatically. Not really a surprise there, huh? It was, in fact, a very unhealthy 220/115. I was given a blood test and an ultrasound (to check on the baby).

At this point, I still (other than nerves) felt fine. Also, I foolishly assumed that meant something. Because, I was certain, I’d be given some medicine, be told to be careful and then I’d be sent home, with a follow-up appointment scheduled sometime in the near future.

It was, after all, two days before Christmas.

That, my friends, was not quite the way it went.

I was advised that I needed to be admitted into the hospital immediately. With one raised eyebrow, I explained that I felt fine, that it was two days before Christmas, and that I'd be needed back at the office before the holiday break, as they were not ready for me to be off. Certainly not for an extended time. I calmly advised the doctor that I'd come back in, after Christmas, that would give me time to get things finished up at work and enjoy the holiday with my two daughters.

The doctor tried, (to his credit) repeatedly, to explain to me that I could not go back to work that day and that waiting a few days was a dangerous mistake. But I was having none of it. I felt fine.

Finally, the frustration evident on his face, he turned to Baron. "I don't think she understands," he implored, "she really MUST be admitted to the hospital NOW. It's not an 'optional' thing."

And so, against my will, I was admitted to the hospital. The hospital wherein the specialist's office was housed. Two days before Christmas. Told that I would be there until my baby was born. A baby that wasn't due until March 31st. Talk about a fucked up plan! So, they hooked me up to a mag sulfate drip (to try to get my blood pressure down) and I called my boss.

"Um, sorry. Won't be back today. Heh. In fact, won't be back until spring."

Well, it wasn't exactly like that, but while he expressed his concern, he was clearly not pleased. I'd much rather have been lying to him and lying on a tropical beach sipping a drink with an umbrella in it, but you get what you get.

The rock that was depression was kicked down the hill. I was frightened for myself and my unborn child. Frightened thinking of my other two girls, then 9 and 10. Baffled as to how I'd be able to pull Christmas off from a hospital bed. Sad to think that I may be spending the millenium New Year in a hospital bed. And, yes folks, this was in the days of Y2K. I wasn't one of the heretics fearing the end of the world, but it crosses your mind when you are in a hospital, that perhaps the very life support you need will not function after midnight on December 31st.

So, that's where it started.

My two grandmothers (who have both since died) used to each host a Christmas party on Christmas Eve. I told Baron I wanted him to take the kids. I didn't want their Christmas to be filled with memories of hospital rooms and tubes. I tried to be grateful that I'd gotten as much done as I had. But I was lonely. And so very scared.

My mother came to stay with me a bit, but like the children, I wanted her to enjoy her holiday, too. So I urged her to go to the parties. My favorite uncle stopped by and visited with me a bit. Everyone clearly worried about me. They wore it so clearly on their faces. And doing what I always do, I tried to make them feel better. But I was so very scared.

The doctors told me, that first day, that at 25 weeks gestation, my child (at that point we didn't know if it was a boy or a girl child) would stand a 70% chance of being born live and without any permanent defects. Of course, the permanent defects were not little things either. They were things like blindness, deafness, a heart defect, and cerebral palsy. Seventy percent. The plan, of course, was to improve those odds.

I was all about the plan. Here's the thing, though, the way the plan worked was to try to get the baby as far along as possible. Every week we could add improved the odds. The tricky part of the plan was that we had to factor in that every week we added was killing me. Literally. So, we would be monitored, the baby and me, and when it came to the point where I could wait no longer (or risk dying myself), the baby would be taken. We were going to hope that the schedule would be much farther down the road. I'd be given drugs to help me hold on. The baby would be given steroids to help speed her respiratory development. And we'd lie around in the hospital and do nothing until it happened.

The most crucial part of whether she could survive at this size. The first ultrasound I had during my hospital stay had shown a baby (with a cord between her legs, and no way to determine the sex) that weighed 1 lb. 2 oz. We were going to hope for the best and do what the doctors told us. My attitude about the inconvenience had done a 180, the more I learned. Information is empowering, but the more I learned, I found that the fear was still with me.

On Christmas Eve, my blood pressure was spiking. Even with massive amounts of medicine to keep it below stroke level, my body wasn't responding as well as they'd like. My doctors decided to send me to a different hospital. One with better facilities to treat me, and one that had a pedway connecting it to the best children's hospital in the region. They feared I would be delivered that day or the next.

Ironically, though it rarely snows in River City for Christmas, that year it did. As the we were racing from the east end to the downtown hospital, I could feel the ambulance sliding on the road and, well, you know it wasn't as if the situation wasn't scary enough. We made it okay, though, and I was checked into the newer, better facility and began my journey to [Kid 3].

So, with this cliffhanger(though you know the ending works out, right?), I'm scheduling Part II, for next week, with the conclusion the week after. Best wishes for a magical holiday for each and every one of you. And, if you have snow, know that I'm jealous!

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4 Comments:

Blogger Tony Collett said...

Great story, Tammy. In fact, it's so great, even though I kinda sorta know the ending, it still has me entralled.
And it helps me in a rough situation we're going through now. Kathy and I are all right, but I'll give you the details after all this holiday stuff.

12/23/2006 11:18 PM  
Blogger AaA said...

Tammy,
Damn, I've heard of pre-eclampsia... I had no idea. Congratulations on the happy ending I know is coming. Kid3 is a wonderful little girl, and the world is a better place with her in it. I'd like to take this moment to officially declare you to be a heorine for going through with the pregnancy despite the very real risks.

(This is one of those situations where I have no moral or ethical opposition to an abortion. Equally compelling life interests at stake and all that.)

I salute you!!

12/25/2006 7:37 AM  
Blogger Spider Girl said...

When pregnant with my second son, I had one of the blood tests later then the preferred window of time to have it. They didn't tell me that can skew the results. What they did tell me was that it looked like the baby had a chromasomal disorder that means if he even survives the entire pregnancy, he would die shortly after childbirth. i think i was like, 22 at the time. I was so freaked out I didn't tell anyone about it (except the father, who wasn't very good at moral support) I spent the entire pregnancy basically alone in my fear and misery, waiting for the day when they baby would stop kicking, or the birth when we'd find out the awful truth. Luckily, the test results were false and he came out perfectly healthy!! To this day, not my mother or anyone has any idea what I went through. So, I sort of know how you feel, except, my life was never in danger.

Just thinking of all that can go wrong in a pregnancy is enough to make me fear ever having another kid! Really I am amazed at how often things go fine, with all of the variables that need to come together to make a perfect pregnancy and a perfect baby. Do you think going through soemthign so awful has any redeeming value, like, we appreciate our good fortune so much more?

12/26/2006 11:25 AM  
Blogger SuperFiancee said...

Tony -

I'm hoping everything with you and Kathy is okay. Please update me when you can.

Nate -

I'm still, very much, a proponent for a woman's choice. At the point in my pregnancy where I began to have some pretty serious problems, I had already had an ultrasound (seen my baby) and felt her kick. I'd long since decided that I wanted to keep her, and while I'd have given my life for her, that part wasn't an option I was given. My doctors would be in charge of what was in my best interest. While I'm not completely comfortable with that, I do realize that emotional issues like this can sometimes cloud one's better judgement.

SpiderGirl -

I can't imagine going through something that scary alone. For weeks and weeks? I shudder just trying to imagine it.

We really do take healthy pregnancies for granted. Especially when they aren't a first one. In fact, had #3 come first, she'd VERY likely have been an only child.

As for the redeeming value, yes, I do believe that it's a healthy response to try to find the good in a situation like this. For me, the good was that I got an education about high risks involved in pregnancy, the incredible advances that have been made in treating premature infants, a great deal about my own strength, and how very much I was loved by my children and my husband. That, at the end of the day, my tiny baby was healthy AND beautiful was icing on the cake. And, yes, definitely, I appreciate things so much more.

12/27/2006 7:37 AM  

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