3 is a magic number
3 Is A Magic Number
This is my story. Although my whole family walked through all of these moments with me, it is written solely from my perspective. I want to preface this by saying that this is real, raw and not for the faint of heart. This post was written as a form of therapy and really for no one else but myself. I welcome you to read it if you are curious what really is behind all those picture perfect social media posts. Understand I am not putting this out into the world for sympathy, empathy, or anything of the sort. I am putting it out into the world to simply get it out of my head and the cathartic effect in writing this was well worth airing my dirty laundry.
Parts of my story are somewhat graphic and after reading it back, and rereading…and rereading, I realize the bulk of my story is depressing; there’s just no way around that. Please know that although I went through my fair share of shit, this story has a beautiful, happy ending.
Sweetpeahuth…Not So Sweet After All
I had always envisioned a large family. Sitting around the fire on Christmas morning, Nat King Cole playing in the background, wrapping paper everywhere and kids climbing overtop one another in excitement. Both Chris and I come from two sibling families, which is probably where that motivation came from. As a planner, there is nothing worse than realizing you cannot plan everything. And even though it’s terrifying to not be in control, there is also something very freeing about learning let go.
Having children had changed me in many ways. Most people undergo a lifestyle transformation once having kids, but for me, it was more than just giving up a previous life. I gained something that people work their whole lives for. Patience.
On Christmas Day 2014 I revealed to Chris that our family would be expanding. I will never forget the expression on his face as he opened up the tiniest little box, with the tiniest little onesie – biggest open-mouthed smile I had ever seen, coupled by joyful watery eyes. It was beginning. The start of our large family vision was coming to life.
A few short weeks later we revealed the news to our friends and found out that we would be sharing this amazing experience as first-time parents with two of our closest friends. And other than some pretty nasty nausea, life just seemed pretty dang close to perfect.
At our first ultrasound we discovered that baby would be sharing the 9-month duration in “Hotel Huth” with a buddy. No, we were not blessed with twins, but rather cursed with a uterine fibroid. Uterine Fibroids are muscular tumors that develop in the wall of the uterus. Up to 80 percent of women will develop them during their lifespan, but most won't even know they exist as fibroids shrink and grow with time. More often than not, uterine fibroids are benign causing no major issues and other than a few additional ultrasounds, the plan with our Obstetrician was to just keep on growing that healthy baby.
A few months later, we discovered that our September baby would be a girl! This would make for 3 granddaughters in our family.
The fibroid became the butt of every pregnancy joke and a girlfriend nicknamed it “fibey”. It even had it’s own emoji (the purple devil face). Although this fibroid didn’t appear to cause any issues, it did have a strong appearance directly under my bellybutton. Picture this cute, slightly plump pregnancy belly…then slap a tangerine right under the skin just below the belly-button. Not cute. But really, there wasn’t much to complain about. Preston was healthy and overall I felt pretty good.
The weeks flew by and the next thing I knew I was entering my third trimester. At 30 weeks on the dot, I awoke in the middle of the night thinking to myself…”not again!” I wasn’t sure who was taking over my body more, the baby…or my bladder. After getting up to use the bathroom half a dozen times between three am and seven, I realized that what I was experiencing wasn’t an uncontrollable bladder, but in fact, my water had broke. At the time I had no clue what was happening or the severity of the situation. I had always pictured the act of my water breaking to be this monumental experience. My water would break just like in the movies! It would come rushing down with a splash, I would yell at my husband out the back door “Its time!” and we would grab our overnight bag in a hurry to the hospital. Just like the movies. Why can’t things happen just like the movies?
I called my doctor who advised I come in ASAP, so I jumped in my car with nothing more than the clothes I slept in the night before. I had full ambitions of checking into the hospital, finding out that everything was okay (other than a leaky bladder) and I would resume a somewhat normal pregnancy for the remaining ten weeks. The last thing I did before leaving my house was pet my dog Lilly on the head, nodding “see ya in a bit”, only to realize that I wouldn’t return to the comfort of my home for 38 days.
After checking into Legacy Good Samaritan Hospital and it was confirmed; PPROM. Preterm premature rupture of the membranes, i.e.; my water broke before 37 weeks. The amniotic sac surrounding baby girl had ruptured. They couldn’t tell me how or why this occurred, but could only guess that perhaps my good friend Fibey had something to do with it. I had what was considered a slow leak and as long as I stayed off my feet the baby should continue to regenerate enough amniotic fluid to keep on cooking for a few more weeks. If an amniotic sac breaks before 37 weeks there is an increased risk for infection. It was decided that the safest route would be to stay at the hospital until 34 weeks, and at that point, I would be induced as the rate of infection goes up.
I was transferred over to Legacy Emanuel. This would be the safest place for monitoring and eventually delivery as Emanuel has Randall Children’s Hospital attached to it. I found comfort knowing that the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Randall provided one of the highest survival rates among the best in the country.
Living through 4 weeks of bed rest IS as bad as it sounds. My room was no larger than a college dorm room, with a small bed, a rocking chair, a shower, and a toilet. I had a window that looked down onto a courtyard, but it always appeared cloudy, as there was a film put on the outside to reflect the sunlight. Flowers and baby gifts filled my room, which helped to take away the depressing feeling of being alone and although I had visitors every single day, I felt completely alone.
I was hooked up to monitoring basically 24 hours a day. My vitals were read and baby was monitored with a Doppler every four hours around the clock. As if sleeping in a hospital with all the noises isn’t hard enough, now I was woken up every four hours to make sure baby was cooking on cue. I had 2-3 ultrasounds each week to measure the growth of baby and the amount of amniotic fluid as well as twice weekly blood draws. Lots of poking and prodding and again, although I wasn’t really ever alone…it sure felt like it.
I kept track of the days by drawing a calendar on a dry erase board which was meant for medications and the nursing staff to write their names on during shift switch. I counted down the days to induction much like a child did with an advent calendar for Christmas during the month of December. Every morning I would wake up, call room service to order breakfast, then mark a big “x” across the previous day.
My OB came to visit me every single day. I was so appreciative for her visits, even if it was to just say hi, as she didn’t even practice at that hospital. Although she would be with me every step towards the delivery of our baby, it was really going above and beyond to come to see me each day. We quickly became friends on a first name basis. I’m not sure I ever referred to her as Doctor, it was just Abby. Abby’s daily visits were just one sliver of the support and healthcare she provided me. The amount of gratitude I have for this woman cannot be captured in a blog post…it’s just too much. (Thank you Abby).
In the duration of my stay at Emanuel, I saw countless nurses. Although it was rare to have a repeat nurse, when I did, it felt like seeing a friend. I never had a nurse that I didn’t care for; they were all wonderful. We would chat about everything. Sometimes they would just sit in my room with me to catch a few minutes of Fixer Upper. Other than doing their everyday duties of checking in on me and baby, they provided me with one thing I am grateful for to this day; comfort. Every nurse ensured me that everything would be okay. It was comforting to know that my situation was quite common and I was quickly reminded that 4 weeks of bed rest is nothing, compared to my neighbor who had been on bed rest since 21 weeks…with twins!
Some days were much slower than others. To pass that time I did a lot of online shopping. I mean A LOT. (Bless Chris’s heart, he never mentioned our Visa bill). By week two I was ready to redecorate my entire home from all the HGTV I watched. My Mom and Chris came to visit me every single day. It almost felt like a never-ending baby shower as they would come with armloads of baby gifts, flowers, Amazon deliveries, and old fashion donuts. Numerous friends and family came to visit, some more often than others. One of my girlfriends visited my two to three times each week, and keeping with visitor tradition, donut in hand. (You know who you are; I love you for that). I don’t even want to know how many donuts I consumed during my stay, nor how much money I spent online shopping. It was all for a good cause…right?
My mom and I watched every single episode of cupcake wars. Twice. She would come just sit and knit to help me pass the hours. I would force myself to take a nap halfway through the day. I wasn’t ever really all that tired but being restricted to only two 15-minute wheelchair rides a day and bathroom privileges would drain the motivation out of anyone. I streamed a lot of movies as the basic cable was…well, basic and made it through three seasons of “Orange is the New Black”, pacing myself at 1 episode a night. I’m pretty sure the nursing staff thought I was watching some sort of pornography. The American comedy-drama is about women in prison. In just about every episode there is this announcement about a “brief sermon being held in the chapel”. I found it rather comedic that the hospital had literally the same announcement go off every morning. I started to feel like I was in jail myself.
That summer was really hot in Portland. We had record high temperatures and from watching the news each day it appeared that the whole state of Oregon was on fire. While everyone was melting away outside, it was a balmy 67 degrees in my quaint little hospital room. On the fourth of July, I fell asleep to the noise of fireworks going off all around Portland; I had no interest in being wheeled up to a higher floor to watch them with the rest of my inmates. And although I looked forward to every day passing until I got to meet our little baby girl, it was hard to find joy in much of anything.
Over the course of my 28 days on bed rest, I only cried twice; although I never told anyone about the nightly quiet tears. Part of me felt that if I gave into the pity-sad feelings that the baby would also feel it. I tried everything in my power to stay positive and forward thinking. Overall the thing I disliked most about being in the hospital for 4 weeks was not being able to fall asleep next to my husband. Research shows that sleeping next to someone you love can lower your cortisol reducing stress and increase oxytocin, which is the love hormone associated with bonding. But contrary to what research shows, this experience only made the bond Chris and I have stronger.
Every night I fell asleep looking at this quote that hung on my wall by St. Augustine – “Faith is to believe what we do not see, and the reward of faith is to see what we believe.” This kept me focused on the one thing I could control, staying positive. I never really expressed my fears to anyone. Like the sadness, I wanted to protect my baby from any negative feelings. I purchased a book on Preemies to prepare myself for everything from A to Z. My biggest fear was having a stillbirth. Even though baby was being monitored all the time, there was a period of about 3-4 days prior to laboring, where she didn’t grow as expected. This was one sign that pointed to this possibility.
As fearful as the whole experience was, on day 28 I actually woke up excited. I wasn’t as nervous as I had expected to be; just eager to get this process moving. After all, I had been sitting in the same room for 4 weeks straight, counting the dots on the ceiling.
We were wheeled up to Labor and Delivery and was given an oral pill to induced labor. Through fetal monitoring, I watched the babies movement along with her heart rate and found it odd that the “laboring pains” I was experiencing weren’t really making the monitor budge. I felt like such a weenie! I kept telling the nurse “I’m pretty sure I’m having a contraction”. She would stare at the monitor confused and say things like “Oh you’ll know when you’re contacting”, or “yeah, that looks like a little one”. After about 6 hours of attempting to resist the pain, I asked for an epidural. Sidenote: Kudos to all your women who did this experience all-natural. You are insane.
About six the next morning I couldn’t take it anymore. Even with the epidural, I felt like my body was about to flip inside out and asked them to page Abby. Abby came in and stared at the monitor while observing what I felt to be contractions. She decided to discontinue the exterior fetal monitoring and put a monitor inside me next to the baby. The second she swapped the monitors my contractions flew off the charts! My good friend fibey had been blocking the contractions from being picked up on the monitor and within 15 minutes I was in Active Labor.
The long wait was finally over and with just a few pushes our baby girl arrived. At a whopping 4.2 pounds, she was no bigger than a small Guinea pig. I was not expecting to be able to even hold her, but Abby scooped her right up and laid her on my chest. It was the best moment of my life. Small and mighty, she was a fighter. We named her Preston. Nickname, “Sweetpea”.
The NICU was not at all like I pictured it to be. I was completely shocked to see that each baby had their very own private room; and a large room at that. Preston’s room was three times the size of my pre-labor unit. The NICU in a whole was beautiful and quite peaceful. The walls were soft with cool tones of blues and greens, light maple cabinetry, and pristinely white counters. Each room had a pull out bed, a reclining rocking chair, sink station with milk refrigerator and an isolette (baby incubator). Although each room was designed the same, every room felt personalized for each baby. Atop each isolette laid a one-of-a-kind hand-made quilt, which got to go home with the baby at their time of departure. There were giant white dry-erase boards that cover an entire wall and upon the parent's arrival to their babies room, the nursing staff would draw a welcome note with the child’s name, date of birth, and birthing stats. Preston’s wall was decorated with pink and yellow flowers. This board was also where any nursing communications happened – feeding times, volume of feeds, supporting contraptions the baby needed and any milestones they made along their journey.
Preston needed nothing more than a little oxygen support and time. She had a few days under the BiliBlanket, which is quite common for preemies. Every few hours we would check her temperature, diaper, and do a feeding. The nursing staff advised that the less you move them, the better, as it takes so much of the babies energy to even have a diaper changed. We would snuggle skin-to-skin, which they referred to in the NICU as Kangaroo Care. This method of skin-to-skin contact for premature babies has profound effects on the development of the child including regulating body heat, improving brain function and promoting strong eating patterns. Kangaroo Care has also been shown to encourage a healthy heart, immune system and respiration. And the benefits on mom? It reduces post-partum depression. Each parent was given a hand mirror which helped you see your little one without cranking your neck when snuggling up. We would sit for hours in the recliner, just snuggling.
The NICU provided all kinds of perks for parents. I had a dining card that got me $10 worth of food each day, along with unlimited coffee and hot cocoa. The family liaison would stop by every other day to see how things were going, ask if there was anything you needed…even to just talk, and drop off all kinds of goodies. She provided “scent squares”, 3”x3” pieces of soft cotton fabric that parents would wear tucked underneath their clothing, then leave next to their baby in the isolette to transfer the scent of mom and dad. With all the monitors, alarms and bubbling of oxygen, the scent squares provided each baby with comfort knowing mom and dad were close by when they couldn’t be held. Chris referred to them as “stink squares” which I found humorous but oddly accurate. My favorite part about the support of the family liaison was when she brought me a book. The Crown on Your Head, by best selling author Nancy Tillman. I remember reading it to Preston and wondering “what the heck is wrong with me!” as tears filled my eyes. Whether it was postpartum or just a really, really good book, this book gave me all the feels. It still pulls the same emotions out of me every time we read it.
Being in the NICU felt like a form of therapy for me. I was surrounded by loving, caring and positive individuals. From the hands-on support of the Lactation Specialists to the team members who came to take out the daily trash, the care the entire staff showed my family was nothing shy of amazing leaving a positive impact on my overall experience.
During Preston’s 11-day stay at Randalls and my previous 28 days of bed rest, I only left the hospital grounds once. It wasn’t mandatory for parents to be at the babies bedside, but I couldn’t fathom leaving her. My mom and Chris took turns bringing Lilly to the hospital and I would visit with her in the courtyard. Day 39, Preston and I were discharged from the hospital. It felt foreign being home, almost like when you’ve been on a vacation for a really long time and taken public transportation everywhere, then attempt to drive a car again; a lot like riding a bike, but a little foreign. And other than having to take things slow due to muscle deterioration from being bed rested, life started to create a new normal.
Round Two…Even Less Sweeter
In August of 2016, I had the fibroid removed. The procedure was simple with no complications. 6 months later, after adjusting to our family of 3, Chris and I decided it was time to bring a sibling into the world for Preston. We became pregnant fairly quick, which seemed to work out perfectly with our plan for timing two kids. Planning, as I was beginning to realize, was not really working out in my favor. Although I was ecstatic about expanding our family once again, baby number two made me absolutely miserable. I was sick every day for nearly 9 weeks. I created a permanent dent in our family room couch and found myself enveloped in mom-guilt from sticking Preston in front of the tube all day. Being nauseated sucks, but being nauseated while having a toddler around is the absolute worst.
Just as things hadn’t worked out as planned before, I had gone in for a checkup shortly after 9 weeks and found out that the babies heart had stopped beating. And if this news didn’t break a person, having it presented to you the day before mothers day would. We were crushed. Our baby would have been due mid-December and my visions of the holidays with a newborn started to drift away. The week prior I had even announced our expecting news to close family, presenting them with little stockings and a note saying “Baby Huth #2 Due December 2017”. As crushed as we were, I came to realize that I am much more logical then I thought. At this point, all I wanted was to be able to move forward so we could become pregnant again and stay on track towards 3 kids. I underwent a D&C (Dilation and curettage) that same day. Somehow I thought that the physical removal of the baby would help me move past the emotional pain, but the grieving process haunted me in the weeks that followed.
After 6 weeks of letting my body recover, I went in for a follow-up hoping for good news from my OB. At this point, typically a woman would have her cycle, which would indicate the green light to try again. But as you may have gathered from my prior history…I’m not the typical woman. I was instructed to wait another 2 weeks and if at that time my cycle did not return then we would proceed.
Two weeks came and went…very, very slowly. After 10 weeks post surgery, I went back in to see my OB. And the verdict? Pregnant. No, not pregnant…STILL pregnant. The procedure I had undergone in May hadn’t completely worked. Apparently, there was still “specimen” left, which was continuing to release hormones in my body telling it “You're Pregnant!” And those 9 weeks of nausea? Oh, yeah, they continued. Here we are going on 3 months of nausea and 2.5 months of being constantly reminded that we miscarried. But wait…there’s more. There was also a small chance that it wasn’t the previous pregnancy just hanging out in there but in fact a rare type of cancer. Although this chance was really, really small…I don’t have the best luck and tend to lean on the slim side of the equation. Surgery would be our next step to finding out why my body was sucking at being pregnant.
Remorseful feelings set in as I thought about all my girlfriends who have been through a miscarriage and even more so, for those that have been unsuccessful at getting pregnant altogether. A shocking percent of my friends have walked this path before, and until you have walked it yourself, you truly have no idea the internal battle you go through. “What could I have done differently? Was it the bite of raw cookie dough I snuck in? Should I have laid off the exercise a bit? Will I even be able to get pregnant again?” According to Google, these are all completely normal thoughts and feelings, but I just didn’t feel normal. I started to look at other pregnant women in a negative light. Jealous. Frustrated with my body. And fearful. And on top of being discouraged with the whole pregnancy thing, now there’s a chance I could have cancer? WTF.
I went back and forth with feelings of content and guilt. “I have a baby. I have a healthy, happy baby. What the hell do I have to complain about? All my friends were so supportive through this, especially the friends we shared our first pregnancy journey with. They provided a safe place to vent the frustrations without judgment. I tend to be the kind of person who doesn’t air their dirty laundry. I think this is because I know deep down, I have it really good! I have a beautiful daughter, a loving husband, a roof over my head and so much more. Complaining seemed wrong.
The plan was to go in for a hysteroscopy. Basically, this was a D&C but not blind. It was scheduled the following week and all went swimmingly. 6 weeks post surgery I got a clean bill of health from my doctor. I was relieved to find out that I DID NOT have cancer and equally relieved that we could try to get pregnant again.
Shortly after my 34th Birthday, we were elated to find out that we were pregnant again. For the sake of potentially not having to backtrack on our news again, we decided to wait until we hit the “safety zone” to share our excitement. And although this was a truly joyful time, each morning when I woke up I was in fear. Every office visit, I was in fear. And that fear stuck with me the whole whopping 31 weeks I was pregnant with baby #3. Yes, I had another preemie, but let me explain.
Bensonboyhuth. The First and Last Grandson
On Thanksgiving 2017 we announced to our family that we were expecting. It was a fun reveal as I created personalized party crackers and we all popped them before diving into our Thanksgiving meal. The internal battle continued as I had fearful thoughts about getting too attached to this baby, but I forced myself to try and enjoy the process of being pregnant as much as I could. My good friend nausea was back, but I handled this round like a champ as I knew this was nothing to complain over considering the latter.
At 16 weeks I started weekly progesterone injections. This was a preventative caution due to having a previous history of preterm delivery. The hormones were to help my uterus be like Fort Knox and keep that baby cooking as long as I could. As if I wasn’t close enough with my doctor already, I now got the opportunity to get even closer with her Nurse – who by the way is amazing. (Thank you Jessica). I had a standing appointment with her every Friday to get poked in the hip. Needles, to me, were as common as getting my blood pressure taken at this point.
At our 20 week ultrasound, we didn’t want an more major surprises so we decided to find out the sex of the baby. It was a boy. The first grandson in a family of all girls. The reality of not getting attached at this point was hopeless. I was smitten.
Around 28 weeks of pregnancy I went in to see my PCP because I had a horrible head cold. And the shitty part about this is that pregnant women can't really take the good stuff when they get sick, you just have to tough it out. My cough seemed to get worse to the point that I couldn’t sleep. I’m pretty sure I kept Cepacole in business with the amount of cough drops I consumed. Since I seemed to be getting worse I went back into my PCP for fantastic news! Not only did I tare a muscle in my chest from coughing, but my blood pressure was crazy high. We’re talking 140’s over 90’s for someone who is used to have 110 over 65. My doctor didn’t think too much about is as I never had a long history of HBP and related it more so to the cold. I was given some over the counter cough meds and instructed to just lay low.
The following evening I felt anxious. I couldn’t sleep and along with anxious feelings and a couch I had terrible edema in my legs. Sleep deprivation was starting to take over and my head began to pound. Out of curiosity, I took my blood pressure at it was 148/98! I reached out to my Abby who insisted I come in to be seen. She prescribed a low dose of blood pressure medication and I was sent home. Baby was doing fine, mom...not so much. My cough became worse. Apparently, a small percent of people taking this specific kind of blood pressure medication can have an allergic reaction to it. Guess what!? Lucky me! Abby switched my medication, which seemed to help a little, but my blood pressure was still high and my head was continually throbbing. I was in and out of the hospital 2 more times before they decided to keep me. When I checked into the hospital the last time, my head felt like it was going to explode. Well, no wonder! My blood pressure was 180/120! I was diagnosed with preeclampsia.
Baby and I were hooked up to numerous monitors and I was given a stairstep of meds every 15 minutes until my blood pressure remained consistently safe. My blood pressure cuff went off every 15 minutes, and if my numbers remained low for 1 hour, they could increase the duration of BP checks to every 30 minutes. I never made it that long. At least once an hour I would have to have a heavier dose of another medication which would make my blood pressure crash. Along with crashing numbers came insane nausea and vomiting. I wasn’t sure what was worse…pounding headache and high readings? Or low readings with feelings of nausea and fatigue. It was all bad. Really, really bad. After 5 days monitoring and blood pressure readings bouncing all around like a pinball machine my Abby decided to throw in the white flag. The risk of staying pregnant and potentially seizing or having a stroke obviously outweighed the risks associated with having a premature baby. I was to be induced at 31 weeks.
I was transferred over to Legacy Emanuel…the ambulance ride felt all too familiar, almost like a bad dream. Within the hour of arriving, they began a Magnesium Drip intravenously. Magnesium sulfate is typically given to pregnant women to reduces the risk of seizure associated with preeclampsia. The drip machine made this awful noise, much like the ticking noise you hear from the monster in the show Stranger Things. And it ticked continuously for 24 hours as the mineral made its way through my veins. We nicknamed the machine Maggie. Maggie was standard protocol for my given situation and generally prescribed 24 hours before and after laboring. She came with a whole slew of side effects; weakness, warm flushing feelings, cold sweats, lowered blood pressure, lightheadedness, nausea, extreme drowsiness, and headaches to name a few. You basically feel like you have the worlds worst hangover. It didn’t seem fair to have to go through feeling so shitty when I was just about to push a tiny human out of my body, but I did what they told me and tried to without complaint.
The process took so long that I couldn’t even tell you when we started the induction or when active laboring even began, but I do remember that we tried three different techniques before my body decided to cooperate. I had the anesthesiologist paged about an hour after she inserted my epidural because I was having a severely sharp pain on my right lower side. By the time she came in to adjust the pain meds, I had reached 10 centimeters as it was "go time".
Much like Preston, it only took a handful of pushes to get the little guy out. After all, he was only 3 pounds 9 ounces. He came out crying and I got to hold him for a short duration. I never thought I could love another little person as much as I loved Preston, but my heart created more space in that moment and I was overtaken with emotion. Benson Tillman Huth was born. He peaked at me with one eye before being wrapped up by the NICU doctor for observation.
Chris went back and forth between my room and the clean room where they check out the preemies after delivery, providing me updates on our new little man. Ben needed a little more support than Preston did. He was immediately hooked up to oxygen and closely monitored, but overall, healthy little boy. I, on the other hand, started to take a turn for the worse. The pain in my lower right abdomen started to grow stronger…even with my epidural still turned on.
< < < The gruesome story to follow are not for everyone so if you want to spare yourself the dirty details, skip ahead about 10 paragraphs. > > >
After laboring the standard way they measure the recovery of your body is to measure the amount of blood loss by weighing the pads which lie underneath you. The nurses were calm, but moving frantically around my room swapping pads and talking quietly amongst one another. At one point I asked “is something wrong?” and a few of them stopped moving, looking to each other for the answer. One of the nurses said, “it’s more blood that we would like to see”.
Chris entered back into the room and following him was an isolette, the NICU doctor, the NICU respiratory therapist and a nurse. They brought Benson to my bedside, but I began to feel so nauseated that I asked them to take him away and page the hospitalist. I began to panic. “I just don’t feel good” I kept telling the nursing staff, “I have a really sharp pain in my side”. The hospitalist and an ultrasound tech arrived within minutes. At first glance I thought to myself “why the hell is my Mother-in-law here and why is she wearing scrubs!? Doctor Smith looked exactly like my mother-in-law. The small little spit-fire of a woman got right to work. She performed an ultrasound and found a large black mass inside my uterus; a blood clot. I was hemorrhaging from my uterus. “You have got to be kidding me!” I thought to myself.
Dr.Smith needed to remove the clot. She reached inside me and a gush of blood came spewing out. It was so disturbing, making a splashing noise on the floor as if someone had poured out a bucket of water. It was the worst pain of my entire life. Chris said that he'd never heard such violent screams come out of me. It was like a murder scene in a scary movie. The clots kept coming. She repeated this process 2 more times before deciding to try a Bakri balloon. This is basically a balloon they shove up you and inflate in hopes to stop the bleeding. I was so scared and in such severe pain that I began to vomit. Lying naked, covered in blood and vomiting, with 12 people scurrying around me. There was a nurse designated for everything; a nurse to tend to Chris, walking him through exactly what was happening to me, a nurse to hold my vomit bag, a nurse to hold a washcloth over my eyes. It might have felt like a bunch of bees zipping around at the time, but Chris said it looked like a well-oiled machine. They all knew their part and did a damn good job at it.
After numerous physical removals of blood clots, a failed attempt at the Bakri balloon and the loss of A LOT of blood, it was decided I needed emergency surgery to try and stop the hemorrhage. Throughout this entire process, Chris remained incredibly calm – I don’t know how, but he did; most likely shock. Due to the magnitude of the hemorrhage I had lost so much blood that I needed a transfusion before attempting surgery. I was given 4 pints of blood. This was considered a Class 3 hemorrhage, which equates to about 40 percent of total blood volume. Chris said at this point I was grey. I remember my lips were so dry, they were cracking and felt like they were going to bleed. They only allowed me ice chips during the transfusion process as I would head into surgery shortly and they worried I may choke on my own vomit.
As they wheeled me into surgery the anesthesiologist met me once again. She explained to me that they were going to try to turn my epidural up higher in hopes that it would help with the pain and could avoid putting me under. I begged her to put me under even knowing that there was a fairly strong chance I could have respiratory failure due to all the medications I had received in the last 24 hours. I begged, said a Hail Mary, begged, said another Hail Mary and the next thing I remember was waking up in the ICU.
The surgery I had undergone was called a Uterine Embolization. Chris said the radiologist described it like this: “We will make an incision no larger than a pinhead and shoot a chemical through her veins to find the site of the hemorrage. Then, like the magic school bus, this chemical will travels down the veins to the site of the hemorrhage and create a clot. Truly mind-blowing and it worked. I do not know the name of the radiologist who performed my surgery, but I am forever grateful.
When I awoke in the ICU I was still in immense pain. Chris, my parents, and my sister were all there and took turns coming in to hold my hand as only two family members could be in the room at the same time. My mom walked me through breathing exercises and my sister said that everything is okay. Because of all the trauma my body had undergone in the last 48 hours, the ICU staff was instructed to give me nothing more than Tylenol. When I locked eyes with my Dad he knew that this was unacceptable. I didn’t know it at the time, but apparently he handed the nurse her ass letting her know that she better call the hospitalist ASAP or there was going to be a big problem. Go Dad. I was prescribed a low dose morphine drip, which I was able to fire off every 15 minutes with the touch of a button. I was finally able to get the relief I needed and fell asleep.
The next morning I joked with the nurse that I probably pushed my morphine button a ton. She opened up her palm and inside she had used a pen to make tick marks each time I pressed the button. 26 times. I pushed it 26 times!
Abby came to visit. The first phrase out of her mouth was “Kate, you almost died”. My response was “When do I have to go back on the Magnesium Drip.” I was so over the pain, there was no way at this point it could get any worse. Out of the three life-threatening things that can occur to a woman during pregnancy and labor, I had survived two of them. I was transferred over to another unit where they continued to monitor my recovery.
Abby and the hospitalist decided that my body had been through enough and that perhaps the Magnesium Drip would be too much for it to handle. I was transferred to another unit for my recovery. Within 6 hours I began to have a headache and my blood pressure spiked again. It was decided that Maggie would be the safest decision. I thought to myself, “This is what Hell must feel like”. All the pain aside, I had not seen my baby in 3 days and couldn’t even tell you the last time I had seen my little girl. It felt like there wasn’t a light at the end of the tunnel and I was physically, mentally, and emotionally drained. I was hooked back up to Maggie for 24 more hours, half of which I was also given a Valium so I could numb the pain and pass the time. The nurses referred to the Valium as “Vitamin E, Vitamin Everything”. Within the hour of the drip being turned off, I started to feel somewhat normal. The nursing staff said when I felt up to it, I could be wheeled to the NICU to meet my little boy.
At this point, things were starting to look up. My physical recovery wasn’t an easy battle either. I lost 30 pounds in less than two weeks. I was on blood pressure meds every 4 hours. And I suffered from severe post-partum depression and anxiety. Oddly, the one thing I never really worried about the entire time I was faced with death, was the care for my son. The NICU does unimaginable things and the comfort I felt knowing he would be in the best hands possible helped me get through the worst time of my life. Of course, Abby, Dr. Smith, and the incredible nursing staff at Legacy Emanual saved my life, but my husband Chris saved my spirit. To this day I don’t know how I suckered this amazing man into marrying me, but I did.
Every day got better. Slowly. I was too weak to stay at the NICU in Benson's room, so Chris drove me to Randall every day to visit. Seeing the familiar faces of the nurses at the NICU was like visiting with distance aunts. I remember Lynn and Kathy from our first go around there with Preston. They had been with the NICU at Randall for over 20 years. The NICU has made several updates since P was born. Along the doors hung a banner with each babies name, created with love and care by the wonderful family liaison and Ben’s dry erase wall displayed a giraffe.
Preston had been staying with my mom, our neighbors, and my sisters family during our hospital duration. I will never forget picking her up from my sister and Preston not wanting to even so much as look at me. I could sense her feelings of abandonment and although I completely understood and knew it would take time, I was crushed.
Benson stayed at the hospital for almost a month. It really didn’t feel like that much time to me as I spent most of my day sleeping to recover. The blood transfusion left me severely anemic so doing much of anything was difficult. Along with the postpartum depression and physical restrictions, I was also experiencing pre-menopausal symptoms due to the embolization. For months I had sleep problems, nightmares, and severe night sweats. And still to this day I get hot flashes.
In the weeks to follow life began to fall into place again. Benson was discharged from the hospital, a healthy and happy little boy, Preston had turned into quite the mama's little helper and I grew stronger every day. Both of my kids came into this world small, but man they were mighty little fighters.
Even as a small child my parents joked that I would cross my arms, stomp my feet and say “I’m patient!” when I eagerly awaited something. I think about how much I’ve grown through this process and how it has forced me to practice patience. Be patient with your body. Be patient with time. Be patient with others. I also think it’s rather humerous that neither of my children could be patient enough to greet me at 40 weeks. In time, I will teach them this art.
I still hear the noises from the NICU in my head from time to time. I don’t think I will ever forget them. My laboring experiences are something that will probably haunt me forever. I truly have developed a new appreciation for life. Regardless of all the pain I went through and all the suffering I had to endure, in the end, I am thankful. I am thankful for this experience, as it has made me a better person, a better mom, a better wife. I am thankful for the two beautiful children I was able to bring into this world. And I am thankful that I was blessed with three babies all along. 3 was a magic number.