The Story of a Boy….well, he was much more than that to me……
Part 4: The Heartbreak
This is the 4th in the series. This is the hardest part of the story for me to write. Please bear with me.
Before I begin; let me say that this post will not be funny. And it might contain information that upsets you and not in the usual way with offensive language and politics…..but in a human, sad and guttural way. I may very well ramble at times and for all of these things: I am genuinely sorry. Please read Parts 1, 2 and 3 before reading this. It will just make more sense that way.
If I live to be a hundred I will never, ever forget that ride to the hospital. Terrified, crying, holding my husband’s hand, fluid leaking, sick, feverish and praying. I looked him in the eye as he opened the door for me to get in the car and I said to him “you do know this will most likely not end well” ….and there it was …on his face …..plain as day: blinding fear. The only other time in our now more than 20 year relationship that I have seen THAT look on HIS face was when we found our DS not breathing on that February morning not so long ago from this dark night in May. And HIS fear somehow made me calm……for the moment……
Someday, maybe someday soon~ I will begin my quest to petition hospitals and staff to treat women who come to them when their child is what they callously refer to as “pre-viability” better and in a more loving way.
Checking in to the ER; sitting on a wet towel in a wheelchair, feeling my son’s life hanging in the balance…. I told the lady at the desk that I am pregnant and I know my water has broken. She calls the labor and delivery ward….the nurse who answered asked the lady at the desk a series of questions; which the lady at the desk then asked me…..right there, in the middle of a crowded waiting room, private personal and difficult to answer questions. What happened to bring you in? What is your due date? When was your last period? No doubt the nurse on the other end of the phone was attempting to decide if I should be treated in the ER or sent on to the Labor and Delivery unit.
I answered her questions; quietly at first and then with a growing sense of dread and anger I snapped at her: LOOK I KNOW EXACTLY WHEN THIS CHILD WAS CONCEIVED; HE WAS CONCEIVED THROUGH IVF. I AM FUCKING CERTAIN OF MY DUE DATE! And the (poor) lady at the desk was taken aback. I doubt very much she even knows what IVF stands for….in any case she said to the nurse on the phone “listen she seems pretty sure, can we just send her up to you, she is very upset”. Ya think? The nurse on the phone must have told the lady at the desk that it was ok to take me to Labor and Delivery. The lady at the desk did not wait for a transporter to take me up; she herself wheeled me to Labor and Delivery. As I was getting out of the wheelchair I apologized to the lady at the desk for snapping at her and I thanked her for not making me wait in the crowded ER for someone else to push my wheelchair to L & D. She squeezed my hand and said “good luck” and I saw tears in her eyes and pity on her face.
When your pregnancy is “pre-viability” they always put you in the smallest room in L & D……little more than a broom closet really…..with barely enough room for the hospital bed; the monitor and a small, uncomfortable chair. You see they must save the **actual** Labor and Delivery rooms for women who’s babies are close to term.
In this tiny room I changed into the sandpaper like gown and got into the bed. Another nurse came in ….I assume NOT the nurse on the phone because she ask me ALL of the SAME questions over again. By this time DH had parked the car and had joined me in the tiny room. Sitting in the small, uncomfortable chair he held my hand as I related my pregnancy details and medical history to the nurse.
The first thing (after the history taking and invasive questions have been answered) they must do is to determine for certain that my water had broken. And up to that point the nurses kind of treat you with a “calm down, you might have just peed yourself why are you crying for fucks sake” attitude. This being my 6th pregnancy and 4th at successfully getting past the first trimester~~~ I already KNEW that it was my water that had broken. And yet….. as she lifted the sheets and put the tiny piece of litmus paper in the fluid on the pad between my legs….I still held my breath and held a sliver of hope that it was not amniotic fluid.
The litmus paper turned instantly and I could see her face fall from hopeful to pity JUST as instantly. And I cried…hot, silent tears at first and then full on body wracking sobbing and wailing. The nurse left the tiny room quietly to summon the midwife.
The midwife who came (with two different nurses in tow) into the tiny room was very sweet and very, very kind to us. She did not ask the same questions that I had already answered (I HATE IT when drs do that by the way)…..she asked permission to do an exam. My tears quieted; she did the exam gently and kindly. She took lots of cultures and sent them off in the hands of the two nurses to be sent to the lab. And then she sat on the edge of my bed in the tiny room and she took my hand and she explained what I already knew but that she needed to say anyway.
Your amniotic sac has ruptured and you are leaking amniotic fluid. You seem to be sick. We will do some blood work and cultures to try to figure out what is going on. We will start and IV and we will hook you to the monitor to see if you are having contractions.
And when there were no other details she said finally and reluctantly: Your baby is too small to survive. If you are in labor we will not stop it. If he is born tonight we will not be able to save him. And she gently squeezed my hand and she looked from me to my husband and she asked if we had any questions and when we silently shook our heads no, she quietly left the tiny room.
We did not sleep, my husband and I in that tiny room in the dark of a long May night. We talked, we held hands, we cried, we prayed, we answered more questions by more nurses and we greeted the coming of morning and a new shift of hospital staff with tired, haggard eyes and dread.
There was one nurse who was exceptionally kind and she “warned” us of what would happen in the next 24 hours. She said that another midwife, an OB doctor and maybe even the neonatologist would come and talk to us. She said that they would all tell the same tale: that there was no hope. But, she said, she believed in not giving up and that I should trust my heart and not give up hope until there was no other choice. Her words bolstered us and we carried that tiny seed of hope for nearly 48 more hours.
Sunday morning brought all of the things the nurse had warned us would happen. And though it was difficult to hear what the midwife and doctors had to say: somehow we still held the tiny seed of hope. Sunday also brought calls to some family and friends….trying to arrange child care for DS at home, trying to see if a friend will check the tarps on the roof to make sure they are secure should it rain, canceling plans to attend a holiday picnic later that afternoon and the one on Monday too, letting both of our bosses know we would not be at work on Tuesday….
And Sunday also brought news from the lab: I was sick of that they were sure. My white blood count was high and the cultures were growing something (what they would not know for another 24 hours they said)…..Antibiotics were started.
Sunday did not bring labor with it though. The ONLY good news was that I was not in labor….not a single contraction. The nurses repeatedly offered to take off the heart monitor part (or at least turn it down) so that I didn’t have to hear the heartbeat. I adamantly refused. Even as more fluid leaked out with every single movement and passing hour: the sound of my son’s heartbeat, strong and steady, calmed me and made the tiny seed of hope grow a little.
Monday brought new nurses, midwives and doctors. Some visitors too….family, our closest friends all with the same look of concern and pity.
Monday also brought more bad news from the lab and a very high fever for me. The lab confirmed that both the amniotic fluid and I were infected with a particularly virulent strain of the flu. Doctors and midwives came and talked to my husband and I in the tiny room. They brought stories of gloom and doom and the tiny seed of hope got even tinier.
Sometime in the night the fluid leaking from me (even as I willed it to STAY in) turned from clear to green…..I did not tell the nurse……I was too afraid of what it meant.
And then Tuesday morning the now really green foul looking and smelling fluid was accompanied by blood and another high fever for me…and the midwife on duty came and she talked to us about what that meant….and she explained that I was what they call "septic"....the infection was taking over .........and if I did not deliver my son soon that I might lose my uterus to infection and there was a very real chance I might die…..and the tiny seed of hope disappeared completely ……..and we knew…..we knew and very reluctantly began to accept that this day: Tuesday May 29, 2007 would be the day that our beloved Son would be born, would live briefly, and would die.