It started with my weekly trip to the OB. The baby wasn’t due for two more weeks and I was feeling a better that day, the reflux that had been plaguing me for a week had gone down to a dull roar. I felt like a wimp because although I thought it was just reflux…it was like no pain I’d ever felt before. I was thinking labor was going to be a piece of cake! I lost 5 pounds that last week just because of nausea and pain.
My regular OB was on Christmas vacation, so I saw an alternate that I had met previously and liked just as much. My blood pressure was still mildly elevated, but nothing to freak out about. Just to be safe, she continued to run blood work and urinalysis to make sure the BP wasn’t causing other problems. The good news was that I was already dilated 3 cm and 75% effaced. I was so happy things were going so well.
I didn’t make it out of the hospital before I got an urgent message to come back upstairs and see the OB again. It was at that point that she told me I didn’t have reflux…I had something called HELLP syndrome, which destroys red blood cells and consumes platelets among other bad stuff. It affects 1 in 1000 pregnant women and the only cure is to deliver the baby. I found out that the pain I’d been having for the last week was actually my liver rebelling. In short, my blood work was not very good.
I’d been planning for a natural birth. Not only natural – but a hypnosis-birth. I’d been working for the last 2.5 months on a birth hypnosis program and it was going really well – I was actually looking forward to labor. I was completely against most birth interventions and had I been in the states, I probably would have planned for a home birth with a midwife. All of that is just to give you an idea of how anti-intervention I was. My birthplan was all unicorns and daisies because I assumed I would have a normal, healthy, natural birth…and then I got HELPP Syndrome.
By this time, it’s around 5 pm. The OB lets me read up on HELLP, and advised me I’d be going directly upstairs for induction. I called my DH and first yelled at him for not having finished his part of the hypnosis birth partner study guide (funny now, since I never got to use any of it!) Then I told him to rush home to repack/finish packing my suitcase and await our friend who was coming to take care of the dogs. Poor Jim. I continued to call him to yell at him for not being at the hospital with me, all the while reminding him not to forget to pack something else that I determined would be absolutely necessary for the birth/hospital stay, at the same time urging him to hurry up!
In the meantime, the nurse is setting up all sorts of IV lines and every time the doctor comes in, it’s more bad news and more interventions. She talked to her counterparts in Germany and in the states and decided that it was too risky to treat me there because they don’t have an ICU or the blood products I might need. It was too risky to fly me to the military hospital in Germany, so I was left with going to a local Italian hospital.
My heart sunk. I knew at this point, that I was destined for a C-section. There was no way I would even get an induction once I was transferred. This was my absolute worst nightmare and it was coming true. The OB prepared me ahead of time for what was to come. She told me that she could express my wishes, but she had no authority once I was admitted. She mentioned that the hospital was very up to date technology-wise, despite its resemblance to a 2 star hotel. I guess the broken stepstool they tried to get me to use was the first clue. Seriously, it was completely missing one of the treads!
My DH was sending me sent me funny texts to cheer me up while he followed the ambulance and when we finally arrived at the ambulance bay (i.e., the Italian smoking section) they proceeded to offload me….and drop me! All I remember is a large drop, and my OB yelling, “Watch the cigarette!” as some old Italian man came running over to my assistance….and the nurse who kept saying, “I’m so sorry” over and over and over.
Once in, I had a quick exam and ultrasound by the surgeon. He made the decision to do a C-section (Surprise!) and off I went to the L&D ward. Everyone was running and there was no time to even stop and think. I met the anesthesiologist who informed me that he would be knocking me out completely. That was definitely NOT part of my birth plan! We argued back and forth in a mixture of Italian and English for the next 20 minutes. Eventually I won. I was not going to miss out on this birth completely! It’s still funny how an intervention that I was so against to start with (epidural) became the one thing I fought for. Unfortunately, they told me that my DH couldn’t be there because of concerns regarding sterility in the operating room. I thought this was pretty amusing once I made it to the OR, considering the only person I saw scrub was one of the surgeons, the anesthesiologist was chewing gum and blowing bubbles, and they appeared to be allowing half of the hospital personnel into the OR! Oh yeah - and as they wheeled me into the OR, the guy who opened the door was smoking a cigarette!
When the surgeon found out that I didn’t know the sex, he counted to three right before he held her upside down for me to see. In my drug-induced haze, I almost said, “That’s not my baby! I’m having a boy!” We had been so sure that we were having a boy, that a girl was a huge and wonderfully funny surprise. I’m so glad that we didn’t find out the sex before the birth. They whisked her away and she could really yell. She came back for a few seconds to say hi before going to the NICU. Violet Grace was born at 1050 pm, weighing 5 pounds 11 ounces. I later found out that HELLP Syndrome causes the placenta not to function as well, so that’s why she was underweight even at 38 weeks.
Instead of the maternity ward, I headed to the ICU. I spent close to the next 24 hours there in a room in the company of a bunch of naked, intubated, old men. I was the star attraction though – I got to be right in front of the observation window. It was an interesting stay. All the nurses went to sleep from around 130 to 6 am and only awoke when someone’s IV needed changing. I couldn’t sleep at all. I just watched the digital clock change from minute to minute. My only entertainment was watching the naked guy on the TV screen that was in the nurse’s office and waiting to be able to feel my feet again. My DH was able to come in to see me for about 5 minutes which was nice of them since they only have two visiting times per week! When my blood work started improving the next day, they decided I could transfer to the maternity ward that evening.
I can say that the pain from the C-section was worse than anything I’ve ever felt – I can’t believe that people elect to do them! I made it into my bed and I think that was the point that we discovered that in packing my bag, my DH packed my little black dress (he thought it was a nightgown). When the nurse asked him to get sanitary pads for me, I discovered that he had only packed those little round nursing pads. And he also thoughtfully packed a bikini top! The nurse couldn’t stop laughing. I may be the first person who was prepared for a cocktail party while at the hospital!
So that is Violet’s birth story. Nothing like what I’d imagined or hoped for, but it’s the end result that really matters :)