Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The alarms came back

The alarms came back today.  Not the ones of the NICU.  Today they were the ones from the morning Ethan was born.  When I was laying alone in my ante-partum room with my Non-Stress Test on.

Today I was at my desk at work and heard an alarm, a bell of sorts, that I hadn't heard there before.  My office is in Radiation Oncology, so I am accustomed to various noises, but this one I wasn't used to.  Work-wise everything was fine, thankfully.  But the alarm sounded just like the one I heard during that NST.

I found myself jumping backwards quickly, looking around for something wrong, grabbing my belly.  Only there was no baby there.  He's already gone.

My mind went right back to that sound.  I was laying on my left side, the nurses had just left me for a minute to check on another patient.  The door was open from my room to the hallway.  After 10 days of multiple NSTs I knew that the nurses could monitor and see the results of the NST from their desk.  The nurses station I never actually saw since I never left my room.  This was the morning I wasn't feeling great, kind of like I had the flu.  Some nausea, body aches and chills.  Thankfully I had requested they do the NST earlier than usual that day, I was worried something was off.

The nurses had left for a minute or two, not a big deal - I was used to being alone in my room certainly.  And then the alarms went off from the NST.  A loud, abrasive, bell-like sound.  Clearly designed to signify a problem.  (One of the nurses today at work said it sounded like a Code alarm, and yes it does)  I knew something wasn't right, but tried to remain calm.  And then the personal care assistants, nurses and doctors started to flood in.  And quickly.  There was no more "well, let's wait and see."  It was "we aren't waiting for the IV nurse any longer, you are going down to labor and delivery now."    Josh wasn't there, I had just called him about 15 minutes prior telling him to hurry up into Boston, I had a feeling the baby was coming.

It was "so this is what we have been talking about.  You are going to have your baby today."  But it was still 12 weeks too early.  A strange mix of feelings.  Sure, I was terrified that I was delivering a baby 3 months too early.  But I also had an odd sense of peace about me, despite the organized chaos going on around me.  I think God granted me his grace, to appreciate those last moments of pregnancy, those last moments I held Ethan inside of me.

I laid very still as the alarms went on and off, signifying that Ethan's heart rate was far too high.  The nurses, Kathy and Marty, had to tell me to change into a johnny.  I remember thinking, why?  How could it be time for me to need a johnny?  That was very strange.  Lovely Eileen packed up all of my belongings for me, as I just watched her.  The little room that had become my home for 10 days, the space I had hoped would be my home for 6 more weeks, was being packed away in haste.

The stretcher to transfer me was in the hallway.  I actually got to walk into the hallway (first time in 10 days).  I remember freezing, because I was becoming septic - I had bad chills.  I remember covering up with the thin white hospital sheet on the stretcher, and using that sheet to gently wipe my tears away.  This was not the way I was supposed to go into labor.  Not the way anyone should have to deliver their baby.  It should be a time of excitement, of joy.  Not of fear and anxiety.

I remember Kathy and Marty both bringing me down in the elevator.  Working in a hospital I initially thought, how come I am getting two nurses to do that?  Instead of one nurse and maybe a transporter?  Oh, that's because this isn't good.    Kathy told me in the elevator to ask to get the eighth floor for my post-partum room.  I couldn't believe I was going to need a post-partum room that day.

Kathy went back after we got off of the elevator and Marty stayed to give the report to my L & D nurse. Her name was also Kathy.  It's interesting the dynamics between colleagues, especially from different floors.  They were nice to each other, but I could tell they had different ways of operating.  My L & D nurse Kathy was a gift from God.  No doubt about it.  She was there with me the entire way, even when Josh wasn't there.  I was still alone you see.  I remember realizing that I was Kathy's only patient, learning that she was the charge nurse (or whatever you all the nurse who is the most experienced on shift) and that she had been pulled off of other's cases to care for Ethan and I.  Not good to deliver at 28 weeks 2 days.  You know it's very serious when you get the best of the best.  When residents aren't allowed to come into your room at The Brigham, you know it's tense.

Kathy was amazing, our personalities clicked right away.  I love her.  Pretty sure she loved us too.  I told her that I was OK, but that I am a "crier."  When overwhelmed the tears just come...and that's what was happening.  She even joined in with an appropriate tear or two.  Kathy and Dr. Mansour gave me a bunch of medications - I lost count after 5 or so, to try to get my infection under control.  They were trying to avoid a c-section since I had delivered massive babies naturally with no problems.  The Pitocin was cranked as high as it could go, but the contractions didn't end up causing me to dilate fast enough.

I remember laughing so hard 2 times that morning.  Yes, laughing to the point of tears.  This is rather inappropriate - so beware if you read on.  One of the medications they gave me was to bring my fever down ASAP, so it had to be given rectally.  Yup, I have no shame after delivering 4 babies.  Dr. Mansour made some kind of joke about it.  I remember thinking all of the male patients at work (and any male I have known) complains about having their prostate examined.  So, after Dr. Mansour's comment about the procedure I said "is that what men complain about?  That was nothing.  Pelvic exams are much worse."  Dr. Mansour stopped in his tracks and said "what are you talking about?  Anal sex?"  Of course I said "What?  NO!!!  Prostate exams!!!"  And Kathy, Dr. Mansour and I proceeded to laugh hysterically.  Kathy then commented that this wasn't your typical conversation between Dr. Mansour and his patients.  Well, I would hope not.

The second thing that made me laugh was when Josh finally arrived we decided it was time for an emergency c-section.  He had to get gowned up.  I had been worried his 6'6" frame and size 15 shoe wouldn't fit into the gowns.  Kathy assured me he would.  Josh was such a good sport, he went into the bathroom and changed.  I was surrounded by doctors and nurses and look over their shoulders to see Josh stuffed into a far too-small blue jumpsuit.  It was hilarious.  Laughter broke out again and someone said "comic relief is a good thing."  One of the nurses had to go get scrubs for Josh to wear.

More staff came in, this time from the NICU.  I had gotten a tour of the NICU less than 2 days prior, though Josh had never seen it before.  The NICU nurse offered to give Josh a quick tour, but there was no time.

You can see how a simple trigger, an alarm from work, can bring this flooding back.  I can't get the thoughts to stop until I think it through, remembering it back.  Hoping this entry will be enough for me to move forward tonight, otherwise I'll have to take a Benadryl to sleep I guess.


  1. Here's hoping that you are able to get a good night's sleep, Annie. Sending you lots of love for your dreams. ~Robin

  2. Hi Annie, I found your blog through the Capture Your Grief Facebook page. I'm participating in that, too.

    I'm so sorry that your Ethan died. He was beautiful. I also lost a child recently, a daughter, Chiara at 22 weeks gestation. It's been 2 months since her death. So much of what you write in your various posts is familiar to me. Thank you for your reflections, and for being brave enough to share them. I am doing the same. Here's my blog: http://clearbrightstar.blogspot.com/. ~ Aurelia

    1. Aurelia,
      Thank you for reading this and for commenting. I am so very sorry your daugther Chiara died. It's so cruel. I look forward to journeying with you through your blog - I find it very helpful to share this experience with others who know what it is like from the inside.

      So much love to you and Chiara. - Annie