My Uterine Rupture and Placental Abruption (Part 2)

18 Apr

**Disclaimer: I report what I remember as I remember it. I was, however, in lots of pain and heavily drugged.**

It was a Thursday. When I woke up that morning, my baby was still in my womb, healthy and moving. My body was still intact, functioning as a safe place. My life was still giving life to my little one. And my mind was still calm, unprepared for what comes next.

Whether it began that day or over the weeks and years before, I’m not sure. But on March 28, 2019—my womb, my body—everything started to expire. The hours were numbered.

My husband, Drew, had for many weeks planned to take that day off. It was Spring Break for all three of our girls, and because I was 36 weeks pregnant and didn’t think traveling was a good idea, we were hanging around town, going a little crazy, but having fun.

We started off with a trip to the zoo. The weather was so pleasant for the first time in a long time, and I was able to stroll around and enjoy myself without much trouble. Next, we tried a new lunch place near our house, reluctantly filled the kids up on ice cream, and went home to put the younger two down for naps.

During naptime, since Drew was at home, I headed to our local community recreation center to walk some laps, something I’d done several times a week this pregnancy and in all my pregnancies. Walking is one of the few exercises actually recommended for pregnant women, and it always made me feel better physically, plus I knew it would help the ease of labor when the time came. This was the first walk in awhile where I was very energized and not uncomfortable. I walked about an hour, felt great afterward, and at home reported to Drew how amazed I was that my walk had been so easy. Next, I swayed on my birth ball and watched Jeopardy, another thing prescribed in pregnancy. That’s the birth ball, not Jeopardy—though jeopardy would be a key feature in this pregnancy soon enough.

I have since painstakingly questioned the fact that I walked that day at the zoo and at the rec, or that I sat on my birth ball, or that I let my bladder get too full on pink lemonade, or that I had accidentally squished my big belly between my van and my garage wall. Or that I just didn’t sit still, or sense it.

These are just a few of the things I confessed to my doctor upon waking from general anesthesia later that night, in incredible waves of pain and waves of guilt. She assured me over and over early on, and has so many times since, that no, that wasn’t it. That wasn’t it.

Baby Ben had been moving normally that day. I felt fine, better than usual. The thing with uterine rupture, that I’ve had to get through my head, is that you just can’t know something is wrong until suddenly everything is terribly wrong. This was your train wreck, and it was a bad one, said a NICU nurse. I’m totally fine with describing it as such. Because before the train wrecked, we were chugging right along.

At around 6:18 p.m., there is footage of me leaving my house and getting in my van, carrying dirty diapers to throw away and a large tumbler of pink lemonade. I look normal, I walk normal, and I know I feel normal. The birds chirp, the falling sun casts pretty light. It was a truly lovely day.

Leaving for UAB hospital, 2 hours and 23 minutes before Ben was delivered.

I’m leaving the girls at home with Dad again, to watch a movie and eat popcorn, while I go visit his stepdad, Poppa, recovering from recent back surgery at UAB hospital. I talked to my sister on the way over, actually saying this would have been a nice-sounding birthday for Ben—March 28—but that it certainly wouldn’t be today at this point. Plus, too early. The gas in my van was low, and I planned to address that on the way home.

When I arrived to UAB, I parked right on the main floor of the hospital, all the way down the row, last car on the right. The parking spot would be easy to describe later when I need to describe it. Some lady said, It looks like you’re about to pop, and I didn’t even get annoyed. Instead I felt sorry for her. She hadn’t gotten the now very outdated memo that said comment is highly faux paus.

I waited outside Poppa’s room for a bit, standing, feeling fine. Then someone brought me a chair, and I smiled and nodded, because people are always making very pregnant women sit even when they don’t particularly want to.

In Poppa’s room, I took in the view of the city and reviewed his hospital food menu for kicks. Here I am, already in a hospital, but this is not my hospital. My doctor isn’t here, my history isn’t here. I will be leaving here soon.

I helped my mother-in-law, Grammy, adjust Poppa’s pillows, and I took a roll off the dinner tray (with permission.) A nurse came in, everyone made small talk over my expected little one, and Poppa jokingly said, She’s going to have this baby in about 32 minutes, isn’t she? My last labor was 1 hour and 57 minutes, so while I didn’t expect to have the baby in 32 minutes (it was more like 72) deep down I knew crazier things could happen. Turns out, I didn’t know crazier things. Yet.

The premonition, feeling, dark cloud, wishful thinking or whatever you want to call it that my baby would come sooner than later had been mounting for weeks. I knew he’d be early; I’d never had a baby past 38 weeks and 4 days.

I turned down trips an hour away, I completed my before baby to-do’s in record time, I sent Drew a detailed email with subject line “If I go into labor.” Baby Ben was a big boy (my assessment, which turned out to be correct), he was number four, and I was fine for him to exit, I thought. I had texted a few friends these very words the morning of his birthday. I wish I could take that all back. But my wishing didn’t cause it either, they tell me.

On my birthday in January. Ben came nine weeks to the day later.

At some point I bent over from a sitting position to pick up that hospital food menu, which had dropped to the floor. This is my first memory of noticing something strange. I don’t know what I actually felt, by the way, so can only describe my perception of it. What I perceived was that all the sudden, Ben’s little foot had kicked high in my right abdomen, but his leg was staying extended, and the foot was seemingly stuck. Still sitting down, I pushed a while on the foot, but it didn’t budge. I stood up and had Grammy feel of it, thinking it was interesting, endearing almost.

I sat back down a while, trying to concentrate, but knowing something was building. Something was weird. It was almost like a buzzing in my ears was beginning, a countdown. That sounds a little odd, but I remember a similar feeling with third baby Sally’s birth, too. A little bit of anxiety grew, a little bit of discomfort. “His foot” would not budge, so without telling Grammy and Poppa that I was becoming nervous, I said my goodnights and headed for the car.

My first goal was to get home and put my feet up. On the elevator ride down, people asked about my belly and about my baby. I tried to be chatty and cordial, but inside I remember thinking, These people have no clue, but something is wrong here. By the time I was exiting the elevator, I thought I better make it through downtown Birmingham on over to my hospital, just one mile away. I was willing myself to be calm and in control. Yet I was already thinking: If this is how natural labor is beginning, then nope, I can’t do this. This is not as I remember. This is going to be extremely painful, this is going to be too unpredictable. I’m not even contracting yet. I won’t be able to deal with this.

I didn’t know at that time, but my insides and scars were stretching, starting to pull apart, medically termed “dehiscence.” A very different pain than natural childbirth, which I have experienced. That’s a bad pain, but a good pain. This other—my body, my mind—we somehow knew this was a very bad pain. And this was yet a preview.

Paying for my parking inside the main doors was hard. The machine was tricky as they all are, but I couldn’t really focus. I almost summoned the help of a stranger, but said a little prayer and got it working. A few times I considered staying put, flagging someone down, but this wasn’t my hospital. It’s massive. I didn’t know where to go. For these reasons, my doctors have told me not to fret over the fact I left one hospital to make it to another. It may have been harder for them to treat me quickly at UAB.

In the parking deck, I couldn’t walk without pain. Things were tender, achy, very tight. I was not contracting, but I thought maybe I was quickly dilating. Maybe my water was about to break. My body was changing. And baby was not moving, not reacting to my touch. I knew I needed to go.

I called Drew, I called his mom, I called Drew, I called his mom. Halfway to my car, his mom answered, and I told her I thought I might need her to drive me to my hospital. She didn’t hesitate, sped down the hospital elevators and ran as fast as she could to where I easily told her my car was. At her suggestion, I honked the horn to help her locate me. I had managed to get in the passenger seat without help, which had hurt, and already had it cranked up when she arrived. The low gas problem did not become a problem. Thank you, Jesus.

On the drive to my hospital, through an emptier, lighter trafficked campus due to Spring Break, I wouldn’t allow Grammy to run redlights. I was still very much actively trying to remain calm, willing myself to breathe and concentrate. Silently praying. I had to cry out in pain a few times, but I was calm. I texted Drew to meet us there; he was busy putting our kids to bed and didn’t have his phone.

When we arrived, Grammy dropped me off at the labor center door, and instructed a lady to escort me up the elevators. A time stamp on the parking ticket read 8:06 p.m., and Ben still had 35 long minutes left in his little home, now crumbling.

I asked the lady’s name, and she was Nicole. She said she was happy to help me, skipped getting off on the floor she’d already called, and rode with me and walked with me to the OB emergency room doors on the fourth floor. I wish I could go back and thank Nicole for that, and tell her what had happened next.

This was my third time there this month, which I wrote about in detail here. I caught the familiar face of nurse who’d seen me on March 14, and the familiar face of a doctor who’d seen me on March 5, but this visit was not familiar. It wasn’t the same. I hardly filled out the sign-in sheet, I hardly wrote my name. I was able to verbally give my social security number, and I made it known quite quickly: my baby is not moving. I’m in pain. Something’s wrong. You have got to help me.

Nurses are good at remaining calm, too, and doing her job, this nurse wasn’t just going to take my word for it. She had me lie down on a triage bed that I’d laid down on twice before, and quickly hooked me up to monitors and asked lots of questions. While I can slowly and meticulously carve out every detail of what happened in this room, it was not a slow scene. It was hectic. Everything seemed very fast and chaotic. I don’t remember there being any downtime, no sighs of relief or feelings that I could relax. My sole job was to convince everyone something was wrong; it didn’t take much.

I was given a gown to put on, but I had to have assistance undressing and redressing. At first, Baby Ben popped up on the monitors with a heart rate in the 160s. I was so thankful, but I was extremely perplexed and still in high pain, feeling very tight and tender. When is the last time you were in for an office visit? Monday. Have you experienced any bleeding? None. (An amazing fact, actually.) Any fluid leaking? No. Are you contracting? I don’t think so.

The nurse checked me quickly, and I had not progressed at all. For just a brief bit I was frustrated with this. All this pain and no change? You’re kidding me. But frustration was soon replaced with fear. Something is terribly wrong. I am positive. I’m not even in labor. What could this be?

At some point, Drew showed up with our pajama-clad, barefoot girls, who ended up being there for the whole thing. His mom had gotten ahold of him. Everyone but Dad was escorted to an adjacent waiting room, and I immediately informed him with strong confidence that something was wrong, very wrong. He later told me he knew, and that he had believed.

Drew and me in August 2018, five weeks along. We had found out I had a baby in my belly just the week before.

The nurse asked me to slide this way, move that way, but there was so much pain and I wasn’t obeying her very well. She kept begging me to work with her. And I kept begging for her to help me, begging for the doctor to come. Not long after Drew arrived, the nurse looked at the monitors and said, Do you feel like you’re having a contraction right now?

I don’t know what she saw, but right then, it happened. A separation of muscle and tissue long closed, a seven-and-a-half-year-old scar long forgotten, became a fresh and new wound. This was the train wreck.

Read Part 3

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