The Roller Coaster

My triage nurses walked me across the hall and delivered me into the hands of two Labor and Delivery nurses for that floor.

I was made to take off the gown I’d gotten from triage to wipe my body down with antiseptic wipes. Every inch had to be done and I could not use the same wipe for more than one limb.

Then, I had to change into a new gown before I got into the bed.

“That was crazy,” I laughed. “Is that because of COVID?”

“The wipes?” one of the nurses asked.

I nodded my head yes.

“Oh, no, that’s something we do as precaution to wash off outside germs. Just in case you need emergency surgery, like a C-section, you’ll be cleaner and less likely to transfer germs.”

She said this rather casually, even though my heart just fell through my butt.

I laid down on the bed and the routine I experienced earlier commenced once more. One nurse asked me questions about my life, my pregnancy and my reason for being there, as the other nurse clipped on my hospital bracelets and got me hooked up to monitors.

Finally, they divulged our plan of action.

I would be put on an IV drip of Magnesium Sulfate to slow or stop these contractions. I would receive one steroid shot now in the left buttocks and then another in the right, twenty-four hours apart from one another. Should they be unable to stop the contractions, and therefore labor, these steroids were to strengthen the twins’ lungs and prepare them for the NICU, should they arrive within the next few days.

And, of course, the belly belts for monitoring the twins heart rates and my contractions would remain tightly bound through the night. I had a blood pressure cuff on that tested my blood pressure every hour and a monitor on my finger to measure my heart rate.

Jimmy and I were assured by the nurses that this happens all the time and these steps usually do the trick to pause early onset labor. How lucky we were to have caught this early enough. They predicted we’d be back at home by tomorrow and we found great comfort in this. We told all our family members not to worry….we’d be home in hours!

I was warned that I may feel “warm” because of the magnesium. But that didn’t prepare me for the flames of hell that were sent through my veins. Now I love to exaggerate a story here and there, but I am not embellishing. My cheeks flushed and I began to burn from the inside out.

When the nurse came back to check on me, I think she could tell immediately how I was reacting to the meds.

“Are you a little hot?”

A little.

“Uhm, yes…is there anyway we can turn the air down in here?”

She turned it on the lowest setting, but this made no difference. As the hours progressed, she was bringing me ice water and ice packs to put under my armpits and on the nape of my neck.

Jimmy and I attempted to sleep as best we could in this new, overwhelming setting. He had set himself up on the couch provided, but sleep didn’t come. Between the monitors beeping, the blood pressure cuff pulsing every hour, and the IV screaming to be refilled, we remained alert.

By 4:30 am, the time had come to stop the Magnesium Sulfate drip (aka Satan’s medicine). Praise be to God and I prayed that I might start to feel more normal and less like I was set to flames.

At 6:00 am, the nurse came in to test my fasted blood sugar levels. They were high, which was to be expected, as steroids can raise these numbers.

At 7:30 am, the night nurse came to introduce us to the new daytime nurse that would be caring for us.

She won’t be caring for us long, I thought. We’re going home!

Our nurse let us know that my doctor would be doing rounds during lunchtime and we could expect to see him. He would give us more information and indicate our next steps based on his professional opinion.

Jimmy spent the morning juggling between working and attending meetings remotely and being my caregiver. We discussed all the things we had to get done when we got home, like install the car seats and sanitize bottles.

By 11:00 am, I could hear my doctor’s voice down the hallway and felt quite joyful…hopefully he’d give us the green light.

However, when he came in, he was less enthusiastic than normal.

“Hi there, Megan. How are you feeling this morning?”

“Well, actually, I feel a little nauseas, but I think I just need more water.”

“Or it could be that you’re still having contractions,” he laughed.

Oh.

“I’m going to go ahead and check your cervix, to make sure you haven’t dilated anymore.”

No, no, no, no. Anything but that again. I actually might take that magnesium over this.

“One to two centimeters…” he said to the nurse, who was frantically petting my head and telling me it would be okay.

As he removed his gloves, his head was shaking.

“You know, it’s just too early for this. I’m going to go ahead and prescribe a second medication that will hopefully stop you from getting any further. It’s actually a blood pressure medication used to relax muscles and your uterus is a muscle we’re trying to relax. You’ll be taking that every six hours.”

He asked the nurse for my latest blood pressure readings.

“Yes, you can handle this just fine. We’ll see how this works. Any questions?”

“Can I get up and walk around? My hips and lower back are feeling sore from sitting.”

“I’m sorry, but no. You can sit in different chairs if you like, but I’m afraid I’m going to have to ask you to keep movement at a minimum. Anything else?”

“Uhm…are we going home today?” I asked sheepishly.

It was a dumb question and I already knew the answer. It was more hopeful than serious.

“I’m afraid not. I’m sorry. It’ll just be better if we can monitor you and these babies through today and overnight.”

I told him I understood and thanked him for everything. He made sure to mention how wonderfully the boys were doing. Great heart beats, strong movements.

He let me know that he had contacted the neonatologist (the doctor for the NICU) and she’d be by to see us to answer any questions we might have should these guys make an early entry. He also requested I be seen by the hospital dietician and diabetes educator, as I’d been diagnosed with gestational diabetes not five days earlier.

Jimmy and I were bummed, to say the least. We were so certain we’d get to go home, to have a little more time to prepare before our two blessings arrived.

The nurse came by to give me the new medication and fix the three monitors on my stomach.

I spent the next few hours watching junk, reality TV and staring at the portion of the monitor that displays contractions.

Dare I say…they were slowing! The humps in the line started straightening out. After a few hours, my line was straight. No contractions!

At this point, the belts were cutting into my back. They must be tied tightly to pick up fetal heart rates and muscle contractions. They were beginning to induce back pain and I believed I would have permanent indentions by the end of this.

When the nurse reappeared, I asked if it was possible to have a break from the monitors (mainly the belts). She told me she’d have to call my doctor, but would do her best to give me a break.

She was the best.

About an hour later, I was told that because my contractions had stopped and the boys sounded healthy, I was allowed a two-hour break from the monitors and from the bed (hospital beds are NOT as comfortable as one might believe).

I was informed that my hospital sheets would need to be changed and I needed to shower and get into a new gown. Instead of wipes, I was given antiseptic soap with very specific instructions for use (I had to apply it all over my body, wait two minutes, apply again, and then rinse). I was told, again, if surgery was needed, this prepared my skin for cleanliness and lessened the chances of passing on germs to my children.

Why must we speak of surgery again? It made my heart drop every time.

After my shower, I was allowed to chill out on the couch with Jimmy while he worked. It was amazing to be detached from monitors for two babies, contractions, blood pressure and my hear rate. It was magical to go to the bathroom without unplugging wires or rolling machines into the bathroom with me.

By the time my two hours were up, I felt ready to tackle more monitoring, more medication and my last steroid shot.

When nighttime rolled around, I was told that the boys were so strong and doing so well, I only had to sleep with the monitor for contractions. Maybe I’d actually get some sleep, which I knew would be beneficial for these boys and me.

Things continued to look up for us. We were told we could probably go home tomorrow. The medication seemed successful. We were ready to sleep in our own bed, sit on our couch and live in more space than a tiny hospital room.

At 6:00 am on Friday morning, my nurse came in to prick my fingers and get my fasted blood sugar reading.

And that’s when I felt them.

The contractions were back. My belly was seizing up, tightening and squeezing. I looked at the monitor, but it was flat lined. That’s when I realized the monitor had flipped up and was no longer catching the contractions.

Our daytime nurse came in to take my vitals and peek at the monitor. She saw the contractions, too, and said she’d let my doctor know.

Some time later, she revisited us to discuss this new plan of action. Over the phone, my doctor stressed how important it was to get these contractions to stop. He was ready to try even more.

Our new action plan consisted of the following: I would be put on an IV drip that contained antibiotics. Though I showed no signs of having any kind of infection, an infection can cause pre-term labor, so I assume my doctor was checking all the possible boxes. I would continue taking the medication from yesterday that had worked during the day and into the night. Finally, I would be put on a muscle relaxer in the form of a shot. I would have three shots every six hours. They would be administered twenty minutes apart, alternating arms, because it was possible it would raise my heart rate too high (my heart rate is already very high due to increased blood volume with twins. I was only able to handle two shots before my heart rate became dangerously high).

If I ever see another needle, it will be too soon…

I’d had a needle in my hand for IV’s the last three days. I’d taken two steroid shots in the tush. I was receiving finger pricks two hours after eating to monitor my blood sugar levels (which were out of control, thanks to the steroids). I took one shot in each arm of muscle relaxer medication (which felt like fire ant bites).

By 8:30 on Friday morning, I was defeated. I felt like I failed, like my body had failed. I hadn’t done my job to keep them growing to 36 weeks. I wanted to go home. I was physically and mentally exhausted. Would I have anything left if it was time to birth these boys?

Jimmy was in a meeting. The nurse had left. I was alone in my hospital room. And I surrendered. I went to God and laid this at His feet. This was too much for me to take on myself. I told Him that I surrender to His will. If this was our journey, if we were meant to meet our boys now, that’s okay. I begged for the strength to take another shot in the arm, another IV, and for the strength to get through labor if that was in the cards for me. I asked to go home, I asked for more time. I asked that He let them cook a little longer.

And He made me still. And in the stillness was the deep thumps of my sons’ heartbeats. The monitor picks up their movements, so I listened as Twin B rolled to a new position and as Twin A got the hiccups (again). And I thanked Him for the lives that were inside me and for two strong heart beats. And then I felt peace, no matter what verdict my doctor would reach or the answers we’d be given. I felt things would work out fine.

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