I have written this story many times…in my head. Every pregnancy and delivery story are different, and it is my hope that by sharing mine, that I can provide some support, insight, or information that might help someone else.
After I began jotting some notes for this post, I realized that to review both my pregnancy (and the events leading up to it) as well as my delivery story, this was going to be a very long post. Therefore I decided to split it into two posts, so look for Part II to emerge next week.
My pregnancy was a blessing — after several years of trying, my husband and I were able to conceive our son and couldn’t have been happier. I took a fertility drug called Clomid to try to conceive. Because Clomid thins the lining of the uterus (which helps make a fertilized egg stick to the wall of the uterus and grow into a baby), most doctors only allow a woman to take Clomid for around six cycles. Six short months to try to conceive and hope that it’s successful on the $4.00 generic prescription of Clomid. When my sixth month rolled around and I wasn’t yet pregnant, I discussed with my midwife about trying one more month. One more month, and then I’d stop taking it. Our medical plan and health organization didn’t offer advanced fertility treatments beyond the prescription of Clomid and an in-office procedure called Intrauterine Insemination (IUI), which we had also tried. Basically, it was this, or nothing, and then the midwife said their next course of treatment for us, was referral to the local reproductive medicine clinic where IVF is performed. You know, those treatments that start at around $14,000 each. The ones we couldn’t afford.
I think the midwife felt a tad bit of sympathy towards me when I told her that my husband and I wouldn’t be able to afford IVF and that the Clomid and whatever treatments our medical plan offered were our only options. She agreed in June, 2011, to the additional month of trying the Clomid, which was also unsuccessful. Deciding to take a break, my husband and I chose to spend some time re-evaluating. It was summertime, we attended a few weddings, grilled dinner outside nearly every night, and hung out with friends. I was of course tremendously disappointed. I felt like a failure, and I felt like my body was failing me. Some women get pregnant on accident, yet I could conceive one little baby for us. What a waste. I was feeling really down on myself, but I wasn’t anywhere near ready to give up on having a child. I decided to wait until October, when my company would present the open enrollment options for medical benefits for the following year. I planned to see if the medical plans being offered for 2012 had any additional fertility benefits, and if switching to a different medical provider might provide me access to more treatment options. The baby plan was put on hold.
In August, I began feeling strangely, just a little off. My balance seemed different, and I wondered if I was coming down with an ear infection. Twice, I tripped over my own two feet at work, causing no harm but of course, embarrassment. I felt like I had a small brick in my stomach, and after mentioning it to my mother on the phone, she suggested I take a pregnancy test. I still had a bunch of tests at home from when I was on the Clomid and using ovulation predictor kits and pregnancy tests frequently, so I went home from work on a Thursday afternoon, took a test, and waited. Two pink lines. I couldn’t believe it.
I’ve mentioned in previous posts that my husband and I had gone through college together, and then had our son in the middle of it. Well, that Thursday evening that I had taken the pregnancy test after work, was our first night of class at a new school we had just transferred to. Our plan for the evening was to meet at home, grab a quick bite for dinner, and head to our new class together. My husband came upstairs to find me when he arrived home, and I blurted out that I had just taken a pregnancy test and that it was positive. We were both shell-shocked, but had our schooling obligation to meet as well. We tabled the discussion and headed off to class, both of us in a daze about what we had learned in the 10 minutes that we were both home together and could speak freely. When our class ended at 10 p.m., I asked him to drive me to the grocery store, where I purchased a digital pregnancy test. I needed to see the word, to shake the feeling that the pregnancy wasn’t real, to wonder if I could have incorrectly deciphered those two pink lines. Digital pregnancy tests simply display the words “pregnant” or “not pregnant”, which is pretty difficult to mess up. The digital test displayed “pregnant”. But, I had been reading online for months about things like false positives on pregnancy tests, so decided to get in touch with my health clinic first thing the next morning.
That next morning was Friday, and I excused myself from work to go outside and make my phone call. I reached an advise nurse who explained that the brand of digital test I had used was highly accurate and she had no doubt that I was truly pregnant. She offered to email me some information about taking care of myself properly for the pregnancy and made my first prenatal appointment for three weeks later. Based on cycle calculations, I was about five weeks pregnant, meaning, I had gotten pregnant the month AFTER I went off of the Clomid.
Two weeks later, I got my first real pregnancy craving. I wanted lasagna, good lasagna, and Stouffer’s wasn’t going to cut it. I ordered take out from an Italian restaurant for our dinner, and couldn’t even finish half of my lasagna when I found myself in the bathroom, vomiting violently. Hence began the rest of my pregnancy – where I moved from the blissful awareness of the new baby growing inside me, to the less than idyllic phase of morning sickness – where I would remain for the rest of my pregnancy.
Hyperemesis Gravidarum is a condition of persistent nausea, vomiting and sensitivity to odors throughout the duration of pregnancy. Whereas most women with morning sickness see a steep decline in their nausea as they near the second trimester, women with Hyperemesis Gravidarum experience this pretty much the whole pregnancy. As my prenatal checkups wore on, we learned that I was losing weight, instead of gaining. First, my OB had me try a combination of pressure point relief, Unisom (yes, the sleeping aid. Something with the ingredients in this medication can ward off morning sickness-type symptoms). All it really did was make me sleepy, surprise surprise. Mid-pregnancy, while my normal OB was out of town, I saw a different doctor for one of my prenatal checkups who said that we had to get me gaining weight, not losing. The concern of course was that the baby, and myself, weren’t getting the correct amount of nutrients or sustenance, and he prescribed Zofran, an anti-nausea medication that is sometimes prescribed during pregnancy to treat Hyperemesis Gravidarum, after trials of other drugs and treatments have failed. I developed more of a routine after that. I would purposely wake up early in the morning, take my Zofran, read my pregnancy books, until I felt the urge to get sick. I was still getting sick but it was less frequent, the Zofran never did cure the nausea completely, but it was more tolerable. I could actually plan things around it and anticipate it, and then go about the rest of my life. So, I performed this routine in the mornings, and then I would then get in the shower and get ready for work and start my day. There were a ton of foods I couldn’t stomach, and I never did find a prenatal vitamin that didn’t make me want to yack. But I tried to maintain sustenance best I could, and by Christmas, my belly showed that the baby was growing just fine.
As my pregnancy progressed, I never did gain weight, but I was able to handle more foods and stick to a schedule. I left work daily at 12 p.m. on the dot, my stomach was actually growling by that point and my baby wanted lunch, becoming more active and elbowing my bladder. The last few months of pregnancy, I developed a horrid case of heartburn that was only satisfied with yet another prescription drug, Famotidine. Despite my own health and how I felt, all checkups, tests and ultrasounds indicated that our baby was growing well.
I am blessed with a generous amount of vacation time at work, and as my April 21st, 2012 due date rolled around, I scheduled the two weeks prior to my due date off from work, with the thought that I wouldn’t really know how I felt that late in my pregnancy and that I probably would be too tired to work productively. Two weeks away from my pregnancy, I discussed with my manager to stay on one more week because I was feeling pretty good, and had no indication that baby was coming soon. However, by the end of the first week I should have been off, I was pretty exhausted, and spoke with my manager again. He had me cracking up telling me how nervous he’d been that I was going to go into labor at work, and said that birthing babies at the office was strictly forbidden! He also made a few cracks about feeling like he should have saran-wrapped my chair just as a precaution, and said he felt relieved, for him and for me, that I was deciding to bow out now. He confided that it had been discussed in managers meetings of what the staff would do if I had gone into labor at work, and that “protocol” dictated they’d have to call an ambulance for me, which just would have cost me more money! All signs pointed to this being the appropriate time for me to leave work.
I went home from work on that Friday, spent Saturday and Sunday doing laundry and getting the baby clothes ready, and spent Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday on the couch. I was exhausted! I napped off and on, and my belly hurt so badly that I thought my skin was getting ready to stretch and grow some more to accommodate the baby. On Wednesday morning, my mother and my mother in law, and two of my friends from work, messaged or called me to ask how I was feeling and what the latest updates were. I didn’t have any, but I was scheduled for another prenatal exam for the following day, Thursday, and might find out more then. My husband came home for lunch that Wednesday afternoon, and I was still in my pajamas. But when he walked in the door at the end of his workday and I was still in the same spot he’d left me at lunchtime, on the couch, and in the same holey sweat pants and my treasured, but very old, ALF t-shirt, he asked if I was feeling okay, and all I could answer was that I was just so very tired. I began making dinner, and an hour later, I began getting contractions. I had, just a couple of weeks before, downloaded a contraction timing app for my iPhone, so I began tracking them, thinking that the contractions probably weren’t going to last or get stronger. I successfully ate dinner, but towards the end of dinner, the contractions were painful and provided a lot of pressure, and I found myself rushing to the bathroom to relieve myself. I went to the bathroom, walked back into the dining room to finish dinner, and then felt a trickle. Embarrassed that I had possibly peed myself, I ran back into the bathroom, and soon deduced that I hadn’t peed myself at all. The fluid leaking from me wouldn’t stop, and it was a yellowish-brown color. My water had broken. My husband came and knocked on the door to ask what was going on and how could he help me. I asked him to grab me some new underwear and pants, and then call the number for the hospital’s labor and delivery number that I had posted to the fridge earlier in my pregnancy in case of moments like this. The nurse spoke to him and he relayed everything that I told him through the bathroom door. Then, the nurse said that it wasn’t necessary to keep track of the contractions anymore — we just had to get to the hospital.
I was in pain, no doubt about it, the contractions were getting stronger and closer together. But I thought that maybe the fact that my water had already broke would lead to our son being born very shortly! I was excited to get the show on the road! In less than four hours’ time, I had gone from beginning contractions to now actually heading to the hospital. You know, you hear stories of women who labor for hours on end at home, because the maternity ward staff tells them there isn’t enough room at the hospital for them to labor there, or to come back when their contractions are closer together. But here I was, only having had contractions for a little over three hours, and on the short drive to the hospital, I felt relief and excitement.
Stay tuned for my delivery story, coming up next week.