The rest of my pregnancy flew by, and I got bigger and bigger. They were starting to guess that this was going to be one hefty bit of baby I was carrying. I still hadn’t gained any weight, and I was still the textbook patient.
By 35 weeks, I was going into the doctor multiple times a week. Shopping, chores, and anything that required leaving the house was only done in the mornings, if at all, and sleep was a thing of the past. My kids wore sweaters at home and in the car, complaining loudly and often about the chill, but the little heater inside of me made me feel combustible! To say I was uncomfortable was an understatement. And did I mention I was still throwing up every day?
Health wise, things were starting to change. My blood sugars started getting a little weird with extreme lows, and I had to cut back on my insulin and monitor even more closely. My weight inched up one day and then back down the next. My blood pressure was fine at one doctor’s office and elevated at the other’s. We were getting close, and both doctors agreed I wouldn’t make it to 40 weeks, or even the 39-week mark that had been planned for my repeat c-section. I had to take it easier, even though I had cut back to practically nothing. My kids pitched in with herculean efforts to keep the house straightened. My mom and grandma made us dinner, or Jason would throw something together, or we’d have sandwiches. Everyone was so helpful, and I was so tired.
At 35.5 weeks I found I couldn’t sleep, and I laid in bed dreaming of a decent night of rest when I felt the first pangs of labor. I drank a bunch of water, took two Tylenol, laid on my side, and timed the contractions, hoping it was just a false alarm. There was little relief or build-up to what I was feeling, and the timing between each contraction started to become regular. But it was too early for this baby to be born! I dreaded the thought of a NICU stay, and I shed tears of frustration that all of my efforts to be as healthy as possible would be for nothing because of this pre-term labor.
Knowing that my doctor had feared a pre-term labor for me after the month+ of spotting, he had coached me as to when the precise time would be to go to labor and delivery, and I soon found myself there. My blood pressure was alarmingly high, and my contractions were strong. But amazingly, after they figured out I had a UTI and receiving a shot of antibiotics, they were able to stop the active contractions, and soon I was contracting slower and irregularly, so they sent me home.
Feeling sheepish and exhausted, I went home. But this visit would be the turning point and one of the saving graces of this entire pregnancy.
As a result of my midnight L&D adventure, the doctor ordered a 24-hour urine test, and for those of you who haven’t had the pleasure, this entails peeing in a plastic hat that sits on your toilet seat, pouring said pee into a jug, and storing it all in your fridge (you know, where you put your food?) for a 24-hour period. SUPER FUN TIMES! And might I also add that there is a particular shame that comes when you collect that urine, haul your worn-out, almost nine-month pregnant contracting self to the hospital lab to drop it off, only to discover you’ve SPILLED a bit of your urine on the desk (and really, is there such a thing as a little bit of urine?). In turn, the lab tech is barely able to disguise her disgust with all of her exclamations and tsk-tsking. And to add insult to the urine-soaked injury, when the said pregnant person starts crying from abject humiliation, the tech then looks up in disdain and says, “Why are YOU crying?”
The results of the 24-hour urine came back, and they weren’t pretty. I had PIH — pregnancy induced hypertension. While my blood pressure hadn’t gotten very bad, and I had almost no swelling, headaches, or other classical symptoms, my body wasn’t reacting well to the monster baby inside. My doctor confirmed we’d deliver the baby by c-section on a Thursday, the day I turned 37 weeks, which was now a week away.
The following day was a Friday, the day I went in for my very last ultrasound before I was due to deliver. I shared the news with the office staff, who I had grown attached to in our nine months together. They were happy I would meet the baby, hopeful that everything turned out well, and promised to visit me when baby Ben made his way into the world.
As I was taken back for my ultrasound, I found I had the same tech I had had when it was found that SHE was actually a HE. This is notable only in that this tech did a total of two ultrasounds for me — that first one and the one I was about to receive. The doc had heard I’d be delivering the following week, so he asked the tech to get images of my previous c-section scar tissue to troubleshoot any foreseeable issues with delivery.
The exam was excruciating. I was nearly nine months pregnant, and the baby still sat very, very high, which made laying on my back a serious feat. The tech was necessarily rough as she pushed my belly this way and that way, digging the wand into places and shifting me around, all to get a better view of my bikini-line scar.
After 30 minutes of examining me, she walked out, and in walked the doc, and he continued the assault. I figured they were being thorough, as they each pointed out things here and there that meant very little to me. The baby looked great, and that’s all I had been concerned with. Healthy baby? Fantastic! Enjoy the rest of my insides, peeps!
The doctor completed his exam, and then invited me to clean up, and then meet him in his office. We had things to discuss.
Clueless and oblivious, I walked out of the ultrasound room, and my favorite nurse smiled at me, but there was a hint of concern in her eyes.
When he walked in and sat down across from me, everything changed. He was gentle in his explanation, kind even, which took me by surprise given his usual rough and gruff bedside manner he is rather known for (also: he’s a brilliant doctor, which made it all worth it… and I had won him over, I had been told by his staff). He told me there was a slight chance I had something called placenta accreta, which is when the placenta attaches itself to the wall of the uterus. It’s often seen when it is attached to scar tissue in the uterus, e.g. c-section scar tissue. The danger in this is after the baby is delivered and the doctor attempts to deliver the placenta, the placenta itself will come out and bring the uterus and any other structures it’s attached itself to as well, causing damage and serious bleeding. He said it was 50/50, and he was wary enough that he simply could not take a chance on me. He did see an increased amount of vascularization in the area, and if this was indeed what he suspected, delivering in our smallish town would be not only dangerous but potentially fatal due to the limited blood supply, as well as specialized surgeons that would be needed to perform the surgery I needed.
It was nearing almost 5:00 p.m. on that Friday afternoon, and they had scheduled me the very next appointment possible with a specialist up in Portland. I had to get to OHSU, a four-hour drive, that weekend, Sunday at the latest so that I could rest after my trip and be ready to see the specialists up there. I would probably deliver my baby up there. I would probably need a hysterectomy.
The doctor then stood up, wished me the very best of luck, and then he hugged me.
This was serious.
I left the doctor’s office in a daze with the same phrase repeating in my head over and over as I drove home: Please, let me make it to Portland.