by Elise H.P. Boutin
The pattern of this pregnancy had been a week of stability followed by a few days of light bleeding. It seemed like we were in the home stretch after my team of doctors set the delivery date for January 19, 2016. I was enjoying the short weekend visits with my sons and family members, as well as sporadic hangouts with friends I hadn’t seen in years. I also strummed on my new ukulele – the music must go on- and continued to read and write.
Another bedrest perk at this Pavilion was the “Great Room”, which was conveniently located next to my room. It was filled with boardgames and books. It was a neat common area for patients to hang out. In my nearly two weeks in Houston, I had met several women with the same condition and it was nice to bond and vent together.
On the evening of Sunday, January 10, 2016, Jon and I met a couple from Monterrey, Mexico, in the Great Room. The wife and I both had accretas. She was 35 weeks and was scheduled to deliver on Tuesday. The four of us were able to discuss cultural practices and personal experiences that led to our current predicament. As of now, it is unknown why accretas occur. There is a correlation between c-sections and placenta previa and accreta. It turns out that Mexico has a 50 percent section rate, while the U.S. has a 30 percent. I was really surprised at the increase in cesarean deliveries. We talked for almost two hours before I was ready to rest in my room. After exchanging contact information, we wished them well and retired to room 1106.
At 1 a.m., Jon woke me up because he was restless. We had slept really late that morning and he was in a state of insomnia. He wanted to drive to Rayne in order to pick up a few personal items and then return to Houston. I wasn’t too psyched about the idea. I told him the whole reason I wanted him here was because I didn’t want to be alone at night. He completely agreed and tried to find something to occupy his mind while I went to the restroom. To my surprise, I had started to spot again.
I called in my nurse and she assessed the situation. She attached me to the monitors to check if I was having contractions and to follow the baby’s vitals. This was such a standard procedure for me; I had this happen five times before. She informed me within the hour that everything looked stable and no action was going to happen soon. By 3:30 a.m. I was able to fall asleep, and was awoken at 9 a.m. by a team of doctors making rounds.
“We have a surprise for you,” said Dr. Clark.
“Another MRI?” I said sleepily with a slight dose of sarcasm. As I sat up, I saw my high risk specialist from Lafayette turn the corner.
“Dr. Sheryl!” I squeaked as she walked open-armed toward me. We embraced with that South Louisiana welcome and then commenced with the usual catching up.
Dr. Clark then informed me that as of now they weren’t going to move ahead with an unscheduled delivery that day, but if I continued to bleed they would move up my surgery. The crew left with smiles and wished me luck.
I spent the morning visiting with my aunt and a new hospital friend while Jon made his drive to Rayne. In the afternoon, I attended the “Bedrest Boogie,” which is a small gathering of the women on the 11th floor to give them a chance to create a craft and enjoy the fellowship of those going through a similar situation. We each developed a onesie for our newborns. I used a basketball stencil for Dax’s shirt.
I watched movies the rest of the evening until Jon returned from his roundtrip. We talked and watched t.v. until I was pretty exhausted and wanted to fall asleep. I was taking off my compression hose when the one on my left leg got stuck. I put a little more effort into the endeavor and felt a gush of blood.
I immediately asked Jon to remove the stocking and went to the bathroom. It wasn’t a scary amount of blood, but it was definitely more than I had prior seen. Jon went to get my nurse as I made it back to the bed. The usual procedures began: monitors, vitals, questions. A doctor walked in, then another. They walked out.
“Okay. Let’s talk about what would happen if this starts to move more into an emergency situation,” said my nurse. Before she could say step one, three nurses walked in with an IV set. There was no time for a local anesthesia, so they went for a stick in my left arm. It hurt, which was unusual. My vein blew and they were going to try in my hand.
My thighs started to quake. I was pretty sure the Richter Scale picked up its vibrations. My head was fine, but my body could not deny my nerves. My nurse held my hand as Jon put his hands on top of my legs. The pressure helped.
The doctor walked in and explained the present course of action. “I’m on call on the 9th floor, so we are going to move you to labor and delivery. We are going to start you on a magnesium drip, which slows down the uterus in case you are going into preterm labor. It also helps babies who are under 34 weeks with brain bleeds and other complications.” [I remind myself that at this point I’m 33 weeks — not far off] I made a call to my parents to inform them there was potential that I was going to have the baby soon.
In less than five minutes they were calmly rolling me down two floors; my nurse never let go of my hand.
I wheeled into a much larger room and bid farewell to my nurse and was greeted by another sweet nurse who was already prepping the IV bags and medicines. My legs were only mildly shaking while my mind was whirling. From deep within my chest I tried to capture a calming deep breath that would dissipate the unease. Dax kicked me as if to let me know it was going to be okay.
By the time things calmed down, it was nearly 4 a.m. I dozed in and out of consciousness until one of my case doctors strolled cooly into my room and sat next to me.
“So. Your baby looks great. We checked your blood and your counts are good. However, the factor for clotting has gone down a bit, which is the one we are concerned about. You haven’t stopped bleeding— even though it’s light— and you’ve had a few contractions throughout the night. We’re going to go ahead and move up your surgery to an hour.”
My legs began to quiver again. Dr. Fox sensed my nerves.
“Look. You are not in a state of emergency, which is why we want to move it up. You do not want to have this surgery in a state of chaos.”
I flashed back to the night before and realized she was completely correct. I suddenly had a second realization.
“Oh no. You don’t have to bump Patricia’s delivery, do you?!”
“She’ll be okay. We’ll be able to get to her later today. I’ve already put this in motion and everyone is prepping for you.”
At this moment my high risk doctor from Lafayette walked in.
“Well,” she said. “I was here to observe the morning surgery, and it turns out it will be yours!”
I mean what are the odds?
The two doctors reassured me that everything was going to be fine and they strolled off to discuss the morning routine.
I grabbed my phone to update my parents and after a short call with my mother, I noticed I had my morning prayer text from a former colleague at RCE. I tried to steady my nerves so I could read the message and was instantly calmed by the memo. I was so overwhelmingly tranquil that I asked the nurse if she had given me something. She giggled and said no.
Within five minutes we were off to prep for surgery. The staff was so methodical that it made me feel at ease. This was not their first rodeo.
I had a few phone calls come in while I met with my anesthesiologists. Turns out one of them was from Mossbluff and attended Sam Houston High School. We chatted about high school football since our teams played one another in the late 90s.
He then said, “Okay, hugs and kisses,” while looking to Jon.
“No thanks, man. I don’t know you that well,” Jon wittily replied. The room laughed. Jon leaned over and kissed me. “I love you, babe.”
“I love you and I like you,” I retorted, “most of the time.” [I watched a lot of Parks and Recreation in the hospital]
And I was off.
Zipping past the the doors and nurses’ stations I kept thinking to myself, “This is it,” while I held my bulging belly where Dax beat in unison. As the operation room door opened, I was asked which Pandora station I wanted. I responded, “The Postal Service.”
“Brand New Colony” punched through the air waves and the electronic sounds battled for dominance over what seemed like hundreds of machines. As Ben Gibbard sang all of the things he would “be” for another person in order to care for them, I sank into the operating table in a state of trust and comfort. I wasn’t sure if I was trusting that I could be all of those things for Dax or if God was reminding me that I would be afforded the same pleasure. The beat changed into the seductive repetitive lines, “Everything will change.” By the end of the four minutes and twelve seconds of the song, I was entering a euphoric place of poetic justice. Everything would change after this surgery.
They brought the mask to my mouth and told me to breathe deeply and slowly.
I repeated the following mantra to the rhythm of my breath:
“I trust you, Jesus.”
“I trust. You. Jesus.
“I. Trust. You. Jesus.
“I. Trust. You…
I groggily awoke from a blank state of consciousness. With every blink, the specks on the ceiling brought me into a brand new reality. I inhaled a breath of gratitude and realized I had survived.
“How is my baby?” I managed to ask through a scratchy throat. My lungs felt weak.
“You’re waking up!” said the nurse. “He is doing great. He was five pounds and eight ounces. Let me get your husband.”
I could tell that I was hooked up to quite a few things and then felt the central line that was protruding from the right side of my neck. It bounced as I spoke.
Jon walked in and his eyes were filled with relief as he grabbed my hand and kissed my forehead. He informed me that my parents, sisters, and two of my aunts and uncles were all in the waiting room, and then he updated me on Dax: he had woke up from the anesthesia, had a breathing and feeding tube, but was very stable.
My heart was near a nuclear explosion. I’m not sure I had ever been so happy.
Dr. Fox slipped through the curtain. I tried to move my neck in her direction as she spoke kindly to me, “You, my friend, are a rock star. You had what we consider a dry surgery.”
“I didn’t have to have a blood transfusion?” I interrupted.
“No. In fact, you lost as much blood as if you had a normal vaginal birth.”
“And I had a hysterectomy?”
“Yes. We were able to easily take your uterus, cervix, and fallopian tubes. You have both of your ovaries and shouldn’t have to worry about hormonal issues.”
Another one of those calming breaths coursed through my legs. They definitely were not shaking anymore.
“You look great. We didn’t even have to mess with your bladder at all. We couldn’t have asked for a better surgery. I’ll check on you a little later, okay?” She made a quick exit to go check on a few other patients.
Throughout the next few hours, my parents checked in, as well as two of my sisters. My sister informed me that my school had a moment of silence during the day for me and Dax. I teared up. Humbled. The emotions were starting to surge through my body. I took a deep breath and savored the love.
We had made it. The odds looked to be ever in our favor.
Now we just had to recover.