It has been said by many that nurses make the worst patients. We don’t like going to the doctor, we put off treatment for ourselves, and we tend to minimize whatever our symptoms are. We spend lots of time and money to know when people should seek medical attention; but for some reason, we don’t apply any of that training to ourselves. I am no exception—even when I’m nine months pregnant. For both pregnancies, my husband had to talk me into going to the hospital. I don’t really know what I was waiting for. Maybe for it to feel like I’m in the movies? Or Rachel on Friends? For my water to break and to immediately start having definitive contractions that are 5 minutes apart? I suppose. Unfortunately, that was not the case either time.
12 days ago I woke up at 2 am and felt short of breath with right-sided upper abdominal pain. I could not get comfortable, but I convinced myself that pregnant women are often short of breath and suffer from heartburn, so I moved to the couch so that I wouldn’t wake my husband. When I still couldn’t catch my breath, I convinced myself that I was having my very first panic attack. So I thought back on all the training I’ve had pertaining to mental health and what I would do for a patient who was having a panic attack and did the only thing that made sense: took my shirt off and walked around in the dark, pouring sweat, at 2 am—all the while telling myself that I would be fine and not to wake up David. Then I did what all good nurses do and googled panic attacks and pregnancies. (Yeah, we use google for medical questions too!) By 5 am, I decided to take a bath which provided the only relief I had felt. So much relief, in fact, that I almost fell asleep in the tub. I made myself get out to prevent drowning, which I think would have really been confusing for David upon waking. By 7 am, David woke up because my breathing had gotten so loud. At 9 am, he convinced me to call my doctor’s after-hours line, and they told me to go get checked out “just in case.”
When we got to St. Thomas – Midtown (otherwise known as Baptist Hospital), I was fully convinced that I would be sent home. After making it to triage, they took my blood pressure and said “Oh, you’re having this baby today. You’re not going anywhere.” My BP was 177/108. The right-sided upper abdominal pain? That was my liver being over-worked and my lab work reflected that, as well as the fact that my kidneys were being forced to work too hard. The reason I felt relief in the bath was because the hot water was causing my blood vessels to dilate, thus allowing my BP to drop.
I was presenting in “severe pre eclampsia” according to my nurse, and the only cure is to get the baby out. (For any Downton Abbey fans, pre eclampsia is what killed off Lady Sybil!) They wheeled me into a labor and delivery room, at which point my BP was reading 213/100. They promptly closed all the blinds, turned off the lights, started me on an IV of Magnesium and told me no visitors—all to prevent seizures. I was informed the Magnesium might make me feel “yucky.” Holy moly—was that an understatement! It burned going in, I felt like my blood was on fire, my vision wouldn’t focus, and it made me feel like I had the flu. Awful. I feel for any other mamas out there that have had to do this during labor. I‘m sorry for not understanding before now!
The next several hours were a whirlwind of trying to find a happy medium with my blood pressure. I could go on and on, but I’ll spare you that and just say that it was a roller coaster. After 10 hours of being in labor while feeling like I HAD THE FREAKING FLU, it was time to push. I really and truly did not think I would be able to do it. I had no energy. I had been awake since two in the morning. I was emotional. And because they didn’t want my BP to get too low, they had to be really careful with my epidural dosage, which meant I could feel some of what was happening. I know women go through natural childbirth every day, but I am not one of those women. I don’t want to feel a thing, and I’m a firm believer that if that had been an option for women 1,000 years ago, they would have taken it. So I said a prayer and was given strength that hadn’t existed a few minutes before. Just 5 minutes later, my 6 pound 5 ounce baby girl was here! The silver lining in the whole thing was that she tolerated the labor well and was born completely healthy. I would absolutely do it again for her.
The moral of the story is this: if you are pregnant, and you think something doesn’t feel right, go get checked out! It is so much better to be checked and sent home because nothing is wrong than to convince yourself everything is fine and be really, really wrong. I was really, really wrong but was very fortunate that everything worked out fine—thanks to a husband who was a better nurse than I was when I needed him to be.
Welcome to the family, Violet Emily! ￼
*For Nashville new-comers who are about to have babies*:
If you hear people talking about good labor and delivery hospitals in Nashville, the two names you’ll hear the most are Centennial Hospital and Baptist Hospital. However, Baptist Hospital doesn’t technically exist anymore. St. Thomas Hospital has owned Baptist Hospital for the last ten years. Over the last year or so, they have undergone a huge re-branding, so Baptist Hospital is now known as St. Thomas – Midtown. There is also a St. Thomas Hospital on the west side of town, but if you go there to have a baby, you’ll be sent to the downtown location. This is where I had both of my girls. My L & D nurses were Kathleen and Glenda the first time and Carol and Penny the second time. Both experiences were awesome, and I loved all of my nurses. I would invite them to Christmas dinner if it wouldn’t be weird!