how i wound up in the perinatal ICU

as a pregnant lady you know you are in for a tough time when your obstetrician calls you at home, on a sunday, when she is not the doctor on-call that weekend, & asks how you’re feeling. i mean, there’s compassionate medical care, & then there’s a clear emergency situation.

the last time i updated, i wrote about how my last prenatal hadn’t gone so well & more labs had been ordered. apparently my doctor finally got the chance to look at them on sunday & they alarmed her. my protein levels had spiked up pretty high–i was at 595 & the average pregnant lady is more like zero. my liver enzymes were also starting to rise, which is evidence that my body was starting to go into serious distress due to the pregnancy. she asked me to go to labor & delivery as soon as possible “for some more tests”.

i was just pulling a lasagna out of the oven for dinner, so jared & i sat down & ate first. then i threw my phone, keys, & pocketbook into a bag, & we drove to the hospital. i didn’t even know how to get the labor & delivery because i hadn’t had my hospital pre-registration appointment yet. we had to call the hospital operator to get directions. they immediately ushered us into a private delivery room & handed me a hospital gown. they wanted to check the baby out on a monitor–it’s called a non-stress test. it’s like the biophysicals they’ve been doing, but longer, & they also watch for uterine activity (like contractions). they also sent someone up from the lab to draw more blood.

i laid around there for a while, joking around with jared, wondering how long they would keep us there & when i could go home & eat some more lasagna. eventually the on-call OB came in & damn, can that woman talk. eventually i realized she was saying things like, “would you rather be transferred to topeka or kansas city?” & “i’m not saying you won’t still be pregnant in two weeks, but it looks pretty unlikely,” & i started to really freak out.

i was 32 weeks & one day pregnant when this all went down, & the lawrence hospital doesn’t have the resources to care for premature infants that young. the on-call doctor seemed to think there was a chance that i would have an emergency delivery that night & she needed to send me to a hospital with a NICU that could care for such a young baby. 32 weeks isn’t a terrible age for a preemie, but it’s pretty young. a baby that young will struggle to stay warm & may have trouble breathing on its own. it probably wouldn’t be strong enough to reliably take a bottle or breast & would need to be fed through an IV for at least a few days.

basically, my high blood pressures combined with elevated protein levels & higher liver enzymes mean i have “classic pre-eclampsia” & need to be monitored constantly to watch my condition & make sure i don’t start having seizures or have a stroke or experience placental abruption. in other words: WORST IMAGINABLE NIGHTMARE. i was terrified of pre-eclampsia well before i ever got pregnant–to a kind of an irrational degree, considering how uncommon it is & how i didn’t have any of the known risk factors. but i guess someone has to get it & now it’s me.

they loaded me on to a gurney & i was wheeled out to an ambulance. jared went home to pack me a bag & then drove to the hospital. we chose overland park medical center in kansas city, for no real reason other than the nurses at lawrence told it was a pretty chill place with a good level-three NICU. i got here sunday night a little after midnight. apparently i am in the perinatal intensive care unit. i met the high-risk perinatalogist on-call & he did a bedside sonogram to check the baby out. he estimated that it’s weighing in at five pounds already & “would be the bruiser of the NICU”. they gave me a steroid shot to precipitously mature the baby’s lungs & put me on an IV of magnesium, both to try to control my blood pressure & as a “neurophylaxis” (i think that’s the word they used–supposedly it helps protect a premature baby from bleeding into its brain after birth & developing cerebral palsy).

after an hour or two of tests, they decided i didn’t have to deliver that night & they gave jared a pull-out next to my hospital bed. i wasn’t allowed to get up & was hooked up magenseium, IV fluids, & a catheter. i cried all night, until they finally gave me a sleeping pill at like 4am. once i got a few hours of rest, i felt a little better & was better able to take stock of my situation.

more stuff has happened since then, but the bottom line for now is that i am living in the perninatal ICU until i deliver this baby. no one knows if this will happen tomorrow or in six weeks. it all depends on how i respond to treatment. it seems unlikely that i will get much further than 34 weeks at this point. they would have delivered me already had my labwork come back just a touch worse, but they really prefer to keep the babies in until 34 weeks if they can so their lungs have more time to mature. if i’m still relatively stable at 34 weeks, they might let me keep being pregnant–we’ll see. it also seems kind of improbable that they’ll let me do a vaginal birth. they’re worried that the stress of labor will tip me over the edge into having seizures. a vaginal birth isn’t completely off the table, but i am working on accepting that i’ll probably have a cesarean instead.

more to come, i guess?

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4 responses to “how i wound up in the perinatal ICU

  1. I am so sorry. I hope that everything goes as well as it possibly can considering this is not at all what you envisioned. I hope those nurses and doctors treat you well!

  2. I’ve been lurking your blog for months now – I’m a couple weeks ahead of you in pregnant-ville. I keep meaning to comment, but haven’t had much to say until now.

    I’m thinking about you & hoping all goes as well as can be expected between now and baby time. I don’t have any sort of wise words or sage advice, but I’m rooting for you & baby narwhal.

    Keep us posted out here in cyberville.

    xo

  3. OMG – I am so sorry to hear this. Please keep me/your readers posted, as you can.. I hope you get to 34 weeks.

  4. I’m really sorry that this is happening to you, and I’m wishing you, Narwhal and Jared all the very best.

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