Last Monday, I rammed my abdomen into the corner of a table. It hurt, but I wasn’t doubled over in pain or anything. I decided to call the midwives, just as a precaution. The nurse there told me that I needed to go to the hospital to be monitored.
So off I went. I was laughing about it as I left, saying that I’m so clumsy I’d probably be at hospital every three days for a fall.
Ha freaking ha.
I arrived at the hospital around 3 p.m. Once I got hooked up to the monitors, they saw that I was contracting every three to five minutes. And that Baby’s heart rate was dipping slightly with each contraction. Because these things could be a sign of placental abruption, they decided to keep me overnight. They also wanted to make sure I wasn’t in labor, so they checked to see if I was dilated. I was, but only 1 centimeter.
Twice the next morning, once around 6 a.m. and once around 7 a.m. the Fish’s heart rate dropped for a couple of minutes each time, which obviously is not good. The doctor came in and told me that I might have to deliver before I left the hospital. But first, more monitoring. They also rechecked my dilation and it was still holding steady at 1 cm. So that was the good news—I wasn’t going into labor, at least not on my own.
But, um, holy shit.
They officially admitted me at this point and moved us to a (much more comfortable) private room. I wasn’t allowed to eat or drink. I was hooked up to monitors and an IV. There was nothing do but chill.
As one hour bled into the next, I found myself analyzing the rhythms of my daughter’s heartbeat. The sound changed depending on how close to the monitor her heart was. Sometimes it sounded like a galloping racehorse, hooves barreling down a track. I loved this one because it made me feel like she was strong. Sometimes it sounded like a crazy six-beat cadence. One-two-three, one-two-three. This is the one I heard the most often. I realized at some point that I had started putting words to this cadence, like calming chant or a mantra: I-love-you, I-love-you.
And that’s how we passed the night. Tim asleep in a lounge chair. The Little Fish beating away. And me drifting in an out of consciousness in the comfort of her heartbeat.
In the morning, they proclaimed that she had done so well on the monitors for 24 hours that it was safe to take her off for a while. I was so glad to not have those monitors strapped to me anymore, but I missed the sound of her heart.
They eventually let us go home that afternoon, with strict instructions to come back should I experience any pain, bleeding or contractions every five minutes for longer than an hour. For now, the baby would stay safely inside of me. This was Wednesday.
Fast forward to Thursday. Around 12 p.m., I started having contractions again. I have them a lot, so I didn’t think anything of it. Around 3, they were still going strong, so I decided to time them. They came every five minutes like clockwork. But still, this wasn’t out of the ordinary, so I gave it a while. Five hours later, they were still every five minutes, so I put a call into the midwives. She was like, “I’m really sorry, but you have to go back to the hospital.”
Back to the hospital? Sure, why not? After monitoring me for two hours there, the doctor said her heart rate was dipping again with each contraction. She suspected I had a small tear in the placenta that was causing this. She basically told us that I was on the fence—things weren’t looking bad enough for me to deliver a premature baby, but not good enough to let me go home. She suggested a growth scan in the morning to make sure the Fish was developing normally. If she was small, it could be an indicator that the placenta wasn’t providing her with the nutrients she needed.
So we passed another night. Tim sleeping, this time in an upright chair, and me listening to Baby’s heartbeat.
In the morning, a new doctor came in and said they wanted to transfer me to labor and delivery to do something called a contraction stress test. This is where they give you Pitocin—a labor-inducing drug—until you get four contractions in 10 minutes. If the baby’s heart rate doesn’t dip at all during these frequent contractions, that means the placenta is giving her adequate nutrients and she’s deemed good to go. If her heart rate drops, that means delivery the same day. Apparently, this is the gold standard of testing. If the baby passes it, they feel confident that all is well.
Tim and I looked at each other, horrified. Labor and delivery? Pitocin? We’d both heard scary-ass things about Pitocin. What if it threw my body into real labor? What if it hurt? What if it hurt the baby? What if we had to give birth to a premature baby? What if, what if, what if. Two different doctors came into talk to us and answer all of our questions. They were great, but I was still scared.
Fortunately for me, the nurse they assigned to us was awesome. She wheeled me into labor and delivery, hooked me up to Pitocin and did her best to calm my fears. She talked to me the whole time. Even though my contractions were more intense with the Pitocin, I was laughing with the nurse and Tim, so I barely even noticed. The doctor also poked her head in to see how I was doing. The whole thing took maybe 45 minutes and Baby passed with flying colors! Not a single dip in the heart rate to be had.
Once they were sure the Pitocin was out of my system and my contractions returned to their normal level, they let us leave. The doctor said it’s likely that I might contract every 5-6 minutes for the rest of my pregnancy. She basically said that frequent contractions are normal for me, and to stop timing them. As long as there is no bleeding or water breaking, don’t come in for contractions unless they hurt so bad I can’t talk and am clutching Tim’s arm in pain.
We’re back at home again. I hope the next time we’re at the hospital it’s for real. I hope the next time, we get to meet our little girl.
The last few days were crazy. Plenty of fodder for an anxious mind, to be sure. But I’m not going to let myself go down that road. Nope. I’m choosing to believe that everything will be ok. And I do believe that. I’m strong, Baby’s strong and I now have a lot of confidence in the amazing doctors and nurses at the hospital.
And I’ve heard Baby’s heart. I know it intimately now. Its fierce little beats assure me that this tale will indeed have a happy ending.