Disclosure – This entry not for the faint of heart or those with weak stomachs.
One year ago, it was a typical Tuesday evening. Michael, Nash and I had an early dinner. Nash was bathed and in bed by 7pm, which meant a little quiet time with my husband.
I was 25 weeks pregnant (40 weeks is full term). While I was in my second trimester, I was still tired all the time. Often, I would find myself in bed within an hour of getting Nash down.
This particular evening, Michael and I snuggled up on the sofa to watch a movie. I was asleep before even the title flashed on the screen.
This would be the last time we snuggled in that house on that sofa.
After the movie, Michael woke me up around 10pm to go to bed.
Everything was just like any other evening.
Around 4am, I woke up. I still am not sure why. In retrospect, it must have been the blood, but I was too wary to be clear. I reached for the lamp on the nightstand beside me and sat in horror at the bed full of blood surrounding me. The red pool was the width of our bed, up to my elbows, dripping down the sides.
I shudder just recalling the sight.
My instinct was not to panic. I needed to get Michael and Nash - but I was afraid to move or stand up for the sake that I may loose more blood.
I think I just said Michael's name. That was enough. And we were ON....
I called the doctor, waiting through recording after recording trying to get to a nurse, while Michael was on the phone to my mother for help with Nash.
Michael paced frantically in our bedroom, while I sat paralyzed in our bed.
I knew I had to call the ambulance, but didn't want to.
It made it real.
911. I remember the dispatcher on the other end of the phone asking me if I could see the baby's head.
Was this really happening?
Within minutes the ambulance arrived. Michael and I argued briefly. He wanted to wake Nash and all go in the ambulance. I begged him to wait for my Mom, then meet me at the hospital. I promised I would be fine.
I didn't want Nash to see me this way.
Seeing the ambulance outside, lights blazing, being loaded on the gurney into the back of the ambulance was surreal – almost dream-like. I was so cold. It was January and my pajamas were dripping with blood. I was scared. My teeth were chattering uncontrollably.
I remember thinking ‘Am I really this cold or is this shock’?
They placed the IV and began fluids and heart monitors for the baby and myself. I had lost a lot of blood.
Thank God I woke up.
The woman in the ambulance tried to keep me talking. She asked me questions: How old was I? How many kids do I have? How many weeks pregnant was I? I remember her calling ahead to the hospital. They must want to know what they're 'getting' so they can be prepared. I remember her telling me about her horses.
I remember her telling me I was lucky.
I remember arriving at the hospital and having to leave the ambulance. It was so cold. I remember being whisked horizontally down the hall, racing through doors and people moving to get out of our way.
I thought of the baby and began to cry.
I heard Michael's voice. (Leave it to my husband to beat the ambulance to the hospital, get parked and find where I would be before we could even get to the operating room).
He held my hand as we flew past the reception. I was wheeled into a room and heard the slice of my nightgown being cut off…
The hours following, we were caught in a frenzy of information, panic and fear. Their first goal was to get my bleeding under control. We had to sign waivers agreeing to blood transfusions. We were asked if we would allow clergy to visit and asked of we had a living will.
Michael and I were silent. Our baby….
Nurses and doctors buzzed around me like bees on honey - frantic, methodical all conversing in what seemed like a foreign language. "Blood pressure dropping." "Heart rate stable."
The tests began. Platelets. Blood. Ultrasound. Heart monitors. Shots were given to me to ‘develop the baby’s lungs’. Magnesium to stop contractions. The OR was prepped. We were prepped. This baby was coming.
Somehow over the next few hours, those miracle workers prolonged our delivery. Hour by hour, our heart rates were getting under control. The bleeding slowed. At any moment, the doctors would rush in say we were heading to the delivery room. We braced for the inevitable and sat dazed in disbelief.
Twenty-five weeks is considered a viable baby. They have a fighting chance. I have since met some 24-weekers, but nothing less. We were exactly 25 weeks to the day and as every doctor would say over the next two weeks, every day, every hour, every minute counts.
For three days, I lay motionless in bed. The nurses would come every hour to shift me to a new position. When I had to go to the bathroom, humiliated, I would ask Michael and the nurses to leave the room. They would return a few minutes later and the nurse would wipe the blood and remove the bedpan. We were in critical maternity care and were not allowed visitors. My parents came. Michael never left. We missed Nash more than words can ever convey.
Tests showed that a tiny piece of my placenta had torn. Nothing had caused it. There was no reasoning behind it. (The doctor even said if we decided to have another baby, I could have a regular, healthy, full-term pregnancy). A freak accident.
We were encouraged that with bed rest and some of the specialist’s TLC, we could potentially go home and carry our sweet baby full term. We prayed and waited.
We graduated to ‘Special Maternity” a few days later (this translates to “Your not a normal pregnant lady and still under the sharp eye of the nurses around the clock, but you are not in labor and on the brink of delivering’. To me this meant, “We can have visitors (NASH!). I can eat solids! And most importantly get up to use the bathroom and SHOWER!’
Day 4, we were still waiting/praying for the bleeding to subside. We were growing more comfortable with our nurses (my husband charming them all! He would have them in stitches as they changed my dressings or checked my blood pressure in the middle of the night).
Kristen was her name. She typically was across the hall in Critical Care, but for some reason she was on Special Maternity and had us this night.
When Michael sounded the alarm to let her know the bleeding had picked up significantly, she approached cool and poised. I was in the restroom and she opened the door and said, “When you’re done using the bathroom, I’ll help you back to your bed.”
I responded, “That’s not urine. It’s blood.” It was out of control.
The next few hours became a blurr. I can remember this:
Sobbing with fear and squeezing Michael’s hand.
Michael wide-eyed, as they begin a transfusion and trying to stay calm.
Kristen’s hand shaking uncontrollably, as they established another IV and additional ports for medicine.
It was a scary time.
We returned to Critical Care and the OB was alerted the baby was coming. I was given more magnesium and howled in pain as it crept through my veins. (My only solace was closing my eyes and picturing Nash, Michael and I at the dinner table. Laughing. Playing. That was my safe place).
Thank God, Sweet Baby Richter didn’t come that night. And we counted every blessing, once we could finally exhale.
At the end of the day, the doctors agreed that they would delicately balance my continuous blood loss and keeping the baby inside. I could continue to bleed, while receiving blood transfusions, allowing our baby to continue to cook.
Over the next two weeks, we had two more scares, similar to the one above that drove us back to Critical Care. The last, resulted in my water breaking and the miraculous birth of our beautiful baby.
It seems like a lifetime ago. To rock my little angel to sleep tonight and to think it was touch and go just a year ago. He is so beautiful – such a fighter. He has overcome so much.
Our families, who were so supportive. Flying in on a moment's notice. Loving Nash. Bringing meals, movies, books, photos from home, spending countless hours showing their support.
My husband – there are not words. His ‘stench’ in the hospital from being too afraid to leave to shower. His ability to find humor in the scariest of times. His ability to comfort. His love and prayers for his unborn son. His stability. (He ‘threw a Superbowl Party’ in our hospital room. For days every nurse/doctor that entered, he invited. He would say, “Don’t you want to come to our Superbowl Party? It’s just the two of us, but it is going to be the best ticket in town!” He even prepared 'snacks' in the nurse's lounge trying to tempt people. Of course it was only the two of us – but certainly a Superbowl I will not forget!)
How life changed forever on an ordinary Tuesday night a year ago today - and the many blessings that followed.
During one of Nash's visits to the hospital - the highlight of any day.