Monday, November 3, 2014

Premature Labor: When Cerclage Stitches Rupture…

            Premature labor is scary. Premature labor when you have cerclage stitches is even scarier. Rupturing cerclage stitches raises pain and terror to a whole different level.
            As I ended in my last blog post: Dr. Landry’s plan sounded so easy. Cut the stiches. Wait a couple of hours. Have a baby.
            The only problem is: when babies are coming—when “nature” has embarked on its course—babies don’t wait. And so it was with my baby.

            I don’t know if I just expected the pain to get better once Dr. Landry had called me and pronounced that he was “hanging this one up,” or if I just thought my soon-to-be-a-new-mom-and-no-longer-pregnant-and-miserable euphoria would take over and make the birth a heavenly, dream-like experience.
            All I know is that what I expected to get is not what I got. And what I got was a nightmare.
            A half-hour after Dr. Landry’s exuberant phone call, my labor pain bordered on unbearable, (no one had arrived to administer an epidural), and I frantically tried to keep from screaming. “Oh, God, why must I continue to suffer in this dark valley? Why couldn’t this one be easy?” I mumbled to myself. It was actually more like a gasp than a mumble. My mental stamina was eroding along with my physical state.
            I was alone in that dark hospital room—and terrified.
            So I closed my eyes and returned to my prayer:
                        The light of God surrounds me.
                        The love of God enfolds me.
                        The power of God protects me.
                        The presence of God watches over me.
                        Wherever I am, God is. 1

            Over and over I repeated it, with additional conviction during the worst waves of breath-stopping contractions. It helped me to focus on one thing—Jesus, and His powerful, loving presence. If I didn’t focus and count on that, I was going to go nuts. Literally.
            But each contraction came faster and harder. Rapidly repeating my prayer, I added, “Jesus, bear my burden. Oh, dear Jesus, please bear my burden like you did when Victoria died. Please!”
            Occasionally the pain was severe enough to force a low, audible cry from my lips and tears from my eyes. Oh, Lord, please don’t let the force of these contractions rupture my C-section scar! The baby will die and I might bleed to death. And no one will be in the room if it happens!
            At 6:40 AM my body was slammed with an unforgiving contraction, and I unleashed a choking scream. Terror pierced me. The next contraction escalated ferociously.
            And the cervical sutures ruptured.
            My baby was arriving in a dark, lonesome hospital room.
            I screamed wildly for someone to help me. My nurse practically catapulted into the room as I wailed, “It’s here! My baby’s here!”
            Laurie sprinted toward the bed as I continued screaming, the words spilling from my lips, “It’s here! My baby’s here. I felt my sutures rupture. I have to push I have to push! Where is Dr. Landry!?” My eyes frantically searched hers for some answer, some resolve to the horror unfolding before me—before us.  
            Prying my clamped-together knees apart, Laurie performed an internal examination, only to have her hand meet my baby’s crowning head. “Oh my god! Don’t push; you can’t push yet!” she ordered at a near-screaming level as she maintained one hand on the baby’s head while using the other hand to push the intercom button on the wall behind my bed. She screamed a code to the nurses at their station. Immediately, a barrage of them streamed into the room, while a call was sent to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit to come to my room—stat. Panic had instantly ensued.
            “Where is Dr. Landry?” I kept asking, while continuing to search her eyes for some answer. Other nurses who had streamed into the room echoed the same question while running around preparing the necessities for his appearance.
            “He just called, and he’s on his way!” someone yelled out. Then, “He’s in the parking lot!” That announcement was shortly followed by, “He’s in the elevator!” All while Laurie continued to keep my baby from being born.
            It all sounded like a scripted comedy scene. It might have been funny if it hadn’t been so tragically real.
            Somewhere between Dr. Landry’s highway and parking lot locations, a nurse—or someone from the NICU team, who were already standing by with their baby bed and resuscitation supplies in the corner of the room—made the decision that they couldn’t wait for him any longer, and an emergency room physician was called. Meanwhile, the condescending nurse who’d practically wrestled me back into bed earlier that morning hung over my face, telling me not to hyperventilate, and giving me breathing instructions. Her advice was effective. I stared at her, followed her breathing instructions and calmed down. Suddenly, she seemed more empathetic and attentive.
            Ten minutes later, Laurie continued to hold my baby in the birth canal, and we all awaited the arrival of a physician. Any physician. “He’s on his way!” a nurse called out about the emergency room doctor. Almost simultaneously, someone else yelled that Dr. Landry was in the hall outside the room. We all—about ten nurses and me—turned to look at the door as he made his rushed entrance through the curtain that had been pulled across the entrance to block anyone’s view from the hallway.
            “Finally,” I muttered with relief as I let my head collapse back onto the pillow. Ridiculously, though, when I first saw him enter the room, all I could think of was, Nice shirt! Such a beautiful shade of lilac. He seemed so dressed up for the occasion, complete with coordinating tie. Then I chastised myself for being an idiot. Was the plethora of drugs in my body affecting my mind?
            One nurse helped him don a white lab coat, while another whisked him into surgical gloves. He couldn’t disengage his widened eyes from the scene at my bed, appearing aghast and unnerved at what was unfolding before him. He clamped his gaping mouth shut then hurried to my side to quickly replace Laurie and work rapidly with the instruments someone had wheeled bedside.
            “What’s the baby’s heartbeat?” I asked.
            In panic, everyone else in the room realized that in the confusion the monitor had slipped from my distended middle, and they had forgotten about and neglected to monitor that all-important sound. What kind of affect would such a violent birth have on such a tiny, horribly stressed, drugged up baby?
            First, he carefully broke the amniotic sac, and was showered with amniotic fluid.  Quickly, calmly, his voice edged with concern, he instructed me to push. Gently. Obediently, I followed his order—first once, then two more times—until my baby slipped quickly and easily from my body.
            “Oh, it’s girl!” someone joyfully pronounced. I smiled contentedly. But I was surprised. I felt certain I’d been carrying a boy.
            “No, it’s not!” another nurse quickly shot back, with unveiled ridicule of the obvious error tinting her words. “It’s a boy!” They can’t even agree on the sex, I thought, shaking my head in disbelief.        
            Lifting myself onto my elbows to take in the beautiful vision of my newborn baby, I was stunned with the horrible sight of my new son lying morosely still and lifeless on the bed before me, his little form encased in a dreadful hue of blue. It’s too late; he’s already dead, I thought, as any remnant of hope and strength instantly drained from my body. It felt as though someone had thrown a sharp rock at my chest, aimed directly at my heart.
            My heart was shattered.
            And I wanted to die alongside my new baby boy.


NEXT WEEK: An angelic intervention, and breathing life into my baby…

Until next week,

Thanks for joining me!



PS        There’s already a miracle happening in this story. Read the part again about Dr. Landry having to rupture the amniotic sac.
            Throughout the cerclage surgery, the week following it, and throughout the three-months I was confined to bed, that was everyone’s biggest concern: the amniotic sac rupturing. If that happened, it would have meant the end of the pregnancy, and most likely the death of my baby. For three months, I was literally hanging on by that thin layer of amniotic sac.
            So for Dr. Landry to have to puncture the amniotic sac, after all of those precarious months, and after the shear force of the violent contractions I was experiencing—the fact that the amniotic sac remained intact until the end—was nothing short of a miracle. Even in my precarious mental state, that unable-to-explain fact didn’t escape my notice.
           But that morning, I doubted I was going to get another one of those miracles.
            I shouldn’t have had such puny faith.

            Because God wasn't done playing His hand...

1 “Prayer for Protection,” by James Dillet Freeman, in the public domain

photo credit: <a href="">KayVee.INC</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">cc</a>