It all started around ten o’clock last night. I went to bed with a stomach ache. I was uncomfortable, but didn’t think much of it – discomfort is sometimes part of the territory when you’re knocked up. I woke up around midnight with terrible pain in my right side. I tried turning over, getting up and walking around, sitting in the rocking chair I often resort to when I have insomnia – nothing helped. It was a sharp, constant pain in my right side that was worse when I moved, breathed deeply, or pressed on it, and after wracking my brain trying to figure out what it might be (and coming up with all kinds of worst case scenarios), I Googled my symptoms and came up with possible appendicitis. Fuckity fuck. Well, this scared the crap out of me – that’s all anyone needs is the possibility of abdominal surgery while pregnant. Finally I woke Michael up, and he decided we should call Sue, my midwife. After talking to her for a few minutes, she said I probably should just go to the ER.
And that’s how I found myself in the ER, and subsequently in Labor & Delivery, at about two a.m.
My anxiety increased noticeably as we got closer to the hospital. Hospitals just have so many bad associations in my mind – my horrible experience giving birth there to the twins, Finn’s hospitalization almost immediately after birth, Michael’s many hospitalizations over the last three years. I was also not expecting to be warmly welcomed by the L&D staff; they’re typically not crazy about home birthers. I knew they would ask me who my OB is and that I would have to tell them that I don’t have an OB, but that yes, at the ripe old age of 44 (can you say “advanced maternal age” or what the medical minded think of as “catastrophe waiting to happen”?) I have a midwife and plan to give birth at home. Reckless.
Actually they were okay with the midwife/home birth part. Or, at least they didn’t give me any grief about it. Which, honestly, surprised me. Maybe I don’t give them enough credit. Maybe, based on past experience, I just go into defensive mode about this particular topic.
So they made me undress and put a gown on and climb into bed, where they strapped a contraction monitor around my middle (no contractions). The nurse asked me a million questions, and then the attending OB – a woman – came in and asked me a million questions (including, “Have you had your prenatal screenings done? Have you seen a geneticist?” Because, you know, I’m old, and I might have a defective baby or something. I didn’t even bother mentioning that we have a child with Down syndrome; I figured that would have just thrown a log on the fire). At first she seemed nice enough, but she got kind of bitchy when she explained that they were going to do an ultrasound, and that part of that would be a transvaginal ultrasound to check my cervix, and I balked. “Is that really necessary?” I asked. “Just allow us to do what needs to be done, okay?” she said (bitchily). That’s what I don’t like – and that is one of the polar differences between OB/hospital care and midwifery care: hospitals and OBs take on the “We’re the boss, just do what we say because you’re stupid and we know best” attitude, whereas a home birth midwife is a collaborator with you – you’re both on the same team, working together, and respecting and honoring each other’s roles in the whole process.
This was the scene at our house yesterday morning, many hours before all this shit happened, when my midwife came over for my regular monthly prenatal appointment:
So, in L&D they did a blood panel, a urine panel, and a very detailed ultrasound – not just of my uterus and the baby, but of all surrounding organs (in the end, a transvaginal ultrasound wasn’t necessary). They seemed to suspect either appendicitis or a kidney stone. In the end, after being there for about three and a half hours, pretty much everything was ruled out. No kidney stones. My appendix apparently wasn’t visible on the ultrasound because the baby was covering it, but the blood panel showed no signs of infection or anything. The baby looked “perfect” in the ultrasound, the placenta looked great, everything looked fine. At that point I was advised to leave L&D and go downstairs to consult with a surgeon who might run further tests. I declined. I just wanted to go home. So they signed me out AMA (insert eye roll here).
Michael and I got home a few minutes before six a.m., and fortunately none of the kids were up yet. We had woken Kevin up before we left for the hospital since he would be in charge in our absence, but none of the other kids had any idea that we even left the house. They still don’t, and that’s fine because if you think my associations with the hospital are bad, the kids’ are even worse. Daisy, especially, has been extremely worried and anxious ever since we told them Mommy is going to have another baby that I might end up in the hospital, so I’d rather save them as much worry as we can.
When we got home, I crawled into bed and slept for about an hour, but then I had to get up because Michael had to go to work, and all the kids are home from school today for Lincoln’s birthday. The pain in my side persists. It’s still terribly painful, but at this point the only thing I can figure is that maybe I pulled a muscle or ligament or something. Hopefully that will be my last foray into the L&D ward ever, and hopefully this stupid pain will cease and desist sooner than later.