August 31, 2010 by Cara Lemieux
Preterm Contractions and Other Things I’ve Learned About in the Past 6 Days
Brace yourself, I have learned a lot.
1. EVEN IF CONTRACTIONS AREN’T PAINFUL, THEY STILL IN FACT MIGHT BE CONTRACTIONS.
I woke up this past Wednesday morning at my usual 3:20am and while I was brushing my teeth, I felt some strong Braxton-Hicks. It struck me as a little odd because normally I don’t get these until later in the day after I have been doing a ton of activity. I drank two big glasses of water in case they were being brought on by dehydration and headed work.
Over the course of the entire morning I could not find a comfortable position to sit in and my stomach kept tightening, making me even less comfortable. I started keeping an eye on the clock and I realized these weren’t irregular. After finishing up work, I went home and got into bed and had a nice phone conversation with a friend.
I realized these were coming about every 8 minutes and I could actually see my abdomen tighten for about 45 second and release. I recalled reading something in one of my baby updates that if you have more than 4 or 5 contractions per hour and you haven’t reached 37 weeks yet, even if they are painless, call your doctor.
So I called my sister.
I figured she would tell me I was making a much bigger deal out of this than I should and I could go take a much needed nap. And I so did not want to be one of those women that always thinks they are having contractions when they aren’t.
She told me to call my doctor, which I did. The doctor requested I head to the office immediately. As I was heading down there I called my sister and she told me what they would likely do and prepared me for the possibility of being sent to the hospital. I told her I wasn’t worried.
A) I had my cell phone and blackberry charger in case I didn’t come home that night.
B) I still was convinced this was all in my head so we didn’t need to alarm mom and dad and have them head into the city.
Well, no need to worry about being one of those crazy “I’m having contractions when I am really not” women, everything I was feeling was not in my head and after observing me for an hour the nurse mid-wife taking care of me asked me to head to NYU Medical Center.
2. GETTING A CAB IN RUSH HOUR IS NOT ANY EASIER JUST BECAUSE YOU ARE HAVING PRE-TERM CONTRACTIONS.
I really did my best not to panic. I called my mom and calmly told her the situation, sent a text to my sister telling her what was going on, emailed a few close friends and walked to get a cab on Spring Street. At 4:30pm in the afternoon.
I think this is when I did my most intense praying.
It took about 15 minutes and me basically running diagonal across the street, but I did it and I was on my way to the hospital.
3. WHEN THEY SAY “READY MOM?” THEY ARE TALKING TO ME.
So I navigated my way through the halls of the hospital and found the correct elevator to take and I knew I was in the right place from the conversations the nurses were having at he nursing station and from the large TV screens that had each patients fetal monitor up showing all of the contractions and the fetal heart rate. I explained my situation to the woman sitting at the desk and she looked around through a pile of papers to see if she could find any evidence of my doctor’s office calling ahead.
Nope. No luck.
She asked me to have a seat.
Which I did, and as I continued to feel the contractions I became convinced I would deliver my premature daughter in the admitting area of NYU Medical Center. A nurse saw me and must have noticed the look of concern on my face and told me not to worry, that I would be taken care of very shortly and we would get everything under control.
I knew I always liked nurses (more on that later).
Finally the woman at the desk said, “OK Mom, you can take a left over there and someone will take care of you.”
I continued texting MY mom on cell phone.
“Hey!” she shouted, “you are the one that is pregnant?”
“Um, yes,” I said, still confused (but slightly flattered that perhaps I was not showing as much as I thought I was, therefore there was still a question).
“Well then YOU are MOM, so take a left over there…” she said. And I think she was laughing to herself.
4. WHEN YOU ARE ON THE LABOR AND DELIVERY FLOOR YOU CAN CHECK YOUR MODESTY AT THE DOOR.
I recall a long time ago, one of my aunts saying “before you get pregnant, you mind as well run around naked in front of the garbage man to because that is just about as much modesty you are going to be left with when it’s all over.” When she said this, I was a teenager at the time and horrified at the idea of being naked in front of a garbage man or anyone else that I did not personally sign off on.
I am going to say it right now, “Auntie Robin, you were right.”
I’ll spare you the details, just suffice it to say there are an entirely different set of social norms on that floor that would get you arrested in the outside world.
5. THE KIND OF FRIENDS YOU NEED ARE THE TYPE THAT DON’T ASK IF YOU WANT THEM TO COME TO THE HOSPITAL, THEY ASK WHAT THE ADDRESS IS.
One of my close friends arrived, with a very nice smelling Dunkin Donuts coffee in hand, only moments after I did. And soon after two more arrived, but not before offering to bring me chicken for dinner or sushi. Although I would have loved some of both, neither were allowed. But I appreciated the offer.
A pregnant girl does have to eat, just not then.
Speaking of which, I did vaguely remember a friend of mine that is an OBGyn physician assistant telling me when I go into labor, if I can stomach it, eat something, because when I enter the hospital, the first thing they will do is tell me I can’t eat or drink anything.
You see, as I was in denial about the situation, I did not do any of this.
6. MOMMY AND DADDY ARE VERY GOOD IN THESE SITUATIONS – AND MAKE EXCELLENT TIME IN RUSH HOUR TRAFFIC.
My parents came and I knew it would be all right. I also knew that the FIVE people I had in my triage area of NYU Medical was way over the NO PEOPLE that were allowed in there, accept a partner. But no one stopped any of my very well behaved guests from keeping me company.
I was very happy to see my parents.
Here is the funny thing. When they arrived, the contractions were getting fairly strong and were about 5 minutes apart. And I could feel them. Sort of…a lot. And they were making me a little uneasy.
So my mom had a non-medical solution to this. She told my father to turn the monitor away from me so I couldn’t see the contractions registering on the screen. I didn’t really argue with her because it was more entertaining than anything else, but I did wonder what sort of motherly thing I will be doing when my daughter is 30.
7. WHEN THE NURSE SAYS, “THIS MIGHT STING A LITTLE” SHE MEANS MORE THAN A LITTLE.
So there we were, all six of us, staring at me in a hospital gown, attached to a fetal monitor and my parents asked if it was okay to go get something to eat downstairs, but made my friends promise to call if they were going to do anything to me.
Of course the moment my parents left the floor the nurse came in and told me she had spoken to my doctor and it was time for some IV fluids and a shot of Terbutaline.
My friends asked if it was time to call my parents and I said, “Oh, just let them eat, this is fine.”
So the nurse, Sherri, whom I LOVE by the way and am trying to book for when I deliver (although she said they don’t take personal bookings) came over to start the IV. She was also the one that saw my worried face out in admitting and told me that everything was going to be taken care of. I love her. LOVE.
Back to the IV…she told me she was going to put it in my mid-forearm because it was more comfortable and I could have full use of my hands – to text and email of course. She also told me she was going to use an 18-gauge needle in case I was admitted, this would be what they would have to put in anyway.
I think that is what was used when they pierced my belly button. Maybe not, but that certainly stung more than a little, despite all of the piercings I have had.
Next, the shot of Terbutaline. She explained to me that this medicine worked as a muscle relaxer and I got very excited that I would finally feel like I had a few glasses of wine…not so much.
It is sort of like an adrenaline type substance and it triggers your fight or flight response. During that response your round muscles relax, and because the uterus is one, it usually stops the contractions. For anyone that has had asthma, this is also used to treat asthmatic attacks and bronchial spasms.
The contractions stopped very quickly.
Then my hands started to shake and my ears started to ring and I needed to be laid flat on the bed. The nurse said this was all normal and would soon pass.
My friends were practicing their fight or flight responses in their heads and telling me that for the record, they ALL thought we should have called my mom before the nurse administered this medication.
They were probably right, but I was so happy to have those contractions stop.
BTW…when my parents came back to the room and I told my mom what had taken place, my friends totally threw me, the pregnant woman with preterm contractions, under the bus. “We told her to call you and she said it was fine.”
8. UNBORN BABIES HATE THE SOUND THE FETAL MONITOR MAKES.
So, for those of you that are unfamiliar with this, there are two bands placed across my abdomen. One is to monitor the contractions, the other to monitor the baby’s heart beat. And it is very comforting because I can hear my favorite heart beat in the world.
Every couple minutes or so, I could also hear a loud whacking sound and see a ripple across my stomach which was my daughter practicing her roundhouse kicks.
I told the nurse that I noticed she was moving a lot more than usual and she said, “Yea, babies hate the sound of the monitor that we can’t hear, so they usually try to swim away from it. I’m surprised she has stayed in place and we have been able to get a heartbeat for this long.”
Yep, most babies try to move away from the sound, my daughter tries to kick it off of me.
9. BED REST SOUNDS SO MUCH BETTER IN THEORY THAN IN REALITY. ESPECIALLY WHEN THE SUN IS OUT.
So I was released from the hospital and I was told to take it easy for a few days and try to get plenty of rest.
My parents kidnapped me to their house.
The next morning I woke up in CT with more contractions and headed to Bridgeport Hospital this time.
Pretty much the same routine, minus the shot. The doctor told me that I needed to stay on bed rest to see if that would stop the contractions. Because this was not kicking me into active labor, there is a reluctance to administer more medicine.
There was no reluctance, however, to put me on bed rest. He basically told me that for the rest of the pregnancy I would need to be closely monitored, but by modifying my activity and making sure I got plenty of rest and was always well hydrated, this might be nothing more than a nuisance. Ignoring all of that would likely land me right back in the hospital.
I went back to my doctor yesterday and the contractions are slowing, which is good because things are headed in the right direction. But she wanted me to rest for the remainder of the week.
10. OPRAH WAS RIGHT.
Yes, I know, you are trying to figure out what Oprah has to do with all of this. No, she wasn’t one of the friends that was with me in the hospital.
I remember a while back hearing Oprah say on her show something like “God always speaks in a whisper first, then he comes knocking on your door and if you still refuse to listen, he will bring the roof down on your head to get your attention.”
I like to think that I am superwoman. Just about a year ago, I ran my first half-marathon and I think it was 91 degrees when I crossed the finish line.
I live in complete denial that there are any limitations to what I can and cannot do.
Since becoming pregnant, some close friends and family would remind me how important it is to take care of myself, how tired I look and that I am not the only one in this equation…that right now, and until she is born, I am all she has.
I ignored those whispers.
So next was the pounding on the door.
And here we are. In bed, at my parents house, in CT, resting.
Don’t worry, I should be back on my feet soon.