This post is Part 3 of a five-part series on the birth and loss of my baby girls, Summer and Malia.
Come back on Monday, April 25, 2016, for Part 4.
Living in Vancouver, I’ve learned to expect gray skies and dark clouds. Once November hits, I know to prepare myself for the coming cold, dark, and dreary days ahead, sometimes going well into April. It’s my least favourite time of year, those five months. The worst is when we have stormy weather and the winds and rain work against you, and you start to wonder if you will ever see the sun again.
Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?
– the disciples to Jesus during a storm, Mark 4:35-41
After a morning of nausea and vomiting, my husband, my mom, and I arrived at the Family Birthing Unit at Surrey Memorial Hospital on March 6, 2016, hoping that everything would turn out okay in the end. Even though my husband packed me an overnight bag before we left the house, none of us really expected I would need to use it.
Once I was called in, the nurse, Manny, asked what brought me to the FBU. I told her I had been having nausea and vomiting all morning, but added that I had also been having tightenings across my abdomen all week. The first time I noticed them was when I was admitted to the FBU the week earlier.
When I finished disclosing my situation, Manny asked me to change into a hospital gown and to give her a urine sample. By that point, peeing into a cup had become routine. It was something I had to do at every one of my prenatal appointments. I felt like I was becoming an expert at it. Outside the bathroom, Manny told my mom and husband that I would have the room next door.
The next three hours, from about 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m., I was pumped with fluids because I hadn’t been able to keep anything down that day. I was administered Gravol intravenously to help with the nausea and vomiting, and Manny took my blood pressure and temperature readings. They also took a blood sample. (As best I can recall, all of my tests came back normal.)
Laying in that hospital bed, not knowing what was happening to me and the babies, I felt myself sinking further and further into sadness and despair. With it being my first pregnancy, I was terrified. Why was I back in the hospital? What did I do wrong? Is all of this my fault? As questions upon questions and different scenarios played out in my mind, I couldn’t help but feel absolutely helpless.
“You’re back!” I heard a voice say across from me. It was Raveena, the nurse I had a week earlier. She heard that I was back and wanted to see how I was doing.
“Yeah, I guess I can’t get enough of this place,” I joked. “I had some nausea and vomiting earlier today,” I told her.
“Oh,” Raveena said, slowly nodding her head.
At some point, a medical resident came in to tend to me. Even though I, unfortunately, no longer remember his name, I recall that he spoke with a great deal of kindness and sympathy. I mentioned the abdominal tightenings I had been having and he said it was probably Braxton Hicks, but he agreed it was unusual that they were happening so frequently. He suggested I speak with the on-call doctor about it when she came in.
After discussing my symptoms, the resident did a bedside ultrasound to see how the babies were doing. It took quite some time for him to get a reading of their heartbeats (this is usually the case with babies that are not yet that far along in pregnancy), but when he did manage to pick them up, he reassured us that they sounded good. He mentioned that both the babies were head down, and I asked him if that was normal. (The week before, at my appointment with Dr. Wittmann, baby B (Malia) was transverse and only baby A (Summer) was head down.)
“Oh, yeah, they’re still small, so there’s lots of room for them to move around and change positions.” I gave a sigh of relief and imagined the babies doing summersaults in my belly.
Around 6:00 p.m., the on-call doctor finally came in. As soon as she spoke, I immediately wished I was seeing someone else.
Dr. Blaszinsky is a short, plump Eastern European woman with a thick Polish accent. Her hair, a shade of brown I think, fell down to her chin. For some reason, I remember her having her hands on her hips when she came in, as if to say, “Okay, let’s get this one over with and move on to the next one.”
I told her what was going on – that I couldn’t keep any food down because of nausea and vomiting that started in the morning – and then she told me what would happen next. I was to be referred to Jim Pattison Outpatient Clinic five minutes away, where nausea and vomiting cases were usually referred. The clinic would call me the next morning to set up an appointment. Dr. Blaszinsky would leave the cannula that Manny inserted into the back of my left hand in case the folks at Jim Pattison decided I needed more fluids. I was otherwise free to go.
But wait, what about the abdominal tightenings I had been having all week?
In the matter of a second, I quickly debated in my mind whether to remind Dr. Blaszinsky that I had reported this to Manny when I first came in earlier that day. Should I just take the free pass to go, and leave the hospital right then and there? I hated being in the hospital, and this doctor didn’t really seem like the most pleasant person. Dr. Blaszinsky looked about ready to make her exit. No, I should remind her.
“Okay, now I have to deal with this, too,” she retorted, sounding annoyed. “Why am I only now hearing about this? Now I have to do a speculum exam to check your cervix.” Besides irritation, her voice gave away her rather unfriendly disposition.
I felt my eyes grow wide with dread. This woman did not seem happy. I don’t want her touching me! Given everything that had happened, the last thing I needed was for a doctor with poor bedside manner to jam a cold instrument inside me. “I’m not really good at these exams,” I told her.
“Well, you tell me that you are having tightenings in your abdomen, so I have to perform an exam,” she said matter-of-factly in her Polish accent. Her tone of voice sounded almost threatening.
“O-okay,” I said hesitantly. I shouldn’t have said anything.
To be honest, I think it must have taken about five to 10 minutes for her to get anything done. I was extremely nervous. The room seemed small with the male medical resident assisting and my mom holding onto my hand. Because it was taking so long, I could see Dr. Blaszinsky’s frustration level increasing. She let out breaths that signaled her exasperation. I kept apologizing. She then told the medical resident to call Manny in to help calm me. Great, more people. Why don’t we just invite the whole hospital in? I didn’t mind Manny, though. At least she was kind.
Once it was all over, Dr. Blaszinsky said that my cervix was still closed. The tightenings weren’t doing anything. I was free to go. After the exam, I decided to go to the washroom. It hurt to pee. That was a first.
It was probably close to 7:00 p.m. when my parents dropped me and my husband off at home. Although we were exhausted from the day’s events, my husband and I were happy that we would be sleeping in our own bed that night. My parents, I’m sure, drove off relieved to know that nothing more sinister was going on with me and the babies. For a moment, I think we all thought that we had put the worst behind us. About two hours later, at 9:00 p.m., I went into preterm labour. None of us saw that storm coming.
To be continued …