As soon as I laid down on the bed, I felt my heart start pounding in this really strange way. Not like I was out of breath from walking up the stairs, but a strange, irregular beat. It was beating so hard that it felt like the baby was kicking my shoulder or something - really odd. I laid there for a minute more but really felt like something was wrong. Eva came up, and I left the kids to go lay on the couch. Resting did nothing to slow my heart down, and I got the feeling that something wasn't right. Thinking it was my blood pressure, I decided to call the dr. and make sure it was normal. The nurse seemed really confused and was asking me if I had eaten anything or drank anything, etc. Lots of weird, unrelated questions. I tried to keep calm and explain that although I was resting, my heart was still pounding. She called the dr. and the dr. said to have me come into L&D at the hospital. I was a little scared but figured they would see that they baby was fine and send me home. I dropped the kids off around the corner with Stacey and didn't even say good-bye to them. Didn't even pack them a bag or anything, I was in such a frenzy to get to the hospital and get it figured out. I kept trying to call Andrew and couldn't get ahold of him. Finally on my way to the hospital, after calling my mom to inform her of the situation, Andrew called. He was just about to leave work, which is about an hour drive, so he said he would meet me at the hospital.
I got up to L&D at 4pm and was put in a triage room. The nurse assumed, as did I, that this was a routine thing and didn't even put me in a hospital gown. I was hooked up to the monitors and found, thankfully, that all was well with the baby. She put the little thing on my finger to get my pulse and that's when the circus began.
Over the next couple hours there were over a dozen people in and out, feeling my pulse with confused faces, staring at me, poking me, drawing blood, injecting me with terrible medicine that made me feel like I would die. I was a medical mystery. Andrew got there around 5pm. The cardiologist, the anesthesiologist, the OB, the nurse - everyone was puzzled by me. They debated back and forth whether it was atrial fibrillation or not and what to do to treat me. My heart was plugging along at 220 bpm , but I wasn't symptomatic - I felt fine other than that the pounding was giving me a headache. They determined that I would need to be put on a drip of heart medicine overnight, but the Air Force hospital ICU couldn't accomodate me. They decided to put me on an ambulance and transfer me to a local civilian hospital. (Even though Andrew requested that I be flown in a helicopter, they thought ground transportation would be more appropriate. :) ) At that point we didn't know what would happen with the baby, but they were sure that I would not be able to have a VBAC (as I had planned) since my heart would probably not be able to handle the stress of labor. A C-section it would be, but nobody knew when.
Andrew went home to get the kids settled - the bishop's wife graciously offered to stay with the kids overnight so Andrew could be with me - and I was taken to another hospital. On the ambulance ride (which wasn't nearly as cool as it looks on the movies) I started having pretty regular contractions. Which for me is a huge deal, as I've never had contractions without pitocin. I was worried that all the stress might cause me to really go into labor and then we'd really be in a bind. I was on heart medicine the whole way over there, but my heart was still racing at 180-190 bpm. The medicine was having no effect whatsoever.
They wheeled me into the ER where I met the most disgusting human being I've ever seen. He was an insane homeless man they had picked up in a gutter, and he was in a stretcher right across from me. He said the most crude, repulsive things to me as I sat there waiting for a bed. I will never be able to repeat his words, but I'm sure I'll never forget them either. That's when my love for Las Vegas was taken even a notch lower - I couldn't believe I was hearing this as I was in such a medical emergency.
There was a big confusion about where I should go and nobody knew quite what to do with me, but eventually I ended up in OB, hooked up to more monitors. No improvement on my heart, and now I was having regular contractions about 1-2 minutes apart. The nurse was freaking out, everyone was in and out asking me a million questions, and I started to freak out a little too. The cardiologist came in and said they were probably going to have to shock me with the paddles to kind of restart my heart, but he was worried about the effect that would have on the baby. The anesthesiologist came in (he was a total jerk) and said he wouldn't touch me until my heart was better under control. Andrew finally got to come in around 9:30pm. They had to cut my shirt off as they couldn't move around all the heart monitors. (That was fun. One less maternity shirt in my wardrobe.) From listening to the drs. talk, I eventually realized that they were planning a C-section for that night. (It really is appaling how little they told me as the patient. I just had to eavesdrop to figure out what was going on.) Andrew hadn't even brought the camera or any baby clothes or ANYTHING. We were completely unprepared for a baby that night, but it looked like he was coming anyway.
They gave me a medicine called Varapamil to slow my heart enough that they could do surgery. It seemed they were feeling more and more urgent to get the baby out so they could fix me, and I started to get really scared. The medicine seemed like it was working and they got my heart rate down in the 120s where the anesthesiologist felt comfortable enough to give me an epidural. The epidural was another one of the memorably painful experiences of the night - nothing like my other 2. It was awful, he was brushing up against all kinds of nerves and had me screaming like a baby. The cardiologist left, thinking I was under control, and said he would come back in the morning to do a scope of my heart and try to find out what was wrong.
They wheeled me into the OR, and again the chaos broke loose. My heartrate started climbing again, and it got back into the 180s. The drs. were all yelling at each other, everyone was running around, and I began to seriously feel that I might die. The epidural was couteracting with the heart medicine and having a terible affect on my body. It was all I could do to keep breathing and my chest felt so terribly heavy. They screamed to get Andrew out of there, and they put the paddles on me in case my heart stopped. (Which to me at that point it looked like it would. I have never been so certain that I might die.) The OB began surgery, and unfortunately I could feel everything. They couldn't give me more epidural because my blood pressure was so low, so they just put an oxygen mask on me and told me to focus on breathing and it would be over soon. I can't tell you how long those 15 minutes seemed. I felt everything. I thought a few times about just giving up and not trying to breathe anymore, because it was so incredibly hard. Finally I heard the baby cry. I heard someone say he was breech and he was 8 pounds. The pain was making everything hazy, and I just remember kicking my legs repeatedly. They kept telling me to hold still, but I couldn't. Andrew came back in at some point to hold my hand. The pain was so intense, I kept saying I couldn't do it anymore.
After a while, the nurse brought Dean over to me. She put his little cheek against mine, and for a few seconds everything disappeared but me and that little baby. I couldn't feel anything but the softness of his skin, and I just wanted to float away with him. Then they whisked him away and the pain came crashing back on me. Because of my heart, they couldn't give me much for the pain - a little morphine to "take the edge off." It must have been a big edge, because it didn't help at all. I don't remember how long it took for me to calm down. They took me to another room where they wrapped my stomach up and gave me clean sheets, and then took me to the cardio ICU for the night. My heart rate eventually slowed, and Andrew left when I was drifting off to sleep with the help of medication.
The next 3 days were living hell. I only got to see my baby twice for a total of maybe 2 hours. They kept me in the ICU and wouldn't allow the baby there because of the risk of infection. They wouldn't allow me to the nursery either, so I suffered all the physical pain with the added emotional pain of being separated from my baby. I can't even describe how difficult it was - any of you who have kids can imagine. Though my heart rate showed that I was fully recovered and fine, the dr. insisted that I stay on monitoring. I hated that dr. with my whole being, but there was nothing I could do. They determined that it may have been just the stress of pregnancy that caused it, but there could be an underlying condition. Oddly enough, they never did any testing to be sure. So I just sat there, useless and helpless, with Andrew occasionally going to spend time with Dean.
On Thursday morning I determined that I was going to walk to the nursery and nobody could stop me. I didn't care if it took me 3 hours and I bled to death on the way there - I was going to see my baby. Andrew stood in front of the door and wouldn't let me leave, and I just collapsed crying in his arms. I figured if they kept us separated any longer, the anxiety would send me into cardiac arrest, and then they would have to let me up there.
Finally finally, on Thursday afternoon, we got discharged to go home. They wheeled me the long walk to the nursery and I got to see him. It was terrible putting Dean in a carseat when my arms were just aching to hold him, but nobody really cares about mother-baby bonds, apparently. Except the mother and the baby, of course. I sat in the back seat with him and held his tiny hand the whole way home. I've hardly set him down since.
Now it's Sunday, and he's 6 days old. The knowledge that this is more than likely our last child has made me look at baby Dean in a whole new light. I have never felt a love so permeating, so complete, in my entire life. Of course, I loved my other babies, tremendously. But the appreciation I feel to have Dean after all we went through makes him seem extra miraculous. I feel almost a desperation to keep him tiny and new, and I simply cannot get enough of him. Even in the middle of the night. :) The last couple days have been like a dream. Of course I have had 2 or 3 meltdowns from the pain, but today I feel as good as new - or as new as you can feel with staples across your stomach - and full of gratitude. We came out of that experience stronger and better, and I am so so so happy to have him in my arms.