Monday, March 28, 2011


Went a bit off the rails there last week, didn’t I? As I’ve said many times before, I do my best (or, of late, only) blogging while I’m at work; last week I didn’t go to work either Wednesday or Thursday and although I was back to the physical trappings of my regular routine as of Friday, I wasn’t mentally prepared for posting. So sorry about the near-week of silence, and apologies in advance for the fact that this week may be wildly off-model as I try to regroup and catch up.

So we had an unexpected mid-week hospitalization, which started out looking like one thing and ended up quite another. My wife woke up in the wee hours of Wednesday morning with painful contractions, and to her eternal credit she laid awake in bed beside me for a good half hour trying to ascertain if they were real contractions or not before going into full-blown panic mode. She has gone through labor before, and her ability to recognize true, laboring contractions isn’t really in dispute, but at the same time the previous and to date only time she’s been in labor it was artificially induced, so there’s an unavoidable amount of uncertainty in the mix nonetheless. On top of that, she is group B strep positive which means, by the book, she should be at the hospital on antibiotics for four hours before delivering for the baby’s sake, so there’s an added incentive to avoid being overly dismissive of anything that might possibly be labor. Point being, the contractions didn’t go away between 3:30 a.m. and 4, so she woke me up, and then from 4 a.m. to 5, I handled timing the contractions’ durations and frequency and tried to help my wife remain relatively calm. By 5 a.m., after a dozen minute-long contractions that were occurring with dependable five-minute regularity albeit way more painful than my wife remembered from last time, we felt justified calling the doctor, who instructed us to head on over to the hospital.

So we were fairly efficient about getting ourselves ready and also finding a friend to come over and wait for the little guy to wake up and get him ready and off to daycare, and we were on the road a little before 6 a.m. and in the hospital not too long after. The labor and delivery nurses were in the midst of changing over from night shift to day shift crew, but still reassuringly competent about getting us squared away. They got my wife hooked up to some monitors in the triage room, which is SOP before sending the mother on to an actual labor room – presumably, one imagines, this is standard in order to weed out the women who show up believing they are in labor when really they aren’t, and fair enough for that. You would think, given the reasonable restraint we exercised in assessing what was happening, we would pass right through fairly quickly. But here’s the kicker: my wife was not actually in labor. Just tremendous pain.

I think perhaps this might only scratch the surface.
The pain, it was soon theorized, was due to kidney stones. And on the one hand, this was actually very good news. Had it actually been labor, the baby would have been born about three and a half weeks pre-term, which certainly is not the end of the world (her big brother was induced two and a half weeks pre-term) but is also less than optimal. We were also down one local set of grandparents, who were mid-vacation in Ireland until Sunday, so juggling the little guy with the new baby’s arrival would have been trickier than we had expected. Plus the agony itself, had it been associated with labor, would have meant hours of really spirit-crushing pain in the attempt to bring the child forth via drug-free delivery. Whereas pain meds for kidney stones were an at-hand source of relief.

The monitoring also brought further good news in the form of strong readings across the board on the baby herself, who was doing fine floating as contentedly as always in her amnion suite, not particularly interested in going anywhere, thanks. But the monitors also said that my wife was not having strong labor-like contractions, and at this point I can only make ill-informed guesses at best as far as what had been going on all morning. When my wife said she was having strong contractions at home I believed her from the get-go, and the fact that she convinced her doctor this was the case as well would have banished any doubts if I had had them. The monitors just told a different tale. Did the contractions subside on the way to the hospital or shortly after arrival, either totally coincidentally or because being stressed about making it there in time was ramping them up and being tended to by medical professionals kind of inherently calmed my wife down? Were they actually weak contractions all along, and either amplified to my wife’s perceptions or warped by crossed neurological signals because of the accompanying excruciating pain? I suppose it doesn’t really matter. We did everything we were supposed to do and we ended up where we ended up.

Which is not where the story ends, of course. So there we were, in labor and delivery triage with the only fact conclusively proven being that my wife was not in labor, which meant we were not going to be moving on to an actual labor room. The kidney-stone diagnosis was more or less a best-guess, which needed to be confirmed via ultrasound, so we had to stay put in triage while waiting for radiology to call us down. And that ended up taking hours and hours, really through no fault of anyone. We just happened to show up at the hospital on a day when radiology was slammed with multiple emergency cases first thing in the morning. My wife’s doctor put in an ASAP order for the u/s, but our nurse eventually figured out that all ASAP u/s cases were getting ignored in favor of STAT u/s cases, which radiology was up to their eyeballs in. So my wife’s case got upgraded to STAT, and the nurse took pity on my wife and gave her some I/V Dilaudid even though the diagnosis was not official at that point. What was official was that my wife was a wreck from the unabated pain at that point, and more power to our nurse for letting that be the deciding factor.

Once the u/s was done and the lab work had come back and my wife’s doctor graced us with a personal appearance, the results were revealed to be … inconclusive. The lab work showed some potential indicators for an infection, but those might have resulted from a contaminated sample, and my wife hadn’t spiked a fever at any point. The radiologist hadn’t seen any stones on the u/s, which either meant there were none or they were small (but still excruciating). Still, the doctor left it up to my wife to choose, either to head home or be admitted for overnight observation. She chose to stay in the hospital where she continued to get I/V fluids, and antibiotics, and had pain medication at the ready (although after her initial dose around 9:45 a.m. and another at 1 p.m., she never felt like she needed any more). I left the hospital around 2:30, as they were about to finally move my wife from the triage stretcher she had been camping out on to a proper room. As it turned out, all the post-partum rooms were occupied so she got an actual labor room, and of the two kinds of rooms in the maternity ward the labor rooms are the really spacious, cushy ones. And while I was picking up the little guy from daycare and getting him through the evening dinner, bath and bedtime rituals, my wife did in fact pass a couple of small (but still excruciating!) kidney stones. Then she spent a fairly restful night in the hospital, and got discharged and came home the next day.

Apparently, since she now has a frame of reference for all three, my wife feels confident asserting that kidney stones are more uncomfortable and more painful than breaking one’s elbow or delivering a baby. Which, if I were really grasping for a bright side, I would take heart in because if I should ever be unlucky enough to develop kidney stones, at least I know my wife won’t roll her eyes at me and mutter something about how surely passing a child through one’s pelvis is more arduous but men are such wusses. (Not that my wife would be inclined to be so callous to begin with.) But the fact is I’m not grasping for a bright side all that much, because I felt like things turned out about as well as could be expected. On the one hand I do not in any way want to discount the raw suffering my poor wife went through. Just from second-hand witnessing, I would not wish kidney stones on 95% of my worst enemies. (That absolute vilest and scummiest 5% better watch it, though.) But all in all, we were lucky many times over. We went from “the baby is coming almost a month early and it looks like the labor is going to be grueling and awful” to “the baby is fine and staying put for now” which was a tremendous relief. The pain itself was terrible, but the source of the pain turned out to be something relatively benign, in the sense that I’ve never heard of anyone dying of kidney stones. And as always my family is lucky to live in the first world within a short drive’s distance of a well-equipped hospital, of which we can take full advantage thanks to decent health insurance, and so on and so on.

All in all it was slightly surreal thanks to the speed with which we went from “things are simultaneously bad and out of control” to “everything’s back to normal” and yet, here we are. My wife is feeling fine now and the whole ordeal seems like a very weird and isolated anomaly. Of course it’s not, really, nothing ever is, but perhaps I’ve babbled enough for one day and tomorrow I’ll talk about some of the ongoing fallout.

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