As our second pregnancy slowly came to its final weeks, Travis and I were constantly weighing whether our one car family could spare Travis whenever he had appointments or whether I should be driving myself to work. On Friday, April 28, I joked with coworkers about how I just needed one more week to be ready for maternity leave…just one more, but my luck baby would wait three. That Saturday I drove Travis to a church event, joking all the way about how I would just have to drive myself with our two-year-old to the hospital when I went into labor. About 60 minutes after arriving home from that trip, contractions were coming about 10 minutes apart with vigor.
We drove to labor and delivery twice that day, once with instructions to walk to win my unfavorable cervix some favor and another time given the choice to walk some more or go home to tough early labor out in the comfort of my own bed. We left Wesley with his grandma that night just in case things picked up, but other than well timed, but too far apart contractions, the only thing leaving my body was everything in my stomach, on cue, every three hours.
In the early morning, we were slowly rousing ourselves, debating whether Sunday would be the day, or if I would just continue to feel miserable at home. I did not want to go back in, suffer a terribly painful vaginal exam only for a nurse to tell me my cervix was still terribly posterior. Lying in bed, thankful that I at least hadn’t thrown up in about four hours, a small burp like hiccup escaped my body. Since youth, small triggers like this or even when nothing at all seemed to be happening to my body, my heart is tripped up into a thunderous bout of supraventricular tachycardia.
I have been plagued by this unpleasant, though mostly non-threatening annoyance since childhood. On all but three other occasions, it stops within 20 minutes or usually much less either on its own or through well time vagal maneuvers taught to me by a cardiologist for such a time as this. However, taking a deep breath and bearing down with an eight-pound human dwelling just beneath your diaphragm is quite a challenge. On this morning, I could not get it to stop.
Because of my familiarity with this cardiac annoyance, I am often very resistant to go into the emergency room where they administer a quick round of beta blocker through an IV, bottoming out my heart rate for it to restart at a normal pace, all the while making me feel like I’ve just been dropped out of a 20-story building only to come to perfectly alright. But being 9 months pregnant and having a concerned husband, I did indeed end up in the emergency room.
Despite the need for two rounds of adenosine to get my heart back into shape, a quick visit with OB and a cardiologist left me walking back out into the unusually sunny April morning, feeling no better in terms of contractions but also no closer to giving birth. I was sent home with a prescription for a low dose of oral beta blocker to take just to prevent any more episodes of SVT during my pregnancy. Travis and I took the time to scoop up said pills and chicken teriyaki before heading home. Grumpy about my condition and the mornings events, we arrived home where I promptly sat down in a huff to eat my chicken and rice. Without any warning or consideration for my well-being, my heart began to thunder away with no less vigor than it was in the moments before my first two rounds of adenosine were administered. Being stubborn, I told Travis I was taking a bath and sat there determined to make it stop on my own.
It had been all of forty or so minutes at home, the first time I had seen my son in over 24 hours, and after only an hour-ish of sleep that this second bout of SVT took place. The idea of returning Wesley to his grandmother and myself to the arms of the emergency room staff made me positively aghast. By the time I was hooked up to my second IV of the day, stuck with what seems like a hundred immovable sticky electrode patches, and being dropped back off that 20 story building again, I was positively done. A crash cart loomed behind me, precautionary AED patches scratched at my collar bone, and a host of OB and ER nurses hovered around me like I might die at any moment. I did not think I would die, but I was certain: my body would no longer tolerate this pregnancy. Though I have a pretty solid rule about crying in public, the tears fell steadily.
This time I was admitted, and after waiting out a game of phone tag across four hospital departments, I ended up in the ICU, the only place the hospital could administer me a constant IV drip containing a beta blocker called Esmolol. If there could be a hospital stay version of MTV Cribs, my episode would be one to watch. Tucked into every nook and cranny of my ICU room were all the necessary accoutrements for giving birth to a baby potentially suffering from the negative effects of my current state. The ICU bed was replaced with a breakable labor bed, a baby warmer was wheeled into what I am sure was either a closet or a bathroom, and all the bodily monitoring devices a girl could dream of were scattered around the head of my bed.
Now that my heart was under control, it was time to get my induction under way. First thought was a foley catheter to get that favor my cervix needed. Perhaps fortunately for me, all the excitement had finally worked my cervix to 3 cm dilated, and the balloon was skipped for good ol’ Pitocin. Boy, does that stuff work. I was encouraged to wait if possible to get an epidural as the potential change in blood pressure from the anesthetic coupled with the potential for soft blood pressure from the Esmolol would be no doubt critical for the baby. Trusting my positive experience with an epidural last delivery, and knowing my blood pressure had held steady since being on the IV drip for a few hours already, I suffered through a few hours of silent crying and bruising my husband’s hands before calling upon that blessed anesthetist.
Perhaps fortunately, the rest of labor and delivery were uneventful despite the group of fourteen medical professionals present from four different hospital teams. As the pain of contractions faded away, my morale improved. When it came time to push, we did find that Finn was as his brother before him sunny side up. Thanks to the efforts of the doctor performing the delivery and my clearly all powerful cervix, we could get him turned around. Forty minutes and a few jokes between pushes later, Finn joined us just past midnight on May 1. By mid-morning that day, I was deemed well enough to be removed from the beta blocker and we were moved from my room in the ICU to a much cozier room in the family birth center. Though the ICU staff was sad to see its unusual tiny guest leave, I was happy to put the drama behind me.
Though we were originally quoted a stay of at least three days in the hospital, we were discharged on Tuesday afternoon. Finn’s bout of unusually low blood sugar subsided, my heart was cooperating, and overall doctors were impressed by both of our resilience. Despite the deep ache left by labor, and the exhaustion that seemed to permeate my every cell, I was eager to get home to my bed and my first son. Here we are, five days later, with a loving big brother and a tiny little man, taking one day at a time. So far among the many challenges that come with growing a family, our coffee maker broke the day we came home…pray for us.