“The ultrasound just showed that you have a subchorionic hematoma,” the nurse informed us when she reappeared about an hour later. “The amniotic fluid level was within normal limits, and I know you said you’ve had the SCH for quite awhile. The doctor said he still wants you to stay until he can actually check you over when he comes in, so let’s get you to a room where you can get a little bit of sleep.”
The nurse led us to a room across the hall. I was so relieved that based on the ultrasound clearly my amniotic fluid levels were normal and so tired that I barely registered the fact that I was being placed in a labor room. On my prior visits, I’d been in rooms all the way at the postpartum end of the hall. It’s a detail that stands out now for its significance, but denial had kicked back in and I happily made myself comfortable in the bed while Arthur stretched out on the couch.
The next several hours passed fitfully with the periodic rushes of fluid waking me over and over. Finally, at around 5:30 am, I stood up to go to the bathroom and change the soaker, turned on the light, and stared as deep crimson drips rolled down my thighs. I called for the nurse immediately, handing her the now blood-soaked cloth. The room was still darkened, but I briefly saw her expression change, then: “We’ll make sure we put this by the sink for the doctor to see. He should be in soon.”
“This is just the SCH, right?” I asked, desperately needing to hear that nothing was really wrong, not really. “I mean, I’ve had lots of bleeding throughout this pregnancy.”
“I don’t know,” the nurse said gently. “We’re going to have to see what the doctor says. Let me know if you have another pad like this. I’ll tell him he needs to come see you as soon as he gets here.”
“Are you okay?” Arthur mumbled from the couch as I climbed back into my bed.
“I think you need to cancel your doctor’s appointment as soon as the office opens,” I told him. “I don’t know what’s going on. I think it’s the stupid SCH acting up again. I can’t believe this. I thought it was done when all my clots came out a couple of weeks ago. And now it’s going to ruin the nice day we had planned. Maybe we can still do my bump shot when we go home.”
I lay silently, willing the ominous flow to stop, pleading with God to make it stop, to let my baby be okay, please. Please let the doctor get here. Please let it be something that he can fix. Please let this not be a big deal. Over and over and over I repeated this as though repetition might somehow bring it into being. Please.
I must have fallen asleep at some point as a brisk knock startled me and the nurse peered around the door to tell us that the doctor was reviewing my chart and would come in shortly. I sat up, blinking against the sudden influx of light, then carefully peeling the cloth pad between my legs away to check. Still bright red, still trickling out. I didn’t have time to consider what this meant, however, as I heard another knock and the doctor walked in. I held up my pad for him mutely.
“Hmm,” he said noncommittally as I proceeded to tell him what had happened and gestured to the laundry bag full of saturated pads and soiled sheets, showed him the pad by the sink. “Well, I think I’m going to go call the perinatologist. I’d like his opinion before we make any decisions.”
He left and I started crying almost uncontrollably. Something about the care with which he’d chosen his words terrified me. It confirmed what I already knew somewhere deep down: something was horrifically wrong. “If this is it…” I began, trying to get out words that I couldn’t grasp, couldn’t say but knew I needed to convey somehow to Arthur, “If this is it…oh God, how are we going to get through this?”
“Let’s wait until the doctor gets back,” Arthur said soothingly. “He just needs to talk to the specialist.” Realizing that Arthur still genuinely thought it was going to be okay, I pushed down my fear, stopped crying. Maybe I was overreacting.
The doctor returned. “I think we’re going to send you on to a bigger hospital,” he told me. “There’s nothing we can do for you here. Unless…” He paused. My eyes landed on the warmer in the corner, draped with blankets, awaiting a new arrival and suddenly I felt sick. My baby could be born today. And if that happens…no. No.
“Okay, so how would that work? Would we just drive there?”
“I think an ambulance would be best,” the doctor said gently. “I’ll just make a few phone calls.” He stepped out again, and again, I found myself on the brink of panic. I knew something that Arthur didn’t: the criteria for ambulance usage. If the doctor thought I needed to transfer by ambulance, it meant that he felt there was a significant risk that I would either hemorrhage dangerously or go into labor during the hour-long journey.
“I’m going to call my parents,” Arthur said. “They need to know where we’re going.”
“Yeah,” I agreed. “I’d better call mine too. Do you really think I need to go by ambulance? I mean, I think it would be okay if you drove me.” Denial slipped down around me, comforting and thick. I made a quick call to my mother’s cell, got her voicemail and left a message telling her to call me back.
The doctor came back one more time to let me know that the transfer was all set. “The north hospital is full, so we’re going to send you down to City South Hospital. You work there, right?” I confirmed this was correct, and he nodded. “Dr. H is admitting, and then the perinatologist will be in to see you once you arrive.”
“I know Dr. H,” I told him. “I think that sounds good.” Arthur agreed.
Before the doctor left the room, he noticed the NFL sweatshirt Arthur was wearing. We had a surreal conversation about Tom Brady’s deflated footballs and the upcoming Superbowl and whether or not the Colts really had gotten screwed in the playoffs. As the doctor headed out, my phone rang: my mother. “Something happened. They want me to go by ambulance to the city. I’ve been gushing fluid all night and now I’m bleeding again. I don’t think I need to go by ambulance, it’ll be expensive and I’ll be fine.” The nurse was back in the room now, IV supplies in her hand. I nodded at her that it was okay if she started looking for a vein and switched the phone to my other hand.
My mother spent most of the conversation talking me into going in the ambulance while the nurse – much to everyone’s surprise, I’m generally a tough stick – got my IV in on the first go. “I’m calling EMS,” the nurse said as I hung up the phone. “I don’t know how long it will take for them to come, but I’ll let you know when I find out.”
Meanwhile, Arthur had managed to get in touch with his mother, who, sensing something was awry, asked him if it would be okay if she left work and met us at City South Hospital. “Yes, I think that would be a good idea,” I said, surprised to hear the words. Surely nothing was that wrong to necessitate hurrying out of work.
“Plan to meet us there” said Arthur as he hung up.
“Since you can’t ride in the ambulance with me, I think you should go home and get some stuff. I want you to grab my kindle, maybe the ipad. Also some clothes. And…” I trailed off. “And can you find a shirt or something that looks okay? Like nice enough for photos? Just…just in case? Like one of my wrap sweaters that will still fit right now?” Tears ran down my face. “Why don’t you get a shower too? It will be a few minutes before EMS gets here and you know how this works. It’s a lot of ‘hurry up and wait’. Even if you get to the city a bit after me, it’ll still be awhile before the doctors come see us. You may as well clean up.”
Arthur agreed and stood up just as the nurse walked in to inform us that EMS would arrive within the next half-hour. He bent over, kissed me and was gone.
The next twenty minutes felt incredibly long. By myself, no need to put on a good face for Arthur, I found myself sobbing and sobbing. The achiness in my belly intensified. A horrible thought emerged: what if this is the beginning of labor? No. NO. I called the nurse. “I need something for pain, please. Now.”
“What kind of pain are you having?”
“I just feel achy. Crampy, really.”
Her face registered concern. I have no doubt that she knew what was most likely happening, but she simply told me very calmly “I’ll find out from the doctor what you can have, and we’ll get you something.”
Everything happened at once. The paramedics came in, bearing a stretcher and equipment bags. The nurse came back with the pain medicine. It all felt wholly unreal to me, as though I was watching from some great distance, not living the experience. I scooted over to the stretcher. The buckles of the safety belts clicked into place, the stretcher lifted as the paramedics prepared to wheel me out. The nurse injected the pain medicine into my IV. “This is Sta.dol,” she informed me. “Hopefully it will help.”
I remember how she patted my arm. “Good luck,” she whispered. “I hope it is nothing and we see you back here in May or June.” Then she was gone and the paramedics were wheeling me down the halls, through the emergency room into the cold, grey January morning. I shivered as they loaded me into the back of the ambulance.