Thursday, October 19, 2006

Part III: A Waddle In Time

Once dad was in town, I started to go down hill very quickly. Even though I was consuming 1.5 gallons of water a day, I was "voiding" no more than a cup a day. It was becoming increasingly difficult to move around, to stand up and sit down, and getting in to and out of the bathroom was a two person job.

My last day of work was Friday, October 8. By Friday evening, I was covered from my hands to my feet in the PUPPP rash, which had started to break out a few days earlier. My toes were especially itchy and since there was no way I could reach down to them - my wonderful dad sat on the end of my bed the couch with a hairbrush and scrubbed my feet until they were pink.

The itching never did stop.

My father is a retired pharmacist, so when Charlie arrived home from work that night, Dad took off for the drugstore to pick up a variety of hydrocortisone creams, Aveeno Oatmeal Bath, Gold Bond Powder, Benadryl, a foot bath, a toilet seat riser - and a prescription for Terbutaline that I had to take every 3 hours, round-the-clock. When dad walked in with bags full of remedies that would help to make me more comfortable, I was so overcome with happiness, I burst in to tears.

Unfortunately, none of the remedies helped.

The itching from my PUPPPs became more and more unbearable and spread over my body. I finally agreed that an Aveeno Oatmeal Bath might help to soothe my skin and then quickly realized that hoisting my 230-pound self in to the bathtub was a terrible, TERRIBLE idea. It took Charlie 30-minutes to get me out of the tub and he came within seconds of calling the Fire Department for assistance. I was adamant that I could get out of the tub without the help of our extremely good looking neighborhood firefighters. With every ounce of stregth in my body - I hulked myself up on my arms, while Charlie stood in the tub and hoisted me out.

I remember laying on the couch Sunday evening and crying. Within a matter of days, I went from feeling wonderful - to feeling like 10 cents worth of God Help Me. The fluid retention was so bad that I was gaining approximately 2 pounds a day. My lungs felt tight, my hands were numb, my legs and feet had swollen up so they were barely recognizable, my back and hips ached with the most intense pain I've ever felt, I couldn't breathe through my nose, my heartburn was unbearable, I couldn't stand up unassisted, I couldn't sit down unassisted, the only way I could go to the restroom was with the tap running and my hand submerged in warm water ... and the itching was driving me insane.

For the first time in the past 30 weeks ... I didn't want to be pregnant anymore.

The plan was that my father would drive me back and forth to doctor appointments while Charlie went to work. The first and last appointment dad drove me to was Monday, October 11. When we pulled out of the driveway that morning, my hospital bags were already in the car.

When I walked in for my NST appointment, the nurses took one look at me and immediately summoned the perinatologist on-call. Within an hour, I was sitting in my own private room with an IV of magnesium sulfate and my first shot of betamethisone (a steroid which speeds lung development for preemies and has the added side effect of relieving skin irritations - i.e., PUPPPS rash). While dad made himself comfortable and channel surfed, I scanned the menu and picked out my meals for the next four weeks while I would be on hospital bedrest.

Even in my dire state ... I never imagined that I wouldn't make it to 35 weeks and deliver our babies on November 12th. Even though I had said I didn't want to be pregnant anymore, I firmly believed that once I was in the hospital, everything would be better.

The next morning, I was given another shot of betamethisone and when I went to order my breakfast (that I had carefully picked out the day before), I was informed that my doctor was withholding all food and water. Instead of my French Toast and Canadian Bacon, I was hooked up with an IV of saline and given a cup of ice chips.


Dad came and sat with me while Charlie went to work - and together the two of us watched back to back episodes of Walker, Texas Ranger. That night, we watched Ken Jennings win again on Jeopardy and then we flipped over to watch the Red Sox get crushed by the Yankees. By the time dad left that night, I hadn't had anything to eat all day and my baseball team was down 0-1 in the first game of the American League Championship.

This was shaping up to be a really bad day for me.

Wednesday rolled around and when my requests for pancakes and turkey sausage was shot down, I frantically started paging my doctor to let him know that I was withering from the hunger. Eight hours and at least 15 pages later, he strolled in to my room - moments after Charlie and my father had arrived. I was livid and just as I started to chastise him for starving a woman pregnant with triplets, he cut me off. Apparently, while I was hallucinating and sweating bullets on my magnesium sulfate drip, he was bringing 12 babies in to the world, four of which were more than three months premature.

Nothing like a perinatologist to put things in perspective for you.

My doctor pulled up a chair alongside my bed and told us that my blood work did not look good and he needed to deliver our babies that night. He may as well told me that I had two heads and a pet zebra. I tried arguing that I wasn't planning to deliver the babies until November 12th. I wasn't READY to be a mother yet. Even though it took us over 8 years to get to this point and I had been pregnant for 30 weeks and 5 days, I wasn't prepared.

I needed more time.

The date was October 13. I thought for a few minutes and then told my doctor "No. You can't deliver them tonight. First - I am not a superstitious person, but I'd prefer that they not be born on the 13th. Second - It's the second game of the ALCS and Pedro Martinez is pitching."

At that moment, a neonatologist from the NICU came in to my room. He watched while my perinatologist performed an ultrasound and using the measurements collected, he talked to Charlie and I about the survival rate and prognosis for a 31-week old fetus. Over and over he told us that our babies would be fine and that there would be no long term effects for being born 9 weeks premature. Still, I was in denial and didn't want to believe that our babies would be born so soon.

I don't remember the doctor ever telling me that I was really sick. It wasn't until after the babies were born that it sunk in just how seriously ill I had become. If they had told me, it didn't register that my liver enzymes were through the roof, my platelet count had dropped, and my lungs were filling with fluid. The really bad news is that I had developed HELLP Syndrome, a form of toxemia, that has a mortality rate as high as 25%. The really good news is that I was at one of the best hospitals in the world, under exceptional care, and my babies were at a gestational age where they could survive if born.

After the neonatologist left, my doctor looked sternly at Charlie and said "I'll do another round of bloodwork and if her numbers have not stabilized, the babies will be born tonight." Fortunately, my numbers did stabilize and I was able to incubate our children a little bit longer.

Unfortunately for Pedro Martinez, Boston lost Game 2 to the Yankees.

When Charlie and my father were leaving the hospital to drive home, dad leaned down to give me a kiss goodbye. He looked me right in the eye and told me that he'd recently received a great deal to purchase 12 plots at a cemetery in my hometown of Massachusetts. He also told me that if I didn't listen to the doctors, I might need one of them.

I don't know what made me feel better, the fact that if I didn't survive this ordeal, I had a place to go for eternal rest - or the fact that my doctor finally let me get something to eat. The kitchen was closed so instead of the turkey and gravy I had been dreaming about all day, I got a roast beef sandwich.

Shockingly, the cold roastbeef sandwich on wheat bread was the most delicious thing I had ever tasted.

.... to be continued ....


  1. Well your pregnancy is not sounding like very much fun anymore. Sorry you had all those complications. And no food? That's just not right. Can't wait to hear more.

  2. Oh my goodness, this is amazing!!!
    I can't belive how swollen your legs were. I am so pleased that I know the wonderful happy ending in store for you and Charlie.

  3. Wow!
    Look at you! That doesn't look fun at all. I think I will stop any form of complaining that I may have done when speaking of pregnancy.

  4. I got HELLP syndrome,too. My palms itched like no tomorrow. Thankfully, I was already on bedrest at the hospital at the time, so I was treated pretty quickly.
    The problem is that the HELLP syndrome symtoms disguised my heart failure symptoms and it wasn't until I was drowning in the fluid in my lungs we got some attention.
    I did Terbutaline for 8 weeks, but never had to have a mag wash thank heavens. I hear they are rough!!!
    Doesn't it all seem sooooo long ago???

  5. Jen,

    This is great reading your pregnancy journey. You are inspiring me to do the same! I never kept a journal then or wrote anything down, so I would really have to think hard. I too gained 90 pounds. I also swelled up to the size of a sumo wrestler. I delivered due to preeclampsia. Thanks for doing this, it's a great read!

  6. I'm still in shock at what your legs looked like, they were sooo swollen!!! You poor little thing! I thought I was sick! No way man, you have me beat big time!

    I agree with jenny, I'm glad I know the happy ending, because right now I'd be going insane and paging you 15 times to get the ending! It's like JK Rowling and book 7!

  7. Oh no, I have to wait AGAIN? You're killing me! I want you to finish the story!! :)
    Linda (Chicago)

  8. I just have to say I'm simply amazed at what the human body can endure. You went through hell to bring those babies into the world.

    I can not believe the pics of you and your poor legs. Bless your heart.

    Still can't wait to

  9. Jen,

    That sounds awful. Honestly, I'm VERY surprised your perinatologist didn't do the c-section then and there.

    I think it's great that in the middle of a life threatening crisis, you have a smile on your face.

    By the way, we have the same toes. What I mean is our second toe is longer than the first. It is a sign of intelligence you know!


  10. I know you're deeply involved in your pregnancy story, but I've tagged you for a meme.

    If you feel like taking a break, come on over and let your hair down!

  11. I think you have the pregnancy story to top them all! Keep those pictures handy for when the kids are older - "See what I went through just to GET you guys here!" I'm sure they will love reading about your journey to bring them into the world also.

  12. Oh, you must have been so unbelievably uncomfortable!!!

  13. this is a great story- what a pregnancy- it's really like 3 pregnancies worth of stuff in 1!