Five years ago today we began our journey towards the NICU. Ryley’s story actually starts long before that, though.
I was diagnosed with endometriosis not long after Michael and I started dating. That combined with my not-the-youngest age when we got married, we had an idea fertility might be an issue, and started trying for our family as soon as we got married, and just after my third laparoscopy. My doctor, a saint who endured endo as well, was very pro-active and gave us six months of trying on our own before taking more active measures. Six months of basal temp, ovulation kits, and frustration later, back we went, and started on clomid. Round four of clomid in higher and still higher doses, we got two pink lines. I was so excited, but afraid at the same time….the second line was very faint. I went in for bloodwork which was “inconclusive”. I WAS pregnant, but they didn’t know if it was going to take. The next day, I miscarried at 7 weeks. My heart still aches over that. Two months later, we were sent to the specialist. After the usual tests, and the HSPG, my tubes were clear, but the diagnosis of PCOS came out. I’d never heard of it before, but it made sense. So, we started the injectionable fertility drug, Gonal-F. I got pregnant on the first round. Again, the bloodwork was “inconclusive”. We held our breaths. I started spotting at 9 weeks. Thankfully, three days later it stopped. Everything went on “normally” from there. I did have to change doctors because we moved right after we got pregnant. I thought my new doctor was okay, but I wasn’t completely comfortable with him.
At 21 weeks, I was at work and walking back to my desk when I got extremely sharp pains in my lower back, and nearly fainted. I sat at my desk with my head between my knees. I thougth I was going to be sick and I was out of breath. My husband drove me home and I called my dr. He asked me if I was having contractions and how far apart they were. I didn’t know what contractions should or would feel like, so I told him no. He advised me I just “needed to put my feet up” and get some rest. I persisted and he told me if I was that worried I should go to the ER. Then I felt like it was all in my head, so I let it go. For two weeks after, I was fine. No repeat episodes, no bleeding, and I did not think I was having contractions.
September 6, 2000. I was at work again. The pains happened again. Michael immediately came and got me, but by then, the pain had gone away. I had an appointment with a massage therapist that night and thought maybe that would help. So I went to the massage. After talking with the therapist a bit, I wanted to go to the bathroom before the massage started. As soon as I sat down, the blood came gushing out. My first thought was “My baby is dead,” and “I can’t do this again”. I freaked out. The therapist (I only remember his name was Steve) took one look at me and knew something was not right. I called my doctor’s office and they paged him. He told me to DRIVE MYSELF in COMMUTE traffic, 45 minutes, back to the hospital where he was. I told him I didn’t really think I could drive and there was a hospital less than 1/4 mile away from where I was. His words were exactly this: “Well then I can’t help you. I don’t have priviledges there.” Do you think I cared at that point?
Steve drove me to the hospital in my car and parked while I ran into the ER. They didn’t even ask me my name as soon as I told them I was 23 weeks pregnant and bleeding. Before I knew it, I was in a wheelchair, hauled back to L&D, and strapped in. The most beautiful sound I have ever heard in my life was that baby’s heartbeat. They didn’t know where the blood was coming from, so I endured an hour long ultrasound. To this point, we had not wanted to know the baby’s sex. We debated as we headed to this u/s, but i said no. For me, it was giving in, it was saying the baby wasn’t going to survive if I found out then what it was. The diagnosis was a placental abruption, however, they never were able to see it on u/s. I was put on magnesium to stop the contractions (I really HATE that stuff), and during the night, I was told I had to be moved. They were not capable of handling a baby born at 23 weeks (WHAT?!!!!!! I was still in denial). I had my first ambulance ride at 11pm, moved to Summit Hospital in Oakland, CA. My husband and sister followed behind and stayed with me in L&D at Summit.
I’ll never forget that day/night. I constantly replay it in my head. Every year, when September 6th comes around, I remember what was happening at every moment. It was so surreal. We’d never had a premature in our baby. I’d never had friends that had a preeemie. I had done all the “right” things, so nothing bad should happen to my baby. But there we were. I felt like an idiot for not knowing from the first “episode” what was happening to me, and for not knowing that I had been having contractions off and on for those two weeks.
That’s the first day of our journey towards the NICU, five years ago today, and the beginning of Ryley’s story.