The night before Ryley was born, after sixteen days of hospital bedrest, I started running a fever. I didn’t know I had a fever initially, but I knew I didn’t feel right. My night nurse would be coming on at 11 and would come in shortly after to take vitals and put on the fetal monitor. So around 10:30, I got up to go to the bathroom. There was blood….there had been blood for sixteen days. It no longer surprised me, but it was still disappointing. And as I returned to my bed, I started to shake. I had the worst chills I’ve ever had in my entire life. I knew it meant something bad, so I tried to hide it. When the nurse came in, I held myself as still as possible, praying the chills would go away, that they were a temporary thing. As she took my vitals, though, I realized there would be no hiding it. My heart rate was elevated. My temperature was already above 101. Then she put on the fetal monitor and immediately the contractions showed up on the screen. She told me she was going to call my doctor to see what he wanted done, but she thought I might be starting an infection. She left the fetal monitor on, something she’d never done before. She was gone for ten minutes. She took my temp again when she came back. It was climbing – over 102 now. I was still contracting. And my whole body started to ache. The vampire (what I learned to call the people who took blood) came in and filled two Tabasco-sized bottles with my blood. My nurse, so sweet, hovered in the corner, waiting for the doctor to call back again after receiving the latest update. When he did, she calmly told me they were moving me back to labor and delivery where I could be more closely monitored. I wanted to believe that’s all it was, but somewhere in the back of my mind, I knew the end was coming. I knew this was not a good sign. I knew when I came back to that room, our baby would have been born. It was the night before I reached 26 weeks gestation.
I don’t remember that ride to labor and delivery, still in the bed because they wouldn’t let me walk and didn’t even want me to sit up at that point. I do remember that delivery room though. And I remember that horrible, terribly long night. My fever kept rising. They started pushing antibiotics. They upped the magnesium sulfate pump to try to control the contractions. Another vampire came in and took two more Tabasco-sized bottles of blood. My head was throbbing and every joint was on fire. I hurt, not just from contractions, but from the fever and infection. They gave me Tylenol or Advil or whatever to work on the fever. It seemed morning, and the doctor, would never come. But they did, and with it the knowledge I had a staph infection. They didn’t know what kind of staph it was yet. They had to wait for the cultures to come back with that information. It was not good news. They tried for awhile longer to stop the contractions, but at 11:30am, my water broke completely and it was game on. Ryley was born three hours later.
As I’ve never forgotten the pain of childbirth, I’ve never forgotten the pain of that night. It, like so many other things to do with Ryley’s premature arrival, sticks with me. This past Sunday, I had a touch of the flu. I had a slight chill. I had a headache. My head was stuffed. The worst part was the aching…..that pain in every joint. Even the air blowing on your skin hurts. And it reminded me of that night before Ryley’s birth. Even the flu has the power to bring back memories of those days and weeks.