“So what do we have?” I asked groggily, blinking away remnants of my emergency C-section anesthesia.
Five weeks earlier, on February 29th, while taking my two-year for her pediatric check-up I’d begun bleeding, a bad sign for a woman almost seven months pregnant. Located in the same building, my obstetrician quickly scheduled an ultrasound at the hospital across the street.
I nervously waited flat on my back on a gurney. A dream I’d had a few weeks before surfaced in my mind. D-day had come but instead of being appropriately mid-May, it was February 29th. As dreams often go, I wasn’t concerned about anything serious like prematurity but that the baby would only get to celebrate a birthday every four years.
In reality a preemie far outweighed leap year celebrations. Fearful tears threatened. Fighting them back, I sent little ‘thought prayers’ upwards.
My mom had joined me at the hospital after taking my daughter to my sister-in-law’s. She was allowed to accompany me for the ultrasound. Clutching her hand, I was glad for her company but wished my husband, who was working out of state, could be there instead.
The technician squirted gel on my abdomen. Evidence of little hands and feet engaged in uterine gymnastic efforts made us giggle in spite of anxiety. I’d jokingly remarked before that this baby was Olympic material; I’d feel a kick in the bladder and simultaneously get rib-tickled. At my six-month exam I’d asked the nurse practitioner about the possibility of twins. In listening to the heartbeat, she heard only one. My girth measurement indicated I was right on target for one baby. In 1980 ultrasounds weren’t routine for healthy pregnancies.
Now we focused on the monitor as the technician moved the wand around on my belly. To tell you the truth I couldn’t identify anything. Then the technician gave a little gasp. She tried to cover it by clearing her throat but I’d heard it.
“What is it?” I demanded.
“I’ll have to let your doctor give you the findings,” she murmured.
I shook my head slowly. “There’s more than one baby in there, isn’t there?”
She clamped her lips but nodded almost imperceptibly.
My obstetrician confirmed it. I was hosting a couple of womb mates. Then very seriously he outlined the situation.
“You have placenta previa. The placenta has attached low on the uterine wall and settled over the cervix. This is where the bleeding comes from. If we cannot stop the bleeding, we’ll have to perform a caesarean section. The babies are about a pound each and will be very sick if delivered now. They’ll need neonatal intensive care, which our hospital is not equipped for. We’re transferring you to the U of Dub Hospital in Seattle immediately.”
A ninety-mile ambulance ride, a second major hemorrhage, a couple of blood transfusions, and many prayers later my condition stabilized.
The quiet waiting began.
Frustration rose repeatedly. I had to leave all nursery preparations to others. I missed my home, my little girl, and my husband; at least he’d returned from out of state. Daily visits were not practical due to the distance. A few weekend hours were highlights for me.
Still I was thankful for provision of expert medical knowledge and care. An injection, helpful for development of the babies’ lungs, was given to me. My husband and I were taken on a tour of the neonatal intensive care unit and told what we might encounter. It was scary but we knew we were in good hands.
Cards, letters and the occasional phone call from loved ones were lifelines. My church family also was praying for me.
Although our goal was mid-April, there was no way to guarantee that. Even on total bed-rest placenta previa doesn’t go away; hemorrhage could happen at any time. Just a few days into April, the dam burst. Feeling like a beached whale I was rushed to surgery. In less than ten minutes I was under anesthesia and two little peas were plucked out of the pod without any help from me.
I woke to a nurse holding a bundle in each arm. Answering my question, she said, “I’ll let their daddy tell you.”
After receiving the phone call from the hospital as they took me into surgery, my husband made the two-hour drive during rush hour in record time.
He introduced me to our identical sons, over five pounds each, very healthy and without needing neonatal intensive care in the least. Thank you, Lord!
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