I wrote this letter four weeks ago, the day after I got out of the hospital. It’s a letter to my son describing the events of the 36th week of my pregnancy with him. It’s something I wrote not only for him, but for myself. It helped me a lot to reflect on the week and write it all down. It’s also a letter to any mama out there who might have gone through this or will go through this and needs someone to relate to. I couldn’t find much online about this subject (after all, only one in every 1,500 pregnant women get appendicitis during pregnancy), so I thought I would share my story. Please note that some of the contents of this post are a bit graphic so please don’t feel obligated to read everything. xoxo Mama TJ
Dear Baby Tay,
Today you are a full term baby in mama’s belly-37 weeks! Although that means that you could decide to come any day now, I would prefer if you kept cooking in there for just a few more weeks:-)
This week, you and I went on an adventure together that will bond us for life and hopefully remind you of how grateful you outta be for your mother when you’re a teenage boy towering over me. This week has taught me so much about myself, your Dad, our Heavenly Father, and you. Although I had to make some choices that were never choices I intended to make for you in this fetal state, you were so resilient and kept proving over and over what an amazing and special baby you truly are. Here’s what happened and how it changed me for the better.
When I hit-35 weeks, I started to develop a pain on my right side. I assumed it was ligament pain having to do with carrying around your growing body. Both the midwife and my physical therapist thought so too and just told me to do some exercises and assured me it would get better. As the week progressed, it got worse. By Monday morning at 2am, I woke your Dad up in the most unbelievable pain. Although you’re my first child and I’m new at this, I just knew I wasn’t in labor with you; whatever this was, was not labor. We called the hospital and they told us to come immediately. I was in so much pain I couldn’t speak and could barely move. I just sat in the passenger seat with my head down while your dad drove us up the empty streets to UCLA Ronald Reagan hospital at 3am.
We arrived at the hospital and were immediately taken upstairs to labor & delivery where I was transferred to a bed. Once I was in bed, they hooked me up to machines to monitor you and me and gave me some medicine to relieve my pain. I wish I would have known what you were thinking. Were you scared, did things feel different in there for you, how were you being affected by the medicine? Up until that day, I could count on one hand how many times I had Tylenol during my pregnancy with you. Being completely drug-free has been one of my main goals throughout the time you have been in my belly, so accepting medicine was very difficult for me. But the amount of pain I was in was unbearable at this point and I was about to find out why.
The doctors almost immediately figured out that I had appendicitis and my appendix might have even ruptured. They were going to have to operate. They assured me that they were probably not going to have to go in and get you. At this point, you were 36 weeks and it was so important to me that you kept growing in there until you were ready to come out. So they agreed to try everything they could to do the surgery and leave you be. I signed the forms to consent to have you taken out of me in case of an emergency but they were confident that even if they had to take you, you were so strong and healthy (weighing anywhere from 5-6 lbs) that you would be perfectly fine. Many parents might have made a different choice, but we knew you weren’t ready and we wanted to give you more time to become a more perfect you.
Before they did the surgery, they had to confirm that it was appendicitis so I was taken back and forth from my room down to radiology for several tests. They finally figured out it was in fact appendicitis and began to prep me for surgery. Your dad and I said our goodbyes and they took me down to the O.R. I remember waiting in the hall right before they wheeled me into surgery and I felt so much peace. I knew that everything was going to be ok. And whether or not this was the moment we were going to meet each other, God had both of our best interests in mind.
There were so many people in the O.R. to help make sure that you and I both were going to be ok. My favorite person was a nurse, Renee whose only job was to keep the monitoring device on you during the whole surgery to make sure you were doing ok. They took me into the O.R and immediately gave me the thing that I was so bent on avoiding during my eventual labor with you: a spinal tap/epidural. Not only did this mean I wasn’t able to shield you from the drugs that I wanted to, but it also meant that I was going to be awake for the whole thing. They decided to do that instead of knocking me out completely because it was safer for both of us.
As soon as they determined that I was numb enough, they began the surgery. I could feel every pull and tug and it began to feel painful so the anesthesiologist increased my medication. Soon after that, I completely fell asleep. When I woke up an hour later, I looked around and asked “Is it over?” With smiles on their faces, everyone who was in the O.R. assured me it was and everything had gone according to plan. My appendix was out and you were still in. I immediately found Renee’s face and asked “Is the baby ok?” Rene replied “Yes, he did amazing. He is a rock star.” To which I replied “I told you guys; I know my son.” And everyone laughed. You made it through with flying colors, it was the first of many moments that I felt like a very proud mama.
They wheeled me back up to recovery where your dad was waiting for you and I. We were both happy it was all over. He went home to get some sleep that night and I slept through the night in the hospital. The next day, they took me to the postpartum side to a nice, private room for your dad and I to recover from the last 48hours. Although I had some visitors early in the week, I was still in a lot of pain and not really improving. Walking was still very painful and challenging. I had completely lost my appetite and hadn’t eaten anything beyond bites of crackers for three days.
The pain increased throughout the week and by Friday it became unbearable. I was still on medication this whole time with the hope of getting off of it as soon as possible but it wasn’t happening. They decided to take some xrays and determined that I had developed a partial intestinal obstruction. Basically because the appendix had ruptured, it had upset the other intestines and they weren’t working for me anymore. What came next was the most difficult part of the week for your dear old mom.
They decided to stick a tube down my nose and throat (which I had to swallow) in order to get it down to my stomach and remove the stuff that was causing the obstruction. So I spent the last night in the hospital with a tube down my throat. The doctors mercilessly made me keep it in for 14 miserable hours. I stayed up all night watching the clock and waiting for them to come back in to tell me the procedure had worked and that we were done with this madness. I spent the night praying that this would all be over soon and watching the Winter 2014 Olympics while your dad got some sleep (he was preparing for a 22-mile run the next morning).
Finally, at 8:30 am, the general surgery team walked in and told me that the torture was over and that the tube could come out. The tube came out 5 minutes later. It was the happiest I had felt all week. I was free from that tube and free from pain; finally. I stopped taking medication and walked around the postpartum wing several times to build my strength. I ate a little something that morning and finally earned my way home. After 6 days and nights in the hospital, we finally got to go home.
I learned a lot this week about my strength as a person and what I can handle. In so many ways that I can’t even describe I feel more prepared to be your Mom now. I feel tough, like I can handle anything. And like all the nurses kept saying all week “if you can handle this, labor is going to be nothing for you!” I feel ready to birth you into this world and to raise you to be a strong man. I really believe this experience prepared me to become your one and only Mama.
I also learned more about your Dad this week. How much he loves and cares for both of us and how supportive he is of us. He held my hand the whole time and encouraged me through every part. And boy was he protective of you! Every time they offered me a new medicine he would say “and how does that affect the kid?” He was your strength when I couldn’t be. That’s the kind of dad you have, kid.
I learned about how God can get you through things you never thought you could endure. Despite how awful this week was, it could have been so much worse. You or I could have been harmed or infected by the rupture but we weren’t. You could have been born earlier than you should have but you weren’t. I don’t quite know what His plan was in all of this yet (sometimes you learn what God was trying to teach you way after things happen), but I know he had our backs.
Lastly, what I learned about you: you are one tough kid. While I was in the hospital, they came in to monitor you every few hours. You were so active and moving so much despite all of the meds your mom was on, that the nurses kept having to come back to adjust the monitor because you would move away from it. One time, a nurse had to sit with me for 20 minutes and keep the monitor on you! All the nurses and doctors were genuinely impressed with your resilience through all of this. You seemed totally oblivious to what was going on and seemed content as long as you got to stay right where you were. You impressed me kid. I already knew you were amazing but after this, I cannot wait to go back to that maternity wing and meet you. And I’m not the only one. I’m pretty sure when you are finally born, the 20+ nurses and doctors who got us through this week are going to want to meet you also. We don’t even really know each other yet, but I love you son. Very much, and I always will.
Your loving mother