Despite having horrible 'morning sickness' during the first trimester, I had a pretty easy pregnancy throughout the second trimester and into the third. I was still working night shift full time. One night at the end of April (I was 30 weeks and 6 days pregnant), I started contracting a lot while Matthew and I were walking around the local outdoor shopping mall. We came home and I immediately laid down and started chugging water but they just kept coming. They weren't particularly painful but I was more uncomfortable than I had been and they were coming every few minutes for several hours. After calling the doctor, we decided it was best to go into the hospital.
I didn't truly think I was in labor but it was too early in the pregnancy to be contracting so much. They kept me in the hospital over the night and gave me IV fluids and morphine; the contractions finally died down. They wanted me to see the doctor that day and get a cervical length measurement (if the cervical length is shorter than it should be, one would be at greater risk for preterm delivery). Matthew and I went home and slept from 7am until noon and then went to get an ultrasound and see the doctor. As luck would have it, my doctor was out of town at a conference so I saw one of her partners. My cervical length was good and the baby looked fine but at that point the pain was coming back much worse, especially in my back. My cervix hadn't dilated so they sent me home with some pain medication. I went home and tried to sleep but the pain kept getting progressively worse in my right flank and radiated to the front. I was contracting still but that didn't seem to be causing the pain. This pain was different. It would come about every 20 minutes and last about five minutes and it was horrible. My sister and mom came over and I was sobbing from the pain, even after taking medication.
When it got to the point that I was throwing up from the pain, they convinced me to go back to the hospital. Matthew took me and they started running more tests. The baby looked great so that was reassuring to us. We didn't start straining my urine until after a full day in the hospital but they finally chalked the pain up to kidney stones. Once the pain started to subside after two days, I then started contracting again like crazy so I was started on preterm labor prophylaxis. I received steroid shots for the baby's lung maturity and was put on a magnesium sulfate infusion for 24 hours to try and stop the contractions as well as provide neuroprotection incase she was born so soon. The magnesium didn't really help stop the contractions but just made me feel gross. It basically makes you feel like you have the flu: hot, tired, and in a brain fog. Plus, with hourly checks to determine whether I was becoming "mag toxic", it was impossible to get very much sleep. I now understood the disdain my patients had for me each time I had to check their deep tendon reflexes in the middle of the night. Luckily they didn't want to mess with my urinary tract at all so I didn't have to get a catheter.
We were terrified of having a 31 week preemie. The neonatologist came and talked to us about the implications for the baby. If I were to imminently deliver, she would be taken to the NICU immediately which was six floors up in the hospital. I couldn't imagine being separated from her. We prayed each night and day we wouldn't have to be in that position. I instantly gained a whole new perspective and sense of empathy for the countless mothers I had cared for that had to be separated from their babies.
My doctor returned from her conference on my third day in the hospital. At that point, they had stopped the magnesium but she wanted to watch me in the hospital an extra day.
After four nights, I was still contracting every 2-3 minutes but I hadn't dilated so my doctor let me go home. I was on bed rest over the weekend but she wanted me to try to go back to work the following week. I lasted about two hours on my first day back and was just contracting too much so I left. The next day I was on call but they called me in and it was so busy that I couldn't leave for six hours. Once again, I was so uncomfortable. I saw my doctor the following day and totally broke down in tears that I was contracting way too much and she agreed. She didn't want to put me on strict bed rest for the psychological ramifications are detrimental, but I needed to be able to lay down whenever I needed to which obviously couldn't happen while working.
It may sounds strange but it was a struggle at first not working. I felt such a sense of guilt that I was letting my coworkers down, not to mention the financial stress. My original plans were to work up until I delivered at term which in turn would allow me to accrue more PTO for maternity leave. Those plans quickly dissolved and along with all of the PTO I had been saving. I was unsure what would happen with my FMLA after the baby came and feared my maternity leave would be cut short. I found solace knowing that I was doing what I needed to do for my baby and creating the safest environment possible for her to grow.