Me: Fady, Fady, come see how the babies are on one side of my belly!
Fady: OMG, are they trying to get out?!
Me: I don’t know, maybe they are just fighting over space!
These were the happiest moments during when our twins would noticeably move in my belly and we felt lucky to have started witnessing them since the beginning of my 5th pregnancy month.
Even with all my readings and research, little did I know that these were actual contractions.
When visiting friends one evening, my friend, Rita, noticed the change in my belly and asked me if this contraction hurts. I was very surprised that this is even a contraction. Several days later, my gynecologist confirmed it during my monthly visit.
And I was still surprised! Aren’t contractions supposed to hurt?!
Then I started researching Braxton Hicks and more about contractions… and I also started counting my contractions that sky rocketed during days when I exhausted myself.
I didn’t take a break, in between work, trainings, house chores, fun activities I just did it all! After all, I was feeling good!
Until one day, after several weeks of constant contractions, I woke up on Thursday, August 16 with what looked like a full-day contraction. I was very tired, had a lot of work in the office, so stayed a bit late at home (hoping to rest a bit) then went to the office. On my way, I called my gynecologist’s assistant who asked me to relax, have a warm cup of tea and if this persists she advised me to go to the hospital for some monitoring.
It was a hard day and I felt tired so I promised myself that I would rest from now on and would do some bedrest as my doctor had advised a while ago. But I just wanted to send this email, attend this meeting, and get things sorted out! After work, I came home, quietly changed my clothes, then surprised my dear husband Fady with the announcement that we need to go to the hospital for some monitoring. I still remember the look on his face as he was eating watermelons and smiling until I came and sat next to him and seriously said: “honey, we need to go to the hospital for some monitoring”. He could barely finish his bite. The look on his face was priceless.
Apparently, we learned at the hospital that my cervix was 1cm dilated and I was having contractions at a rate of 10 per hour, something that freaked my gynecologist and all the nurses around.
I can still remember the words my gynecologist said to me over the phone. “Chantal, you are having 10 contractions per hour, this is a sign of labor that we want to stop”. As soon as I listened to this sentence, I started feeling my body numb one inch at a time, then I stopped feeling my legs, I felt a big hollow in my stomach and a zillion thought started going back and forth in my head.
And then from this moment on, life as I knew it was gone… I guess forever… because as of August 16, 2018, I became a new person and my life became a new life. It felt as if my soul entered someone else’s body and inherited someone else’s life.
Given the seriousness of the situation, my doctor asked that I be admitted to a hospital, little did I know that for me to be admitted, the hospital needs to have two free spots in its NICU since I was about to deliver any minute. And this was not an easy task. So we had to search for a hospital to take us in. My gynecologist found a hospital in Beirut and asked us to go there quickly without even stopping at home.
I will not bore you with all the details, I spent almost two weeks in a delivery room, not a regular hospital room, where nurses and doctors were trying to reduce my contractions through different types of medicines that I took through IV and pills . These included Tractocyle, Magnesium, Adalat and others.
Fady was sleeping on a so-called recliner, that barely reclines, he only left me to go home and shower. Every time a nurse or doctor would enter the room, they would be surprised to see him still there… apparently not all men stay this long near their wives…
I was still very surprised why the hospital staff insisted on keeping me in a tiny delivery room! What’s wrong with a regular room.
For those who know me, having Chantal stay in bed all day for two weeks is not something easy at all, here’s how these two weeks or to be exact 11 days passed!
Here is my version of my day if you were to ask me about it
Every morning, I would wake up super early (since the nurses forget that they are in a hospital when they talk to each other), ask the nurses for some hot water, drink a herbal Anise tea as I read or journaled. Between 7am and 8am, the nurses would wheel me to a bathroom for my daily bath.
When I come back, the room would be cleaned, I would have new bedsheets and my breakfast would be waiting.
What more can I ask for! Right?!
Then I would start my work day as if I was telecommuting from home. Yes, I didn’t want to miss a day’s work and wasn’t ready to be out of the office. Plus we were amidst program implementation and I couldn’t afford to stop working.
I enjoyed the three meals of the day especially that the menu came as a surprise and each time I would look at the tray, I would rejoice by the interesting option of hospital Salt-less pepper-less meals. Yummy!
In the evening, Fadi and I would watch Netflix, specifically “Breaking Bad” as we munch around some peanuts or other types of nuts.
I was in bliss heaven as I was telling everyone around me and to be honest, I seemed very convincing that some people started wishing they were in my shoes.
Little did anyone know that this was one of the worst things that I had to endure in my life.
Here is a glimpse of why my days were not as bright as I had told everyone.
The Silly Pain:
• I hadn’t enjoyed my pregnancy and wasn’t ready to deliver yet
• I had been looking forward to the third trimester all my pregnancy
• I didn’t yet have my pregnancy photoshoot
• I had some new pregnancy clothes that I was looking forward to wearing
• My belly was still tiny
The Physical Pain:
• Peeing in bed with the assistance of nurses: akh I hated this part, especially that with all the IV fluids and medicines, I would pee at an approximate interval of once every 30 minutes.
• Not being able to get out of bed: like seriously imagine me stuck in bed! I am glad that I had my daily bath break where I was wheeled in to a toilet.
• Someone bathing me… actually a stranger bathing me… that sucked actually!
• Wearing full leg compression stockings at all times: yes, these were needed to prevent deep vein thrombosis.
• Eating and eating and not moving. Since I was always in bed, the hospital would feed me three meals a day and I would munch during the evening as we watched Netflix. This was also new to me
• Feeling crippled and dependent: for someone who has all his senses and motor abilities it was very weird not being able to move, I would have to ask my dear husband to give me anything I wanted. I just became so dependent on people around me and when there was no one around, silly things like dropping my phone on the floor became a disaster…
• Having monitors around my belly all day: as much as it is as beneficial to monitor the babies heart rate and the contractions, it sucked to have something around my belly all day long, plus, the gel they use for the monitors is stinky and I am sure that the monitor straps were never washed!
• Having two or more Ivs one on each hand: this was not the end of the world, but it was hard enough to sleep with all the monitors, let alone the Ivs.
The Mental Pain:
· Playing Scenarios in my head: thinking my last week over and over again in my mind thinking what I could have done differently to prevent this from happening.
· Not knowing how long I am staying in the hospital: each morning a resident doctor would come and would give me different information from my gynecologist, some would give me hope of leaving soon, others would not. So I didn’t know how long I was going to be in the hospital for
· The stories about a cousin of a cousin: each nurse or anyone who came my way or knew that I was in the hospital told me a story about a cousin of the cousin who had a similar case. Some would give me hope, others would scare the shi* out of me.
· Fear of delivering early: ever since I knew that I was having twins and started telling people, the only thing that I heard was “oh, you will deliver in your 7th month” and I would turn bleu and start reassuring them that all the twin moms that I know delivered on time. So in the hospital delivering early was so close.
· Fear of failure: before August 16, I hadn’t failed at anything in my life, I actually excelled in everything I did. The idea of delivering early with all its hardships was the first thing that I would have failed in and actually the only thing that mattered.
· Fear of the NICU: ever since people started scaring me about delivering early, I started researching the NICU and all its misfortunes and I was dead scared of facing any of the lifelong repercussions that it has on babies like hearing issues, sight issues, disability, etc.
Comments or phrases that I heard and what I wish I was able to respond:
• Oh I wish I was in your shoes, I could do with some relaxing time: oh excuse me, this wasn’t relaxing time, this was stressful time where every second I was worried I would deliver, I was continuing my daily 8 hour work while in bed, I was trying to act as if I had it all figured out when this was the worst thing that has happened to me!
• Hold on, don’t deliver these kids just yet: oh yes, sure I will take your advice and keep them a bit, though thank you for telling me this, I was thinking of just getting it over with and deliver them prematurely. And yes, there is more that I can do here other than sleep and stay positive.
• Oh we told you that you would deliver early: excuse me, I still didn’t deliver and by the way, thank you for your encouragement, it is really helping me overcome these hard days!
• The same thing happened with my cousin and after all this waiting, the baby died: oh thank you, I am so glad to hear this reassuring story, it is making me less worried
• Just pray that you deliver now abs not in your 8th month, the 7th month is much better than the 8th: thank you people, but this story about the 7th VS 8th month is a myth! Any extra second a baby can stay in the womb will give him/her a better chance of development.
• Don’t worry if you deliver early the babies will grow better in the NICU: first of all, I am not complaining, actually, second of all, I wish you didn’t know that we are in the hospital, third, seriously, NICU is better than mother nature, do you hear yourself?!
Some of the things that I learned during my 11 days of bedrest:
• Perseverance: the only thing that I know about perseverance is the word itself. I tend to quit quickly and get bored easily. This was my first true experience learning how to persevere.
• Live every day, day by day: my gynecologist was very clear with me, he told me that he will keep me in the hospital until I deliver. He told me that this can be two months or two days. Even though I hadn’t really grasped the seriousness, I started living day by day, actually one shift to the other. From 7am till 7pm, there was one team of nurses and from 7pm till 7am, there was another. So I started living from shift to shift.
• Don’t fret somethings are for your own benefit: Even though this was the hardest lesson, but I kept telling myself that being in the hospital was the best thing for me and my family, I was sure that something worse would have happened if I wasn’t there and this was how I was consoling myself. I mean, being in the hospital was better than a car accident!
• God has a plan for me: even though I am not a religious practitioner, I have always trusted God with my life and knew that he had a better plan for me
• It’s true that when life gives you lemons you can make lemonade: every morning I would wake up very sad and demotivated, but I promised myself that by breakfast I would be the old me again and this is what happened. The nurses and residents were happy about my optimism.
• Fake it till you make it: this has been a slogan that I usually live by, yet I used it a lot during the days where I wasn’t feeling motivated after breakfast and my fake smile worked its magic.
• Your body will surprise you: I would be in the biggest peak of contraction, the nurses will rush to the delivery room and will ask me if the contraction is hurting, they would see me signing checks with my colleague Christy near me. I took several high doses of medicine that would have knocked me down with 101 symptoms from which I only felt two and didn’t complain. I have to admit, that I think my mind was fooling my body into not feeling pain so I can stay longer and give the babies more time to grow.
• The secret does work: ever since people started scaring me about delivering early, I somehow believed it and kept saying to myself all the time that I don’t want to deliver early. And when I told my doctor about all this, he asked me to hold on till week 28. So in my head, my target unconsciously became week 28, so somehow I jinxed myself.
On Monday August 27, Christy, from work came over to sign some checks, we spent all day busy working, they had stopped the IV and were giving me Adalat pills to stop the contractions. I was feeling better. They had prepared my room, my brother Michael and his girlfriend Elya moved my stuff to a regular room. I was so ready to leave the delivery room and go to a regular room. I was so busy that I had my lunch at 5:30pm. Then my lunch was cut in the middle for an echography, there was a doctor teaching some residents how to do an echo, I kept remembering how I had chosen another hospital that doesn’t have residents since I don’t like people learning on me. The doctor and residents went out, I continued eating, a nurse and another resident came in to measure my cervix, I asked if I can continue my lunch, they said no…
Things became blurry, I started hearing sounds of the nurses going in and out, yet I wasn’t making sense of their words, it felt like I was in an aquarium and the sound was coming through water, their voices were far, I couldn’t comprehend. My phone rings, I pick up, it was my gynecologist, he said “Chantal, I am on my way, we need to deliver asap”.
The phone fell from my hand, as tears came rolling down my cheeks… new types of tears, serious tears that shook me off and reminded me that this was the real world…
… to be continued.