Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Friday, November 22, 2013

False Alarm

No matter how much I enjoy fictional drama, like, say, Downton Abbey, I hate it in real life, so let me say from the get-go that everything is fine. Still pregnant, and now I'm home and comfy and contemplating my slippers and my fleecy blanket.

I stayed in bed until 9:30 this morning because I had a doctor's appointment at 10:00 -- one of these health screening deals for the insurance to see if I could hit some pretty numbers that could net us money off per month, something worth shooting for in these days of skyrocketing premiums. The late rising time was an attempt to keep my blood pressure low enough to get a reading the insurance company would take. It was my main concern; fortunately, they don't take your weight or waist measurements when you're pregnant. My blood pressure at the midwife's on Tuesday was 130/90, which is pushing up into less-good territory.

So the nurse takes me back and makes chitchat while I settle on my side to nudge my reading down even further. And she puts the blood pressure cuff on and pumps it up, and then is silent.

"Hon, your blood pressure is 150/100."

The unfairness of this rankled. I had done all I could! I'd been drinking the water! I'd been eating the protein! I'd been laying down -- except yesterday, but I had to be up then for the kids' last class and performance, and anyway, I'd spent almost 11 hours in bed afterward, and what more could I do? Meanwhile the nurse was lowering the lights and cautioning me not to try to get up myself and tiptoeing away to get the doctor, leaving me to blot my welling eyes on my shirt sleeve since I wasn't supposed to go get a tissue.

The doctor took my blood pressure again and gave me the Eye of Doom and made noises about life of the mother, life of the child, the dangers of preeclampsia, and possibility of emergency c-section as I wept into the crunchy paper liner on the exam bed. He made a call and told me to go to the hospital and check into Labor and Delivery, and asked if I was okay to drive. I thought I was, the hospital being literally across the street. I had to sit in the car for a moment and pray that I could calm down enough to call Darwin, who rushed home to pick up the kids (whom I'd left home alone watching a movie, under the eye of Eleanor! I was only supposed to be gone for twenty minutes!) and drop them off with a very kind and flexible friend.

I won't lie: during my sixty-second drive, my main thought was, "Does this constitute 'grave reason'?"

I'm sure it's not original to cry while walking the hospital corridors, but it's pretty ignominious when it happens to you. It's also hard to fill out paperwork when you can't see through tears, but the nurses were kind enough not to make a deal about it. I heard a newborn crying as I was led back to triage and  wondered if I'd hear my own baby crying soon enough. And I was tucked into bed and put on the baby monitor, and they took my blood pressure again.


And again, I said, "Oh, that's not fair!" That's a better reading that I've had in weeks. And the pretty readings kept rolling in. 126/80. 113/75. Darwin came and we did a bit of data collection: the blood pressure went up slightly when I got up to go to the bathroom, and stayed down when I did. The final reading was 134/82 -- not the lowest thing in the world, but worlds removed from emergency c-section territory. And another doctor came in and said my labs were fine, and I was fine, and I should rest up but I didn't need to be on strict bed rest, and the nurse came in and read my discharge papers, including warnings that I should stop smoking if I was a smoker, and that I should call my midwife if I experienced any of the signs of labor, which I know by heart after going the rounds with five babies, and that was it. Thirty minutes of alarm and four hours of nothing-to-see-here.

Now I'm home and wondering: what do I take away from this? I am grateful, very grateful, that nothing is wrong and that it looks like baby can safely cook for four more weeks. I'm very happy to be home again (though I did contemplate taking a shower at the hospital because it's been so long since I've been in a bathroom which you don't have to prep five minutes beforehand by flipping on the ceramic wall heater and letting the water run in hopes that it will be hot by the time you step in). But is there some moral here except the unpredictability of life? Have all my high blood pressure readings been anomalies? Do I go back on bed rest? Will anything I do make a difference?

And how is it that I ended up with the one OB-GYN in the US who had not heard of the Downton Abbey episode (spoiler alert) which featured death by ecclamptic seizure?


bearing said...

Can I just say that it is effing stupid to use a pregnant b.p. reading to base general health on? It is just as dumb as using your pregnant weight.

Catholic Bibliophagist said...

I'm so glad that you and Baby Hodge are okay. (Any chance that the insurance company will accept the blood pressure readings that you had in the hospital?)

We'll continue to keep you in our evening prayers.

BettyDuffy said...

OH gee whiz. Prayers from the Duffys.

Amber said...

My goodness, what a day! How strange your BP numbers went down at the hospital. I wonder if there was something wrong with the cuff at the doctor's office? I hope you are able to avoid another incident like that and your blood pressure can stay within reasonable bounds!

When I had my first I had one of those go straight to the hospital experiences too, but I ended up being induced and having the baby the next day. But I was at 38 weeks and I had a sudden BP climb right at the end. It was a strange experience - we just weren't ready quite yet. At least we had bought the carseat the week before!

Rebekka said...

Oh, no, how scary! And what's with those American doctors? I know you're not supposed to believe everything you read on the Internet, but my general impression is that all American OBs walk around with scalpels in their pockets so they can do a not-really-indicated Cesarian at the drop of a hat.

I have to ask - from what you wrote, it sounds like the nurse took your blood pressure while you were lying on your side. That is never, ever going to give a correct reading - the lower arm will be falsely high and the upper arm will be falsely low, and it doesn't take much height difference to start affecting the numbers. So if your body was even slightly tipped to the side, and she used the lower arm, that might explain the increase. (Although the machines will always give a slightly different reading, like digital scales, so I'd hope they'd check a game-changing BP manually before rolling the doom and gloom out.)

Nonetheless, glad it was a false alarm! Still praying that all will turn out well.

mrsdarwin said...

Rebekka, I was laying on my side, but I was on my side at the hospital too. The more I think about it, the more peeved I am that my doctor could have kept me at his office for ten or twenty minutes more to keep rechecking my blood pressure, instead of packing me off immediately to the hospital. Was my blood pressure ever really that high? Was the cuff defective? This has me seriously considering changing our primary care physician. I'm trying the health screening again next Tuesday, and if they try to tell me my blood pressure is off the charts then, you can bet I'll be a lot more skeptical.

One of my great fears is going under the knife, so I hope I never run afoul of the scapel-wielding OBs!

Emily J. said...

Glad you're okay, but I shouldn't read these things while pregnant. Much easier to read silly novels where the main character has no prenatal care, hides in a closet part of the pregnancy and has the baby at home with her friend's mom, who happens to be a midwife, helping out. Book club pick - Language of Flowers. Novel equivalent of a Hallmark movie.

Jenny said...

I wonder about a defective cuff.


I wouldn't really say that "American OBs walk around with scalpels in their pockets," but they are very quick to intervene and they do not seem to realize that their interventions can cause the "emergency" C-section. Also culturally having a C-section is not seen as that big a deal (for whatever reason), so the doctors don't tend to see them as a sub-optimal outcome.

Bernadette said...

First off, I'm so sorry you had to go through that! The thought of you weeping silently into your paper exam table liner just wrings my heart. Hopefully that will be the last of your trauma, and things will go smoothly from here on out.

Second, it might be worth your while to get a home BP monitor. You can order them for not too much off Amazon, or pick one up at the corner drug store. No prescription necessary. I was getting kinda scarey (but not *really* scarey) BP readings at the doctors, and my doctor strongly suggested I get one. I did, and when I took my BP at home, it was much more reasonable. Turns out this is fairly common. Stress makes your BP go up, and going to the doctor is pretty universally stressful. BP can vary so much so quickly - it's nice to be able to pull a whole long list of normal readings out of your pocket to counter that one scarey reading.

Unknown said...

So weird that they accept a BP reading from someone lying on her side! Other than that it does sound like a cuff/battery/stress problem. I can only say that if it happens again I'd insist on a time-out and a manual reading.

I know technically not all OB's are armed to the teeth, but the standard of care here is based on midwives and primary care physicians, so even if you give birth in a hospital, as most do, you can easily go your whole (uneventful) pregnancy and delivery without meeting an obstetrician. So my impression of American pregnancy care is that it really revolves around the OB and his/her not necessarily evidence-based practice (forget the cesarians, the reasons labor is induced over there...!!!)

Good luck with the next appointment!

(My verification word is ostsyn, which in Danish means visions of cheese.)