But yesterday I was pretty sure that I was going to have an emergency C section and then possibly die. I had the worst pain I have ever felt in my life, including having given birth without pain medication. And being run into by a school bus and having a pinched piece of nerve stuck between two of my lower vertebrae. This was worse, to the extent that I wondered why the pain scale that doctors use only goes up to 10.
The pain started suddenly, radiating down from my lower ribs. It was so intense that I had to double over on the couch and cry into my pajamas. It didn't feel like contractions - those are somehow familiar pains, a stronger version of monthly cramps that comes in waves. This was a constant, unwavering torture. I went to L&D only because the pain was covering the whole area of the uterus and I wanted to make sure the little guy was okay. I could feel him kicking and wiggling around, but other than that I needed definitive information.
They ran lots of blood and urine tests and the covering doctor (a Sunday, and a holiday weekend of course) ordered a CT. But having read so many articles recently about CT machines being calibrated at up to 1,000 times more radiation that recommended, I wondered about the risks of exposing the baby to what can possible trigger serious cellular problems later. By that time, I was on morphine and felt like my brain was made out of something light and fluffy, like cotton candy. Nice, but useless. Luckily my husband talked with the radiologist who said CT is only used in pregnancy for dire life threatening conditions and converted my orders to US and an MRI.
Which showed nothing. Nothing! By this time a gaggle of doctors were mulling over my reports, telling me they were stumped. Appendicitis would likely show elevated white cells, pancreatitis would show elevated enzymes, kidney stones would show red cells in the urine... but all of my tests came back normal. So, they dosed me up on morphine and I watched The Sound of Music on the giant flat screen TV in my L&D room. I kept dozing off and having dreams about singing nuns and outfits made from curtains, but at least I was beginning to think I might not die.
Here's a little something I learned about MRIs, by the way. I had one once before to diagnose the nerve damage in my back, and the experience was horrendous. I swore I would never again let myself be slid into that glowing tube and assaulted with those space-alien heavy metal sounds that seem to go on forever and fill your whole body with concentrated distress. However, the morphine kind of took the edge off. It still sucked, especially since they had to do a lot of the scans two or three times because the baby was seriously freaking out during the noise, but it was somehow less drastic.
At a certain point, though, I realized that what with waiting for the MR tech, waiting for the radiologist and waiting for the transport guys to wheel me back to L&D, a lot of time had gone by. Even just realizing that made me think that my brain might be functioning properly again, and I asked how long it took for the morphine to wear off. The nurse checked her paperwork and said it was probably time for another dose, But the thing is, the pain was gone. The most horrendous pain I had ever felt in my life seemed to have gone as mysteriously as it had come. We waited another half hour to see if the drug would clear and the pain would come back, but nothing happened.
The doctors were stumped again, gathering around and asking a million questions. Mostly ridiculous questions like "Has this ever happened to you before?" Um, no - pretty sure I would have mentioned that when I got there. They kept me overnight for observation. I was attached to the contraction monitor, which showed very minor uterine irritation that is considered normal at this point. The fetal heartbeat monitor was driving the nurses crazy, since most bigger babies can't move around as much as my little guy did - he was constantly scooting out of range so the alarm kept going off at the nurses station. But he was fine, very active and the US hadn't shown anything unusual.
Weird, eh? In the morning my OB came to check on me. She just confirmed that everything looked normal and wants me to see her weekly from now on. It was the shift change for the nurses, so I was checked out by my third nurse, who hadn't been there when I was writhing in agony. While she was going over my chart she suddenly stopped and asked me if the pain had started right after breakfast. When I told her yes, she asked what I had eaten. Whole wheat waffle, half a pear and a veggie soy-sausage patty.
She said that when she was pregnant the same kind of thing had happened to her. It turned out to be an inflamed gallbladder - not necessarily stones that would show up on an US, but a condition brought on by the hormones of pregnancy combined with a gallbladder, pancreas and small intestines that are squished up by the expanding uterus. The pain works itself out as the bile levels slowly seep into some kind of equilibrium. She had several bouts before a gastroenterologist diagnosed the problem and put her on a very low fat diet and extra calcium. She recommended some diet options and a stool softener (keeping the intestines from being irritated really helps, apparently) and gave me her direct number at the hospital in case it happens again.
Of course, I don't know for sure that that's my problem, but it seems like such random luck that she showed up for the last fifteen minutes of my stay and was the only person with some kind of information that clicked with what I had gone through. I will absolutely put myself on the low fat diet. All fat will be brain-development friendly rather than just basically whatever seems yummy at the time. Believe me, I will do whatever it takes to avoid that pain again, even though the weird yodeling goatherd daydreams were almost worth it, really.