Thursday, April 13, 2017

An Rh Sensitized Pregnancy (Part 4)

Just the other day, my baby received what will hopefully be her/his final blood transfusion before birth.

So. Worn. Out.

By now, you'd think I'd be an old hand at this. This was transfusion number three, after all. Five days after another procedure day, although that one was just a cordocentesis. Just. I swear, I could draw constellations on my belly and arms from all the needle marks right now. My poor arms, in particular, seem to finally be getting visibly tired of being pincushions; the blood draws from both of these most recent procedures have left bruises, and that's unusual for me. Bruises that are still faintly visible a week later. Normally, I handle blood draws like a champ. I've had a lot of them this pregnancy, after all.

Each one of these procedures is an all-day affair, with me arriving early for my ultrasound and blood draw #1 (there are always at least 2 blood draws, and 3 this time around), then spending hours waiting for the actual transfusion procedure. The wait usually has more to do with the blood bank than anything; when providing blood for an intrauterine transfusion, blood for a baby still in the womb, they do their homework and make sure the blood is the best possible match, the purest and cleanest available. Most days, as a result, the transfusion doesn't happen until after lunch.

In the meantime, I get to have an IV inserted (honestly, one of the worst parts; I cry every time) and spend some time on the fetal monitors. When I'm lucky, I only get monitored for 20 minutes. The last few appointments, I've been apparently having hardcore Braxton Hicks contractions. As in, very frequent, apparently pretty intense, although I have yet to actually feel a single one. Consequently, I've had the non-pleasure of spending hours on the fetal monitors. I've gone through several books, wasted more time scrolling Facebook than I care to admit, and played a ridiculous amount of phone games. All the while stuck in bed (is this what a standard hospital birth feels like?!?), wearing my hospital gowns (I always demand two, one for the front and one for the back), requiring permission for even the simple need to get up and go use the bathroom.

Oh, and because of those contractions, they've put me on magnesium sulfate for an hour or two leading up to the procedure, in the hopes of reducing the duration and frequency of them. Woooo, something else in the IV.

I really, really hate IVs.

Apparently, magnesium sulfate has no effect on me though. Because the contractions didn't stop, or even slow at all. It didn't make me sleepy, or light-headed, or overheated, or physically unstable; the nurses were quite surprised that I was, in fact, still capable of walking to the bathroom on my own (although they insisted someone accompany me). The only side effect I noticed was that my vein up above the IV kind of hurt while the magnesium was going in.

Also because of those contractions, I've had to consent to several cervical exams. They don't hurt so much as they're just awkward and uncomfortable, but I do understand their need to verify that I was not, in fact, in labor. Because I totally wasn't. Yes, I am ever so slightly dilated (good to know? Except I don't care, because cervical exams prior to labor tell me absolutely nothing about when labor will actually start, assuming it gets to start on its own. As the natural birth community reminds me, my cervix is not a crystal ball), but that's absolutely normal for being in my third trimester. I'm only half effaced, and baby is still very high up.

No other real signs of labor, anyway. Baby shows no more reaction to my Braxton Hicks contractions than I do. No decels. No discharge, no fluids leaking. Definitely not in labor, but I consented to the exams anyway. Like a number of other things in a high risk pregnancy like mine, this wasn't worth fighting about. I've got other, more important areas where I need to stand my ground.

And have I mentioned yet in this post that I'm not allowed to eat or drink in the hours leading up to the procedures? Yep, our old friend nil per os rears its ugly head. Sure, I can sneak a bit of water when nobody is looking, but once my water bottle is empty, I'm stuck. Sure, I can sneak a mid-morning snack (and yes, I totally usually do; research shows that aspiration during/after general anesthesia is relatively rare, and rarer still is it actually life-threatening... I'll take my chances, thank you very much), but there's no way I could get away with a full lunch. Even if I wanted to.

Anyway. The procedure itself usually takes about an hour. An hour on the table, being poked in the abdomen with needles. An hour of listening to the medical speak surrounding me. An hour of yoga breathing. An hour of keeping my eyes closed, even though the room is kept relatively dim so that the doctor can see the ultrasound screen. An hour of keeping the tension confined to my hands so that the rest of my body can stay loose. An hour of breathing in the essential oils I rubbed into my hands prior to the procedure (a blend of geranium, lavender, Roman chamomile, ylang ylang, and lemon, in case you're wondering), letting their scents keep me calm.

Then I get to spend a few hours in recovery, monitoring the baby's heartbeat as well as watching me for signs of premature labor. (After all, these procedures necessitate puncturing my uterus with a needle! No one would blame it for getting irritable.) Because my baby is so wiggly, they've had to give medicine to sedate her/him these last few times, which means that part of recovery is waiting for baby to wake up and start moving again. We already know by heartbeat that baby is fine, but the doctors want to know that there's movement, too. As do I, of course!

It's all for this little squish!

But now, hopefully, the transfusions are over. Done. Baby is tanked up with fresh blood and hopefully good to go for a few more weeks. We're down to the waiting game now. Soon enough, this baby will be earthside and all of this--the stress, the appointments, the blood work, the unpleasant procedures--will have been worth it. We're counting down the days.

No one is counting down more fervently than I.


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  1. I was flinching just reading this ...realized halfway down I was holding my breath! Ouuch!! I can only imagine why you feel so exhausted... all those needles . Sitting.. waiting... anxiously listening.. it will be a happy day when baby is in your arms!!! Xoxo

    1. Those fetal monitors *create* anxiety, I tell you! Even when they turn the sound down, I can't help but find myself glancing at them every few minutes, checking to see baby's heart rate, checking to see if I am, in fact, contracting...

      SO glad this is almost done!