Warning: Please do not read this post if you have experienced a miscarriage or something similarly traumatic and feel you will be traumatized by reading about that subject matter.
Tuesday night B. and I (I am sick of writing "my husband" so now you get his first initial) decided to walk down the hill to the beach to get some dinner. It was a lovely walk and we got to explore areas we had never explored before. We wandered around the beach, had a nice dinner, and then took a taxi back up the hill. It was a great walk. The beach was tranquil, the water warm, and we hit it right as the sun was setting. Perfect. All in all I would guess we ended up walking around 3 miles.
That night, when I was laying in bed, I felt a weird movement. I have been obsessing about feeling him move this whole trip as I haven't felt anything at all. While laying in bed, I suddenly felt a strong rolling sensation right below my belly button. It hit me stronger than any other "possible movements" and felt like going over a small hill in a car - that weird, dipping feeling in your lower stomach. It happened three times. Afterwards, when trying to sleep, I was really uncomfortable and remember asking myself how I would be able to sleep when I got bigger, if I already felt so sore and cumbersome. I had trouble falling asleep and remember complaining that my "heart was racing" for some reason. Then, suddenly, I felt a small amount of warm liquid drip onto my thighs. I sighed, thinking about the indignity of being pregnant and peeing yourself in bed. But, as I got up, a thought grabbed me - what if it wasn't pee?.
I went into the bathroom, a room open to the night air coming off the ocean. I sat down thinking about how beautiful the night was. Then I looked down and saw the blood on my thighs. I screamed for B. and he was there immediately, squatting in front of me. "Okay, okay..." he was saying as we watched me repeatedly wipe away scarlet red on the toilet paper. Then, suddenly, a small waterfall of blood rushed into the toilet. It was like I was peeing blood. My brain stopped and we stared in horror and I couldn't believe this was happening. I started saying, "I don't want to see.... and he shushed me, but we both knew I was thinking about sitting alone in this hotel room in another country and seeing our baby come out early - a sight no one should ever see. The blood torrent stopped and switched to heavy clots and some stretchy mucus that looked like EWCM. I looked at B. and calmly told him to grab my phone.
While he was grabbing it, crazy thoughts went through my head - We won't be able to go on the outing we had planned for tomorrow - Why did I post those pictures of my pregnant self on Facebook? - Why did I start to tell my clients at work? - How can this be happening? He got back with the phone and I called the after-hours number for the midwives. I had to repeat my callback number three times because I wasn't sure if I was saying it correctly. I hung up and instantly the phone rang.
Me: "I'm in Mexico and I am having heavy bleeding. There was a rush of liquid blood. I don't know what to do."
Midwife: "I am so sorry, but you need to go to the hospital."
Me, irrational:"But I'm in another country!"
Midwife, calmly but with a pained tone: "I really am sorry, but this could be a miscarriage."
After she said the M-word, I don't even remember saying goodbye to her. I stood up, stuffed my underwear with toilet paper, grabbed a dress (how surreal - a beach dress on the way to the hospital) and caught a glimpse of the sheets as I was dressing. I remember thinking how awful that the maid would have to clean that up. Why is it always red on white? Meanwhile, B. had the front desk call a taxi and then Juan (the night worker) escorted us quickly up the stairs. The taxi screeched up and he rushed us to the hospital, promising we would be there in "five minutes." We sat in the car, in shock, with my hand and his on my stomach. I remember thinking irrationally that my stomach felt flatter.
There were people everywhere when we pulled up and I remember not wanting to look for fear of what I would see. A guard directed us to a small door and we knocked. A young-looking woman with pretty eyes opened it. "Estoy embarazada. Tengo 19 semanas y estoy sangrando mucho." I'm 19 weeks pregnant and I am bleeding a lot. She whisked me into the door, leaving B. outside. She sent me into a bathroom and handed me a gown. The bathroom had blood on the floor and bloody urine in the toilet. I tried not to think and put on the gown. It was for nursing mothers and there were holes cut out for your breasts. Depending on how I moved, my boobs fell out (I later learned you could tie it shut so it was a weird peep show look). I didn't care. I burst out and she got me to the holy grail - the Ultrasound Machine. I watched in terror, catching glimpses of my baby, but not knowing what was happening. Then, suddenly, she paused the screen and I saw it - the heartbeat. "Es la corazon? Yes, she answered and then I saw the sound waves along the bottom of the screen. I asked her if it was slow or fast or normal and she said, "Dejeme ver..." Let me see. And then - 142 beats for minute. Totally normal for our guy. And then the BEST part, he kicked! She exclaimed, "Se mueve!" and we both watched him dance for a second that felt like an eternity. She moved to examine me further but I pleaded with her to at least open the door and tell my husband that the heart was beating.
Then suddenly he was there, looking terrified, holding my head and looking so lost (he told me later that he looked terrified because when he came in he saw the blood pooling underneath me onto the table). I told him..."He's moving, his heart beat is good, he looks good." Next, the doctor (nurse??) told me she was going to do a cervical exam. Again - magic words - "Esta cerrada." It's closed. But her glove came out dripping with dark blood the color of wine. She said she was going to call the other doctor. The other doctor also checked my cervix and then looked at the ultrasound. Suddenly we could see the placenta, it looked like it was covering my cervix. I asked the doctor and explained that I had an anterior placenta and he confirmed it was anterior and that it was low down, by the cervix and that was causing the bleeding.
He told me the only treatment was rest. The Spanish word he used was "reposo," which just means bed rest in this context, but I was stuck on the idea of the Victorian state of lying "in repose." It seemed to tranquil and at odds with how I felt. I asked if we could do anything. He said he would give me some medicine and that I would need to stay overnight and then we would just see. I tried to ask him about what the odds were at losing the baby, but either my Spanish failed me or he didn't think I needed to know.
Next, the sent B. out to a pharmacy to buy some medical supplies for me. That was when I realized that, despite the ultrasound machine, we were definitely in a different Medical World. One where you need to buy your own medical supplies. Literally - you buy your own cup to pee in and your own pads to bleed upon. I was taken to a bed and then left. B. came back but they wouldn't let him in. I told him I was okay. What the hell did that mean?
The next horrific thing that happened is when they tried to put an IV in. First of all, I don't know if the nurse had any idea what she was doing. She keep telling me my "piel was tan duro" (my skin was so hard) and asking if I'd ever had an IV before. Now, I have had an IV before as well as plenty blood drawn. Nurses always exclaim at how great my veins are. When she was putting the needle in it felt like someone had taken a dull stick and was slowly, jab by jab, forcing it into my arm. I cried out and she shushed me. It hurt so fucking bad. Then both nurses started exclaiming and I looked and saw my bright red blood rushing up the IV line toward the bag. What the hell?? I asked them what was happening but they seemed too freaked out to respond. I wondered if I actually might be in danger of dying in this hospital. They told me my blood pressure was so high it was literally pushing my blood up the IV line. She took the IV out and then started freaking out again. I looked, only to see that she had pressed her finger to the
wound IV site and a giant goose egg had risen up on my wrist. I realized that goose egg was filled with blood and she was literally holding it in with her fingers. Finally, the tried another IV line and the same thing happened. They told me I needed to calm down or they couldn't give me the medicine to stop my bleeding. Great. As if someone is holding a gun to your head and telling you if you want to live you need to calm down. Worse - if you want your baby to live, you need to calm down. AGH. Finally, someone had the bright idea of letting B. come in to calm me down. Unfortunately, they wouldn't let him come all the way to me. He had to stand by the door and calm me down from afar. He told me he had spoken to the midwife who had laughed in relief and said we were doing the exact right thing by staying in the hospital and letting me rest and that she was so happy to hear the baby was fine. I made him tell me over and over what the midwife said, as it was calming me down. But, they kept checking my blood pressure and it was through the roof (for some reason, my grasp of Spanish numbers seemed to have disappeared, so I have no idea how high it actually was). So my, dear, sweet husband, who has been married to a psychologist for so long, talked me through some breathing exercises until my blood pressure came back to that of a normal person - not someone who's blood was leaping out of her. They got the IV in (again, excruciating, my hand today looks like it was bitten three times by a wild animal) and then shooed B. back out into the waiting room.
And then, the waiting started. I realized I was laying on a bed in the Triage room for labor and delivery. And I realized, with dread, that there was now nothing to do but wait. For hours. Not only am I not good at sitting and doing nothing, but I found myself alone with my thoughts. The waiting lasted almost 12 hours so I am going to try to give you a condensed version (this post is long enough already) of random memories from that night. I remember telling me baby over and over, "It's okay, you're okay, I love you." And this made me feel better. I learned about lacatation support in Mexico and learned how to say "to nurse" in Spanish (amamantar). I was terribly hot (no AC in 90 degree heat) and angry that the nurses aimed the fans at themselves and not the patients. I tried to keep my boobs from hanging out the boob-holes in the front of my gown. I accidentally caught a glimpse of a woman's bloody vagina with a catheter hanging out. I saw that the name tag above my head had my name spelled wrong and had my diagnosis as "Amenaza de Aborto." I saw that all of our medical records were handwritten and stored in Elemntary-school folders with pictures of Strawberry Shortcake and Disney princesses on their covers. I watched the nurses clean speculums and delivery tools and god knows what else (needles?) by hand in the sink with regular soap and water. At one point, a nurse came and told me to sleep. I told her I couldn't. She touched my shoulder and said "Lo que pasa a ti..." then touched by stomach "le pasa a tu bebe." What happens to you, happens to your baby. Ok, I tried to sleep.
I was woken 15-30 minutes later by a terrible urge to pee overwhelmed only by an urge to be sick (diarrhea). I woke up the nurse (yes, they were all sleeping, no regular vital checks here) and she said I couldn't get up to go to the bathroom, but could use a bedpan. Now, I am not too private of a person, but about bodily functions I am fairly modest. Not the type of person who wants to pee in a bedpan in a bed in the middle of a room of people coming and going. I declined. But I'm just going to make a long story short here and admit to you guys that I finally broke down and peed in the damn bedpan. It was humiliating and I wanted to cry but I had to pee so badly that waiting was worse than the shame.
Finally - FINALLY - morning came, and with it, a nurse named Rocio who was kind to me. She gave me a gown without boob holes and let me get up to use the bathroom (nerves gives me chronic diarrhea - sorry, but it's true). The bathroom was still covered in blood and got knows what else, but I suppose hovering was better than the alternative. And then, goddess that is Rocio, she let my husband come in when I asked for him. She even let him come all the way to my bed and sit with me. We didn't know what to talk about. We just held hands and talked about nonsense. He told me about the hell that was the waiting room and the awful things happening out there. He told me that two of the staff from the hotel had showed up to check on us. Mostly, we just sat and felt overwhelmed. Then they kicked him out again.
While I was there I learned a lot about Mexican labor and delivery. Their system is to allow women to come in and have their cervix checked periodically, only to be told "four centimeters - go walk some more." Women walked outside of the hospital (B. told me later he had no idea they were in labor and wondering why so many women were walking, walking, walking...) until they finally were allowed in as they were moving into the Pushing stage of labor. I watched one women begin to crown on the table and heard her baby cry two minutes later from the hallway. I saw another go through transition standing in front of my bed. Her strength and tears seemed too personal to witness.
And then the babies. They went back and forth all day as a nurse would carry them out to meet the families. They cried screams of shock as they were born. I watched one woman (19-years-old and on her birthday) stare in amazement at her new baby boy and laughed in shock every 30 seconds or so. I watched his arm reach up to the sky. And then, I started to cry. Waves of tears that I felt physically but felt disconnected from emotionally. I sat in the middle of this room, the only white person in this strange place, crying and I couldn't stop. Those babies. What was happening to my baby???
During all of this, I had been left pretty much alone. No checking on me, no information, basically I was invisible. It was during my silent crying attack that one of the hotel staff, Bibi, a woman I had semi-made-friends-with, walked into the room. I started crying harder. She was so kind and told me she had brought B. his favorite breakfast (chilaquiles) and a mocha (his favorite). Of course, I cried more. I was so worried about him, all alone, seeing terrible things, and not being able to communicate very well in Spanish. Bibi told me that I was in a public hospital (for very poor people) and she wanted to have me transferred. She was furious that no doctor had spoken to me since last night (by now it was around noon) and that they would not let B. in to see me.
From then on, they started treating me differently. The nurses took me seriously when I asked for information and a doctor. Finally, a doctor (not one I had ever seen before) showed up. They escorted B. into the room and he started shouting across the room to B. about my diagnosis. He was trying to speak in English (first person to do so) but wasn't doing so well. I kept responding in Spanish (better than his English), but he wouldn't take my hint. He said I had come in because of "pains in my stomach." I repeatedly said I had had "no pain" and finally he stopped talking and said, "Well why are you here?" I told him because I had been bleeding. He asked if I was still bleeding. I said some, but that it had slowed some (no one had checked me to see if this was true). He then gave me a prescription for medicine. I asked him what it was for and he said "To stop the bleeding." Why was he giving me medicine to stop the bleeding if he didn't know I was bleeding?? (I later talked to my midwife who said there is no such medicine that can stop the bleeding like that. We realized the medicine was for "abdominal pain." Great). And then the doctor said that his recommendation was to hospitalize me for a few more days, but that there were no more beds and so I would have to stay in Triage. I spoke up and said I wanted to transfer to another hospital. He looked relieved and agreed with me.
There is much more to this story, but I am going to curb myself and try to fast forward a bit here. I have already written so much and feel bad for those of you still reading. But I need to get it out. So, long story short (ha), we checked out of the hospital (total cost: $58USD) and we came back to the hotel with the plan of calling the midwife back to see her thoughts on what had happened and whether I should go to another hospital. She explained that, based on what I described, the most likely explanation was that part of my placenta had separated from my uterine wall, causing the massive bleeding. The only treatment was bedrest (reposo/repose) and that I could do that just as well at the hotel as the hospital. We talked for a long time, but basically I decided to stay in my beautiful hotel room where the staff was treating us like family and bringing me everything I needed. I would lay here and try to heal. But, she was cautious and explained that the bleeding could start again at any time but that "hopefully this pregnancy would result in a healthy baby." I hate that she even needed to say that. I hate that I am now in that category where you just don't know.
It is now the next day. We have moved our flight up and are flying home five days early. I am sad. I am sad that this happened to us, sat that this happened to our baby (who, by the way, didn't seem too perturbed when I saw him), and sad that we are cutting our last trip short. Our trip that was supposed to be about celebrating our relationship before we become parents. But mostly, I am relieved. Relieved we are going home. Relieved we have an ultrasound scheduled with the perinatalogist on Monday. Relieved that the baby is still ok. Relieved and....terrified. Absolutely terrified.