Being the Weak One

Last Sunday night at 11:00 pm, I woke up with a bad stomachache. I’d been having minor stomach pains at night for a few days prior to Sunday, but I wrote them off as some kind of normal, pregnancy-related thing.

Anyway, I got up that night and sat on the living room couch for an hour or so, to see if being upright would help the pain go away. It didn’t, so I woke up John around midnight and told him what was going on.

He phoned the on-call OB, who told us to go to the hospital to have everything checked out “just in case.” Before we left, I threw up.

On the labor and delivery floor, I got hooked up to two monitors: one to measure the baby’s heartbeat, and one to see if I was having contractions. Everything looked normal, and the nurse suggested it was probably just a case of food poisoning. Before she took us down the ER, I vomited again.

As soon as we got into the ER, they slapped a blood pressure cuff on my arm. My blood pressure was 70/35, and all of a sudden, there was a whirlwind of activity around us. People hoisting me onto a gurney, drawing blood, inserting an IV drip into the crook of my elbow. I threw up again, and then again.

The ER doctor came in and ordered an ultrasound of my gallbladder, appendix, and kidneys, but the results weren’t very revealing since pregnancy pushes your organs out of place. Based on my blood tests, the doctor suspected it might be a case of appendicitis. He admitted me to the hospital around 5:45 am, and I was wheeled up to the fifth floor.

By this time, the pain was excruciating. I was panting and groaning with every breath, and drugs like fentanyl and morphine weren’t making a dent. The nurses on the fifth floor had a hard time getting in touch with the on-call OB; when they finally reached him, I was promptly transferred back to Labor and Delivery.

In L&D, I was hooked back up to the monitors and had a battery of tests done on the baby, including an ultrasound and a test that indicates whether labor is approaching in the next two weeks. Then they wheeled me downstairs for an MRI.

After the MRI, a surgeon visited my room and explained that it looked like I had a kidney infection that could be treated with a shunt, but that he was going to study my results a bit more. My pain was in my lower abdomen, which is where the appendix is usually located, but the fact that I was 28 weeks pregnant should have pushed it up closer to my ribcage, so he didn’t think appendicitis was the cause.

I went back downstairs for a second MRI, and when John and I got back to L&D, the nurses told us that the surgeon had just gone into another surgery, but would check on me after that. John and I figured it was a good time for him to go home and pick up some clothes and other items, so he left.

While he was gone, a second surgeon came into the room, explained that it was appendicitis after all, and that he wanted to get me into surgery within the hour. I frantically started calling John, but due to crappy cell phone coverage, I couldn’t get through.

I started freaking out. The surgeon had told me that my OB would be in the operating room in case they needed to perform an emergency C-section. Delivering the baby three months early was not an option I wanted to contemplate.

When a nurse came into my room, I burst into tears. She started calling John and recruited a bunch of other nurses to call him, too. Just before I was wheeled into surgery, they reached him, and I spoke with him briefly before getting my epidural and heading into the operating room.

Because of the pregnancy, the doctors couldn’t do a laparoscopic surgery, and they didn’t want to give me drugs to knock me out. I was awake for the entire procedure, after which I needed to be put on a magnesium sulfate drip for 24 hours to stop my uterus from contracting.

Fortunately, everything went well, the baby is fine, and my appendix is out and won’t bother me again. But, holy cow, what a frightening experience.


In the past, I’ve written about my fears about the stress of the baby’s birth triggering John’s bipolar. I’ve written about how I had to be the strong one during his mental health crisis, and how I worried that there were ways in which he’d always be fragile, and therefore ways in which I’d always have to be on my guard.

All I can tell you is that this crazy episode with my appendix showed me just how stable and dependable my husband really is.

He was up literally all night with me in the ER last Sunday, and slept in a hospital cot for the next three nights while I convalesced. He helped me adjust my position in my bed when it was too painful for me to move myself, he woke up with me in the night to help me get out of bed and go to the bathroom, and he stood in the shower with me and helped me to bathe myself.

Since coming home, he’s cooked our meals, done our grocery shopping, and washed our clothes. He’s stepped up and done everything I normally do for the two of us, and he’s done it without hesitation or complaint.

In a lot of ways, I became more controlling, anxious, and afraid in the wake of John’s psychotic episode. And although the intensity of those feelings diminished as I found ways to cope with them over the last two years, being forced out of the driver’s seat by this bout of appendicitis has shown me that it’s okay to not just loosen my grip on those reins, but to let them go completely.

My husband is here to pick up the slack.


12 Responses to Being the Weak One

  1. Thank you for sharing what could only have been an excruciatingly difficult experience. I found my heart racing as I read your words. I’m so glad to hear that John was able to be there for you in your and the baby’s time of need. Sounds like you both will make amazing parents!

  2. Carla says:

    Dear Heather;

    I am so glad you are all doing well after this incredible emergency. My best wishes to you, John and your nee 2011 little one.

  3. Elizabeth says:

    Oh my! What a harrowing experience! I’m glad you’re better now!

  4. Oh, wow, Heather, what a horrifying experience! I’m so glad to hear that you’re OK!! Also, it’s wonderful to hear that John was there for you – that you’re both there for each other in times of need.

    I hope you have a fast recovery!!!

  5. Heather, am SO glad you & the baby are okay, & that John also came through with flying colors. Let’s hope that karma decides you’ve filled your quota of emergencies for the next coupla years (I know, it doesn’t quite work that way, but lets just say it does.) 🙂

    Guessing you guys have AT & T? Coverage has always been sporadically awful, & though they are now giving people BS that’s its temporary because of the 3/4G iPhones, it was bad in parts of SoCal *years* before anyone ever heard of iPhones.

  6. Chris Wells says:

    Go John!! 🙂 I’m sorry you went through this, it sounds SO awful. Ugh, I had a c-section and hope to never have abdominal surgery again. And to have to deal with it while pregnant? You rock!


    • Thanks, Chris! Really grateful for John right now. One of the first things I asked the nurse after I came out of surgery (I’d already asked the doctor if the baby was okay and if anyone had updated John) was whether the operation increases my chance of needing a C-section. She and the doctor both told me it didn’t, so I’m really praying that I don’t need to have one. I can’t imagine having to recover from surgery and care for a baby at the same time, so kudos to you, too!

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