Our Birth Story Part 1: “The Mag”

I had taken off work on Wednesday, May 30 because I had both my ultrasound and an appointment with my doctor, Dr. Hoyson. I was now 30 weeks 5 days pregnant.  My ultrasound went fine. It was onto my OB appointment where I peed in the cup as you do at every appointment. At this point of my pregnancy I had become close with the nurses and aides, so when she said, “Oh, there is a little protein in your urine.” I responded with, “Shit.”

She took my blood pressure which was moderately high. The moment she left the room, Mike asked what that would mean. Pre-eclampsia. It meant pre-eclampsia.

Each appointment I would ask Dr. Hoyson, what would cause me to be hospitalized. How would I know? I knew all about pre-eclampsia (or atleast I thought I did). I bought my own blood pressure cuff for home because I knew that either pre-eclampsia or preterm labor would be what brought these babies into the world. I had worried a lot about my water breaking or having contractions and not knowing they were the real deal. We would never get that far.

In came Dr. Hoyson, who is the most reassuring, kind, compassionate individual I have ever met. She saw my crazy and didn’t run from me. She put up with my notebook full of questions. She listened to me, she hugged me, she kept me calm and sane through this entire process. More about her later. They were sending me to the hospital for 23 hours of observation. I had mild pre-eclampsia. If I was a singleton mom, they would just monitor me but because I had three, we were off to West Penn Hospital.

Mike was slightly freaked out as we drove the minivan down to West Penn. I was relatively calm. This was just a precaution. Even if I was getting admitted, these babies were staying put for awhile. Throughout the last few weeks of my pregnancy, Maternal Fetal Medicine and my OB had seemed confident that I could make it to 34 or 35 weeks. We were on cruise control.

Obviously my OB wouldn’t be there when I arrived, but she was going to be at the hospital starting Friday through Sunday at 9am. From the moment I arrived at the hospital every resident and attending reassured me that they were under strict instructions to keep Dr. Hoyson up-to-date on everything that was going on. If these babies were coming, she was going to be there.

After a stint in triage, with more urine and blood tests, checking for contractions, and my first of two steroid shots,  I was taken to a room on the ante-partum floor. I had so much protein in my urine at this point that they told me they wouldn’t need to test that again. I suspected that I was going to be here longer than the originally planned 23 hours.

They won’t let you eat when you first arrive at the hospital in case the babies need to come that day. So this starving, pregnant lady finally had some snacks in the afternoon. After dinner Mike was going to head home to get me some stuff. My parents were going to come down to visit for a bit and then Mike would also head home to sleep. That plan quickly changed when they decided at 7pm that my blood pressure was high enough that it warranted 12 hours of Magnesium Sulfate. Or as we call it “the mag.”

Not a medical professional here, but let me tell you what I understand about Magnesium Sulfate. They give it to pregnant woman who have been diagnosed with pre-eclampsia to protect the baby’s brain and also to protect the mom from having seizures. A woman’s risk of seizure is highest 24 hours after delivering the babies and so most women have it right after they deliver. Because there is a risk of seizure, you are only allowed to have clear fluids. Your choices include: ice chips, apple juice, ginger ale, and popsicles. My clue that I was in for one hell of a night should have been when my favorite nurse of all-time, Pam, brought in basins of ice chips, ice water, and towels.

Let me give you a clear visual of that evening. On my left arm was my blood pressure cuff. It went off every 15 minutes. Pam would be by my side all night long logging my vitals. We would high five each time my blood pressure was normal. It was the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Across my belly were four monitors, one for each baby and one for contractions. Each time a baby moved we had to find the baby to get it back on. On my right hand was my IV where to kick off “the mag” they would do a bolus of the drug over 15 minutes. I would learn bolus means to give the drug to you as fast as possible. This is where the ice water and rags came in handy. Mike was putting a cold rag on me and it was turning warm in 30 seconds. After the bolus, it would be fluids with “the mag.”

Halfway through the evening, the residents taking care of me started to suggest we were doing this for 24 hours. Hell no, that was not happening. I was starving. I hadn’t slept all night because I was so uncomfortable. I exhausted all my clear liquid options several times over and the popsicle gave me heartburn. I started to plan how I was going to convince the crew of doctors and nurses that we were done with this after 12 hours. I gathered information from each new person that came to see me. While I laid there unable to sleep, I planned my entire speech. Luckily I didn’t have to convince them– it was only going to be 12 hours.

I had a hunger headache and couldn’t lift my eyeballs as the sun started to come up outside my hospital windows. It was a gorgeous view but I was not in a good way. They ordered me regular breakfast and Pam asked if I could have some of the bagel or granola bar that I had in my bag. They allowed it, but my body was not OK with it. “The mag” made me sick. I couldn’t keep anything down. I can’t remember the last time I puked so unexpectedly and with such force. God bless Pam. She is my angel. This would be the first of many times that she would take care of me with such grace and kindness. For some insane reason, she requested to take care of me on each of her shifts.

One of my maternal fetal medicine doctors compared coming off of “the mag” to coming off of an acid trip. And I imagine that is pretty accurate. I freaked out. I felt like I needed to get out of my bed. The twelve hours were over but my blood pressure cuff was still on. The machine started to go off, like it had every fifteen minutes for the last 12 hours, and I ripped it off. I felt like I needed to run away. The new nurse had just come on and I was a mess. I hadn’t slept. I had this terrible drug leaving my body and I was hungry but couldn’t eat. It felt like hours of flipping out but it was only minutes. I finally relaxed enough to be taken back to my room.

The doctor who would become my favorite resident had come to see me as they were about to stop “the mag” and she asked me what I understood of my current situation. Even as woozy as I felt, I looked at her and said. “I’m not going home until I have these babies.” She nodded and so began my stay at Hotel de West Penn.


One thought on “Our Birth Story Part 1: “The Mag”

  1. OMG OMG OMG. I had NO IDEA. Totally NO IDEA what women who are expecting multiples go through. OMG I always knew you were strong, but OMG you are even STRONGER than I had previously thought. I know why Pam wanted to stay with you and why your doctor didn’t “run from your crazy” (which you weren’t crazy, you were just an informed, questioning, nervous mama bear)……they didn’t run because they could see you are tough and you are special! My God are you ever tough!! xoxo


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