So last Friday I found myself in a surprising place -- wearing a dressing gown and not much else, attached to a monitor and laid out in a bed at a hospital in Philadelphia.
It was my second such "emergency" hospital visit this pregnancy, and the second that seems, in retrospect, silly. Actually, it seemed pretty silly to me at the time as well. It started when I called my OB after lunch at some fancy Mexican place in downtown Philly, where I was stationed for a few days for work. I needed to make an appointment, find out whether I have gestational diabetes (negative!) and ask about the strange but dull pain that had lingered in my abdomen for the last four days. I wasn't overly worried about it; it felt like nothing, like stretching, growing pains. I simply wanted to run it by the doctor since it had lasted for so long and make sure everything was A-OK.
Big mistake. I am quickly learning some valuable lessons about the American medical industry. More than anything, they want to cover their butts. So if you mention you are 500 miles away and are having pains -- even if you stress that they are not sharp, not accompanied by blood or fevers, not alarming really at all -- they will freak out and suggest you go to the nearest emergency room, stat. Hearing this, what are you supposed to think? On one hand, it sounds ridiculous. You know you are not going into labor. There are no comings and goings of the pain, as there would be with contractions. You water is still up where it is supposed to be. There is no leakage of any kind. So what are they worried about? This is where the doubt starts to nag at you. What the hell do you know? Nothing! So if a doctor says you should go to the emergency room, who are you to argue?
And so I begrudgingly walked myself to the closet ER. There I was told to go to the seventh floor. On the seventh floor, they told me to go to the emergency room. At the emergency room, they told me I needed to be on the seventh floor, but at a different reception area than the first one I visited. They wouldn't let me walk back up there, though. Instead, they call a guy in scrubs to come take me there in a wheelchair. Now, sitting in a wheelchair is not a big deal, I realize. I was in a hospital. Everyone was doing it. But I have to admit, my pride was rising up and screaming in my head that I should be as embarrassed as ever. I don't know why. I felt so silly, like a drama queen, making a big deal out of nothing already, and to have to be carted around in a wheelchair like an invalid just made me so freaking self-conscious. When I finally arrived back at the seventh floor, I hopped out of that thing like it was 300 degrees and scorching my bum through my new (surprisingly flattering) maternity jeans.
Finally, I was registered and taken to a room. I was there maybe an hour at the most. They asked me all sorts of questions, hooked me up to the monitor, poked here, prodded there, checked to make sure my cervix was still doing its job, and then it was over. They unhooked me, told me to get dressed, and confirmed what I suspected all along -- nothing was wrong with me. I was simply "pregnant."
I had to rush back to my hotel, dash to my room and get ready in a whirlwind for a big work thing. Everyone was quite concerned, because they knew I'd been at the hospital all afternoon. I again felt like a prima donna, searching for attention, having to explain that it was nothing, no big deal.
I understand that I'm thinking for two here and that there's no reason not to get something checked out if the doctor recommends it. But I do think it was also a waste of my time, not to mention the $150 I'll have to pay my insurance company. Last night at dinner (which my hubby cooked for me!) we came a realization that after all these different doctors visits through this pregnancy, not one thing has actually been done. If I had simply gotten a prescription for pre-natal vitamins back in December and then shunned all doctors, my baby would be in the exact same shape he is in now. We would know far less about him -- we wouldn't know his sex or his heart problems, certainly. But he would be no different. The thing is, pregnancy is not a malady, it's a natural thing. It's kind of a wonder how we treat it as a condition to be constantly monitored and controlled, and yet we really can't control it at all.
Hopefully, I'm done with hospital visits for a while. I think the next time I feel anything unusual, I will go to a source I know won't freak out -- Google.