It started on my birthday. Not the pregnancy, but my realization of it. I took a test first thing in the morning on my 30th birthday as my friends were having a little get together for me and I wanted to know, if possible, whether or not I should “do it up, proper” as they say. The faintest of lines! Hooray! I allowed myself 1 glass of wine, because, I told myself, most people wouldn’t even know yet!
A few weeks later, I headed to my brother’s for Christmas Eve celebration with friends and, as my brother is an aspiring home brewer, I sampled his holiday concoctions. The next night while preparing Christmas dinner for my and my husband’s family, I had a half a glass of white wine.
Throughout all this I was struggling to remember to take my multivitamin. It was a two pill regiment this time around with one that had to be taken with food or else you burp up fishy tasting gas all day. Not a huge issue but a big enough one that I was having a hard time with it. Not an uncommon thing with second pregnancies, so I hear, but I was stressing about it. I knew there was a family history of cleft lip and that taking folic acid early in pregnancy can reduce the risk of that specific birth defect not to mention countless others. I confided my fears to a couple of friends hoping to reverse-black-cat the situation. It’s how I handle problems. I worry about them as a form of prevention. “If I’m thinking about it, it can’t sucker punch me and what kind of bad news wants to be expected? It will likely just avoid me, therefore.” Air tight logic.
At the 20 week ultrasound, I was excited. Excited and ready to have all my worries washed away. The us tech was making a thoughtful face and tilting her head to one side, then another and I asked her, “what are you looking at now?” “The nose and lips.” she said. “Everything look good?” I asked and she smiled and said, “The doctor will be in and talk about everything with you.” and I laughed because I know she’s not allowed to say anything about the results, good or bad, and I have a history of being neurotic so I still thought nothing of it.
The meter was about to run out so my husband left while we waited for the maternal fetal medicine doctor to come. When he did, I was alone in the room and the doc brought another doc. A resident if I remember right. A young woman with light hair. He said to me, “you know you have a big ovarian cyst?” I told him yes, that I had seen it on the screen and that I had had a doozy before. I’m not sure what that made me think but maybe something like, “if he’s talking about that, the baby must be fine.”
That didn’t last long. He fired up the machine again and began looking at… something. “What are you looking at?” I said in a wave of deja vu. “The nose and lips.” he said and I knew that my worries were coming true. I took a few deep breaths and then he told me that the baby had a cleft lip and palate and I immediately lost my cool all over the place. I knew it. I knew something was wrong. I must have blubblered something about not taking my pill every day and he did his best to try and convince me that there was nothing I could have done, aside from taking a specific anti seizure medication that could have caused this. “This isn’t because you had a glass of wine. This isn’t because you smoked 4 cigarettes. This isn’t because you had sex and this isn’t because you had a fight with your mother. This just happens sometimes. Prenatal vitamins are useless in this country. Unless you are 14 years old and weigh 85 pounds. Americans get everything they need from their diets.” When I sobbed that I was embarrassed for getting so upset over something that is essentially cosmetic, he said, “Nobody wants this for their child.” That doctor pretty much wins at life. I haven’t been able to forgive myself completely for not being as cautious this time around but whenever I get really down, I remember what he said to me that day and I feel a little better.
Then the questionable hands. They were in fists. Then the amnio. Then the 2 weeks of waiting for the amnio results to let us know whether our baby could survive outside the womb. Then the Midwife appointment in those two weeks where the baby’s heart rate was irregular and I was sent for monitoring at the hospital which turned out to be from the fact that I had hardly eaten since getting the amnio and was likely dehydrated.
The amnio results being normal was a huge bright spot. Don’t get me wrong, when I got that news, it was like nothing else mattered. Not the cleft, not the other possible problems the baby might have that can’t be tested for, not the private hell I’d been in for the previous month. My baby was going to LIVE and that was a high like being in love.
Unfortunately, that high wore off and the reality of the difficulties we were up against slowly set back in. Then my platelets continued to drop meaning I might not be able to have an epidural or even a spinal block. Then the addition of the hematologist to my ever expanding cast of Doctors I Need to See All The Damn Time.
The past few weeks, I’d been driving my husband nuts with declarations of, “The baby’s head is in my flank.” And, “I think it’s down now.” And, “I think it’s back up in my ribs.” It probably wasn’t so much the declarations but the things I was doing to attempt to correct the positioning. My Amira’s Belly Dance & Yoga for Pregnancy being among the LEAST ridiculous things. And most of all, the amount I was letting myself get stressed out about it. I wanted to try to labor again. My induction was awful and by the time I had to decide on the C-section or not, I was in so much constant pain, I don’t think I could have really thought about anything seriously. And I “hired” a doula! I say “hired” because she was still in training and didn’t charge me for her services. But at the last two check ups, despite there being at least one flip in between, the baby was breech. And has been steadily, head-in-ribcage for days. I was 38 weeks +2 days at my last appointment and scheduling a c-section takes time. Waiting another week to see what would happen didn’t seem logical and, frankly, I was tired of all the freaking unknowns. I was ready to relent and let them tell me when my baby would be born.
And then as the doc was on the phone with the schedulers… Well this is how I heard it:
“When is your next available c-section slot?… hmmm… and the next one after that?… hmmm… and after that? That’s… disappointing.”
The doctors from my practice were in the hospital Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday and they were all completely booked. There was one slot on Thursday with a surgeon from another practice who I’d obviously never met before. Not the worst thing in the world but not ideal, which actually sums up the last 4 months of my life since getting the news that this baby would have special needs. But thankfully, no one expected me to go into that doctor and the OB I saw yesterday had an option for me. “Let me talk to your doctor tomorrow and I’ll call you first thing in the morning. Maybe we can work something out for Tuesday.” I was relieved. I think he felt bad for me and I don’t even mind. The odds of having a baby with a cleft in our situation is, like 2%. The odds of having gestational thrombocytopenia is 8-10%. The odds of having a full term baby in the breech position is 3-4%. Yes I’m lucky to be having this baby and yes I’m lucky that the cleft isn’t something worse but when you beat the odds in the wrong way enough times, it starts to wear on your spirit.
The doctor didn’t call this morning. I spent the day tending to “injured” campers and trying not to end up in a puddle of tears on my office floor. I had come to the conclusion that I would just have to wait until I went into labor on my own and then they’d HAVE to do the c-section. I had flash backs to the 10 days of waiting I did between Bruno’s due date and the day he was born and, let’s just say it didn’t help my mood.
I got a phone call tonight at 7:45. The OB I saw yesterday “twisted a lot of arms” and got me in on Tuesday when, according to their estimated due date for me will be 38 weeks and 6 days. According to MY due date calculated from my basal body temperature chart, it puts me at 39 weeks exactly. So, I’m fine with it.
Keep your fingers crossed, people. I still have a course of steroids to take to see if my platelets can go up and if they don’t work, I have to go under general anesthesia. There’s a 1 in 3 chance they will work. 33%? Ain’t no thing.