I have reached a milestone with this, my last pregnancy. I am twenty weeks with this tiny sweet baby, and I am happy to say that I finally have some of my energy back! I haven't been terribly sick with this pregnancy, however the exhaustion has been overwhelming at times. Caring for two young children, running a full-time business, managing first grade homework and a two-year-old's temper and desire to change clothes five times a day, plus dealing with the woes of a normal first trimester of pregnancy... oh my. It's been more than I can bear on some days. And did I forget to mention that I gave up my Starbucks obsession, cold turkey, once our pregnancy test showed two pink lines? Sweet tea, too. Yep, "tired" was never, ever an adequate word to describe my state of mind for the first thirteen weeks! I try not to complain, because, really... it's such an honor to carry a child within your body, and there are thousands of women out there who would do anything to be in my shoes right now. Anything. I am blessed to be able to assist the Heavenly Father in a miracle, for the third time in my life, and I am so very grateful for this opportunity once more!
Now that my first trimester is behind us and I am nearing the end of my fifth month, I do feel more rested, energized, and my focus is actually renewed. I'm so thankful! I felt like I was running on about 40-50% capacity for a while there. At this point, we are making birth plans, deciding on a name for our littlest baby, and looking at what the rest of 2011 might look like for my photography business.
We actually did have a scare, you might call it, about two weeks ago. (I didn't share it here, but I divulged a little bit of our story with my Facebook friends.) I'll share the story with you today, not to complain, but because I have a feeling that I'm not alone in my thoughts about all this. I'm still trying to make sense of it myself. I've felt shocked, angry, confused, stressed, thankful, peaceful, frightened, relieved, suspicious, and most of all, grateful once more. (As if expecting mothers need yet another reason to feel one hundred different emotions in a single day!)
My OB called us on Monday, April 5, with the surprising news that my alpha-feta proteins were elevated, according to my second round of the triple-screen testing. This meant that our baby's risk of having spina bifida was higher than normal. She said that our risk was actually 1:130.
Okay, stop right there. When a mother hears something like this, she immediately shifts gears, mentally. I certainly did. I began right in with the questions: "what does this mean? What is the normal risk ratio for spina bifida? How high of a risk am I? Are you sure? Can you tell me about spina bifida? What does it mean for our baby? Will the baby be okay?" I was disappointed, to say the least, to discover how very little my OB knew about spina bifida (next to nothing, in fact), and about what a normal risk ratio is for a patient like me. When I inquired about the details of spina bifida, I was actually directed to a pamphlet that was given to me in a plastic bag of forms and coupons at one of my earlier visits. A pamphlet. This Doctor couldn't tell me what the "normal" risk range was... she said she really didn't know and she "wasn't smart enough" to read the tests, just the result it gave out. She honestly only knew what my risk factor was. And that they would have to take extra precautions at our baby's birth.... for instance, if its spinal cord was exposed, they would have to wear gloves during delivery. (This is the point at which I almost lost it.) She cheerfully proclaimed me "high risk" and recommended a Level 2 Ultrasound by a local perinatologist. The peri's office was to call me in a couple of days, and schedule the sonogram for sometime in the next two weeks.
Are you kidding me? Two days seems like a lifetime to an expecting mother, who is imagining the worst at this point. Two weeks sounds impossible to bear. I didn't know what to even think.
The only positive things she said were, "There is still a 1:129 chance that your baby is healthy," and "It's still a very rare chance, but we have to test further anyway," and that she would not recommend an amnio at this point. Honestly... all I heard was "Your child is at increased risk for spina bifida and we might have to deliver him or her wearing gloves so that we don't touch the exposed spinal cord." Oh, and "I don't know what normal risk is, and I don't know how to read the tests." Any positivity she tried to project after those words were uttered, was completely lost on me. I numbly thanked her, hung up the phone, sobbed violently, begged God for this not to be happening, googled spina bifida, sobbed even more, and prayed the entire time, never stopping. Over and over, out loud, I prayed for mercy for my child. For this all to be a mistake. For our baby to be healthy and to not have to suffer in this way.
I called Chris at work, and the message that I left him was almost illegible and broken because I was still crying. When he called back, I still had not gained my composure, and I was even worse to try and talk to. By this time, I had researched spina bifida on Wikipedia, and was shocked at what I saw and read. Wheelchairs. Leg braces. Shortened life expectancy. Among other things that I couldn't bear to read any longer. I was an emotional wreck. Chris sweetly and calmly assured me that whatever this ultrasound showed, that we would get through it together, and that hopefully, for our baby's sake, the test was simply incorrect and all would be well with our last child. I love that man with all my heart.
Four agonizing days later, Chris and I walked hand-in-hand into the perinatologist's waiting room. My always-strong husband appeared as calm and cool as ever. Mostly for me, I suspect. I was a bit anxious still, even despite the peace I'd come to feel in the hours and days after that phone call. I held tears back and tried to breathe deeply as the technician scanned for any abnormalities with our baby's head shape... its cerebellum... its spinal cord... any markers or other signs of abnormality that might indicate spina bifida in our baby. I pensively asked questions of the technician, unsure of whether or not she would actually divulge any details or if we would have to sit and wait for the physician to inform us after the scan was complete. I confided to her that I knew what the "lemon and banana signs" were, and she so sweetly smiled at me. She praised me for doing my homework (what other choice did I have?) and reassured me that she saw no such thing on her monitor. [Huge sigh of relief!] Next she scanned many different body parts, I can't even remember all of them, but the baby finally turned so that its spinal cord presented itself beautifully to our technician. She scanned our baby's back, zoomed in so close that I could count our baby's vertebrae, she panned up and down, and made sure to get at least three different views for the doctor to see... all confirming that our sweet baby's spine is indeed closed, fused, and that there are no further markers or signs of spina bifida whatsoever! Our little one is perfect, as far as we can tell, and we are beyond grateful!!
Now, generally speaking, I do believe that most physicians actually care about our health, and that most of them truly mean well. However, I still cannot wrap my brain around the manner in which this news was presented to us, with the utter lack of knowledge or understanding of the condition that our baby was supposedly at a higher risk for. These are never wise words to say to an expectant mother, without facts and supporting information to give her as well!
Unrelated to this four-day nightmare, Chris and I had already decided to plan for a natural delivery, in a wonderful birth center near our home. That phone call from my OB simply confirmed my decision that I was headed in the right direction by leaving my OB's practice. In fact, I also called my certified nurse midwife on the day I received that terrifying phone call, and she was so reassuring to me. She actually PRAYED with me over the phone, while I just sobbed in silence. I can't express how powerful those moments were, on the phone with my midwife, hot tears rolling down my cheeks as she prayed for my peace, and for our sweet baby's health.
Our sweet baby GIRL, that is. That's right, we are having another little girl! Isn't she adorable already?