I was only six months along in my pregnancy…
In late August 2008 I was six months pregnant with my second child. I was still feeling the all day nausea which I wasn’t pleased about, but it could’ve been worse. My hope was that it would be gone starting with the 2nd trimester like my first pregnancy. Clothes were starting to feel just a tad more roomy–side effect from being so nauseated I thought to myself. Oh well, maybe I won’t have much to lose then when the baby gets here in December.
Before the ultrasound we were planning on moving Josh from his toddler bed into a “big boy” bed. We needed the crib for the new baby. We had it disassembled for the time being as we had our hands full washing all the clothes for the baby. Most of the clothes were given to me and I was busy sorting them into stuff I’d need right away and stuff I could pack away for a few months. With newborns it’s always hard to tell, are you going to actually need that “newborn” size or can they go right into 0-3 months?
Everything turned to gray
However, after that second ultrasound and my husband rushing home to be at my side, we had days of weeping while we packed up the baby clothes. This pregnancy was not going to end well. That much I was sure of. I was expecting to lose the baby at any moment as he was failing to thrive. I kept startling myself if a few hours went by and I’d frantically question, “When did he move last? If I lie down can I feel him move? Did he pass away?”
At one point, I thought I was in the beginning stages of a miscarriage. We went to the doctor, this time my husband was with. She checked me out and assured me I was not having a miscarriage. My husband started peppering her with questions. She was reluctant to answer them since she didn’t really have much information to go on. Finally, my frustrated husband just asked her, “What is your best guess?” She paused a moment and said she believed it to be one of the Trisomy disorders. She thought the baby likely wouldn’t make it through the week. She asked if we were able to get into the Perinatology clinic. I told her the soonest I could get in was this coming Friday, the 29th. We left that appointment with more questions than answers and even less comfort or hope than when we arrived.
It felt like that week took forever. The mood in the house was depressive at best. We were no longer preparing for a baby. We were preparing for a funeral. It was as if someone flipped a coin on that day of the second ultrasound. A blink. A flash. We were now on the other end of the spectrum of emotions. I googled “trisomy” only to become more heartsick. My baby, my tiny baby was fighting to live and there wasn’t anything I could do about it. We just had to wait. Wait for the appointment or wait for the moment he stopped moving.
Friday August 29, 2008
Friday morning finally arrived. Our appointment was around 10 a.m.. We made the drive to Edina, which was on the opposite side of the cities from where we lived. That was the only office that had an opening sooner than a month out. The drive took about 40 minutes. We held hands and didn’t talk much. I cried.
We arrived, parked in the parking ramp and made our way inside. The receptionist informed us they were running behind and if we didn’t want to wait we could reschedule. We’d wait. Downstairs, we decided to grab a small bite to eat in the main lobby of the building where there was a small cafeteria. We shared a salad while we watched the news on one of the TVs hanging up, we were the only customers there.
Even now as I look back to 8 years ago, so many things are a blur. The intense emotion of the whole situation blocks out so much. What does stand out, however, is the strength I drew from Dave being with me. He is the force that grounds me when I want give in to despair, hysteria or panic. I’m not even sure how he seemed to hold it all together, but he did and I’m eternally grateful for that. After about an hour we went back upstairs to the clinic.
We were shown to a small exam room with an ultrasound machine. Once again a tech came in and performed an ultrasound. What was once my favorite part of pregnancy was now dreaded. I didn’t watch more than to know he was still alive. The tech asked if we wanted pictures. I just cried. Dave told her, “Yes, we do. She may not want them now, but she will later no matter what happens.” They were printed and put in a sleeve that said something cutesy like “Baby’s first photo”.
The doctor came in and did her best to remain upbeat. She could detect all the chambers in the heart (this was good news), but it was hard to know what else was going on because of the lack of amniotic fluid. We were told the amniotic fluid works like a lens and helps the ultrasound reveal important details. Whatever chromosomal defect that was affecting the baby was also affecting the placenta which produces the amniotic fluid. His heart did show some enlargement, but could be due to the fact he was struggling. She said we have two options: We could just go home and wait for him to pass away or we could be admitted to the hospital and put on bed rest to be constantly monitored. They would watch and wait to make sure they didn’t take the baby until it was absolutely critical.
We gear up to fight
Dave and I looked at each other and said, lets go for it. We wanted at least a fighting chance for this baby to make it. I was only a few days over 25 weeks. The doctor told us with as early as the baby would be delivered they give the mom a steroid shot in order to help the baby’s blood vessels become a little stronger. That was important to avoid brain bleeds, which was common in premature infants. One injection is given there in the office and another one in 24 hours. Her hope was we could hold out for 48 hours before delivery, two more weeks would be ideal.
A nurse came in with the shot. I hate shots. However I would’ve given my life for this baby so it seemed pretty minor in the moment. They directed us to Abbott-Northwestern which has the best specialty neonatal unit in the cities. We missed our exit on the way into downtown Minneapolis and had to back track because we were so flustered. Labor and Deliver was expecting us when we finally arrived. I had a sliver of hope now and I was grabbing on with both hands.