Every once in awhile, there comes a time when you straight up have to cancel your life. Your cares, your responsibilities, the expectations placed upon you are bulldozed by reality, and you must deal with THIS THING for your own sanity even if you can’t explain why.
For us, that time began roughly two weeks ago, and now I’m at a place where I not only want, but need to explain why.
On Facebook, I’ve made it no secret that this last trimester of pregnancy has been a little more difficult. In fact, I went on (what I feel is) my first real rant.
A lot of people enjoyed it.
But soon after this, I would learn the truth: I am measuring bigger than I’m supposed to, potentially 3 weeks ahead. That brought a brief ray of joy into my life, that maybe I would be done experiencing pregnancy sooner than anticipated.
Another ultrasound, another doctor’s appointment, the actual truth.
Our sweet baby boy is possibly not okay.
My body has produced extra amounts of amniotic fluid (influencing my size) – my son’s “long” bones of femur and humerus (legs and arms) are measuring significantly shorter than the rest of his body – and there appears to be a thickening of skin around his neck.
All potential markers for Down’s syndrome or a genetic bone disease.
While we processed this, our doctor asked if we’d be okay with getting a referral to see a specialist at BC Women’s Hospital in Vancouver. We agreed, thinking that would take at least a couple of weeks to organize.
It took less than 2 days.
We got the call last Wednesday that Vancouver wanted to start seeing us on Monday until who knew when.
So, in 3 days, I quit my job, went on medical leave, canceled all of our summer music gigs, asked my mom to come take care of our house & cat, packed a bag, and hit the road for 14 hours in a truck with no air conditioning.
We landed at Steve’s parents house in one piece, although my feet might beg to differ.
When you are in crisis mode, you learn to appreciate the unexpected gifts along the way. For us, these have been a saving grace: text messages from close friends, support in “covering” our suddenly canceled life, being offered anything we might need.
And the actual existence of BC Women’s Hospital, roughly an hour away from where we are staying.
When I first entered this building 48 hours ago, I was expecting to be intimidated by a giant slab of city concrete, filled with people we didn’t know, who we were just another number to. But instead, we were greeted by warm colors, friendly faces, and pictures of happy, healthy women with their new babies along every wall. Oh, and a Tim Horton’s in the lobby.
First, we met with a geneticist who spent almost an hour gathering an entire family & medical history from both of us. Looking for any clues, obviously, but in the gentlest way.
After this, I was given 3 ultrasounds by two different doctors. We walked out for a long lunch break with another unexpected gift:
The beautiful face of our 30-week old son, peacefully unaware of anything except for our voices and snack time.
The doctors we met with after lunch were very kind and informative. They had spent their whole lunch hour discussing our medical histories and our ultrasound findings, and they had one major concern: the fluid in my belly. Not why it’s there, but the amount: 4 extra liters.
FOUR. I am supposed to be carrying ONE, but nope, I got FIVE. That’s 2 large bottles of pop that have never been opened; that’s half a kegger that no one wants to be invited to.
No wonder strangers thought I was on the verge of giving birth. To twins.
As a result, this extra fluid was responsible for putting undue stress on my cervix, making it much more likely to open and cause labor any day rather than 7-10 weeks from now.
That fluid, if I had any hope of reaching full term safely, needed to be taken out ASAP, through a procedure called amniocentesis and decompression.
In case you haven’t heard, that’s where they stick a pretty large needle and tube in your belly, and drain as much liquid from it as they can. The liquid can be tested genetically for any health problems; the procedure can also trigger contractions, labor or miscarriage.
We had a big decision to make, and thankfully they gave us more than an hour to make it.
On any other day, if this was being offered to us *just* to find out if our baby was going to be born with a genetic disability, we wouldn’t risk it. Disabilities change nothing in our hearts towards our peanut!
But the fact that he was in danger of being born so prematurely, even at the best hospital in BC, helped us make the decision: we would risk it.
So we made the appointment and they sent us home for the day, but not before giving me a shot of steroids to help my son’s lungs reach maturity faster if he was suddenly, unexpectedly brought into the world.
I’m an old pro with shots by this point, so I rolled up my sleeve and held out my arm.
“Oh no, sweetie, you need to stand up. This one goes in your bum.”
She stuck me, then said, “Come back a little early for a second dose tomorrow, okay?”
“Will do. Can it go in the other cheek tomorrow? If I suddenly, finally, develop a toned ass, it’d be great to have, like, an even one.”
Hey. Potential life-changing crisis.
I’M STILL ME. So kiss my newly ‘roided ass.
We went home, had dinner, sort of slept. From 4am to mid-morning, I threw up a few times – nothing I wasn’t used to, but now accompanied by the knowledge that there was a 50% chance I could go into labor TODAY.
When we arrived at the hospital around 11:30am, I discovered that not only was my lovely friend and former roommate Joanna coming to find us for lunch, but that (because of her local nursing work connections and just general charm, probably) she would be able to spend much of the afternoon with us, during amniocentesis and all.
So during one of the craziest hours of my life, I had a friend rubbing my shoulders, and my husband rubbing my feet while looking into my eyes. I was able to take deep breaths while doctors covered my belly with pink antiseptic, doctors-in-training watched and whispered, taking notes like we were all in an episode of Grey’s Anatomy. I made jokes about Joanna being my partner and fellow baby mama while Steve was our most generous sperm donor, as they punctured my swollen belly. Like a fresh peach, I could feel my body’s juices dripping down my sides and I prayed, let this help, not harm. Help, not harm.
Baby Button cooperated and stayed out of the way of the tube, but my uterus got a little irritated, causing a contraction that trapped and shook the syringe around my puncture and took my breath away for about 30 seconds.
They were able to take almost 3 liters of fluid before my body and Baby had enough. For the next couple of hours in recovery, I had mild contractions every 10 minutes or so.
As I experienced all these new feelings and sensations, I realized that, as a doula, I’ve been able to hippie-dippie the shit out of contractions and their purpose.
Every pain brings your baby that much closer, breathe in, breathe out, picture the ocean tide, picture your baby coming closer to you with each wave, that’s it. You got this.
Not today. I don’t got this, I don’t want this. Stay back, ocean waves, keep my baby swimming a little while longer, please. 7 weeks, that’s all I ask.
So far, my body has been listening. They let me go home last night, with a list of things to keep an eye on and orders to do nothing like it’s my job. Our long-term plan is to stay in the lower mainland until Baby is born, going to ultrasounds and clinics once a week, talking about the best care he can receive once he’s born, if he needs a little extra help.
I will miss having my summer in Smithers, and using the brand new maternity rooms there. But I know this is for the best. The timing of discovering that I urgently needed the amnio done, along with having ready-made family to stay with, and Steve having consistent flooring work lined up locally until September…we know we are where we are meant to be.
And we are ready to love the butt off of our little guy, whenever and however he comes to us.
Until then, my sleeping and breathing has become much more blissful. I guess losing 8lbs (of fluid) overnight will do that to you.
I’m sure I’ll come across it again somehow.