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Monday, November 15, 2010

The Hope for a Healthy Baby

As I progress through my pregnancy, and the end becomes more and more tangible, I am beginning to understand what every mother before me has understood- that unspoken, devout, unchanging and unwavering love for their children.  I’ve discovered that it is instinctive.  I have not yet met my baby but I already love it more than any words of mine (or anyone else’s) could ever express.  With every day that passes in this gradual and deliberate gestation I find myself growing more and more attached to my child and even though I have not met my baby, I would do anything for it. 

I feel this child move inside of me and I do realize the magnitude of the miraculous event which is incubating inside my body. I am growing another completely separate life- a life which could become any number of infinite things as it matures.  The possibilities for my baby are endless, which is part of the allure for me of being pregnant and knowing that I am fostering those possibilities. 

Since the moment my pregnancy test read “Pregnant” I have felt a need for reassurance that “all is well” in my womb.  I think any mother to be can sympathize with me when I say there isn’t a day that passes when we don’t wonder about our baby’s safety, how it is doing, if everything is “alright” and “normal.”  The worry that something may be wrong and the uncertainty of pregnancy (after all, uteruses don’t come equipped with peek-a-boo windows) is a burden all mommies-to-be experience.  It is a good burden, one that I am happy to take on- but because it is a burden I also feel an obligation to make sure that all is well for the baby.  There is nothing any mother to be wants more than the reassurance that every little thing is going well, as it is supposed to be, when she is pregnant.  This simple but overwhelming desire for a happy healthy baby is what has made my pregnancy into somewhat of a dichotomy.  On the one hand, my pregnancy is delightful but on the other, it is a 9 month state of code red high alertness that I know will not end when the baby is born because at that point the baby has been introduced to the world- where anything is possible.

So allow me to describe to you, now that I have expressed the worries and wants of expectant mothers, why the last two weeks of my pregnancy were- plainly put- a living hell and a test of my faith.

On October 28th, my husband and I were downright giddy with anticipation.  This date was our “anatomy scan” where a fetus is measured and examined to ensure that its development is on track.  It is also a time when developmental abnormalities may be identified.  I had more or less abandoned all thoughts of something going wrong at the appointment because the thrill of getting to see my baby so well developed and for such a long period of time while the ultrasound tech meticulously measured all the parts of the body was so tempting that I didn’t have room in my mind for the “what if’s.”  I eagerly went to work that morning knowing full well that half way through the day I’d be leaving early for my “date with the baby.”  Once he got to work, my husband sent me a text message saying “Are you ready!? It’s BABY DAY!”  He was just as excited as I was to go to the appointment and see our little baby’s progress from speck to full blown baby.

So, while I laid on the ultrasound table and he sat beside me, we held hand and cooed and ooohed  at every move our baby made.  And my goodness! It was a’movin!  The baby twisted and turned, flipped and flopped and at one point during the ultrasound it even brought its tiny hand up close to its face and waved its teensy tiny fingers.  We swore it looked just like it was waving at us!  Like it knew it was “Baby Day” and so it was indulging us.  I looked at my husband at that point and said “I’m so in love with it already” and he agreed.  We were both so smitten with our little one at that moment.  We were so full of joy at getting to see our baby that we were on cloud 9- I was so elated that I could have farted cotton candy clouds for goodness sake.

Our doctor then came in to the ultrasound room to take a peek for himself.  Our doctor, a perinatologist who I was referred to in the beginning  because of my hypoglycemia previous to my pregnancy, is a self proclaimed “anal retentive guy.”  I swear, he said it first (while I was thinking it J).  The anal retentive part is okay with me- when your specialty is to identify problems with developing babies I would hope you err on the “OCD” side of things.  So anyway, my doctor comes in and begins to take a look.  I’m still in my blissful state when I realize he’s been looking at (and pressing into) the same spot for about 3 or 4 minutes, so I asked him “what are you looking at?”  To which he curtly and blankly replied “everything.”  His tone, that of part annoyance because he was concentrating when I so rudely interrupted him and part determination because he was intent on looking at one spot on my baby from all angles, said it all. I knew by his one word response and the way it was said that something was amiss so I lay there quietly and as patiently as I could for him to speak again while my mind ran in circles with the speed of a bullet train.

It was then that the doctor hastily stopped scanning me and folded his arms and dryly said, with the bedside manner of a trout, “Welp, your baby has a blockage.  Well, a blockage or something. I’m not really sure.  Could be a kidney problem. A stomach problem.  Not sure.  Get yourself cleaned up and meet me in my office so we can discuss this.”  What was I supposed to do?  I was laying on the ultrasound table with cold ultrasound goo smothered all over my stomach and a contorted face that was fighting harder than it even had before not to turn this guy’s office into the dead sea.  I guess he could see that I was fighting back tears so he excused himself and I started hyperventilating.  My husband took my hand and grabbed a towel and wiped me down so I could pull my pants up and said what any husband should say “It’s all going to be okay.  We will be fine.  It will be fine.”  I sucked in my tears and my quivering diaphragm and walked in to the doctor’s office with my husband.  The doctor began to draw rudimentary pictures of kidneys and stomachs and small intestines and I stopped him and asked him to just explain.  He said that there appeared to be a blockage between the left ureter and the left kidney which could be indicative of a disease called pylectasis, which could also by the way, be a chromosomal problem not just a developmental problem.  This disease could stunt the growth of the kidney and, to pepper the bad news with more bad news, he added “could cause kidney failure.”  He said that my amniotic fluid level seemed normal but that it could get lower if the kidneys slowed down or stopped working.  Then he began to talk about the blockage he thought was between the stomach and the small intestine which he said was associated with Down’s syndrome.  I guess he could see that this news was horrifying us by the debased look of stun on my and my husband’s faces so he quickly added “but your preliminary test results show that you have a very low risk of having a child with Down’s syndrome so…garble garble…wahwahwah”- at that point he just trailed off.  The entire time he was rattling off these possibilities I was in a constant Samurai like battle with my emotions, torturing them in to submission for the time being so that I didn’t fall apart at the seams in the chair in this guy’s office. 

He then said that he’d like to see me in 2 weeks to get a more accurate view of where the problems he saw were stemming from.  I asked him to please tell us what we could do, which deep down I knew there was nothing I could physically do to make any of this better, but damn, I was really just pleading with this guy to throw me a bone.  He’d just bludgeoned me with this news and now he was telling me to lie there and suffer for two weeks.  Two weeks felt like a death sentence.  Of course, he said we couldn’t do anything and then said in a feeble attempt to lighten the blow “try not to stress out too much about this.”  Try not to stress out too much about this. As if I could go into my head and manually adjust my stress-o-meter to the “light and fluffy” mode, like I was a laundry drier.  This guy was a certifiable lunatic if he honestly thought that his parting words of advice to me would actually do any good. 

So my husband and I walked to the elevator where he stopped me and said with his sincerest of compassion and, because I’m his wife I could tell, with his best effort to mask his own sadness, “Hey, are you alright baby?” I couldn’t hold it in any longer- I lost all of the regimented control of my emotions that I’d employed to protect my “image” in the doctor’s office and I collapsed into my husband’s arms.  I stayed there, really, for about the next 4 hours (in my husband’s arms, not in front of the elevators). 

I can’t really describe how the next two weeks went.  It was so full of different stages of “down.”  I knew that I had to stay positive for the baby’s sake.  My husband told me that a thousand times and so did my family.  I told myself that a thousand times.  But I began this pregnancy, as I wrote earlier, with a constant sense of needing reassurance that everything was going well. Now that I knew that everything might not be going well I had a new thought- how was I supposed to live with that? 

What did I do?  I prayed.  I prayed and prayed and prayed.  I had God on speed dial and I wore that line out.  Really…I basically stammered in my head all day long different ramblings-on about how I would do anything for my baby to be healthy.  And that is all I wanted- with every ounce of my body- I wanted my baby to be healthy. 

My family and my friends carried me through the weeks.  My prayers carried me through the weeks- and I did find a little peace.  I started talking to my baby and reassuring it that everything would be alright.  I guess my peace came from finally accepting that I couldn’t change anything and part of me conceded that whatever would be would be.  This isn’t to say I “gave up” because I certainly did not- I continued to pray for my baby’s health and I continued to agonize over the thought that there could be a serious problem, but part of me accepted that there just wasn’t anything I could do to change what was happening. 

The two weeks passed like a kidney stone- painful and SLLOOWW, but I did muddle through.  The day of my follow up appointment my husband and I drove to the doctor’s office together and I did yoga breathing the whole way there. I tried to stay as relaxed as possible.  Before we walked in, my husband and I made a deal that no matter what happened inside the office, we loved our baby and would accept the news we got with a positive attitude.  In theory that sounds good, though it would be a tough thing to do. 

Laying on the ultrasound table my eyes started tearing up and I hadn’t even heard any news yet.  When the doctor walked in I could feel my pulse surge though my deliberate deep breathing seemed to slow it down if not lessen the intensity of the THUMP.  Our doctor did his characteristic no frivolous salutation necessary head nod when he entered the room and he got right to business.  As he was examining my baby, he kept his free hand over his mouth in the fashion of a person who is contemplating deep thoughts.  He then moved the ultrasound wand up my right side and looked at my kidney and then he moved the wand over to my left kidney and looked at it.  He then asked my husband if he wouldn’t mind letting him look at my husband’s kidneys.  He did, and then he began to speak.

“Well, it appears that your baby’s left kidney is cystic.  That could mean a lot of things but the kidney could be fine.  The kidney could be non functioning also.  We can’t tell before the baby is born.  The good news is that the other kidney looks absolutely fine.  Everything else looks fine.  I don’t see a stomach problem at all.”  This was not exactly cheery good news, but it was a hell of a lot better than the dark places my mind had been lurking in for the past two weeks.  My husband asked what exactly all of that meant and the doctor replied that I was still considered high risk but that this was the best case scenario we could have asked for out of all the things that could have been going on.  He said the baby could live a completely normal life with a cystic kidney and that the cystic kidney may function normally, or that the cystic kidney may never function at all.  The latter of the two, he reassured us, was no real travesty because the baby’s right kidney appeared to be completely normal and as he put it “people are walking around all over the place with only one kidney.” 

As we left that appointment, my husband looked at me and said “I feel so relieved right now that the only way I can express it is to cry” and I knew exactly what he meant.  The not hearing horrible news was such a burden lifted that hearing news that wasn’t perfect was okay.  It was manageable.  My baby appeared to be completely normal and healthy aside from a wonky left kidney that could or couldn’t be working properly.  So it will never be a kidney donor.  Okay.  I can handle that. 

The motherly desire to know everything with your child is alright is undeniable and I got to meet that desire head on.  I got to intimately live with that desire for a little while.  And in the end, everything did turn out OKAY…so far, at least.  And while I never ever wish that uncertainty on any mother and father to be, I can say that my bond with my baby is stronger now than it was before and that my faith has also been strengthened.  I continue to pray everyday, several times a day, for the healthy and well being of my baby but I also now pray for the peace of mind to trust that everything will be exactly as it is going to be and the serenity to accept what may come.

I will soldier on in this pregnancy (and in this blog) and I will make extra efforts to enjoy and laugh at the whole process. I have learned to try and enjoy it all and to take it one day at a time because no matter what, I am going to be a mommy and this baby already means the world to me.  I will do whatever it takes to ensure that it is healthy and happy when it finally arrives and that I am healthy and happy while I’m waiting for it to get here.

Until next time, folks- keep the positive vibes flowin’

Preg-A-Saurus Rex


  1. Oh, Jen, I didn't know there were things going on with you and baby. Guess, I sort of prefer the ignorant bliss we enjoyed from a lack of technical advances when I was enjoying my pregnancies. This I know though, that God does not give us more than we can handle; and if He so chose to give us an handicapped baby, He would also give the grace to endure that trial. We've been truely blessed with healthy babies and lives for the most part; sometimes I wonder if it was because He knew I couldn't handle it otherwise... :P
    Keep your focus on HIM. I'm so pleaed to know that this has deepened your faith and trust in God. I will be praying for you more specifically now. This was the first post I you know what you are having? I'll go read some more and find out.

  2. I am praying for you and the baby each day!
    We love you!