When I first went into pre-term labor at 24+3 weeks, our goal was to make it to 28 weeks; the second time, at 29+2 weeks, the goal – and no one really thought it was a particularly realistic one – was to make it to 32 weeks. And here we are, coming up on the 33 week mark, and I’m still pregnant. Wow.
This was a really, really rough week. As thrilled as I am to have made it this far, I am exhausted in pretty much every sense of the word. I’m still contracting regularly, and sometimes quite painfully; sleep can be elusive, especially when I start approaching the threshold my high-risk doctor set for returning to the hospital and lay in bed timing contractions and logging their intensity. There’s also something unsettling about knowing that while there is a defined date for the last possible day I will carry Noah (we’re still scheduled for c-section on 11/24, at 37+2 weeks), things could take a turn very quickly – I feel rather like a ticking time bomb, one without a timer so you’re not *really* sure when it’s going to blow.
One thing that’s kept me (relatively) sane through this pregnancy – my first PAL – has been my weekly appointments with my high-risk specialist. Although the 2+ hour (each way) drive is getting progressively more uncomfortable as I get further along, I relish my appointments because not only do I get to see and hear my sweet little man, it’s the only out-of-the-house time I get. Bedrest hasn’t been as terrible as I feared it would be – I’ve managed to keep myself fairly busy (even if “busy” includes watching all 11 seasons of Grey’s Anatomy on Netflix) – but my weekly appointments are the one chance I get to dress up a little (or at all – I’ve spent most of my bedrest in my husband’s t-shirts, because they’re insanely comfortable) and see people who aren’t my husband or his/my parents. My weekly appointments normally revitalize me – they remind me that everything I’m going through is paying off.
Until this week.
My appointment this week was a disaster. My high-risk doctor wasn’t in the office (turns out the scheduler goofed with my appointment time), nor was my usual nurse; my NST was rushed (I was supposed to be monitored for an hour, and they took me off-monitor less than 15 minutes into my appointment, despite the fact that we had told them that we were pretty sure the belts hadn’t been hooked up correctly, as I was contracting strongly and they weren’t being recorded by the monitor), and the first thing the sonographer asked us was “What are they scanning you for this week?” – she really didn’t know why we were there or what she was supposed to be looking for/at. During the NST, both my husband and I noticed that Noah’s heartrate was significantly lower than usual, and he wasn’t moving (he normally fights the monitoring belts – it’s a struggle to keep him on the monitor); when he also wasn’t moving during the ultrasound, we were concerned. The whole point of the NSTs and ultrasounds is to make sure that both Noah and I remain stable, and the lack of movement, coupled with the reduced heartrate, scared both of us. I started crying, because I truly feared that my worst nightmare – something bad happening to Noah – was coming true. The sonographer immediately got the on-call MFM, who suggested that we “head upstairs” to L&D triage for a longer monitoring session, which we immediately agreed to.
Wouldn’t you know, as soon as we got checked in upstairs and on the monitor, Noah immediately started his usual “I do NOT like this!” wiggling and squirming. The monitor was also picking up fairly regular contractions, which Noah was handling “exceptionally well” – his heart rate would elevate a little, then drop back into his normal range very quickly. About an hour later, the midwife came to talk to us and said that she thought everything looked great and that we could go home as soon as the MFM came up to review the results. When the MFM stopped by, we received news that really should have been shared with us before we were passed off to L&D: Noah had received a perfect 10/10 on his biophysical profile in the office. We were stunned – it was clear when we were in the office that we were worried about Noah’s health, and no one bothered to tell us that everything was fine?
Already very upset with what had happened, my MFM called to check on me the next day and started the call – after asking how I was doing – with “I heard we had a little freakout yesterday…” Come again? I walked him through everything that had happened, including the fact that I don’t consider crying – when my son is not moving and his heartrate is low – a “freakout” (nor does my husband who – when I called to tell him about the call – said “That wasn’t a freakout. At all. That was a scared momma crying. You weren’t rude, you weren’t belligerent, you just laid on the exam table crying!”). I also explained to him that we were pretty upset that no one bothered to communicate the Noah had rocked his biophysical testing until after we had finished being monitored in L&D – if we had known that he was fine, we wouldn’t have spent the next couple of hours scared that something had happened to him!
The more I think about this, the more irritated I am about the whole situation. How is it that a still-grieving mother cannot even cry without people considering her behavior inappropriate? The thing I fear more than anything else is leaving another hospital with empty arms, another funeral, another loss, another tiny urn; knowing our history, why would anyone think it’s not okay for me to worry about the well-being of my child, particularly in response to something (decreased fetal movement) we had been explicitly told to be on the lookout for? I didn’t say unkind words to anyone, I didn’t scream, I didn’t throw things – I cried. And for that, I am pegged as having “freaked out”?
I’m actually grateful that we don’t have another monitoring appointment until next Tuesday. I need time to process my feelings about what happened this week before I see people in that office again; I am hurt, I am angry, and – for the first time ever – I am very much not looking forward to my weekly foray into the world outside my house.
As aggravating as all this was, though, I am immensely grateful that Noah is still doing well. After all, that’s the most important thing. I may be seriously unhappy with what happened at my appointment this week, but I am elated that my sweet baby boy is still nestled safely in my womb. And I will not let what happened this week take up so much space in my head that it takes away from the absolute joy I feel that – despite the odds stacked against us – my precious Noah and I are doing just fine.