It’s been nearly two years since I’ve written on this blog; partly because the life of a working mom in America has less free time than that of a decadent housewife in Budapest, but mostly because that life is also less interesting to read about. I haven’t had anything I particularly wanted to write, but as Jonas approaches his first birthday, I’ve been thinking more about my pregnancy and his birth.
We call Jonas our little miracle baby, and while I’m sure most parents feel their children are miracles, Jonas is especially precious to us. Two years ago, just as we moved back to the U.S. after our time in Budapest, I was recovering from a miscarriage; an ultrasound at 7 weeks, and again at 8 weeks, showed no heartbeat. This was after several months of dashed hopes, and so in my devastation, I began to believe that children weren’t in our future. When we bought our house, we filled our third bedroom with boxes and exercise equipment; when friends or family jokingly referred to it as the future nursery, I died a little on the inside. It would have been a nursery, I thought, if only… if only.
In late October, I took a pregnancy test. I didn’t expect a positive – at that point, it was simply part of the routine. It was positive, but I didn’t celebrate. I’d seen that before. I was certain it would end the same way. I left the test on Richie’s sink without saying a word and continued on with my life. I only told my girlfriends who supported me through the first miscarriage. I asked Richie not to tell anyone else. I made doctor’s appointments, but I felt no joy in it; we’d been here before.
My first doctor’s appointment seemed to confirm my fears; my OB did an ultrasound and said, “Now, don’t freak out or anything, but there’s something a little funky going on here. Since I know you’re worried, and with your history, I’m going to just send you down the hall real quick and we’ll get it checked out.” Down the hall meant the high-risk perinatal practice, and I quickly became well-acquainted with that hallway. Their higher-definition ultrasound machine put the “something funky” fears to rest, but I was diagnosed with placenta previa (which is common and not an issue, but it requires monitoring because if it doesn’t resolve before natural labor begins, it requires a c-section). They scheduled me for ultrasounds every 6 weeks and told me to call if I had any concerns or felt anything strange.
Weeks passed and I hadn’t told family or coworkers. Richie and I planned to tell family at Christmas; mentally, I added the phrase “if we make it that far”. A sudden fall (tripping over constantly-underfoot Winston) meant that I told my coworkers much sooner than I planned, as a quick phone call to my doctor just to make sure it wasn’t a cause for concern turned into “come in right now for a scan”, and I had to explain why I left a frantic voicemail saying I was going to be a little late, with the echoes of hospital announcements in the background. Everything was fine at the scan, and still I worried.
We told our families over Christmas, as planned. We knew the sex – I had testing done at 11 weeks to determine gender and to rule out certain genetic disorders – but I refused to tell anyone, saying that we were waiting for the anatomy ultrasound to confirm. I know I was frustrating Richie, who was ready to tell the world that he was having a son, but I just couldn’t get there. We picked a paint color and started buying furniture, and I started what would be an unending addiction to online baby clothes shopping, and all the while I worried.
Finally, the anatomy ultrasound – and everything was perfect. All fingers and toes in place. All measurements perfect. We got definitive confirmation of the sex (as the ultrasound tech put it, “that boy is showing off for the camera”). And we told the world through a Facebook post.
I continued to be monitored every 4-6 weeks, between the placenta previa and the fact that Jonas was a breech baby. At just under 31 weeks, I started bleeding, with a blood clot the size of a lemon, and as we rushed to the hospital, I thought, this is it. This is the moment I’ve been dreading.
I’ve talked about this with some of my girlfriends, and the emotional weight of pregnancy after a loss can be so hard to bear. And in many ways, you’re bearing it alone; although Richie was as supportive as a husband could possibly be, it wasn’t his body that felt like it was failing our baby. The time from the first feeling of blood until the heartbeat monitor was attached to my belly was probably 45 minutes; it felt like an eternity. But his heart was strong and steady and he was fine. I was given steroid injections to strengthen his lungs in case he did make an early arrival, but my doctor was as certain as she could be that he was staying put. A c-section was scheduled for June 20th, but that hospital stint ensured that I would have weekly ultrasounds until his arrival.
Through those weekly measurements, Jonas was diagnosed with IUGR, or intrauterine growth restriction. When ultrasounds are performed, there are three primary measurements taken: femur, stomach, and head. Jonas’s stomach was measuring much smaller than his head and femur; this could have been due to his breech position, which makes stomach measurement more difficult. So the technicians perform a backup measurement, which is the umbilical cord flow rate and measures the rate at which fluid is passing through the cord from the placenta to the baby. If it’s lower than an expected ratio, it could indicate problems with the placenta, which would lead the baby’s stomach to grow less (as the baby’s body directs the majority of the nutrients towards brain formation).
At 37 weeks, I went for one of my weekly ultrasounds, and by this time I had grown rather weary of them. Most people get 2-3 at most in their pregnancies; I was well into the double digits. I felt as though I was constantly being told “Here’s this new problem to worry about, but don’t worry, because right now everything looks great!” I even thought of skipping or rescheduling some of the appointments. And the beginning of this appointment seemed to go as planned – the technician had a bright smile on her face as she said everything looked great, and that she’d send the doctor in. And then the doctor spent 10 minutes on the scan instead of 2-3, and she turned to me and said, “Well, I don’t think we need to wheel you down the hallway this minute, but you should call your husband and tell him you’re having a baby this week.” A phone call to my regular OB quickly ensued, and I was scheduled for a c-section the next day, June 8th.
When you have a scheduled c-section, everything about the day of the birth becomes shockingly ordinary. My parents arrived and we took them out to lunch (which I couldn’t eat, as I was strictly forbidden from any food after midnight – I later learned this instruction was incorrect due to a timing mix-up, and I should’ve been allowed to eat breakfast, so I was *starving*). We had a leisurely drive to the hospital, an ordinary check-in, and everything pretty much proceeded according to plan.
Our hospital has a policy that no one is allowed in the room when the woman is getting an epidural (apparently too many husbands have passed out after seeing the needle enter the spine), and so Richie was sent off to change into surgical scrubs. After the epidural began to take, I was wheeled off to the operating room, accompanied by no one other than the anesthesiologist’s assistant, Dwight. I was placed directly under the operating lights, and as the nurses bustled around the room, I began to sob. The last time I had been in an operating room, I was in Hungary, just one year before, having a D&C after my miscarriage. I remember the doctor who performed that procedure stroking my hair and saying to me, “This is a hard thing, a very hard thing, and you will never forget it, but time will pass and you will move forward.” And here I was, in Dallas, with a very uncomfortable Dwight stroking my hair and saying, “Don’t worry, your husband will be here very soon, and so will your little baby.” So much was the same, and so much was different.
Jonas was born at 4:54 pm, and he was perfect.
Afterwards, my OB said that it was a very good thing that we had scheduled the c-section for that day; that the reason for the decreased umbilical cord flow rate and for Jonas’s IUGR was that the placenta had begun to calcify. She said that if he had not been so closely monitored, his birth would have gone very, very differently.
I am so very thankful for my little miracle.