I’ll start by saying that this update ends well, and all is fine and completely stable. But shit’s certainly gotten real.
Late Sunday night I made my first and hopefully (but probably not) only trip to the Maternity Trauma Center for concerns over decreased fetal movement. Oh whoops. Excuse me. It’s actually called the Maternity Welcome Center. Complete with its fancy signage and waterfalls and resort music, it resembles the Hilton Hotel. But the smoke and mirrors really only wow (and welcome) the “normal” patients.
To me, and to so many of my support group friends, it’s very much the Maternity Trauma Center. It’s the place where it all began for me, for us. One fateful day we checked in as our former selves, either happy and unassuming or maybe slightly concerned, only to realize our worst nightmares within those walls, experiencing horrors nearly unspeakable, having our hearts ripped from our chests and stomped on, violently, one million times, our hopes and dreams shattered. We each exited the Maternity Trauma Center forever changed, bereaved parents who entered with our babies only to take the devastating walk to our vehicles without, driving off into a future uncertain, knowing only that nothing would ever be the same again.
To say I’d be okay never returning to the Maternity Trauma Center is an understatement. I walk by it quickly before each monthly support group meeting – I avoid glancing in its direction. Some of my support group friends park elsewhere, avoiding it entirely.
But somehow I knew I’d be back during this pregnancy for concerns over decreased fetal movement… Because I don’t know many who get through pregnancy after loss without at least a few visits to the Maternity Trauma Center over similar concerns. Because when you know all too well that any second could be the last, you try not to take chances. So I knew this was in my future… But even knowing this couldn’t have prepared me for it.
Late Sunday night, during what, over the course of the past couple of days, had generally been an active time, it seemed Jay’s movements had slowed. Not disappeared, but slowed. And we were suspicious, based on our obsessive Doppler usage, that he’d turned from breech to vertex (head down), which sounds very freaking dicey if you ask me. (But then again, so does pregnancy in general these days.)
So, obviously, I flipped my shit, and we headed to the hospital.
And it felt like history might repeat. Another Sunday night in a summer month, after some pushing and prodding and drinking cold liquids in attempts to awaken a lazy baby… A night much like the one last summer that stole our precious Matthew…
So Mark sped to the hospital, illegally passing those driving 30 in a 30 (there’s just no reason for it – like WTF?) on some semi-empty roads, while I cried hysterically, convinced that tragedy was about to strike again.
Upon check-in, we quickly explained to the triage nurse that we lost our first child and thus needed to be seen NOW. And that our first child actually died while being monitored on a non-stress test/fetal heart rate monitor (NST), so we would also need an ultrasound NOW. Not later. NOW. (We weren’t pushy at all.)
So they took us to a room. And I continued crying, as I still hadn’t felt Jay move, or so I thought. And I tried to ignore the familiar, traumatic sights all around me that often visit me in my nightmares.
Could they be taking us to the same room where I stayed before we lost Matthew?
Mark peppered our doctors and medical contacts with texts and emails, because he didn’t know what else to do. (Bless their hearts – they all responded by morning.) While, for me, said shit-flipping continued.
Nurses and residents offered “comforting” words such as, “You’re in the safest place… You’re hooked up to the fetal heart rate monitor… If we were truly concerned about this baby, we’d deliver him…”
And I responded to each of these, “Well, not last time… Well, not with our first child… Well, not with Matthew…”
Perhaps staff should review my chart more thoroughly before offering such words?
Though I understand that these words typically provide comfort and are often true… (There is nothing normal about your baby dying in the hospital during an NST…) I definitely appreciate that everyone was sweet and well-meaning and put up with my frequent reminders that, “NO. No one is ever safe – my first child DIED here.”
I was eventually hooked up to an NST *and* given an ultrasound. Fairly quickly thereafter, all activity began to look reassuring. And Jay actually started moving up a storm. And several doctors insisted that the NST strip appeared “reactive” and was thus okay.
After some questions and conversations and rehashing said questions and conversations we were discharged from the hospital just before 2:00am.
Ever since, things have been relatively uneventful, which means that they have also been incredibly stressful – par for the course for pregnancy after loss, at least for those blessed (or cursed?) with my personality and an anterior placenta, which makes it more difficult to feel baby’s movement.
Later on Monday, we went to a previously-scheduled appointment with my regular OB where we recounted our hospital visit. We requested weekly ultrasounds until the end and also bi-weekly NSTs, which was always part of our plan… (But, honestly, until now, I’ve taken the “live one day at a time” advice to the extreme, so I had little of this on my calendar…) We also requested an ultrasound during our visit (the one at the Maternity Trauma Center was performed on such a low-quality machine, because it totally makes sense to have water features in your lobby, but a low-quality, portable ultrasound machine, amiright?!), as we wanted to re-check the position of the cord… But the sonographer at this specific location had just quit…
So that night, we went to a boutique, walk-in, just-for-fun, ultrasound place and explained to this just-for-fun sonographer that we didn’t really care about seeing our baby, just his cord. And she performed an ultrasound for us and actually was quite skilled with looking at Jay’s cord. I’ll eventually devote an entire blog post to this experience, but, long story short, Jay and his cord looked good. His cord was right where it’s supposed to be, and we were given a CD and a video that shows Jay licking his cord to the tune of What a Wonderful World, the song chosen by the sonographer for the video. (Apparently it’s normal for babies to do this? Not to the tune of this song, necessarily. But to lick their cords.) We then sent all of this information to Dr. Collins, and he was pleased with it.
Is all of this overkill? We’re fortunate that all of our doctors support us and say that, “No it isn’t. Not when you’ve lost a child.”
We tend to agree.
Upon reaching 30 weeks, I’ve fallen off of some kind of anxiety cliff. I knew it’d be terrifying, but until about a week ago, it was only terrifying in theory. Actually experiencing the terror is something else entirely. And the daily tasks are becoming difficult to manage on top of it all. I’m falling behind at work as well as in my Writing Your Grief class (no biggie re: the class). I’m not sleeping well, running on adrenaline, constantly on high-alert, trying to assess timing of last kick and, if hooked up to an NST, whether the next dip (deceleration), no matter how shallow (and there will always be some of them, because variability is good), signifies impending doom.
But I’m hoping now that we have more appointments scheduled, I’ll fall into a better routine, and I won’t feel so much like I’m running around like a chicken with my head cut off.
For now, we’re thankful that, for the first time ever, we escaped the Maternity Trauma Center with a living baby (though still on the inside), something we hope will repeat again and again, as many times as it needs to.
And we’re thankful that we were able to remove these two more links from our rainbow chain – the purple one and the red one – the ones that came with a hospital bracelet and were so effing difficult to earn.