In mid-April my husband and I found out we were expecting our first child due December 20th. Finally, something that I had longed for was a reality! I thought for sure that it we would be one of the many people who struggle with fertility. At the age of 37 I’m what is considered pregnant at a mature age and by that alone “high risk”. I thought that it would take us months to get pregnant and behold my joy at finding out that it wasn’t that difficult.
My pregnancy has been wonderful, I was extremely tired at the beginning, had little queasiness, but other than that, no problems. I have taken to it very well. I can even see why women, such as my mother, want to have lots and lots of babies. It really is an incredible experience. I’ve heard people say that ad infinitum, not fully understanding what they mean. I am amazed at what my body can do and what it is made to do. That it just knows to create these chemicals and bring together cells that create this little person that responds to stimuli, kicks, turns, and hiccups. I don’t feel like I have an alien residing within, I feel like I have a baby within that I am creating.
In my excitement I started knitting a baby blanket right off. I didn’t know at the time if we were going to have a boy or a girl, so I went to our local yarn shop and purchased Cascade’s 60 Quick Baby Blankets and Cascade 220 superwash yarn. I unintentionally deviated from the pattern as there was a problem with the book. I even tracked down the designer, who was not given proper credit for her work, to ask for guidance. Ravelry is a wonderful resource. I also chose colors that could be gender neutral. The name of the pattern is Pumpkin Patch by Lisa Hoffman. Here’s a pic (for the trained and untrained eye you will see a mistake that I just had to let go of):
It would seem I chose my colors wisely. My intuition was screaming that we were going to have a little boy. Mama’s intuition was right and he certainly wasn’t bashful in announcing the news to his parents. Whoa, BOY!
This is when we have the experience of couples needing to compromise. Calvin is the 4th in his line and he always said he wanted to name his son, should we have one, Lewis Calvin Chappelle V. I’m not a fan of Lewis. It’s a fine, noble name, but just not my favorite and calling him Calvin would be a little confusing with two in the household. We researched what families do in these situations and found a site that gave us options. We found a name that we knew fit our baby boy, Quinn. Aside from the Latin for five, this is also an Irish name and means “intelligence”, “wisdom”, “counsel”, and our reason for choosing, “estate of the fifth son”. Perfect.
With Quinn’s name in place we forged forward into the realm of pregnancy. We were smooth sailing, then the whole “high risk” thing started entering the equation.
Before I get into that I want to tell you about my philosophy going into my pregnancy. I always knew that I wanted to do this naturally. No drugs and all that. I knew I was going to take a Bradley Method birth class with my husband and get informed about my rights as a patient. Part of what started this was knowing enough about myself that if I were to get an epidural and not feel the lower half of my body, we would have a mama in the full throes of an all out panic attack. Not a pretty picture and certainly not a healthy experience for mama and baby. That is what made my mind up for me. I also knew that the choice I made was in the best interest of our baby. I knew that I wanted with my whole being to have the experience of an un-medicated labor and delivery. I wanted to be part of the process of pain, of working to bring a child into this world, and of pushing him out, making me part of such a primal dance that has been taking place with women for thousands of years. I wanted this for me, my husband, and for our baby. Not because I thought I’d get any gold medals or that it would make me better than other mama’s. I want it because of the precious gift of having him placed on my chest, feeling that chemical mix of hormones coursing through my body, and smelling his little head after working for him, for his life.
I knew with regard to my doctors visits that I wanted limited ultrasounds. I am not the person who needs to see my child in 3D. I like surprises. I had no intention of having the first or second trimester screenings. I did not get pregnant to have an abortion, so what if we found out we were having a baby with downs syndrome? We would still love him.
I had a plan…yeah, I know. It’s okay to laugh.
When I was presented with my first trimester screen, I declined. When I was surprised that I had a second trimester screen, I just went with it despite my hesitancy. A few weeks later I received a call from the doctor’s office. They found that with my age that I had a 1 in 103 chance of having a baby with downs syndrome. It was recommended that I take a Non Invasive Prenatal Test (NIPT) which analyzes cell-free fetal DNA circulating in maternal blood. It has an over 99% accuracy rate. The best part is the non invasive aspect which means no amniocentesis. I wouldn’t have that procedure anyway due to risk of miscarriage.
I went to the High Risk office and took the test. My results were not able to be processed. Something might have been wrong with the tube. I went in again and had the same results. I didn’t have enough fetal DNA in my blood stream. Evidently this happens in 1% of tests. My husband and I decided to give up. Baby had a scan, his body was fine and the measurements were consistent with the weight and size of a baby at 17 weeks gestation. While the shenanigans with my blood work are taking place we are dealing with more troubling news.
Here’s the part where we get really intimate with my cervix. If you don’t want to know, stop reading here.
It’s amazing how you can not give a thought to certain parts of your anatomy and why they exist. I never really thought about the function of a cervix except that I had to get it checked out once a year to be sure there wasn’t any funny business going on that could lead to cancer. Who knew it’s what protects our son from the outside world and from blessing us with his presence too soon.
During the visit where my blood was drawn for the NIPT test they measured my cervical length at 3.7cm. That is very normal. When I went into my next appointment 2 weeks later my cervical length had dropped to 2.6cm. They told me they wanted to see me every 2 weeks for monitoring. We were handling this fine. I would just tell myself that we need more information. Keep calm.
I went in 2 weeks later and it measured at 2.25. I was put on progesterone treatments. There is debate on whether this is useful, but it wouldn’t hurt, so we went with that plan. They started taking a swab for a Ffn test (Fetal Fibronectin http://m.ffntest.com/index.html). This gives us a 2 week window to tell us if we will go into preterm labor. The cervix, when preparing for labor, will release chemicals that can be detected in this test. It has a 95% accuracy, that means there is a 5% chance that I could go into labor. Those are pretty good odds. The test has been negative so far at 31 weeks. I took this every 2 weeks and it’s what I held on through out this experience. It is the test gets me through the evenings when my mind starts to wander into the “what if” zone.
Two weeks later on August 27, I was at 2.1cm, but the Ffn still came back negative. Two weeks later on September 10 my cervical length dropped to .5cm. I was officially scared, but the Ffn was still negative. I was put on indefinite bed rest at 25 weeks. I had to come in the next day, a Tuesday, and the length had increased to .99cm. We were excited to see the improvement. I went back in on a Friday and it had shortened to .3cm. I was officially terrified. This was the first time I cried in the office. The midwife I met with was so kind, reassuring, and gentle. They sent me over to the women’s pavilion where I was to begin steroid shots. His lungs were at that point developed, but if born prematurely he would have difficultly breathing. The steroids help them develop faster. They also put me on nifedipine, a blood pressure medicine that is shown to stop contractions that could be contributing to the shortening. I still felt hope, though difficult at times. We knew that if he were born at this point, that his chance of surviving was very high and that he would have to stay in the NICU.
We did have some fun in this. Quinn decided at 26 weeks that he wanted to get a different view of his world and turned breech. Normally, I would not be very concerned about this since under “normal” circumstances he would have time to turn. We didn’t have that luxury. For one week it was my mission to spin a baby. I had a handy wedge pillow that I inverted myself on and played Mozart on my pelvis in the hopes he would turn back head down. It worked! To this day he is still head down and we hope he stays there.
Here I am at 31.5 weeks and he is still with me. Every day I am pregnant is a victory. It has been a roller coaster, especially for my husband. He’s concerned about us and he is someone who likes to be helpful, to fix things, but he can’t fix this. He has been an incredible support and despite his busy work load, has been there with us step by step. When he is scared, I comfort him; when I get scared, he comforts me.
Just as we were getting used to this schedule and seeing a pattern, the pregnancy gods decided to throw something else in this experience to make it a little more interesting. My doppler readings were high. This means that the umbilical cord blood flow was high, which means that the cord was working hard to get nutrients and blood to Quinn. Thankfully, his brain doppler was normal. The doctor decided not to focus so much on my wayward cervix since it has stabilized, and instead focus on this turn of events. I have been going to the office twice a week for ultrasounds to test the cord blood flow. We had the great news that we were back in the normal range as of the 21st of October, but these things can change. We are holding to the hope that we have stabilized in both areas. What’s more, the doctor said that if we make it to 36 weeks we can discuss removing medications and restrictions so that I don’t go over term. The reality of how close this is sent excitement through us and joy at what we have accomplished. We’re in the home stretch!
Through this we had such an incredible support group with family, friends, neighbors, and our church. I am one of the fortunate women who works for a supportive association that has allowed me to continue working from home. Not many women have that and I am very thankful for them and my staff for being there to keep things running.
The sequel will discuss the emotional side of this experience and what I have learned. Having been in this frightening situation, it is my hope that someone in a similar situation might stumble upon this blog and realize there is hope and that it will be okay. The internet is a pretty scary place for people in our situation. It’s easy to become hysterical reading some of the forums. I don’t recommend it.
I have felt such incredible love and kindness. For a girl who has a life time struggle with not feeling important, the people in my life helped me feel like I do matter. Thank you.