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I had the perfect pregnancy.
Seriously. It was beautiful. I had mild morning sickness – kind of like an 8-week hangover – great blood pressure, no gestational diabetes, I was a champ when it came to peeing in a cup. I was one of those women you hate who loved being pregnant.
And then my perfect little pregnancy world came crashing down around me.
At my 32 week checkup my doctor decided he wanted another ultrasound. He never told me exactly what it was that peaked his attention, but I thank God every day for his instincts.
Originally my appointment with the perinatologist was schedule for 34 weeks, but my doctor had it moved up to the next day. He didn’t sound worried on the phone. Still I knew something was off.
The next day, at 32 weeks 3 days gestation I left work with a quick, “See you tomorrow,” to my coworkers and headed off to my appointment. My little bean had been making me nervous all day. She’d go for long periods without moving, then just when I was starting to panic she’d give a few little kicks to ease my mind.
My appointment was after school and the perinatologist I had seen before was out of town, so I saw his partner instead. Of course, as is usually the case when you see a doctor, I first saw a technician and nurse. I felt much better once I was in the room and seeing my beautiful girl’s heart beat. She was okay! I sat and stared at the screen, crying, relieved that all my worry had been for nothing.
After about 20 minutes with the technician, the doctor came in the room, silently viewed the screen and told me, without looking away from the screen, that I would need to go to the hospital. I stared at him, thinking I had misheard and just said, “I’m sorry?” He said again that I had to go to the hospital and I would be having the baby that day.
My head began to spin and I thought I was going to throw up. He continued to tell me that I needed to go straight to the hospital. I was not to go home and pack a bag, or to the store to pick up one last item for the baby.
I called my husband whose phone was, for the first time ever, not on. He was at a meet and I had no way to contact him. Panic set in. Was I going to have to go through this alone? I was on the phone with a secretary at his work when he called on the other line and I promptly hung up on her. All I could tell him was that I had to go to the hospital and that my precious girl, who wasn’t due for another 8 weeks, would likely be born that day. I still didn’t know why myself.
On my way out the doctor found me and explained what was happening. Basically, the placenta was no longer supporting my baby. The umbilical cord was showing a reverse wave on the ultrasound which meant that instead of blood flowing to the baby, at least some of it was flowing away from her. This is life threatening to her. He said that in nearly every case like mine the baby is far safer outside the uterus than inside.
They were waiting for me at labor and delivery and a very nice, calming nurse took me to a delivery room. I was hooked up to monitors to track the baby’s heart rate and my contractions. The OB on call explained that they were looking for the baby’s heart to occasionally accelerate which would indicate movement. After 10 minutes they did not see any accelerations, but they didn’t see any decelerations, either. Just to be certain she wasn’t in an extended sleep cycle, and to give my husband time to get there, they continued monitoring. It was increasingly clear, however, that she was going to be delivered very soon.
Once at the hospital I felt much more secure. I still didn’t know what was going on, but my girl was being constantly monitored, so I could relax a little. Nurses came in every few minutes to check on the monitors, but I took the time in between to try to relax. I knew my life was going to become a whirlwind very soon.
A few minutes later the doctor and nurse came in and a flurry of activity began. Though no one had made an official statement yet, it was obvious that the c-section was a go. The anesthesiologist came in to explain his procedures. He was trying keep the mood light, making corny jokes that normally would have me giggling like an idiot, but they were going right past me.
Finally my husband arrived and tried to catch up on what was going on. Everyone’s attention was on me and mine was on them, leaving him standing and watching. He got to work trying to find someone who could help take care of our dog until I was wheeled into surgery. Meanwhile, my head was spinning. I was being told what was going to happen and wasn’t hearing any of it.
It’s a surreal thing to be wheeled down the hall on a gurney. Scenes from old cheesy movies are actually pretty accurate, as it turns out. Every so often the gurney would bump up and down when we hit a door or a seem in the floor, each one making me feel more and more nervous.
In the OR the chief OB resident was the angel on my shoulder. He talked me through every step and rubbed my arms while I was getting the epidural. The anesthesiologist asked what kind of music I wanted to hear and proceeded to find as much Billy Joel as he could. This was much more comforting than I would have imagined.
When I was numb and laying down my husband was brought in. He was talking a mile a minute about nonsense things – we’ll never know if it was more for his benefit or for mine. Either way, it was just what we needed while we waited to hear those magical words, “It’s a girl!”
At first I didn’t understand what that meant. I thought, “Of course she’s a girl! We already knew that!” Then it hit me. I was a mom.
She was born at 4:57 p.m. A short time later we heard her first little cries and a few minutes later they brought her to us for a quick moment and a kiss on the forehead before whisking her away to the NICU. I remembered from what was told to me before surgery that this was a good sign because it meant she was stable enough to spend a few moments with us. The doctors took a couple of pictures for us and then my husband went with Miss O while I stayed behind to be stitched up. I don’t know how long that took, but it seemed like forever. I was shaky and cold and stuffed up, and I just wanted to be with my baby.
Finally I was wheeled into recovery and my husband came to greet me and tell me how beautiful our sweet girl was. Still shaking and feeling very groggy we started making phone calls to spread the happy news. We heard lots of shocked voices – the most common first response was, “What?!” – and lots of congratulations.
My daughter was born 2 lbs, 5 oz and 14 ¾ inches long, the average size of a fetus at 27 weeks gestation. Her head was lightly covered with fine, dark hair and she had the most beautiful little fingers and toes. She didn’t need assistance breathing and she was put on IV sugar water to help stabilized her blood sugar. I got to spend about half an hour with her before collapsing into bed, feeling slightly dazed and incredibly happy that my baby was safe and sound. In the end she spent 54 days in the NICU, coming home the day after her due date.
All told, less than 2 hours passed from the start of my perinatologist appointment until my daughter was born, most of it was an utterly terrifying blur. I still feel some residual grief from the experience and I definitely feel cheated out of 1/3 of my pregnancy, though I am nothing but completely grateful for the way things turned out.
Today my sweet baby is an amazing, sassy little girl is 4 (going on 30). She’s still small for her age, but we are incredibly blessed that she has no other developmental issues.
She is our little miracle.