I’ve finally managed to snag a moment to come up for air and share with you the happy news that the newest member of our family has arrived! Our baby boy was born on May 17th via cesarean section, weighing 9 pounds 4 ounces, and measuring 21 3/4 inches long. The lack of sleep has of course been very trying, but we are absolutely in love with our precious, perfect little guy, and things are starting to become easier.
I didn’t chronicle my pregnancy at the time, but it was quite an adventure, and I thought I would share some of it now for the benefit (and hopeful comfort) of women who might be experiencing some of the same issues.
I discovered that I was pregnant about two weeks before we moved into our new house. The timing could not have been crazier, and it was tough staying up late packing and moving at a time when I wanted to sleep more than ever! I managed okay, though, and overall I felt better in the first trimester with this pregnancy than I had with my first son. Some aches and pains were happening earlier than they had before, but I wasn’t feeling very sick. Things seemed to be going great.
We decided this time to find out the sex of our baby instead of waiting for the surprise. So, in early January I went with my husband and our older son to have my ultrasound. Although we were kind of hoping for a girl, I wasn’t at all disappointed to learn that another boy would be joining us instead, and of course his brother was thrilled! I sent my husband and son back to the waiting room while I completed the rest of my appointment.
It seemed like I waited alone in the exam room for ages before the doctor finally came in. She told me “There’s an awful lot of fluid around this little guy.” I kind of laughed it off, figuring it was just one of those things that happens sometimes, and it didn’t sound like something I needed to worry about. But when she followed up with “So, I’m going to send you to a high risk doctor,” and I saw the concern on her face, my heart sunk. I asked the doctor if it was dangerous for the baby. She said that it was more of a risk for me, but complications like placental abruption, preterm labor or cord prolapse could threaten the baby as well.
Of course I went home and Googled “excess amniotic fluid” and discovered that the name for the condition was polyhydramnios. It’s a relatively rare condition affecting about 1 in 100 pregnancies. I learned that it could mean something was physically wrong with the baby, and I was anxious.
Waiting for my first visit with the perinatal doctor seemed like an eternity. I was scared, but also in denial–I kept telling myself that the new doctor would say that all was well, and my regular OB had overreacted. When I received my paperwork in the mail indicating that I was scheduled not only for a detailed ultrasound, but also amniocentesis and genetic counseling, it sunk in that this might be very serious indeed.
The ultrasound at the high risk practice confirmed that I had polyhydramnios. It also turned up a number of “soft markers” that could point to serious problems for my unborn son. He had a thick nuchal fold, he had asymmetrical ventricles in his brain, he had choroid plexus cysts, and his stomach didn’t show on the scan (indicating that he wasn’t swallowing the amniotic fluid properly). The fact that the polyhydramnios was diagnosed relatively early (at 20 weeks), didn’t bode particularly well.
The genetic counselor’s job was to inform my husband and I of all of the possibilities, and it was a rather terrifying meeting. For us there would never be any option other than welcoming our baby into the world in whatever form, but we learned that our time with him could be very brief if one of the worst possibilities, Trisomy 18, turned out to be the cause of my condition. I decided to go forward with amniocentesis so my husband and I could be prepared to cope with any problems the baby might have. I was terrified of the procedure, but it was only mildly painful. The hardest part was waiting for the results. I had already begun to purchase things for the baby, and all I could think about was “what if we will never need them?” It was a tough time, but knowing that I had family and friends praying for good news helped keep my spirits up.
The genetic counselor contacted me as soon as she knew the early results, and we were all thrilled to find out that Trisomy 18 and Down Syndrome were ruled out! When we received the final results after two weeks, everything seemed to be completely fine. Although problems with the baby can cause polyhydramnios, in many cases a cause cannot be determined, and everything turns out just fine. It seemed that I was going to be one of the happy endings. Still, the high risk doctor had me transfer to his practice for the rest of my pregnancy where they were better prepared to monitor my, and the baby’s, progress.
With our fears for the baby eased, what did polyhydramnios mean for me? Well, I grew very big very fast. My tummy was measuring 5 weeks ahead of schedule, and I was pretty uncomfortable carrying all that weight around earlier than my body was prepared for it. The heartburn set in earlier and worse, and I was short of breath due to my lungs being squished. In the spring I ended up in the ER being treated for bronchitis after a regular cold took a turn for the worse. I was very thankful to avoid preterm labor, but I did wind up in the hospital overnight to rule out labor two weeks before my due date.
When my final ultrasound indicated that our baby would be very big, with a large head circumference and broad shoulders, I decided once and for all that I wouldn’t attempt a VBAC. Having binge-watched two seasons of Call the Midwife, I was more into the idea of natural childbirth than I had been before, so I was a little disappointed that I would need another c-section after all. However, I didn’t want to place myself or the baby at risk, and I didn’t want to labor for hours only to end up with a c-section anyway. So, we scheduled the surgery and I counted down the days until I could finally meet my new son and feel a bit more comfortable.
Nobody wants to be high risk, but it turned out to be a blessing in disguise. I had wonderful doctors, nurses and midwives taking care of me for the duration of my pregnancy. And while a c-section is never pleasant, my experience at the big city hospital was infinitely better than the awful and traumatic experience I had with my first son at the hospital close to home. There was a minor complication to my surgery when my poor over-stretched uterus didn’t want to shrink back down to size and I hemorrhaged a bit on the operating table, but the doctors acted quickly and got things under control.
I wanted to hug my anesthesiologist for making my spinal block (the part I dreaded most) virtually painless. The obstetrician who performed my surgery was upbeat and friendly, and kept me from worrying. There was a sweet student nurse who told everyone who would listen that it was her first baby, and I saw her eyes well up with tears when he was born. Then there was the nurse practitioner and the lactation consultant who helped me through my emotional breakdown and flood of tears when I found out my baby had lost too much weight and I worried that I would have to give up breastfeeding again–they helped me leave the hospital with a can-do attitude and a plan for success.
My recovery has been wonderful both physically and emotionally. I am so grateful for the experienced medical professionals who helped see me through every step of the way.
For now blogging is on the back burner as I deal with round-the-clock feedings and diaper changes, but I’m looking forward to sharing lots more baby-related information, like the great products I chose this time around, the colorful and whimsical nursery design that we love, how I had to go dairy-free in order to continue breastfeeding, and my misadventures finding the right bottles to use for supplementing. Life has been crazy in a good way, and I have so much to tell you about…someday.