A few weeks ago I found a video of my nephew when he was quite wee. He had waited through much of December to put Baby Jesus on his advent calendar, which was how he counted down until Grandma, Grandpa, Uncle Jon, and Auntie Val would all be at his house for Christmas. He almost couldn’t contain himself with excitement as he tried to wrap it in its spot. Grandma offered to help, but he insisted he could do it. But, then the excitement got the better of him, and he explained, “I’m having a little tricky,” so Grandma stepped in to help.
I’m having a little tricky these days myself. I’ve been counting down to doctor’s appointments, ultrasounds, Doppler checks, and pregnancy milestones. Pregnancy milestones take on a new meaning after you’ve had a loss and bring added fear and anxiety. Right now I’m in the thick of our greatest milestone: the weeks where we found out Patrick was failing and then his death and stillbirth.
My OB wisely planned an early anatomy scan at 16 weeks in hopes that we could go into these milestone weeks with reassuring data about Stitch. While the scan was generally reassuring, the experience was traumatic. Stitch appears to be growing right on track, which was one of the bigger concerns with Patrick. One of the other big concerns with Patrick was his heart. In Stitch’s 16 week anatomy scan, they couldn’t see everything they’d like to on the heart, but we were assured that it’s very early and that is not uncommon at this stage.
After the scan, we saw my OB, who is very pleased with how the pregnancy is progressing. Our next appointment was scheduled in four weeks and would follow a 20 week anatomy scan and fetal echocardiogram. I told her that I didn’t quite know what to do. These weeks were the weeks where we were at OB a couple times a week being monitored and having various checks and tests. Four weeks felt so very far away.
She said she’d be happy to see me in between, but she didn’t think she needed to. She reminded me that the reason we were being monitored so closely with Patrick was because there was something wrong. All data on Stitch currently point to healthy baby. The pregnancy couldn’t be going more differently. I wish my brain could wrap around those facts and find more reassurance, but it just doesn’t last very long.
I told her I’d come in for my weekly Doppler checks with the midwife, and I’d get through.
Last week, though, the sludge got very deep and tough to slog through. Sunday morning I woke up in a fair amount of pain. It wasn’t constant, so I was quite afraid that I was having contractions. I called the OB line, and one of the midwives called me back. She suggested that I drink a tall glass of water, take some Tylenol, and lie on my side for 30-60 minutes then call back.
It didn’t improve, so I called back. She told us to come into triage at Labor and Delivery.
I figured this day would come. By this point in the pregnancy with Patrick, we’d been to L&D triage three times. I knew a trip was inevitable. I wasn’t prepared for it to kick off my tough milestone period, though. Whatever bit of sanity and coping skills I had left melted away.
Stitch was just fine, though. Before the midwife even got to the heartbeat, Stitch kicked the Doppler. The midwife laughed, “We’ve got an active one here, don’t we?” They think I pulled one of the ligaments in my sleep. We went home with orders to get a pregnancy support belt and rest.
Pain mixed with anxiety and exhaustion created a downward spiral. Monday morning, I had an appointment with my perinatal psychiatrist, and she was quite concerned. She recommended med changes to help stabalize, which furthered my panic to a feeling of complete failure. I left her office, paged my therapist, and walked over to my OB clinic to hear Stitch’s heartbeat. I didn’t have an appointment, but I was a sobbing mess so they didn’t question my need to be seen.
Stitch kicked the Doppler some more, which just makes the funniest sound. The triage nurse who saw me is one of my favorites. She spent quite a bit of time with me, assuring me that I’m normal, not crazy, and that these couple of weeks will probably the toughest of this pregnancy.
Later that afternoon, I also checked in with my therapist who assured me that I’d been coping very well, and was still coping very well by listening to my doctors and seeking reassurance when I need it. I tried to hold that, but I still felt like a failure.
On Wednesday, I logged into my medical records and printed the ultrasound reports from Patrick’s last two ultrasounds, as well as Stitch’s 16 week anatomy scan. They couldn’t be more different. I read them over and over, trying to get them to sink into my brain, but all I wanted to do was cry.
On Thursday, I saw my psychopharmacologist to go over the med change recommendations from perinatal psychiatrist. He agreed we needed to make changes, but wanted to approach them a bit more slowly and supplement with a temporary increase to help immediately ease my anxiety some. After seeing him, I went and heard Stitch’s heartbeat, which continues to be perfect.
I have a new goal for the next two weeks: practice kindness towards myself to get through this little tricky. I’ve given myself permission to throw out my to do list and watch as much Gilmore Girls and Jane the Virgin on Netflix as needed. I may even pull out my old friend, Veronica Mars. I’ll reach out for support when I feel up to it, and I’ve pretty much canceled any plans I have for these few weeks. This period is harder than I thought, and I thought it would be hard. But, at the end of these two weeks, we should have some great information about Stitch’s heart and further growth. I hope that we move into new territory with much evidence of Stitch’s growth and wellbeing.