First Signs of Concern...
Updated: Sep 20, 2022
In September, I remember thinking my belly was surely not as soft as it was with my first
pregnancy. I felt way bigger the whole time, but now it was feeling tighter. My midwife became concerned when I started consistently measuring more than 3 weeks ahead and sent me for an ultrasound around 30 weeks.
Our ultrasound appointment was on October 9. The following week we had a prenatal visit, where my midwife reviewed the ultrasound with us. I had borderline too much amniotic fluid (polyhydramnios), and the baby was borderline too small (SGA). The two pieces of information didn't make a lot of sense. Why was there too much fluid with a very small baby? This week, I was almost 32 weeks, and was measuring 40 weeks pregnant! My midwife made us an appointment with a higher acuity ultrasound clinic, Perinatal Associates, down in Farminton, for 2 days later.
This was hunting season, and Brian had an elk tag. It was early enough in my pregnancy (32 weeks), we both felt comfortable with him going hunting. I had not idea what was going to come later that day...
On the day of our second, more specialized ultrasound appointment in Farmington, October 23, Cord and I had coffee with Kristi Golden and her precious little boys at Boulder Cafe. I remember showing Kristi how tight my belly was, but I was still in the clouds and felt like not much could ACTUALLY be wrong. After the boys had a little play time, we left for the 2.5 hr drive to Farmington.
Brian left for hunting around the same time we did. He wouldn't have service again until that evening, and said he'd call and check in if he found cell service.
Cord fell fast asleep, thank goodness, as I was banking on him being in a good mood for my ultrasound appointment.
Come to find out, kids are not allowed at the ultrasound appointments 🤦🏻♀️. Oh well. We, and they, made the best of it. The ultrasound tech sat me in the biggest and comfiest ultrasound chair, poured about half her bottle of ultrasound gel on my massive belly, and started the ultrasound. About half an hour in, she asked if I could feel the contractions. I had not idea what she was talking about, but she confirmed that I was contracting every few minutes (red flag #1). Cord got a little stir crazy at this point (maybe he sensed my anxiety), but the ultrasound tech insisted I couldn't hold him... hmmm. So she called in an aid to help with him. Next, ultrasound tech curiously asked, "So, you've not had any previous diagnosis this pregnancy?" (red flag #2)
"No," I responded, "But I did have an ultrasound a couple weeks ago that showed the baby was fine, but smaller, and that I had borderline too much amniotic fluid."
The ultrasound tech responded by excusing herself from the room and stating she'd be right back (red flag #3). It was not quick. I held Cord, and waited for her to come back. When she returned, the aid helped with Cord again & the she resumed her seat doing the ultrasound. This time, with a bit more focus and with a curious sense of conviction.
After several minutes, she announced, "I'm seeing that your little one's hand is in the same position it was in since the beginning of the ultrasound. That's not typical. They usually change positions, but this little hand is stuck in the "I Love You" position. There might be something wrong with the hand." 💔 (red flag #4)
After several minutes, she explains, "Also, there's a place on the back of the baby's head (the occipital area), where there's "a little too much space". It's not large enough to be diagnosable, but it's more than normal, and we should get another look at it." 😩 (red flag #5)
I'm also concerned that you're contracting, especially since you're only 32 weeks pregnant. Would you mind if we did an NST (non-stress test) to see how often you're contracting and how baby's doing right now?" 😭
I agreed, got dressed and went to the other room. I sat back- this would take at least 20 minutes. By now I could feel my heart breaking... What if something was wrong with my baby's hand... or worse, her brain.
I thought to myself, "And I was still supposed to be present for a 2-year old?". Head in hands, by insides churned, my head was spinning... What was going on?
Logistically, I wasn't really planning this would take this long. All Cord's snacks were in the car, and he was getting a little stir-crazy and I was hooked up to this machine. Luckily the aid had some random granola bar- works for now. In the privacy of the dimmed room, I felt tears trickle down my cheek... I tried repeatedly to get ahold of Brain.. no luck. The heartbeat and contraction readings on the machine weren't good- the baby kept moving around (because I had such an abundance of fluid) and the aid kept having to reposition the belt. Seriously...
The ultrasound tech came to check on me in the dimmed room, me in a semi-reclined chair with the contraction belts around my enormous belly. She sat on the armrest of the chair next to me, and asked me if I was ok... and said that she was sorry about the bad news. I responded with a few tears and a stuffy nose. Cord popped his head in, looked around with his big eyes, checked to see where I was, then was back running up and down the hallway. This is why toddlers aren't allowed at the clinic... The ultrasound tech continued, sharing that she'd spoken with the MFM (maternal fetal medicine) on call, about the fact that I was contracting regularly and that the baby might have multiple concerning issues. He recommended I get checked out in the closest hospital of my preference. There was a chance I'd need to be transported to a high risk hospital... My heart was immediately in my throat. This was serious. I was advised I could go to Durango, then possibly fly to Denver, or go to the local Farmington hospital and fly to Albuquerque. Which did I prefer? And no, Cord wasn't be able to fly with me (mind you, I've never been apart from Cord overnight or for much time at all at this point). Woah... we just went into lighting speed of changing of plans... all without hopes of being able to get ahold of my husband. I suggested Durango... at least a friend could come get Cord... and Brain & I have family in Denver.
I was discharged with instructions to drive to the Durango L&D unit, where they had instructions to check me out and then possibly fly me to Denver. Cord & I got in the car, Cord fell fast asleep, thank goodness, and I went to work frantically trying to get ahold of Brian through any other means possible since he didn't have service. Brian was hunting with one of his best friends, Darin. I called Darin's wife, Erin, and briefed her on the situation. She was driving up to Denver at the moment, but was in the car with Christina, the head of Search and Rescue. Christina had her backup leave a note on Darin's truck. They had someone send out a information on the hunter radio as well. Nobody could get ahold of them though...
By 5pm I was arriving at the Durango L&D unit, looking 40 weeks pregnant, toddler on one hip, and purse in the other arm. My midwife met me there, as did my dear friend, Nicole. Missy was on her way as well, to come get Cord in case I needed to fly to Denver. Wow, I was amazed at how fully supported I felt in the crazy moment, even when I couldn't get ahold of Brian.
The receiving OB at the Durango hospital must not have agreed with the plan to just get "checked out", or maybe that's just what they told me so I'd take all this in stride. Ether way, the plan from when I arrived, was to be transferred to Denver- ha ha. I was immediately prepped for flight, and given steroids to help the premature baby's lungs develop rapidly in case I delivered in the next day or so. Blood was taken, IVs were started, the whole 9 yards... Out the window went my minimally invasive preferences... Finally, just before the sun went down, Brian called. My heart jumped through my chest. I distinctly remember the phone was sitting on hospital bed above my left shoulder and my right arm was being used for blood pressure readings or something. I answered, and immediately he cheerfully told me they got camp set up in the perfect spot they were aiming for, and had to climb higher to get cell reception to call me. He started to asked how we were, and how the appointment was...through my tears I told Brian that something was wrong with our baby's hand, and maybe her head... I was fully sobbing and Brian couldn't hear most of what I said the first time. I told him I was being emergency flown to PSL hospital in Denver. I heard panic in his voice... We made a plan for he and Darin to come down from the massively high mountain they had just gotten to the top of, meet Missy in Pagosa, and then decide if they were gonna stay the night or head to Denver that night.
Finally I felt a sense of peace now that Brian and I had connected ... At that moment I wasn't sure of much, but oddly, I felt a deep sense of peace... My midwife I'd know all my pregnancy was there with me, sitting near my feet, interfacing with the medical community. My friend was sitting on my left, between me and the window holding Cord, and supportively holding space for whatever would come of the situation. And my dearest friend whom I trusted with my baby was going to take him safely to my husband. What more could I ask for in that moment... ? I called my sister in Denver, and she would meet me at the hospital in Denver.
Brian immediately called his other good buddy, Chris, and he met Brian and Darin on the highway, so they could take a big short cut down the mountain, running... downhill, in the dark, with huge heavy packs. So lucky they didn't both fall down some huge ravine or twist their ankles. Thank goodness for adrenaline, and for Chris and Darin.
I was flown out in a fixed wing, and it was all a little comical because I wasn't feeling like it was an emergency at all. The baby was doing great as far as I understood, and I couldn't feel the contractions they were talking about. Partly, I think I was transferred because the Durango hospital doesn't deliver babies younger than 34 weeks in general, and as a rule,
so they didn't really have a choice but to transfer me with regular contractions and not knowing what problems the baby would be born with. The flight for life nurse was adorable and she did her best to help my massively pregnant body stay comfortable for hours while on a journey in an airplane. It was silly to be belted in that pregnant, on my back, then on my side. Really... But I understood. It was 1am by the time I arrived at PSL, and oh was I happy to see my sister in the hallway as soon as I arrived... my heart was so grateful for the care that was being taken of my heart in the midst of a weird emergency. All my loving people were there holding me. Leah spooned me with such maternal instincts in the hospital bed that night... I swear that woman is like an older sister in so many ways. I am beyond blessed to have her on my life journey.
Brian was dropped off at the house, where Missy dropped off Cord. Darin drove overnight to bring Brian and Cord up to Denver. Brians' parents met them to take Cord. Luckily he was asleep, otherwise he'd never have agreed to be apart from us. Brian arrived at the hospital around 4am. Erin & Christina came to our hospital room to visit and check on us. Darin and Micah, another of Brian's dearest friends, came and visited with Brian downstairs in the lobby while I had the 2-hour fetal cardiac ultrasound. There was some banter of course, because there's always banter with Brian & his buddies, but because his friends have such sweet man-ly souls, there was prayer and encouragement as well. Lindsay, a super thoughtful nurse friend of ours sent over gift basket for the nurses taking care of us (Genius! Do this for your friends that are in the hospital) and a sweet package full of comfy slippers, robes, snacks, for us... and so much love. Thank you Jesus for this sweet group of people you placed in our life, and for making space for them to take care of us in a time when we desperately needed them.
That next day was FULL of tests. At first, just an NST (non-stress test:typical belly straps to check on baby/contractions), then we had a 2-HOUR fetal cardiac ultrasound, then another hour and a half, full fetal ultrasound by the MFM (maternal fetal medicine doctor) on duty that day. He mentioned there were some minor abnormalities with baby, but nothing was overtly wrong. We felt hopeful after this conversation. He offered a therapeutic amniocentesis (remove amniotic fluid) to help with the tight belly that was likely causing the premature labor contractions. While he was at it, he could send off the amniotic fluid for a diagnostic test that would tell us if baby had any genetic abnormalities. He mentioned it wasn't likely that the baby had one of those genetic problems, but it would help us figure out what WAS wrong with baby. We agreed, and he removed 2 LITERS of fluid! WOW... that felt WAY better!
We were discharged that day with medication that was supposed to help decrease the contractions. We could expect the genetic test results Monday. Today was Friday. We were advised to stay in town and they'd have us return on Monday for the test results, unless we had regular contractions every 3 minutes lasting a minute, then we'd need to come in sooner.
Leah and her new husband, Phil, introduced us to a lovely restaruant near the hospital, and we had the yummiest sandwiches ever... Or maybe it was the relief in the air that made the time so memorable. I was eager to be positive (not worried) and relaxed about the pregnancy and the baby again. The doctor discharged us, telling us everything was "likely" fine, and that we'd find out definitively on Monday. On multiple occasions, during the ultrasound, since, and at discharge... I didn't have a worry in the world. It probably helped that my belly had a half a gallon less fluid in it- Ha Ha! After lunch and unwanted good-byes, we went up to Greeley. Ahhh, the farm... (and not the city- ha ha). This felt relaxing. And being back with Cord made my heart feel whole again. There was a buzz in the air about the recent happenings, but we were all still pretty naive about what the road ahead looked like...