And right back to our story...
The next week was really quite difficult. Way back at that same OB visit in which we did the original test that started all this drama, the doctor referred me to a cardiologist because I was having some heart palpitations that needed to be checked out, along with generally high blood pressure throughout the pregnancy. It just so happened that this was the week that I had finally gotten in with the cardiologist. The first appointment (at Louisville Cardiology) was pretty quick and low key. They did an EKG, talked with me for a while, and recommended that I wear a Holter (sp?) monitor for the next 24 hours so that they could track my symptoms. That was pretty crazy - walking into patient rooms the rest of the day trying to keep all the wires from my own heart monitor from falling out of my clothes. It did prove to be an interesting conversation point with people, though, as several of my patients had had to wear them in the past. The doctor's initial diagnosis was PVC's, which stands for something (the "v" is ventricular) that means that the bottom part of my heart was slipping in an extra beat here and there, probably trying to compensate for the low blood flow to the baby. I told her that it meant I was trying really hard to get hew what she needed! The blood pressure remained high, but not quite so high that they wanted to treat it with meds. Anyway, he wasn't particularly concerned about any of this, but he did want me to wear the monitor and come back in the next week for an ECHO, so that they could get a good look at my heart and make sure it was anatomically normal. (Yes, insert your favorite joke about Nancy being abnormal here...) So that was that. I wore the monitor until I gladly ripped it off exactly 24 hours and 10 minutes later.
A few days later I had the day o' doctors. I started out back with the cardiologist for my ECHO, which is essentially an ultrasound of your heart. It was pretty much what it sounded like, but they definitely didn't have the gel warmer that I've come to appreciate at my lady doctors'! They had me get in all kinds of positions, breathing in and out on their command, so that they could get very precise pictures of all parts of my heart. More than once I almost rolled off the table and over to the trash can to throw up - all this contortion and breath-holding was NOT helpful with the nausea. I did manage to keep my breakfast to myself, which I considered quite an achievement. They sent me on my way and on to the regular OB for another routine monthly check-up.
This seems to be a bit unique to the practices here in Louisville, but I am being followed both by the maternal-fetal specialists and my regular OB. As far as I can figure, the OB basically checks on me (blood pressure, weight, urine screenings, etc) and the perinatalogists focus on the baby (they don't even check my blood pressure at our visits). I don't mind this, but it does make for a heck of a lot of doctor's appointments. Honestly, though, I'd rather be going in once a week and getting the reassurance of hearing her heartbeat than see or hear from her less frequently, even though it's inconvenient. I hear there is little about parenthood that is convenient, anyway. May as well get used to it now.
So I went from the cardiologist to the OB's office, where I met John (who goes with me to all the baby appointments - when he's in the country, that is - he's a devoted dad already). Everything was looking fine, though my blood pressure was pretty high still. (It has generally been running in the 140's over 90's.) The doctor offered to do an ultrasound so that we could get a glance at her and check her growth before we left on vacation. Since we weren't scheduled with the ultrasonographer, we had to wait around a bit, which we thought would be about half an hour. No problem.
We should have known better. We ended waiting forever for the ultrasonographer, which would have been fine, had it not been for two things. The pastoral care staff was taking John and me out to lunch for a celebrate-the-baby-before-you-move lunch, for which we very rudely ended up being close to an hour late. Of course, being a bunch of chaplains, they were understanding, but I was really, really frustrated. My frustration was also exacerbated by the reason for our delay. The couple that was in before us was having their regular 20-week ultrasound, during which they check to make sure that all of the baby's organs are forming appropriately, and they can often determine the sex of the baby. So this is an exciting visit for most folks. This couple had brought just about their entire family with them, and all 11 people wanted to be in the room for the announcement that their baby was also a girl. I can understand wanting to share that moment, but really, 11 people - plus the technician and machinery - in the tiny ultrasound room? The ultrasonographer only let them have 2 people in at a time so that she could do her work, but even so, they had to stop and restart every time people came in and out of the room. After working with this family for an hour (for their 30 minute appointment), they still hadn't been able to see everything yet, so they called it quits and asked them to come back another day. It was ridiculous.
Again, though, it wouldn't have been that big a deal if it hadn't been for our own circumstances. This was the kind of family that fills up the waiting room and draws everyone into their world. They were happy, beaming, excited, loud - everything you should be at this appointment. We, on the other hand, were basically desparate to see our baby girl alive for what very well may have been the last time. They found out the sex in the midst of family celebration; I found out alone, right after I had been told that she would most likely die. They were full of nursery plans and name conversations, and John and I had decided that we couldn't settle on a name until we knew more about her chances of living. The pastor in me wanted to celebrate with this sweet family, but given the situation, I felt like they were an in your face example of all that was NOT normal with the pregnancy of our first child. Throughout the past several weeks I've found myself going back and forth between stubbornly holding out hope for my baby girl and grieving the loss of that perfect (if even nausea-ridden), exciting first pregnancy full of anticipation and joy. In her baby book, itty bitty won't have the shower invitations and momentos that many women treasure. She'll have picture after picture tracking her growth, hospital wristbands from all her mom's (thus far brief) admissions, and the stories on this blog. I guess the point is, though, that she'll have a baby book. No matter what happens, we love our baby girl and will celebrate her and remember this pregnancy with a deepened awareness of our gratitude for the beautiful gift that she is to our family. It really even gives some meaning to the vomit. (There, I said it. There's meaning in vomit.) But you know what I mean; it's all worth it in the end, no matter what the outcome. But still...sometimes we just wish for a more normal pregnancy, life, etc. But it is what it is.
Anyway, while we were waiting (John patiently reading Sports Illustrated, Nancy acting like my father and pacing the office), I got a call from the nurse practitioner at the maternal-fetal practice. Turns out that one of the blood tests that they ran the week before had shown that I have some kind of clotting disorder. (For you medically-inclined folks, she told me that my anti-thrombin-3 was low, whatever that means.) The short of it was that I would have to start giving myself daily injections of blood thinner. Awesome. I'd have to go into her office to learn how to shoot myself up that afternoon, as we were leaving on vacation the next day. So we got out of the OB's office as soon as possible - after getting a quick ultrasound that showed that itty bitty had indeed grown a week's worth in a week's time, which was actually awesome. We rushed off to lunch (at O'Charley's - my fave - thanks to Brandy!), which was lovely and a chance to actually celebrate like normal people. We were ready for it. And those unsliceably soft rolls. Yum.
After two trips to the pharmacy to get the Lovenox and a few hours at work, I scooted away to get my injection lesson. I'm not a big fan of needles, but I consider myself a brave person, generally speaking. I was not ready for this, though. The NP was really nice, though, and reminded me that I just needed to do it, so I put my big girl panties on and gave myself my first shot. It wasn't that bad. Definitely uncomfortable, but as I said, it's all worth it, right? John gave me moral support during the next day's shot, and I think it was harder for him to watch than it was for me to do it. Now I'm a pro at it, and I let him off the hook, but I'm a bit intrigued to see how labor and childbirth is going to work. (Really, I know he'll get over it and be there for me, but I know it won't be fun for him. Not like it will be a picnic for me, either, though, so no sympathy there.) I do have little bruises all over my belly now, but I get to use a Scooby Doo band-aid each morning, and that makes me happy. Little things, right? Anyway, I went back down to work for my last evening shift at the hospital - ever. Beautiful.
And that was the day before we left on vacation. Three different doctors offices and doctors in one day - with 8 hours at my own hospital to boot. It's no wonder, then, that the next night, when I took my blood pressure at the McCormick's house in Birmingham, it was 150/100. Phew.
And now I pause for an ice cream break. Hopefully I'll get back to this tonight, but, wow, it's after midnight already...so once again, I'll leave you hanging about the amnio results. Rest assured, though, that we got them back the next morning. And so hopefully you will get them tomorrow morning as well. Cheeky of me, I know. ;)
Thanks again for reading - and thanks even more for all your comments! Though I'm running the risk of sounding preachy (after all, I am a preacher), let me just say that throughout this experience I have constantly been reminded of the beauty and strength of the body of Christ. There are reasons why we are born into community - and why we're called to live out our faith in community. I'm not much for the mob mentality of faith, but there are certainly times during which you've kind of got to just stick your elbows out, pick up your feet, and let the rest of the crowd carry you through your day. Whether you know it or not; whether you've been getting the play by play or are just now hearing our story, the fact that you are reading this means that you are one of the crowd that has been carrying me, John, and our precious girl through this time. So thank you. And I'll raise my bowl of Breyer's chocolate to you. :)