I had a strong feeling I would give birth on Monday, June 27, but not because I have some amazing intuition. What I had was an appointment for a non-stress test (NST) and I’d been barely passing the minimum level of amniotic fluid I needed to avoid induction. This measurement, known as the amniotic fluid index (AFI – which is also the American Film Institute) had to stay over 8 mm for me to be allowed to stay pregnant.
Sunday night, I had frequent uncomfortable contractions, but not the kind where you know you’re in labor. Since Pringles was going to be my second, I knew what labor pains felt like. This was just a tightening of my uterus with no accompanying cervical dilation. It made me feel like I was having heart palpitations. I lay next to my two year-old watching the nightly Viva Show, where she uses every delaying tactic she can think of to avoid falling asleep, wondering if there was more going on in my lady parts than just practice contractions. Maybe Monday would be the day. Or maybe, like with Viva, I would go into labor in the middle of the night tonight. Each night, I would lie there with Viva, stroking my big belly and forcing myself to be present. I always want to be able to remember this special time where I was full to bursting with one life while I quietly sung the other one to sleep. Except that she never fell asleep from my singing. She just felt more inclined to jump on the bed. My point is, it was a hell ass special time for me.
I wanted to go into labor naturally again. Every time I stood up, I expected a gush of fluid indicating my waters had broken. Usually, it was just pee. (Thank you, Poise panty liners)
Odie, Viva and I woke up earlier than usual Monday morning. Odie and I were on summer vacation, and Viva was still enrolled in full-time day care so that we wouldn’t lose her spot at the school come September. We’d been enjoying leisurely mornings where Odie drove her in around 9:30, but on this Monday, Odie dropped me off at the doctor’s office at 7:25, then drove her in early. The plan was for him to come back and pick me up so we could avoid the $5 parking fee. In the city where we live, there’s almost no free parking anywhere, particularly not doctors’ offices. And while the occasional five bucks wouldn’t be a hardship, I ‘d been having this test twice a week for the past three weeks, and that money was adding up. Until my blog starts pulling in 40 grand a month and Christy Turlington takes ME to Bangladesh, we can’t be so fancy around here.
I’d been to Dr. D’s office once a month since my nuchal translucency at 12 weeks. I dreaded every appointment, terrified he’d find something wrong. I nicknamed him Dr. Doom. His job as a perinatologist and a pioneer of fetal diagnostic sonography is to find abnormalities and defects. And find them he does. At my last appointment, he found that Pringles has a fetal azygous vein in her heart. When he called it out to his assistant to write down, I almost passed out. During our exams, he doesn’t let me interrupt and ask questions. I have to wait until he has finished looking me over, and then let him talk. He is not fond of questions, especially not the interrupting kind. Turns out, it means nothing, never develops into anything bad, just has to be noted for the record. I wanted to tell him that he needs to add a little “WHICH IS NOTHING” to this chart notation as he calls it out to the assistant, but he’s not the type of man to take suggestions. I keep mute.
I got to know Dr. Doom’s bedside manner well as I was scheduled for monthly appointments because my first baby had fallen off the curve for growth toward the end of my pregnancy. She jumped right back on two weeks later and was born nearly eight pounds;nevertheless, this meant I had a “history of IUGR” (intrauterine growth restriction) and my fetus needed more monitoring. Not to mention my AMA put me at higher risk of everything bad that can happen at the end of an “otherwise healthy pregnancy.”
NST, IUGR, AMA, EDD, AFI…
Pregnancy is as bad as education when it comes to the alphabet soup. I’m used to API and AYP and AVID and ELs and AP. I was hoping we’d get rid of NCLB, but Obama just repackaged it as “Race to the Top.”
I’d grown attached to Maria, my NST technician. She is a sweet, middle-aged Latina who is easy to talk to and shares my opinion about the insanity of Extreme Couponing. Her job was to hook me up to a fetal heart monitor, use an ultrasound to measure pockets of amniotic fluid and take my blood pressure. I’d been having these appointments twice a week for a month, so Maria started to seem like a friend. Where Dr. D is distant and clinical, Maria is warm and motherly. It’s like that in my OB office. I see the doctor for a few minutes and it’s always business, but her nurse and I chat about work, pets, the weather, celebrity gossip and the like. Doctors always seem remote from me. The M.D. comes between us.
So this Monday morning, June 27, Maria can’t find any fluid to measure. Not a single pocket. Every time she thinks she sees one, she turns on this other feature on the ultrasound that shows blood flow and we discover the “pocket” is full of umbilical cord. I mean, this cord is EVERYWHERE.
We go through with the NST (I watch TV for 15 minutes and push my “Jeopardy!” button every time she moves, which is hardly at all this morning), and then Dr. Doom surprises me by coming in at the end. What doctor is in the office before 8 a.m.? I’ve never heard such a thing. He picks up the transducer, runs it over my belly and finds the same thing Maria did: a whole lotta nothing.
“Yeah, you’re delivering today. This baby needs to come out.” He wishes me luck, says some medical jargon to Maria, and that’s the last I’ll ever see of him.
My heart is pounding with excitement. Maria and I have a moment, not made the less significant by the fact that we’ve had this same moment whenever I leave the office (“If I don’t see you again, blah, blah, blah…”). This time, I know I will not be back for my twice weekly NST. I feel my eyes welling up and my voice cracks as I hold my arms out for a very untypical-for-me hug. I thank her warmly and tell her honestly that I will miss her.
On my way out of the office, I glance up at the waiting room full of women in the various stages of pregnancy. I’ve been coming to this perinatologist’s office monthly for six months, and twice a week for the last one. I’ve become an expert at determining what the other patients are here for. Alone, not showing, means she’s here for her 12 week nuchal translucency. A little belly and a husband or boyfriend and often a mother in tow means the 20 week “level II” ultrasound where she’ll find out the baby’s sex and have an amnio if the doctor sees any markers for Downs. Anything bigger than that and, like me, she’s here to monitor some kind of ongoing issue like fetal growth or a heart defect or enlarged kidneys. The vast majority of these issues will turn out to be nothing of concern.
Everyone looks up when the door opens, then all eyes drop to my huge belly. I smile at the room, silently wish them all luck, and whip out my Blackberry. Call Odie.
“Babe, get back here. We’re having a baby today.”
To be continued…
Look for the next part of this story on September 1st!