I’ll be 36 weeks soon, and with my other pregnancies, that was about the time I started thinking of the baby as a more concrete than abstract concept, but still didn’t do much to prepare. What an eye-opener this pregnancy has been. For the last two weeks with this pregnancy, the medical routine has been drastically different. At 34 weeks, I started having weekly non stress tests (“NSTs”) at my OB’s office and biophysical profiles (“BPPs”) at my high risk OB’s office. Basically, I spend most of my week in a doctor’s office, trying hard not to fall asleep. It’s amazing how when you’re used to running around all day, if you change abruptly to sitting around all day you can’t seem to keep your eyes open. I feel like the resident octogenarian. The nurses are all, “So how many weeks are you-aaaaaand she’s asleep again.”
To satisfy your burning curiosity, dear readers, I will fill you in on what my and Regina’s weeks are looking like nowadays. I know you didn’t ask! That hasn’t stopped me before!
After they do the usual blood pressure and weigh-in (“I’m wearing very heavy boots!”), I try to make myself as comfortable as possible laying down on a rock hard examination table with a paper covered pillow that keeps falling down to below my waist, thus making it impossible to retrieve and move back up to behind my head in my current delicate (read: overturned turtle-like) condition. I immediately regret the aforementioned heavy boots. They strap two monitors around my belly: one to monitor Regina’s heart rate, and one to monitor contractions and uterine activity. Then, I twiddle my thumbs for 20 minutes, listening to the beating of Regina’s heart and watching the wavering lines print out on the machine. Sometimes, I get to hold the monitors in place with one hand while clutching a button I’m supposed to push every time she moves with the other if I’m really lucky. I always forget to bring my phone or any sort of reading material. Then, I try to do a rosary in my head and start arguing with myself whether I’m doing the Apostle’s Creed right or I’m inadvertently slipping into the Nicene Creed. And then I remember that I can’t even do the Nicene Creed right any more because they just changed it on me! But I digress.
Anyway, what they are looking for with an NST is for Regina’s heart rate to respond to her movements, my contractions, or anything else by going up and down. If the heart rate stays the same, they become concerned and make me drink a juice box. If that doesn’t work, they take this alarm buzzer thing and buzz my belly, causing poor Regina to jump and move around in protest. I don’t blame her. My high risk OB figures that it is the fetal equivalent of buzzing the tower. (Only my husband will appreciate that Top Gun reference.) So the past few times, we have only passed our NSTs by virtue of the buzzer. I’ll take it.
The biophysical profile is pretty much just a high resolution ultrasound where they make sure she is still growing and thriving in the womb. Due to her heart condition and her Down syndrome, there might come a time when it is safer for her to be outside the womb rather than in, even if she isn’t full term yet. They check her growth, her vital organs, the amount of amniotic fluid, whether her digestive system is working, whether she is practicing breathing, and her heart, of course, to make sure it isn’t in heart failure yet. She has always done me proud at her BPPs. No fluid where it isn’t supposed to be, growth right on track, digestive system is fine, practicing her breathing, and her amniotic fluid is the perfect amount. Her heart defect is painfully obvious (you can only see three chambers), but she doesn’t appear to be in heart failure yet. It looks like she has her daddy’s long eyelashes, plump cheeks (solely attributable to her), and a head full of hair. I also thought I spied a sandal gap between her big toe and second toe, which is a cute quirk that people with Down syndrome tend to have. We shall see!
Regina’s NSTs have been suspenseful, to say the least. At her NST this week, my OB didn’t like how her heart rate was responding (or, more specifically, wasn’t responding) and called my high risk OB. They rushed me over to the high risk OB’s office (which thankfully is in the building next door and is connected to my hospital) to have another NST done. Let me tell you, they have a fancy NST setup over there. You get to relax in a cushy reclining armchair with home decor magazines within reach and no need to hold any monitors in place or click buttons. If only I hadn’t been reclining in there terrified for my baby. I probably would have enjoyed it more.
Anyway, her heart rate didn’t respond for that NST either, so my high risk OB told me to go eat lunch, go home and pack my bags, and come back for a third NST. If Regina failed that one too, he was admitting me to the hospital for 24 hour observation and possible delivery. No big.
When I got home, Mom and I panicked and ran around my house like chickens with their heads cut off until Scott arrived and calmly packed the girls up and buckled them into their car seats. Then, he sent Mom off to take the girls to her house, very kindly and patiently got some pliers to attach my St. Teresa of Calcutta medal to my Miraculous Medal chain, and sent me off back to the high risk OB to have the potentially fateful NST.
Yet again, Regina only responded when the high risk OB used that buzzer. He said he was on the fence about admitting me to the hospital and had to confer with his partner in the practice about it. I waited with bated breath until he returned. He came in and said that he wasn’t admitting me, but he wanted me to do an intense kick count 20 minutes after I eat dinner and if I can’t get 10 kicks in 1 hour to head to the hospital immediately. Also, I was to come right back for a follow up NST and BPP the next morning.
Scott took me this morning to those appointments and praise the Lord, she passed both. She just needed some moral support from Daddy, apparently. So, no baby born at 35 weeks for me. Can’t wait until next week when we get to do this dance all over again. In the meantime, I have been sternly instructed by the high risk OB to be religious about my daily kick counts. I will be very surprised if we make it to our scheduled C section date. And NICU time seems extremely likely.
In light of all this, I have been like a cat on a hot tin roof (hello, Tennessee Williams). Scott says that if I keep this up, I’m going to go into heart failure before the baby does. I hate it when he’s right. So, I’m trying to maintain my peace during this time of Advent while we await in joyful anticipation the coming of the Prince of Peace.