Friday, March 23, 2012

What do we really know?

It's been almost a week now and I am finally able to sit and share a recent experience that brought new meaning to the word faith.  I choose to write about this because it's not only therapeutic for me, but also because in my own agony I was unable to find ANY answers to help me.  Hopefully this will help someone else find hope in their despair.

On Thursday Feb. 2nd, Andy and I went in for our 8 week ultrasound.  Mainly ecstatic about getting to hear/see the little click of our baby's heartbeat and slightly nervous about the unknowns of what could be found, we headed to the hospital during Andy's lunch break.  In good spirits we went into the sonogram room, I laid on the table, scooted my bottom to the very edge, and placed my feet in the stirrups (I hate that part!).  The doctor proceeded to insert what I like to call the "white-Bob Barker microphone looking thing" or more appropriately termed, the "electronic array transvaginal transducer" inside me (check the links.. they really do look similar!)  It didn't take long for the good spirits and joking to subside.  The doctor stayed positive, saying that everything looked great, but that our baby was definitely not 8 weeks... but rather measuring only 5-6 weeks.  My heart sank.  He quickly said that our dates must be off, but I knew this could NOT be the case.  Not only did we chart with temperatures and use ovulation predictor kits, but we also travelled just after our last time together and I was away from Andy until just days before we got our positive pregnancy test!!  I explained that this couldn't be accurate... by his measurements my baby was basically conceived AFTER our positive test?!  Ummmmm.... this wasn't good.  Knowing me already through my work as a birth doula, the Dr. was prepared to chat with me about what on earth could be going on.  He knew that the questions would immediately start flowing and indeed they did.  He told me that he knew that  I "know too much" about how this stuff works (yet not nearly enough in my opinion) and so he was willing to tell me more than he would normally share with most patients. (Not that he wouldn't normally give full disclosure to a patient with questions, but he said that he would normally just decide the dates were off and move on.. no worries.  He knows that I was diligent with our fertility especially having had regular periods, and knows that it's unlikely for me to be WEEKS wrong.. so we chatted long and hard over this). He agreed that being so fixed on those dates made things quite questionable and decided that we should return in a week to see if the pregnancy was looking viable.  I asked him if this was like ultrasounds later in pregnancy, often substantially off when calculating weight and even due dates... he replied that 'no, in early pregnancy these things are incredibly accurate... even to the day'.  "OH!"  I asked, "are you measuring age from conception?? Then this would be completely accurate", and he said "no, unfortunately I'm dating the entire gestational age from your last menstrual period." I went on to ask many questions about miscarriage, his own potential margin of error, and also asked if he'd ever seen an embryo measure 5-6 weeks one week but to then find an accurate up-to-date measurement one week later?  He quickly said, "no... never that far off." After about 500 other technical questions, my heart began to break as I was grasping for answers.  You may ask why was my heart breaking?  Hello Juli, he said everything looked fine, it's just younger! Stop worrying!!  Because I knew what the alternative could be and so did he.  Our baby could have stopped growing at only 5-6 weeks (it was too small at this point to make out a heartbeat) and unfortunately only time would reveal whether or not this pregnancy was going to be viable.  We made the appointment to return in a week to see if there would be any change.  We left the hospital parting ways as Andy had to return to work.... though Andy's spirits never fell.  He was incredibly positive about it, and that never wavered, but when I repeatedly did the math it just didn't add up. At all.

I called my mother on the drive home.  Excitedly awaiting my call with my father, (and both expecting good news) she answered the phone squealing, "CAN I PUT YOU ON SPEAKER?!!!"....... With a wobbly voice I could barely choke out the word, "no" before I lost it.  Immediately I was bombarded with her questions, "WHAT IS IT?  WHAT'S WRONG JULI...... {my sobs}.....{waiting}..... WELL TELL ME!".  I couldn't speak... hearing my mother's voice only reminded me of how badly I wanted a turn at being a mother myself.... and so all I could do was cry.  I did my best to pull it together and told her of what had just happened.

My mother decided to come visit that coming Sunday... she would stay the week to help distract me and hopefully cheer me up.  The next few days leading up to her arrival were horrible.  I searched the internet constantly (always a terrible idea) desperately seeking some small nugget of hope...hoping to find someone else who had been through what I was going through, ideally with a happy outcome.  I did find MANY stories just like mine when googling "8 weeks pregnant but sonogram measuring only 5-6 weeks".   Unfortunately, however, the responses were never quite the same  situation and most weren't even good outcomes.  The ones that did turn out ok after their one week wait all said "but my periods are incredibly irregular so I guess we had our dates wrong."  Nope.. I couldn't have my dates wrong.  On to the next option.  Then I read, "either your dates are wrong or there is something wrong with your baby".  Plain and simple.  My heart seriously sank into my uterus.  Why couldn't I find ANYTHING saying that the darned sonogram COULD be wrong???  Maybe the measurements were off???  I did read somewhere that sonograms were "incredibly accurate, especially in the first trimester, within a 1-2 week range."  Um, last time I checked 1-2 WEEKS is NOT accurate!!! So that helped a smidge.  I also wondered how many people actually challenged their doctor when these findings were present?  I mean, how many women TRULY know when they ovulated or last did the deed to even prove that these measurements can be off? Most women just went on with their new dates and end up delivering 2 weeks early!  Some definitely did know their dates... and in many of the stories that I found, these women were going along with their doctor's seemingly off measurements but their main concern was in trying to convince their spouses that the baby was theirs!! They knew they hadn't been intimate (with each other anyway) during the newly proposed conception time and so husbands were looking at their wives with a skeptical eye!  Ok, that honestly does stink... especially if these people have been faithful to one another, but infidelity is SO not even close to on our minds right now!  The other women that felt strongly that their newly calculated dates were impossible ended up going back a week later to find that their baby had indeed stopped growing, that they had a missed miscarriage... then to go on to have a D&C or to finally pass the baby on their own.  The thought of these options just devastated me... to the point of feeling sick to my stomach.

Speaking of being sick to your stomach... I had been having regular nausea since just before 6 weeks up to our appointment.  Thankfully I wasn't vomiting, but I felt pretty crummy every day and the doctor was happy about this.  He was also happy that the yolk sac looked nice and healthy as did the embryonic sac.  "Normally," he said the yolk sac would start to collapse if the pregnancy was beginning to take an unfavorable turn.  But of course the second I left his office my nausea completely subsided.  Was it mental?  I assumed it had to be because there was no way it would just turn off like a light switch... especially if my baby had stopped growing WEEKS before.  That gave me hope, but I was paranoid and desperately wishing for my nausea to return.  I mashed my breasts non-stop to see if they were still tender.  They weren't.  I woke the next day crying because I just didn't "feel" pregnant at all anymore.  I felt heartbroken and empty.  As each morning came I awoke with that sinking feeling of heartbreak... the "oh yeah, this is really happening" feeling as I felt so sad and depressed.  After I obsessively computed the numbers over and over again in my head I just didn't feel good about the outcome.  Waiting a week was excruciating.  Hearing everyone say, "stop worrying, it's not healthy for the baby" was incredibly frustrating. "Yes, I KNOW that worrying isn't good for myself or the baby," I thought, "but I'm worried sick and everyone flippantly telling me NOT to worry is adding a TON of pressure... it's making me worry about the fact that I'm worried!" Needless to say, this was exhausting.

After a few days of my autonomic nervous system operating in hyperdrive, I realized that I had to make a change.  I had to pull it together... I had to have some faith in this little one, in my husband who seemed to be so sure of his gut, and most importantly in that oh so powerful higher power. Maybe we aren't meant to understand.  Maybe we think we have our science down to a "T" but in reality these little babies are miracles being created each and every day... why does mine have to fit into a specific scientific mold?  We are all human, the doctor is human... we all make mistakes, maybe the doctor made a mistake?  Machines make mistakes... maybe it was the technology?  I had to finally just give up and trust in miracles or I was going to go crazy.  I definitely grieved... I tried my very best to prepare myself for the worst outcome and then decided to put that away on a shelf.  I decided that I wanted to be positive for my baby.  While the advice was annoying I also knew it was true.  My baby needed a healthy environment to grow and I don't want it born into a little nervous wreck because it's mommy was such a hot mess! Every single time I went to the bathroom (and still do) I checked for blood... turning on lights in the middle of the night to quickly glance at the toilet paper, thankfully able to breathe out a sigh of "still ok" every time.  So needless to say the thoughts NEVER left my mind, but what I did with the thoughts had to change.

First I banned myself from the internet.  I wasn't allowed to look up threads on the topic or read for hours upon hours the sad stories that I was so dreading for myself.  No more.  I then sent out emails and phone calls to those that I knew would pray for us (telling details to the few who knew I was pregnant, and to the others just asking for prayer and positive thoughts in general).  I knew that I needed all the prayer I could get... one way or the other... and it was time to really turn to faith in God.  To trust that I would be given the strength, patience, and peace to get through this no matter what the outcome. I started connecting with my baby again.. the way I had before this dreadful scare... talking to my baby, laughing with my baby, singing to my baby, telling my baby stories, and praying and meditating with my baby.  I told my little one that I wasn't going to give up on her/him... that I'm here to fight for her/him and that I wanted "herm" (my combination of her/him) to grow at it's own pace, no rush, to be 'hermself' and that I will always love 'herm' for being an individual.  This made me feel better. It didn't give me answers but it did give me hope.

Then my mother came to town cooking us yummy dinners, talking me through my worries, laughing with me, and praying every day with me when my emotions began to creep back in.  Being mothered was what I needed and I will always treasure the time that I had with her that week..... mothering the mother like I do with my own clients.  And Andy... he was a rock.  At first I was frustrated... WHY wasn't he worried with me?  Did he not care???  When I expressed this he said, "OF COURSE I care more than anything Juli, and come Friday if things don't look good THEN I'll be devastated and I'll be worried... but right now I feel great about it, and one of us has to be strong for our baby!"  I told him that I hoped to God that he was right and that I would GLADLY say it over and over again if we were to learn of good news.  But my heart still sank when I thought of that upcoming Dr's visit.

I dreaded Friday with everything in me and yet Friday couldn't come soon enough.  I wanted answers but I didn't want it to be over.  I didn't want someone to say that this was the end for us.  Friday morning arrived as I knew it eventually would, and at around 10am I received a call from the receptionist saying that the Dr. was out of surgery early and wondered if I could come in sooner.  My heart skipped a beat... I quickly called Andy and we planned to meet there at 11am.  I jumped in the shower, shaved as fast as I could (didn't want anyone down there with it looking so frightful!) and jumped in the car.  On the way over my heart was pounding in my chest... literally.  Thankfully my mother was in the car with me and was able to talk me down.  This was it.  The suspense was poisonous.

Upon arrival they asked me to leave a urine sample.  I went to the restroom and am pretty sure that I stopped breathing for a few moments as I found a small amount of blood in my underwear :(  I panicked.  "Seriously??? NO blood thus far and now it's here???" I looked closer and noticed it was along the side of my underwear instead of where any fluids or discharge would be.  It hit me... "aha! my quick shaving job!  I must have cut myself!?" I was literally bent over in the bathroom craning forward to see if I could find the root of this menacing blood!  I wiped again and again but nothing was on the toilet paper.  I took a deep breath and thought... "you've got to calm down, you'll know either way in a minute."

The nurse took me back to get my weight and blood pressure.  I told her the blood pressure was pointless as I knew it would be through the roof.  The Dr. stopped in to see how I was doing... I told him that I was about to have a heart attack most likely!  He felt my pulse as the nurse took my blood pressure and he quickly commented, "you're going to blow a vessel if you keep at it like this!" 136/72... very high for me (it was 100/60 only a few weeks before). He knew I was beyond scared.  He said that he understood... and for us to hope for the best but be prepared for the worst... that we had a 50/50 chance..  'Reeeeallyy??? Only 50/50?'  Gulp... (I was hoping for more like 80/20).  As the doctor walked me back to the room and the nurse went to grab Andy and my mother, he asked if there had been any blood.  I inhaled my embarrassment, not expecting that question, and sheepishly told him that I just found some in the restroom but "um... I think I cut myself shaving..."  (Apparently I really am all about full disclosure!) ... he chuckled and quickly said "ouch!"

Next thing I knew that same room we'd been in the week prior became dark and I was scooting my bottom toward the very edge of the table and sending my feet to those darned stirrups all over again.  The crunchy-paper-cover-thingy was over me and I swear I could see it lifting as my heart began to POUND harder than ever.  I put my hand over my chest... sent a quick prayer upstairs, and asked my heart (aloud) to please calm down.  Andy stood by my side holding my hand while my mother waited in the corner.  The doctor explained that he would go in with the "Bob Barker Mic" (my words not his), take a look around, and then tell me what he'd found.  He had the screen pointed towards him.  "UGH..." I thought, "he'll be in there forever before he says what's happening..." I just wanted to cry.

Within seconds of Bob Barker's mic entry, I heard these words:  "Juli... looks like you've got a big baby in there!"  "WAIT... WHAT??  I DO????", I cried while grabbing his screen and pulling it my way without even asking.    "Yep!  Look!"  Right there before my eyes was my very own sweet little blessing.  My answered prayers.  I cry as I write this remembering my precious little miracle dancing right there for us.  Last week's barely-there fetal pole (aka a small line that faded in and out) turned into a small baby... a head, body, hands, feet, and I could swear I could see indentions of eyes, ears and a tiny little nose!!  The Dr. prodded at my uterus with The Bob Barker and the little one danced in response!  It was almost like he/she was saying "Hi mommy and daddy... see here I am!  I'll even do a dance for you, just pwease don't be sad!!!" The best part... there was a beautiful clicking heart beat that I so longingly dreamed of seeing!!  The doctor then chuckled saying, "Andy... I would go ahead and check that calendar if I were you!" but before we could dispute any dates he measured a 9 week baby!  This was exactly spot on with my original calculations (so being right about one thing might have been the second best thing about it)!  As I teasingly slapped the Dr's arm, I told him not to ever do that to me again, that he scared the.... (well let's be honest) he scared the sh*t outta me!  I asked "what the HECK happened???"  He looked at me and said, "honestly Juli I have no idea, but a LOT can happen in a week!".  I cried my eyes out, laughed a hearty laugh, and quickly (and gladly) told Andy that he was right :)

The mood immediately lifted.  We were able to bring home our first photo of our little one and Andy video'd the moment we learned that our little blessing was ok!  I'm not blaming anyone, but I want people to know that these things CAN BE OFF!  If you find yourself in our shoes, it does NOT necessarily mean that 1) your dates are wrong or 2) you're baby stopped growing.  I always say you're never out of the woods until you have a baby in your arms, but on THIS particular issue, I am happy to say that our baby defied the odds... whether by miracle or by human/mechanical error.  And when the Dr. said that he had "never" seen a baby measure 5-6 weeks and then "catch up" to 9... I do believe he can now say he has!

{Our little 9 week bean!}
"Welcome to parenthood!", another doula friend of mine said to me (she has 9 kids of her own!).  The immense worry and love and fear that comes along with babies is blinding and it's only just beginning!  I now realize that for me to get through life joyously, and to be the best mother I can be, I have to stay committed to counting my blessings each and every day and having faith that this whole procreation thing is OH SO very outside of our realm of understanding.... despite what we may think.  After this experience, I can be ok with that.


  1. Well, you sure can make a fella cry. I love you so much, dear
    Juli, and I'm so glad the story goes on.

  2. Thank you Sidney! I'm beyond thrilled myself :) xooxox

  3. So many emotions stir up as I read this!!! And so much I could share with you about our own blessings and heartbreaks, but I am just so incredibly thankful that you have such a delicious gift growing inside you! Enjoy EVERY minute, my dear friend!