In the spirit of Chandler Bing, “Could this BE any more harrowing?”
To which the answer would be, “Yes.” Because certainly we are in pretty good shape here - no overt issues like gestational diabetes or preeclampsia or high blood pressure or physical defects in the baby. But G---O---D this is exhausting!! This constant level of anxiety punctuated by heightened levels brought on by perceiving less movement or less-than-stellar test results or your mind taking you to the bad places despite yourself. More and more I wonder how much longer I can keep wearing my sanity hat before it falls off - or before I eat it.
Today we met with the gal who runs our support group (also a nurse at the hospital at which we’re delivering) to talk about our birth plan and have her lay the groundwork for some key pieces that would help Brad and I get through it with as much grace and little trauma as possible. Things like being able to have one arm free during the operation instead of strapped down like Jesus on the cross, like having Hilamina monitored as consistently as possible right up to the time they have to make the cut, and like being able to wear an oxygen mask (because for some reason the tactile sensation of it anchored me when I had Anna, and mentally I’ll know I’m getting extra air when it already feels like I’m not getting enough just thinking about the whole procedure). She brought up some interesting thoughts and we’re so grateful to have her supporting and guiding us through these next weeks.
After this meeting Brad stayed for the OB appointment and tests. Hilamina has always passed her biophysical, with the longest wait for practice breathing being 20 minutes (last Friday). Today, she got all other points for movement and amniotic fluid in the first few minutes. But she never did get practice breathing. Which in and of itself does not wig me out because I know they don’t do it all the time, I know it’s the most common part to fail, and she’s been good about this up ‘til today. Last Tuesday she was demonstrating really deep breathing right off, so having the other extreme doesn’t seem wildly scary given her history thus far.
But then the first 20-30 minutes of her NST were...bad. Bad to us at least. Which is bad for our psyches and causes our anxiety levels to rise and our minds to begin traveling to the towns of “What If?” and “What’s Coming?” - neither of which are favorable tourist destinations. To start with her base heart rate the last few weeks as been in the low 130s. Today it was low 120s (with normal being 120-160 and at least one physician stating a couple weeks ago ‘if it goes below 120 then we’ll start paying more attention’). It dipped into the teens several times and a few times as low as 104, 109....which is a notable difference when just listening to it much less reading the numbers. And for a period of several minutes the readout was largely flat at the 120 mark...the thing the doctors don’t want to see. Heart rate variability is the name of the game with NSTs, and flat ain’t no good, Farmer Joe. (Neither are decelerations, but apparently those dips into the 105 range weren’t enough to set off the doctor’s alarms.) So for 30-40 minutes Brad and I are sitting there trying not to let panic rise, trying not to let anxiety win, trying to stay neutral until the doc came in to give us his verdict. And failing more and more as time wore on. When Hilamina hit 104 I said “Just admit me overnight already” and when the nurse came in and acknowledged we were probably stressing out but that she wasn’t necessarily worried at this point I started to cry because it’s almost more upsetting to hear a medical professional say they’re not worried when WE are so worried!! Like something’s wrong and no one’s going to do anything - when the rational person would say, “Oh great! Nothing to be concerned about then.” But it takes awhile for us to hear that and let it sink in - plus we need an explanation as to why there’s nothing to be (truly) concerned about.
I ended up being on the monitor for an hour and twenty minutes including the time the doctor came in to talk to us. During that time she had a better run where her heart rate picked up a bit overall and definitely showed more variability, to the point the doctor deemed her reactive enough to receive a total appointment score of 8/10 (typical of her, though usually it’s the NST that brings her down 2 points, not the breathing). If she’d not come around on the NST, it would have been 6/10 and I would have been coming back tomorrow to do it all again.
So after 4 hours at the hospital and a solid 45 minutes or so of high anxiety, both Brad and I were ready to take a little brain vacation. Mine comes in the form of sitting outside in our backyard (and blogging), his in the form of a joining me outside but with the benefit of a beer. :)
5 weeks to go.