Gus--My Little Duck

Jon and I continued to take our weekly tummy shots to document our pregnancy, but I couldn’t find it in me to look at the camera or smile. In our 10w tummy shot, the first one after finding out that Tittle died, you can tell I was trying not to cry. The 11w and 12w tummy shots I couldn’t even make myself look at the camera. I think it was after the 12w picture that Jon asked me if I was ever going to smile in the tummy shots again. I was hurt by this. I was grieving a child and, at that moment, if felt like Jon just wanted me to move on. This led to us having conversations where I learned that by 9w gestation I had bonded more strongly to the pregnancy than Jon had. Jon learned, after Gus was born, that he couldn’t let himself grieve Tittle because he needed to focus on bringing Dot home. And we both learned that we needed to work together and support each other to do all that we could to bring Dot home with us, not in an urn, but in a car seat.

Around 15 weeks we headed to the ER for some excessive vomiting that wasn’t allowing me to treat a low blood sugar. Everything turned out to be fine, but I was still worried that we wouldn’t get to bring Dot home. We continued to approach 17w6d, the gestational age at which Oscar and Bella were born, and were waiting for something terrible to happen. We had an MFM visit scheduled for 17w5d. While there, we shared with the MFM the significance of the date and she offered us an extra u/s; of course, we said yes. During this u/s we were able to see that I wasn’t in pre-term labor, my cervix wasn’t funneling, and we were carrying a boy. I was relived to find out we were still going strong with the pregnancy and excited to be carrying another son, but it made me miss Bella even more.

At the same appointment where we had our extra u/s, we also had an AFP test run. When we received the results a couple days later we were told that we had a 1:81 chance that Dot had a neural tube defect (the most common one is spina bifida). Jon and I spent a very worrisome night looking up what the AFP test is, what it measures, what neural tube defects were and tried not to be worried, but couldn’t help it. During out appointment the next day with a genetic counselor, we learned that we never should have had the test done. Pregnancies like mine (loss of a twin, spotting within 11 weeks of the test) can give false positives for neural tube defects. While I was so thankful that nothing was wrong with Dot, I was still worried, as well as upset that we weren’t given a choice to run the test. If we had been able to research the test prior to it being done, we could have avoided all that worry and stress.

Around 25w I became worried that I wasn’t feeling Dot move enough, so off to the clinic I went for monitoring (stupid anterior placenta). Around 28w I had some spotting that sent us to labor & delivery. The doc was able to find an irritated spot on my cervix that was causing the spotting, so I was relieved that there was a known cause.. Around 29w we started our 6-week birthing class, which was difficult because we were the only ones in the class who’d been pregnant before. At 30w we had Dot’s baby shower, which was bittersweet, since we had a memorial service instead of a baby shower for Oscar and Bella. Despite that, Oscar, Bella and Tittle made their presences known to us throughout the day. Then, at 32w5d, just after Independence Day-with Oscar’s and Bella’s first birthday approaching at the end of the month, the shoe we’d been waiting for dropped.

I had an appointment scheduled that day with an NST and BPP. We did the BPP first and Dot passed with flying colors. Then we had the NST. While I was hooked up to the monitors and talking with one of the nurses, she paused and asked me, “Are you feeling those?” I said, “Feeling what?” Apparently I was having contractions every minute that were being picked up on the monitor, but I wasn’t feeling them. We were much farther along in our pregnancy than we had been with Oscar and Bella, but I was terrified because I wasn’t at term yet. It also didn’t help that we were in the exact same room as the one where we had found out that Oscar’s sac was bulging and I was already dilated, though I was in a different chair. The nurse went out to get a resident. She came in very briefly and then needed to leave, letting us know that she would be back.  As soon as she walked out I was even more on the verge of tears. Not only were we in the same room, but this was the same resident that had come in to check me and let me know that Oscar was escaping. When she came back in, Jon told her that we were sure she was a fine doctor, but reminded her that she was the one that dealt with us when we found out about Oscar and Bella. She apologized, which I was grateful for. We were informed that we were going to be admitted and that I would be given oral meds to stop the contractions. I don’t remember much of the details of this, due to the stress of it all, the flashbacks and the worry that Dot wouldn’t be coming home with us, either.

At some point, I was given a physical exam and told that I was 4cm dilated and 75% effaced. The oral meds weren’t working and I was put on magnesium sulfate. We were told that I could only be on the magnesium sulfate for two days. During those two days I would receive 2 steroid shots to help Dot’s lungs develop. That night, I was feeling very anxious, because I was still having contractions, and didn’t know if I was dilating more of if the mag was helping. The resident on-call agreed to check me, and I was not any more dilated or effaced than I had been upon admission. This calmed my fears, but I knew that we were not out of the woods yet. We had to stop the contractions, and remain stopped, for another 4 weeks, at least. I don’t remember much during those two days on the magnesium, but they did their job.

After 10 days in the hospital on bedrest, I was discharged the day I turned 34 weeks, with the knowledge that if I was any pregnant woman that walked into the hospital in labor at 34 weeks, the docs would not to anything to stop labor, but would let it progress on its own. Oscar’s and Bella’s birthday was 13 days away, and their party was in two weeks, which was also when I would be 36w pregnant. Though we had to make changes to the party plans, we were able to celebrate our kids, and at the end of the night, I knew that Dot would not share a birth month with Oscar and Bella, which I was so thankful for. Oscar and Bella, by the fact that they are not physically here, get so little and I didn’t want them to have to share a birth month with their younger brother.

Just one short week later, at 37 weeks, since he was now full-term, we officially ungrounded Dot and told him that he could come whenever he was ready. I was still on modified bedrest at home, and confirmed myself to the couch or bed for the majority of the day, but it was such a relief for me to make it to full-term. I knew that didn’t guarantee anything, but it was one less stressor on my mind and body. Unfortunately, that relief didn’t even last an entire day. I felt I was having decreased fetal movement, so Jon and I rushed to Labor & Delivery to be checked. Thank you, anterior placenta, for not allowing me to feel Dot kicking away and stressing me out all over again.

We were sent home, but over the next week it felt like my swelling was becoming worse and worse. The docs had me come in, in addition to my regularly scheduled appointments, checked my swelling, ran a pre-eclampsia panel, but I was not suffering from pre-eclampsia. I just had to deal with the fact that the only shoes I could fit into were flip-flops, keep my feel elevated and keep hydrated.

At 38w, we were shocked that we were still pregnant, knowing that I was at least 4cm dilated at 75% effaced. It felt odd to talk about scheduling an induction, but we did…for 9 days later. Little did we know that we would have to cancel that appointment because Dot wanted to arrive on his own timeline.

I awoke at 3:50am needing to go to the bathroom. As soon as I sat down, I knew something had changed. I was feeling rectal pressure; the same kind of rectal pressure that I felt with Oscar and Bella the night before we were admitted to the hospital. I put my glasses on and noticed that I was spotting and, I think, my mucous plug was in the toilet bowl. I left the bathroom and I told Jon that I was going to call a nurse. Within minutes Jon was out of bed, dressed and downstairs with me while I was on the phone with the triage nurse. I told the nurse that I wasn’t sure what to do because 6 weeks prior I had been admitted for pre-term labor and was already dilated and effaced. She told me that if I wanted to I could labor at home. Jon told me that I was bleeding and we were going in. I’m so thankful that Jon made me go in, because during the 12-minute phone call with the nurse I went from being able to carry-on a conversation to having to bend over the kitchen sink to deal with contraction pain.

Jon loaded my bag, overnight case and me in the car and we arrived at the hospital within 15 minutes. During the car ride, I told Jon that I might have to ask for an epidural, something I didn’t want to do, because I didn’t trust myself not to push. I knew that pushing too early in labor could cause cervical damage, which I didn’t want to do, but I was fighting the urge to push the entire drive. Jon dropped me off at the entrance to the hospital, parked the car, grabbed Oscar Bear, Bella Bear and Tittle Stone, and up we went to Labor & Delivery. Between contractions (about 3) I was able to undress, get in a hospital gown, lie down on the table and have the nurse start to hook me up to a fetal monitor. Within two minutes of me lying down, my water broke with so much force that Jon, who was sitting at the end of my bed, ducked.

I was about to make a joke, but then we found out that there was meconium present, which is a sign of fetal distress. The nurse slid down to the end of the bed to check me and was shocked to discover that I was completely dilated and completely effaced. She got on her little walkie-talkie thing and not very calmly said that she had a woman in triage (me) that was complete, and she needed a room now. The voice on the other end, I don’t think, was prepared for this, as she said, “I can’t find my paper (of open rooms)”. The nurse tending to me responded that she was going to go find an open room and take it.

She found an empty room and we were quickly surrounded by other medical staff. Because my water had broken, Dot was hooked up to internal fetal heart rate monitors. I think I was hooked up to an IV, but I don’t truly recall. What I do recall are the contractions, feeling the urge to push and not knowing if it was safe for me to do so. Eventually, I was given the go-ahead to push. I pushed and pushed, but little Dot did not want to come out. After one contraction I looked at the doc, who was looking at some monitors that I could see, and a look of concern came over her face. I asked her what was going on and, like a doctor that didn’t want to upset her patient, she told me that everything was fine. She asked someone in the room how long I’d been pushing and it was about 40-45 minutes. Then she asked me how exhausted I was and what I thought about using a vacuum to assist in the delivery. That was when I got worried.

I asked her if she was medically recommending the vacuum, and her response what not if I was uncomfortable using it. I looked at Jon, frightened, but he knew what was going on and didn’t want to freak me out, so all he said was, let’s use it. The sooner Dot is here, the better it will be. The doctor and Jon knew, but didn’t tell me, that during each contraction Dot’s heart rate was dropping in half. Jon believed that the doctor was willing to let us try a vacuum-assisted delivery, but was keeping an eye on everything in case I needed to have a c-section because of what was happening with Dot’s heart rate. I agreed to use the vacuum.

Knowing that we were getting close to Dot’s arrival, the doctor told us that when Dot came out, they would not try to get him to cry, as they didn’t want him to aspirate any meconium. I was so thankful that at least one person in the room knew our history and took the time to tell us that we shouldn’t expect a cry. It took 1-2 contractions to get the suction cup on Dot’s head. Then, during the second half of the next contraction our Gus was born…and let out a scream. He was taken by the NICU staff, assessed, peed on a couple nurses and Jon, and then Jon was able to carry him over to me. I was still in shock that Gus was actually here, safe, sound, breathing and alive.

It’s now been over 2 years since Gus was born, over 2.5 since Tittle died and over 3 since Oscar and Bella were born. A lot has happened during this time, and it feels good to reflect on where I’ve been…but it’s also a mystery to find out where I’m going.