I’ve wanted to share my pregnancy story for awhile now that Preston is here and healthy. I didn’t have the smoothest pregnancy, and I also didn’t share many of the details about it except with family and a few close friends. But all during my pregnancy and Preston’s first few months of life, reading other mama’s blogs was a godsend for me. Reading their stories helped me feel like I had someone I could relate to and compare symptoms and milestones with. So here we go.
A Note About My Pregnancy
Before I begin, I have to say this: I loved being pregnant. I adored being pregnant. I’ve never felt as happy, strong, or proud in my life as I did being pregnant. I loved my belly, I loved my maternity clothes, I loved planning the nursery, I loved feeling him move, I loved the ultrasounds, I loved it all. I also had an absolutely amazing pregnancy, symptoms-wise. I never had morning sickness, I never had nausea. I hardly had any cramps or back pain at all, until the very end. Pregnancy itself, and feeling my body grow and change, was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. It was beautiful. I was blessed beyond belief to give birth to a healthy, strong, perfect baby boy.
Complications and Being High Risk
So this is how it was also difficult. One of the biggest reasons Joshua and I both wanted to wait to conceive was so that I could get my health and weight in check. I had just completed an 8-week Crossfit intro class and was down about 15 pounds, but even then my weight was a serious issue. It caused me to have high blood pressure. I had just been put on blood pressure medication two weeks prior to finding out I was pregnant, right after being unofficially diagnosed with chronic hypertension. I also had borderline hypothyroidism and was on a medication for that. Because of these 3 factors (weight, thyroid, but mainly high blood pressure), I was considered a high risk pregnancy and sent to a special office for maternal fetal medicine.
The high risk doctor had its pros and cons. The pros were that I was monitored very closely (a little too closely if you ask some people close to me), and that I had frequent ultrasounds to check on Baby PK. From the very beginning, PK was just perfect. No issues at all. I had some light spotting around the 7-week mark and the high risk doctors saw me and said everything looked just fine. Spotting can be very normal in any pregnancy and possibly caused by implantation or something like that.
The cons were that they scared me. Not in the sense that I was scared to go — I loved going! — but scared me by running a lot of tests and constantly checking for worst case scenario. Preeclampsia and gestational diabetes were the biggest fears of my doctors. I was tested early for diabetes at 24 weeks, and then tested again at the usual 32 weeks, and passed with flying colors both times. I was also taking my blood pressure daily at home and put on a pregnancy-safe blood pressure medication for the duration of my pregnancy. My BP was steady through most of the 8 months, but started to climb toward the last month before I delivered.
The First Scare
At around 18 weeks, I had my monthly ultrasound at the high risk doctor. Joshua made a point to take off work and drive the hour and a half from base down to my doctor’s office to be there with me for just about all of my ultrasounds. We saw our sweet tiny baby on the monitor, were told that his heart beat sounded great and his growth was right on track, and then were told we had to meet with the genetic counselor. Cue the fear. Was this normal? We had no idea. She came in and said that as a result of the tests they had run at our last appointment, my AFP levels were high. The test for Down Syndrome had come back negative, and all other factors were ruled out, which only left two possibilities: Either it was just an unexplained fluke, or our baby had spina bifida. The genetics counselor asked us if we had any questions and told us our doctor would be in shortly to discuss the test results with us in more detail.
Tears streaming down my face, disbelief all over Josh’s, we waited for the doctor to come in and explain to us that based on the ultrasound we had today, our baby did not appear to have any holes in his spine, so it was more than likely an unexplained result. She promised that they would watch closely in the upcoming weeks, but that there did not seem to be any reason to be concerned. One cause of elevated AFP levels could be that the baby swallowed blood — not harmful to him at all — but also a possible link to the spotting I had so early on.
It didn’t matter what she said after spina bifida. It didn’t matter that she said it was more than likely okay. All that I could think about was my sweet, sweet little baby being born less than healthy. One person close to us even asked us if we planned to “keep” him after hearing these results. It was a very tense and difficult time in my pregnancy. Luckily, it was also an unnecessary worry, because Preston was born healthy and without spina bifida. But I can still remember that conversation with the genetic counselor word for word. I can still see her explaining how spina bifida happens, as she demonstrated how the neural tube is formed by folding a piece of paper up into a tight cylinder and then pulling the paper apart in the center to show where the tube did not form properly to close. Instead, it left a hole in the spine. I went home and researched it until I couldn’t see straight anymore.
All the while, I felt wonderful. The worst part about my whole pregnancy was the doctor appointments. For the entire last month of my pregnancy, I was required to do weekly non-stress tests (NSTs) at my OB to make sure the baby was still healthy and doing well, AND weekly ultrasounds at the high risk doctor. These, in turn, caused a new level of stress. The latest appointments the offices offered were at 3pm. The offices were an hour away. I had to take off work at 2pm to get there and by the time I was leaving the office, it was 5pm and I was in rush hour trying to get back home. I had to make up the work hours later that night or early in the morning before I left. Most of the NSTs didn’t even work and I was sent to another office for an emergency ultrasound. Either he was moving too much or not moving enough for their stupid tests. They liked to tell me my baby was “being difficult.” I don’t know what ultrasound tech in her right mind thinks it’s okay to tell a newly expecting, first time mother that her unborn baby is being “difficult,” but that should really be banned from their vocabulary. Terrible bedside manner. And it was more than one tech that would say this to me!
I was sent to the lab to have my blood checked for preeclampsia several times. I also have very tiny veins so they had to draw blood from the tops of my hands every time. Once, the baby wasn’t moving enough for the NST (even though he was moving all morning long before I went in for the test), and I was sent to the hospital to be hooked up and monitored because they couldn’t fit me in for an emergency ultrasound. Other times, he “wouldn’t sit still long enough” for them to get an accurate heart rate reading. Off for more ultrasounds. My BP was also rising from the extra stress caused by the doctors and trips to the hospital.
The Second Scare
The second biggest scare happened around 36 weeks. At this point, I was nearing the end of my pregnancy and my blood pressure was steadily rising. I was seeing my regular OB once a week for non-stress tests and the specialists once a week for ultrasounds, driving an hour each way to every appointment. The ultrasound tech was looking on the monitor and said, “Has anyone mentioned a club foot to you?” Stop. What did she just say? “No? Oh, okay, well it just looks like it’s a club foot, his left one here.”
Cue the fear, take two. I thought “I’m being seen twice a week, how would anyone have missed this?” It caused stress, which caused my blood pressure to rise. It caused panic, which caused me to go back through every single ultrasound photo to look for his left foot. Wouldn’t you know? Every last photo was of his right foot only. I had to wait a whole week to ask the high risk doctors about it. This of course gave me plenty of opportunity in the meantime to research club feet. And wouldn’t you know? A club foot can be linked to spina bifida.
I’m sure you can just imagine the state I was in after finding this research. Thoughts like “He does have spina bifida, those tests were right, they just missed it on the ultrasounds, ohmygod ohmygod ohmygod” were all I could think about. You guys, it was awful. Again, it was so unnecessary. Again, the high risk doctors said that everything looked fine from their ultrasounds, but we wouldn’t know for sure until he was born.
I could feel him kicking, moving, and hiccuping often. I purchased my own fetal doppler to listen to his heart when I wasn’t at the doctor just to assure myself that everything was okay. All these scares, all for nothing. Aside from this stress, Joshua and I were so prepared! We took as many baby classes as we could possibly fit into our schedules. Lamaze Childbirth, Budget for Baby, Infant Care, Baby Care, After the Birth, Prepared Childbirth. You name it, if it was offered within a 60-mile radius, we took it! We also had so much fun getting the house ready for his nursery. We went all out with an Adirondack theme, complete with a wooden accent wall. From our side, everything was going smoothly. We were preparing. We were just about ready.
And then, at 37 weeks and 4 days, I was sent to Labor & Delivery to be induced…
Next up in The Pregnancy Files: Our Birth Story.
Other posts in “The Pregnancy Files” series:
My Baby Bump
Baby Shower Love
An Adirondack Nursery
Holiday Birth Announcements
Favorite Pregnancy Books
Ultrasound Photo Albums
What’s in my Hospital Bag?
Plus Size & Pregnant: Style and Tips