Slow and Steady Wins the Race

When Pregnancy Isn’t Perfect

on April 5, 2011

Before I had kids, I imagined what pregnancy would be like. I envisioned the glow, the little kicks, the happiness with not worrying about sucking in my stomach. I talked to friends about what it was like to be pregnant and you hear some of the not so fun stuff. The heartburn, the beached whale feeling at the end, the vomiting, the exhaustion.

What I never heard anyone talk about was what happens when you get the news that something might be wrong with your baby. Maybe my friends never had any issues and all their prenatal testing came back fine, but I have not been so lucky.

I have realized that it is something most people just don’t talk about and I am one of them. It’s hard to discuss. It’s hard to acknowledge out loud that something might be wrong and face it.

Both of my pregnancies have had a point where someone said to me, there might be something wrong with the baby. Not in those exact words, but that is what I heard. When I was pregnant with Ian, I took the AFP test around 16 weeks. I was given the news that my results were abnormal. There was a concern that Ian had Down Syndrome. The odds with just the blood test were 1:48 or so. I can’t remember the exact number I just know it was in the 40’s. I was 29 years old. That is well outside the norm for that age.

What I found out later is that the AFP is notoriously inaccurate. If even one factor they use to calculate the results is off, the test will be off. I was sent for a level II ultrasound with a perinatologist, so he could look for soft markers that would indicate a chromosomal abnormality. I was scared to death. My pregnancy went from bliss to sheer terror in minutes. The level II showed no issues, but even so I was given the news that there was no guarantee that our baby was fine. They don’t give you guarantees. Just probabilities. We were offered amniocentesis because our ratio of risk for Down Syndrome even after the level II was still 1:70 something. We declined because we weren’t willing to take the risk and the outcome of the test wasn’t going to change anything. Ian turned out to be perfectly healthy. There was always that little worry though in the back of my mind throughout the whole pregnancy.

This pregnancy has brought a new set of concerns and scary news. I felt more prepared for it this time though. I knew that I had to cross the bridge of an actual problem when we came to it. I wasn’t going to allow the “what if’s” to send me into a panic.

At 13 weeks I decided to go for the nuchal translucency exam. This test is supposed to be more accurate than the AFP to screen for chromosomal abnormalities. This test combines blood work and an ultrasound. My ultrasound was performed by a perinatologist. We were told at that ultrasound that our baby has a single umbilical artery (SUA) also known as a two-vessel cord. I had never heard of this and most everyone that I have talked to about it hasn’t either.

After we were told about the SUA, we were given the long scary list of things that could be wrong with the baby. That list includes: heart defect, kidney defects, central nervous system issues, chromosomal abnormalities, fetal demise, intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR), just to name a few.

At 13 weeks that baby is still teeny tiny. So, you have to wait until the anatomy scan to check for organ problems. For me that meant 6 weeks of waiting. Fun. I told very few people about the results of the ultrasound. It was for my sanity really. I wanted to push the scary possibilities as far away as possible and talking about it would keep it all fresh in my mind.

After the ultrasound I did what no pregnant woman should do. I Googled. The internet is a very scary place for a pregnant woman looking for answers. I read very bad things. But, I also found a group on babycenter.com of women with the same diagnosis and read a lot of stories of babies born as perfect as can be. That was very comforting.

When I had an appointment with my regular OB, I was reassured again. She said that her experience with SUA babies showed that they developed just fine. My practice delivers A LOT of babies.

My anatomy scan finally arrived and we got the good news that all the baby’s organs looked perfectly normal and healthy. BIG SIGH OF RELIEF. Our baby has what is referred to as an isolated SUA, meaning there are no other issues present.

We still have hurdles to cross for the rest of the pregnancy. I will have at a minimum, 3 more ultrasounds. The perinatologist will do checks at 28 and 32 weeks to check organ growth and function as well as the baby’s overall growth. Then hopefully I will be released to my regular OB practice and they will do a 36 week growth check. Growth restriction is still a concern. If all of those check out fine, that should be it for monitoring. If not, well I have lots more monitoring to look forward to. I am not complaining. Not one little bit. I say monitor away! I just want a healthy baby.

I guess the reason I wanted to put this out there is because maybe it could help someone else. There isn’t a ton of information about SUA babies. What is out there is very scary. I am hopeful that my story has a happy ending with me holding another healthy baby boy.

The constant worry you feel as a parent doesn’t start after the baby is born. It starts the minute you see the plus sign on the pregnancy test. Nobody told me that either.

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6 responses to “When Pregnancy Isn’t Perfect

  1. sarah says:

    Awww. I will be praying for you and your baby boy.

  2. mannel inc says:

    I can identify with some of this and the internet – as I was told by a nurse in the specialist’s office said (while getting a ultrasound II, too) “don’t look at it”. But you just can’t help it – and yes, there were things that were helpful, some that were not. But I just had to. Had to. Yes – monitor away, Mike actually proclaimed himself an novice expert at reading ultrasounds before Petra was born. I know things are going to be okay, I just know it. Hang in there. JPM

    • Ann says:

      I might have my own novice expert status at the end of this pregnancy. I am already getting better at it having had 3 ultrasounds already!

  3. gabrielle says:

    We are thinking good thoughts for y’all! I hope that the rest of your pregnancy is entirely unremarkable and a lot less stressful.

  4. Jenna says:

    I know the worry of it all to well. 3 kids does that to you! 🙂 I think why a lot of pregnant women or women who have had babies don’t talk about it all because every pregnancy is completely different but I think most people wonder if they are just strange and don’t want to be labeled as a “worry wart”. Plus telling everything you think/feel to people and miscarry or have some sort of issue with the baby could sent other mothers into a tail spin of freaking out! Why panic anyone who doesn’t need to panic. Everyone handles and deals with things differently. I think another reason why friends don’t tell all because they don’t want to scare away someone who is thinking of getting pregnant. We like to sit back and think, I can’t wait till my other best friends have babies… we’ll have play dates and family vacations and all kinds of kid friendly fun. I won’t be at home with my kids while all of them go out and have kid free fun! We think in our minds… Just wait you’ll get the full effect of it all soon enough, HA HA HAHA! 🙂 You would think we would all be more open as much as women like to talk about things. We just like to spread the joys of parenthood and save the scary stuff till we’re all in the same boat! Love you xoxo

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