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|Essays · Poetry · Comedy · Art · Video||summer 2021|
The Fallopian Chronicles,
Aug 2004, llandry
My pregnancy was, for the most part, rather uneventful. I was afraid at first because of my age (38 at conception). We counted each day from the moment we received the positive pregnancy test holding our breath, almost expecting a miscarriage. When that didn't happen, my husband, David, and I felt relieved and we both began to relish all the changes that were happening. Even my ballooning belly made us feel giddy. At work, my friends commented that since becoming pregnant I was more even-keeled, less likely to blow up. The hormones balanced me emotionally like never before. It was like my body was meant to be pregnant and I joked that I should have been popping out kids since the age of fourteen like the hearty peasant that I was. Think of the heartache I would have avoided by merely having happy hormone balance! Not to mention being able to wear comfortable, stretchy maternity clothes.
I had excellent prenatal care. I felt like I was in very capable hands at my team practice. Each doctor in the practice made me feel they had a personal stake in my pregnancy. After each routine checkup, I left feeling great, eagerly awaiting my son's birth. I took a new birth defect screening test called the Nuchal Fold Translucency screen (or NT Screen) coupled with two blood markers. It's supposed to be 90% effective in detecting possible birth defects. My results were so positive, my doctor and I decided against amnio because the chances for a miscarriage with the amnio were greater than my chances for birth defects.
All was going well. I couldn't believe it.
Then, at my 36-week checkup, the nurse took my blood pressure and furrowed her brow. "Hmmmm. Your pressure is up," she said matter-of-factly. "Is that bad?" I asked. "Not necessarily," she said, "it tends to rise in the last trimester."
She had me lay on my left side and when she took my pressure again, it was normal. I was asked to come back in three days to get tested again. When I went in, the nurse took my pressure and left the room immediately without saying a word. Within seconds, in came one of the doctors who said my pressure was rising and I needed to go to the hospital immediately for a non-stress test on the baby, blood tests, and an ultrasound to measure the amount of amniotic fluid. My head spun! "What does this mean?" I asked.
"Well, it could be nothing and we'll just monitor you. Or, if it is the onset of preeclampsia, we will induce you tonight, because the only cure for preeclampsia is to have the baby."
It happened to be the day before Valentine's Day so as I walked to the hospital next door, I phoned my husband and told him he may have a baby as a Valentine's gift. He had plans for a "last night out with the guys before childbirth." We decided that he wouldn't rush home from work until I had some sort of verdict, so in I went to the triage section of the maternity floor all by myself.
This felt really weird. I wondered if I'd come in and they'd say they'd have to induce. I imagined being in a lot of pain; that it would all happen extremely fast. I'd call my husband between contractions and he'd show up right before the blessed event, trying to sober up.
At triage, they checked me in and asked me if I had a living will. I certainly wasn't expecting this and wondered if I was going to come out of this thing alive. I imagined my innards being parceled out to desperate citizens of Berkeley eager to get my faulty Cajun organs: the liver with its susceptibility to cirrhosis, the heart with its susceptibility to attacks, the lungs caked with party smoking (though, for the record, I quit prior to getting pregnant), the eyes in all their nearsightedness, the ears waning into deafness from too many loud rock concerts. It's funny, as much as you obsess about having a baby for the entire 40 weeks, you still don't think of the baby as anything more than an additional organ in your body. Who would get the baby? My baby who I was sure was nothing short of perfect. A genius. A great Adonis. How dare these people take my child! At this point, it was still all about me.
I was hooked up to a monitor that checked the baby's heart rate for about 40 minutes, and was then sent down to ultrasound for the amniotic fluid measurement and then blood work. All of it was fine, but from that time until I gave birth, I was to go to the hospital for these tests twice a week. I found out that this was pretty common given the fact that a lot of women get elevated blood pressure toward the end of their pregnancy. I wasn't worried. I assumed that they were right -- preeclampsia, if I got it, would be cured once the baby was born -- and the chances of my having it were slim, right? I just didn't see myself as high-risk anything. I was kind of excited to be on disability and to be home, watching TV, vegging out for a while. I was also required to collect urine for 24 hours in a gallon jug so they could get accurate protein levels. I behaved well and settled into the routine, making friends with all the nurses and technicians who were to care for me.
By week 39, my blood pressure was elevated but nothing extreme and when I lay on my left side, my blood pressure would drop down to normal levels. I continued to go the doctor and quickly developed an addiction to Star magazine and the Oprah show. But, by the end of week 39, I started feeling kind of funny. I had a slight, very dull headache and just felt tired. On Sunday night, February 29th, we were in the middle of watching the Oscars when I decided to call the doctor and report the weird feelings. He suggested I go to the hospital. My husband and I, having been packed since we were first told of higher blood pressure, were on our way within 15 minutes. This was it. We knew it.
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