on the bean’s birthday i began writing up a long version of the story of his birth. when i started writing it i didn’t realize i was going to get so drawn out as to make it a multiple post story but it just seemed to happen. so, here is part II for those of you who want to walk through this forest with me.
i was a little more then halfway home from the hospital when my cell phone rang. i had been driving along in near silence having already spoken to flash and my mom about what the first specialist had said. i had been thinking that i should find somewhere to stop and get a sandwich because it was getting to be past lunch time and i had not eaten anything. i was not hungry but i was already an overprotective mama and i thought it might not be good for the baby if i had no real food all day. when i flipped open my phone and said hello it was the kind irish specialist. i immediately pulled over into the town hall parking lot that i was near so i could talk to him without driving, at his direction.
he explained to me that he had spoken with a cardiologist he knew over at children’s who was understanding of my situation and willing to fit me into his schedule this afternoon. i wrote down his fifty three phone numbers and directions on what to tell the secretaries and when to arrive at children’s hospital and where to go. then i hung up the phone and sat in my car. a plan. a specialist who was friends with the first specialist and willing to fit me in. more ultrasound. more driving around. more answers and potentially more news i did not want to hear. i tried to say thank you for fitting me in. i tried to say ok i can handle this, i am calm, i am secure, think positive. i tried not to go spinning off into the most terrible possible outcomes.
i called flash and my mom and we decided that my mom would drive into the city with me and flash would meet us at the hospital. i think i got sandwich’s for myself and my mom, picked her up, and off we went. i was large and i had to pee and i was tired and i was worried. i am not sure how fast we drove or what i ate or how long it took. the next thing i know i was laying on another bed next to another ultrasound machine being prodded by a student, because the children’s hospital is a teaching hospital.
although for the beans pregnancy i was not entirely informed on alternatives to the standard prenatal care we are offered in the united states, i did know that there were some questions about the safety and comfort of ultrasound for the baby. and my baby had already had three normal ultrasounds at 5 weeks, 20 weeks and 34 weeks. then he had been through about 45 minutes of ultrasound just a few hours ago during which i had felt sensations in my belly that i was certain was my child trying to move as far away from the ultrasound as possible. and now, here i was, with a student.
he had no bedside manner to speak of. he asked me to lift my shirt and lower my waist band and then he pulled over the machine and gelled up my belly and got to work. he was using the standard ultrasound “wand” i had had used on me before. a flat piece about 1 inch by 3 inches pressed into my belly at various angles. he was not gentle or soothing. he was silent and he pushed the wand in hard and i just kept trying to breath and remember i needed this for a diagnosis. the pressure i had felt in my belly that i thought was my bean trying to escape ultrasound continued. the student silently assaulted us with the the ultrasound wand. we all stared at the screen. i kept a loose eye on the clock daring myself to withstand two more minutes, then five, then one, then three – certain it couldn’t go on much longer. after an hour of pushing dragging and pinching my belly with the ultrasound wand the student turned the lights on and told us, “i can’t get a clear picture. i will go get the doctor.”
an hour. an hour of exposing my baby to ultrasound. of me feeling sick laying still on my back at 35 weeks pregnant. of you poking at me like i was a something with no feeling in my body. of silence and wondering and worry and pain and you can’t see anything. i was angry and hopeless and i thought to myself, “i don’t know if i can do anymore of this.” i was seriously considering telling the real doctor that i couldn’t take it and we’d have to come back. i had a ten minute break. my mom told me to get up off the table. she rubbed my back a little. she had me stretch a little. she hugged me and brought me back to life a little. i knew i couldn’t bow out now so when the doctor came in with a huge smile and a south african accent i tried to let him warm my mood a little. he acknowledged that i probably didn’t want more poking but told me it had to be done. i hunkered down, exposed my belly and my baby once again, and locked my jaw.
the specialist switched out the wand on the ultrasound machine so that he was using one that was shaped more like a pen with a very small point. he tried my lower belly on both sides and then right above my belly button but he was not getting the view he needed. the belly was responding with the escaping bean feeling and i was watching the clock constantly asking myself to do five more minutes before i lost i mind and told him stop. then, he stuck his pen wand into my belly button. it felt a lot like someone poking you as hard as they could on a really fresh bruise. i gasped and my eyes filled with tears. “sorry,” the doctor told me, “but this is the view i need.” he pushed in a little harder and the tears slipped down the side of my face and i was all at once angry, and embarrassed, and overwhelmed to breaking. it didn’t take him long and he was done.
“how many weeks are you?” he asked me.
“thirty fiveish,” i answered.
“well you are having so many contractions, i doubt you’ll be making it to forty.”
i took a minute to sink in. the feeling i had that my baby was hiding he was calling contractions. i had no idea who was correct. he asked me to get cleaned up and “dressed” and meet him in his office to talk about what he had seen. and so that is what i did. wiped my belly clean. patted my baby a little bit. sat until the light headedness from being on my back for over an hour cleared. then hoisted myself to my feet and looked at flash and my mom and said i was ready. and we trooped into his little office and took up all his extra chairs and he started talking and drawing and explaining to me in the gentlest way he could what he had seen.
and i couldn’t hear a word of what he said over the rushing in my ears. and i hoped that someone else in the room was taking this all in because all i was hearing was my own heart beating, racing, freezing, breaking, beating. my hands were on my belly and i am fairly sure that i was smiling in that way you do when you think you might be about to break open in public and your chest is caving in and you can’t breath and so there is nothing to do but pretend you are totally fine and plaster a smile on your face. my mom looked worried, flash looked professional, the doctor was drawing a diagram for us on his marker board. i was lost. i was sinking. i was fighting. i was breathing. i was growing a baby in there and he had a diagnosis that changed everything.
“a possible heart coacrctation.”
and with that, my world changed. the hospital i would birth at changed. my baby would be taken from me at birth to spend days in the nicu until his diagnosis was confirmed. if he had a “coarc” (as it was referred to) he would need surgery at just a few days old.
“but he will live?” i kept asking. “he will live. really, worst case scenario he needs surgery but he will live? he will live? he will live?”
and this doctor who lives in the world of heart complications and disease and not in the heart of a pregnant mother, as kind as he was, assured me “oh yes, this is a good diagnosis.”
separation at birth. possible surgery. a good diagnosis. my life changed. my heart ached. my mind raced. and i was silent.
time to leave again. another hospital to walk out of. another car ride home. and another truth to make peace with in my darkness. nothing to do but waddle through the fog and make my way home. and try to find a way to see some light and thank the universe for a good diagnosis. a good diagnosis. a good diagnosis.