January 16, 2009:
Shawn and I sit in a large waiting room at St. John’s Hospital in Tulsa, OK, waiting for my appointment with Dr. Blake, the specialist who will conduct the ultrasounds for our unborn baby. After what feels like an extremely long wait, we are escorted back to a small room. I am instructed to lie on the examination table and Shawn takes a seat in the corner. We notice a flat screen monitor attached to the wall, easily viewable from both of our vantage points. A young woman steps in and explains that she is one of the technicians who will be conducting most of the ultrasound; Dr. Blake will take a look at the end and visit with us.
We are both so eager. The only ultrasound I’ve had so far was at the very beginning of the pregnancy and only revealed what looked like a peanut-sized blob but was actually our baby, whose heart was already beating! We can’t wait to see what our child will look like at 17 weeks gestation and hope that the little boy we believe him to be will be clearly identified! We are slightly anxious about what the ultrasound will reveal, though we feel mostly confident that the quad-screen test was a false-positive for Down syndrome.
The technician has me lift my shirt over my rounded belly and smears a warm, clear goop all over. She then takes the ultrasound wand and starts to slowly move it across my womb. A picture appears on the screen, but at first it’s hard to make out what we are seeing. She is very accommodating, answering our questions and identifying for us what we are viewing on the monitor. She explains that the ultrasound will take awhile, as she must take detailed measurements of every part of our baby. I appreciate the she always refers to him as “baby,” not “it,” or “fetus” or some other sterile word. This is our baby, and his life is precious.
We are thrilled by some of the images we see. Our little guy is so active, swimming all around in Mommy’s womb. We recognize a side shot of his head and are captured by his profile. He lifts a tiny fist up to his mouth as though he’s getting ready to suck! We see an arm; we see a leg; we see many things we can’t readily identify. We are awe-struck that we are actually watching our baby move around inside my body. He’s really there, and he’s really coming! He also seems to prefer to tuck his head down into my right side, making it difficult for the technician to get some of the measurements she needs. She has me take a bathroom break, hoping my movement will cause him to move as well. Once back, we ask her if she can determine our baby’s sex or not. Seemingly on cue, Benjamin spreads his legs wide, as if to proudly declare, “I am Benjamin, and there’s no mistaking it!” We really are having a boy!
We notice that the technician keeps going back to look at his heart. She says that she’s having a hard time seeing all that she needs to see. We think nothing of it, and are excited the ultrasound is lasting a bit longer. After awhile she explains that she will need to ask Dr. Blake to get those parts of the measurements; she’s not been successful in obtaining them. She graciously excuses herself and tells us the doctor will be with us shortly.
Shawn and I are so excited. She printed some pictures for us before leaving, and we can’t wait to get back to work and show them off! Benjamin is Benjamin! A few minutes later Dr. Blake steps in. We can tell from the beginning that she’s not going to be one for much conversation but is there to accomplish the task at hand and then move on to the next one as efficiently as possible. She also takes some extra time examining our son’s heart, but we figure it must be difficult to measure something so small, especially when the baby’s so active. When she finally completes the ultrasound, she explains, much to our relief, that our baby’s measurements look normal. She does not see any obvious markers for Down syndrome. He weighs a whopping 7 oz., and his heart is beating at 123 beats/min—all within normal range. She says she would like to schedule two more ultrasounds, six weeks apart, just to keep an eye on his development. We are a little surprised by this, but the thought of seeing our baby two more times before he is born is exciting! We witnessed a miracle today. How could anyone deny that the active little life inside of me is a baby, and his life is so valuable!
May 8, 2009:
It’s raining cats and dogs this morning. We are scheduled to see Dr. Blake again in a few hours for our last of the three ultrasounds. The second one in March was less dramatic than the first. Since Benjamin had grown (as he should), it was very difficult to identify anything we were seeing on the screen, which was a bit disappointing. His measurements still looked normal, and we were sent on our way. I really don’t want to go. My body has gone through drastic change, even just in the last month. My belly is huge! I’m carrying Benjamin all out front and low. My ankles and feet are swollen, and I can’t walk without waddling. I’m exhausted from broken sleep every night. I can no longer sleep on my side and instead sleep in the living room in a recliner. I say “sleep,” but it’s more like a series of short naps throughout the night. Benjamin is moving like crazy, and though I love seeing and feeling him move, some of his activity has become painful. We are already driving to Owasso, forty minutes away, on a weekly basis at this point to see Dr. Cook. The thought of an hour drive to Tulsa this morning is not appealing. Everything has been fine so far, and while it would be neat to see the ultrasound (maybe), I wonder if it’s worth all the energy it will take. “Lord, if you want us to go, please let it stop raining. If not, I’m going to call and cancel.”
It stopped raining. Somewhat reluctantly, we load up in the car for the long drive. We are so blessed to have understanding supervisors, who not only allow for me to take time off for my multiple appointments, but who also allow my husband to accompany me. Captain Gargis and his family we transferred in January, and Majors Alan and Cheryl Phillips came in from Florida shortly thereafter. We miss the Gargis family, but we are really enjoying building relationship with the Majors. They are very supportive of my pregnancy. I’m thankful as well for Shawn’s willingness to come with me, especially now that it’s getting more difficult for me to drive, but I know he is getting a bit weary as well…
As we expected, it is very difficult to identify what we are seeing on the ultrasound screen unless someone explains it to us. Benjamin is just too big at this point. The abundance of amniotic fluid around him in the first ultrasound provided the perfect backdrop to distinguish his movements and features. He takes up most of the space now, and only a trained eye can recognize what they are seeing. As usual, Dr. Blake takes a few moments to discuss the ultrasound with us. Our baby’s measurements still look good, though his belly measures two weeks bigger than the rest of him. It looks like I’m carrying a little chunk! We are startled however, when she shares that my amniotic fluid is measuring low. What does that mean? How does that happen? She explains that there’s not a clear reason why it happens, but if my levels drop too low, our baby can be in danger of settling on top of and pinching off the flow of oxygen and nutrients from the umbilical cord. If my amniotic fluid drops below a certain level, it will require an emergency delivery. My levels are not to the danger point yet, but they are not good. She wants to see us back weekly until the baby is born to conduct both a non-stress test and an ultrasound. Our hearts sink. We have 5 weeks to go until my due date. How can we keep up with this pace?!
Later in the day I call our trusted friend Myong, who has been a spiritual mother to us for the last few years. I tearfully tell her about the doctor’s report. I’m not sure what to think or feel. I know our baby will be ok, but I’m scared too. This was so unexpected. I’m so exhausted, which is only heightening my emotions. She prays with me on the phone, and she is fired up. She’s going to fight in prayer for our baby’s well-being. She encourages me that Shawn’s and my prayers for our son are so important and so powerful. She encourages me to worship through this; it will be life to me and life to our baby. I place my hand on my stomach and silently pray over my son. I am comforted by his movement. I remind myself of the many promises spoken over him throughout my pregnancy. He is going to be ok.