I just passed the 38 week mark last Wednesday. At the 36 week mark, I had an ultrasound that confirmed baby girl is indeed in the correct head-down position. This rejoicing lasted until the doctor's appointment where I found out baby is not thriving at the expected rate. The concern is IUGR, or intrauterine growth retardation. The little peanut was weighing about 5 1/2 lbs and was measuring 34.3 weeks at the 36 week mark.
All of this led to the start of non-stress tests twice a week. These tests are performed at labor and delivery and have taken anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours, depending on the reactivity of baby. As I try to look for the bright lining within the worry about baby's health, I've been thinking about what the non-stress tests have given me:
- A knowledge of what the contraction I'm feeling looks like on the monitor to help me gauge intensity (most of my contractions are very mild at this point, but never having been in labor before, it's been nice to be able to match up the feeling with what's actually happening so I'll know when it's the real deal)
- A private tour of the labor and delivery rooms - complete with a nurse talking me through what I can expect in terms of mobility and monitoring as a VBAC
- A familiarity with the nursing staff (and the cleaning lady - she now asks me how I'm doing every time I come in)
- A measure of comfort and familiarity with the hospital surroundings where I'll be when baby girl arrives
I've also discovered from watching the monitors while I'm on my non-stress test that I can increase the effectiveness of a contraction by breathing through it....even those little ones seem to do a little more when I practiced my deep and relaxed breathing through them. A definite confidence builder.
This past week at the 38 week mark, I had another ultrasound to check baby's growth. They also checked the amniotic fluid levels. Baby girl gained just a few ounces in two weeks and slipped behind in expected growth by another week, now measuring 35.4 weeks at the 38 week mark. While the doctor said that baby's weight gain wasn't much, it was a weight gain, therefore, I could keep on keeping on if I was comfortable with it. However, there is some concern now over my fluid levels as well. I've dropped from having "great" levels to borderline low....as in I've got about another centimeter of fluid I can lose before they start to really worry....and if I lose 3 cm, I'm not leaving the hospital without delivering.
While I'm excited to meet our little girl SOON, the downside of having to deliver right away if my fluid levels drop is that it would most likely be a c-section. After months of hoping and praying that I'd be able to have a traditional delivery following Little Bean's c-section nearly 7 years ago, we were told at the 36 week mark that we could. Well, the complications that have arisen since then may change all that. If I don't start labor on my own, it would be too much stress on mom and baby to induce. So, if she needs out after the ultrasound next Wednesday and I haven't started dilating, I'm going to be sawed in half yet again.
I realize it's not the worst thing in the world to have a c-section (although I did have two pretty significant crying jags after doctor informed me that was a real likelihood), but I'd spent the last couple weeks so happy that I wouldn't have a c-section that it really took the wind out of my sails to think otherwise. I also worry about the increasing risks with additional pregnancies of repeated c-sections (I am an optimist in some senses I guess since I'm worrying about more babies after it took 5 years to get to this pregnancy!).
The doctor offered to put me on the schedule for a c-section this week. In fact, if I'd been insistent, I might be in the hospital right now with my newborn. She said based on my decreasing fluid levels and baby's minimal growth, if I felt uncomfortable waiting to see how things go, she would support either decision. Because she felt baby was safe for now, I opted to wait it out. If I didn't, I would always wonder if I could have. Should baby not look good enough to keep cooking on Wednesday and I have to stay for a c-section, I'll probably be a little frustrated that I didn't just go ahead and do it this week, but I'm praying and trusting that letting her grow a little more and keeping a close eye on her will keep her safe for now. Either inside or out, she's in God's hands.
But for now, it feels a little like I've been holding my breath for 2 weeks waiting for her safe arrival.
I feel the prayers of those around me as a physical presence. Without the grace that has filled this last week, I can't imagine what a wreck I would be. If ever prayers could send a woman into labor, I'm confident if I'm able to have this baby naturally, it will be by the grace of God and the prayers of so many around me who love this baby and my family so much.
I will take your prayer intentions with me, through the anxiety of these last few weeks or days and into the operating room or the delivery room, wherever God has planned for this little one to join us.
Until then, every twinge and contraction will make me hold my breath....just for a little while until I remember to breathe through it and wait on God's faithfulness.