I’m hoping this info might save someone’s life, or the life of someone you know. I haven’t talked much about Lucy’s birth, except to mention that she was TINY. Michael took this picture the day after she was born. You can see her shoulder is the size of my thumb. There was a reason for her size, the emergency induced birth, and everything else that happened.
We had an uneventful pregnancy. Even enjoyable. I LOVED being pregnant. (I know, I know. All you moms who have been pregnant, feel free to shoot death glares). No indigestion, no nausea, no throwing up, and low to perfect blood pressure. I was able to work two pretty active jobs until week 34. Then at week 35, my blood pressure jumped up. My doctor decided to test for protein in my urine to rule out preeclampsia. The test came back slightly high, but he said “we’ll keep an eye on it.” That happened to be the week that I was in the process of switching to a birthing center, so I had to go in for THEIR full physical, merely a day after the tests at my previous doctor’s office. I got a phone call the next day from the birthing center nurse:
Nurse: So, here’s the deal Heather. Your blood pressure was high, but the protein in your urine has sky-rocketed. It could be a lab fluke, but we are going to send you to the hospital to confirm.
Me: Why can’t I take the test again at the birthing center?
Nurse: Because if they confirm what we found, you are going to need to have an induction, since that means you have severe preeclampsia.
Me: Preeclampsia? But my old doctor took tests yesterday. He wasn’t concerned.
Nurse: Sometimes it can happen suddenly.
Me: So if they confirm the test, then what. . .they’ll schedule something for next week?
Nurse: Umm. . .no. You’ll be having the baby. Like now. If you wait, you could lose your baby or even die yourself. You might want to pack a bag.
I burst into tears. I’d quit work the week before to nest, buy baby things, research lactation stuff, watch videos. . .I just wasn’t. ready. at. all. But this baby was happening.
The labor was 36 hours long, from the time of induction to the scheduled c-section. I tried to hold out a long time and have her naturally, but it just wasn’t working, despite Michael being the best birthing partner ever, and my doula telling nurses to F off every time they said I should just cave in and get an epidural. My mother-in-law was awesome the whole time too, not sleeping for two days and bringing ice chips (the only thing I was allowed to have!) Later we found out why Lucy couldn’t come out. When the doctors finished the C-section, I heard a couple of “oh my goshes,” and gasps, (side note: doctors should always have poker faces AND voices to not freak out their patients) followed by a cry I knew was wrong. It sounded less like a baby and more like a very tiny cat. Michael and I squeezed each other. The doctor holding my other hand went off to examine Lucy, came back and said, “OK, here’s the thing. We thought she was going to be about 5-6 lbs. based on her height and the amniotic fluid and everything. She’s really tiny—3 lbs. 14 oz. That means she has to go to the NICU right now.” They brought her to me, looking like a swollen tomato, and I kissed her little nose, said I love you baby, and she was whisked off. I didn’t see her for another 16 hours. The doctor told me it was good I’d resisted a C-section so long though—those extra hours meant I had reached 36 weeks, and her lungs were given more time to develop and she weighed more than she would have had they done a c-section right away.
After I was out of the drugged state, the doctor came to visit me and explained I’d had asymptomatic preeclampsia. In ultrasounds during my pregnancy, they measured Lucy’s spine and the amniotic fluid looked great. She was actual pretty long, and they calculated her weight based on her height—which all of us short fat people know is a stupid way to conduct business. She wasn’t getting the nutrients she needed and her growth was stunted. I called her “my little monkey” when she was born because she was all limbs and no fat.
I found out that Lucy’s weight could have been determined within a couple ounces by a simple 3D ultrasound, which my doctor couldn’t do, but other clinics could. Next time I am pregnant, if I have to drive 200 miles to get a 3D ultrasound, I will do so. Had I not switched to the birthing center and they’d done my physical again—had we not questioned doctors and prolonged the birth, Lucy might not be here right now. I might not either. So that’s your tip for today. Get a 3D Ultrasound. And completely rule out preeclampsia. If posting this will help one woman to not hear “oh my gosh” in the delivery room, then it is worth it!!
PS. Just told Michael “I’m writing about the importance of getting a 3D ultrasound to avoid what happened to Lucy” and he said, “You gotta make sure yo baby’s a baby! Like Oh my God! It’s a rat! But the spine looked great!” :)
PPS. I didn’t discover Downton Abbey until after I had Lucy, and am SO GLAD for that fact. One of the main characters dies from preeclampsia, and they show the whole thing. Lucy woke up right after I watched the episode, and I picked her up and was sobbing and holding her close. We are way past early modern modern medicine, but I hope my story will show not that much.