My Pregnancy Story
A lot of people have asked me if we knew that Noah had Down syndrome prior to his birth. While we didn’t know about his diagnosis specifically, we did know that something was not right. Here’s a timeline of things that happened leading up to Noah’s early arrival at 35 weeks.
December 13, 2012 – A pregnancy test (okay, maybe 4) confirmed I was pregnant! Excitement, followed by weeks of nausea and fatigue ensued.
March 21, 2013 – My 20 week ultrasound revealed that we were having another boy! (Our family hosted a fun "reveal party" in which we discovered the gender by finding a blue chekered tie in an Easter egg.) The ultrasound also showed small measurements for Noah’s (although we hadn’t decided on a name at that point) femurs. This is a marker for Down syndrome so my doctor suggested we get a more thorough ultrasound and think about doing genetic testing, if we wished.
March 27, 2013 – A specialized ultrasound didn’t reveal any additional markers for Down syndrome or indicate any other issues. We decided against genetic testing, as it wouldn’t change any of our decisions and would only make me worry more. My doctor decided to see me every other week to make sure things were progressing okay. Noah’s estimated fetal weight was in the 10th percentile at this point.
May 21, 2013 – My 28 week ultrasound continued to show small measurements for Noah’s femurs. His abdominal measurement was also small and his estimated fetal weight had dropped to the 5th percentile. My doctor transferred my care to a perinatologist (high risk OB). At this point the non-stress test (to make sure Noah’s heart rate was stable) was fine, but the main concern was Noah’s small size. They diagnosed it as IUGR (intrauterine growth restriction) likely due to problems with my placenta and the placement of the umbilical cord. Ideally, it attaches to the middle of the placenta for optimal nutrient delivery to the baby, but in my case it was attached to the edge. They also told me my placenta was thicker than normal and looked “mature”, whatever that means. This link has more information on IUGR.
June 6, 2013 – Another ultrasound revealed that Noah’s estimated fetal weight had dropped to the 3rd percentile. My amniotic fluid level also was slightly lower than normal. I was scheduled to come back twice a week for non-stress tests and ultrasounds to make sure Noah was still thriving. Cameron was holding up pretty well at this point and was his normal positive self. I started crumbling with the worry of the unknown, along with the stress of a busy season at work, continuing to take courses for my MBA degree at Seattle Pacific University, and taking care of a toddler. Looking back, I’m surprised I wasn’t more of a wreck!
June 12, 2013 – I went in for a non-stress test and another ultrasound. Noah’s estimated fetal weight was in the 1st percentile and there had been almost no growth from the previous week. It was such a blur, but I remember hearing the words “very concerning”, “possibility of stillbirth” and “induction.” I erupted in tears, unsure of what this all meant and how to respond. In a matter of minutes, I was sitting in a wheelchair as I was pushed across the skybridge and admitted to the hospital. After a number of ultrasounds, heart rate monitoring, blood pressure checks and blood draws, they told me I would be in the hospital for at least one night, but possibly until my due date (still 2 months away!). None of the doctors or nurses could tell me anything specific about what could be wrong with Noah and why he wasn’t growing. So I turned to Google and WebMD, always a bad idea. What was previously a minor worry that I was going to have a small baby became a terrifying fear that he could have a number of problems or might not even survive, a possibility I couldn’t even bring myself to consider.
June 13, 2013 – After more ultrasounds and monitoring, there were still no answers. All they knew was that Noah was small and not thriving in utero. While they didn’t suspect a chromosomal disorder like Down syndrome since the only indication of that was short femurs, they couldn’t rule out the possibility of that or other genetic disorders. Even now, in retrospect, they don’t think that the IUGR was related to him having Down syndrome. One positive realization that set in during this difficult time was how amazingly supportive our family and friends are. Kristen, Cameron’s youngest sister, brought me a stack of chick flicks to watch while she gave me a manicure and pedicure. My mom, who was already on her way to Seattle to visit for Landon’s birthday, took care of everything at our house and watched Landon so Cameron could stay with me at the hospital. Cameron’s parents brought us snacks so we wouldn’t have to endure hospital food (although it was surprisingly good, especially the chocolate milkshakes). A stream of visitors came to the hospital to see us, and emails and calls came in from friends to check on how we were doing.
June 14, 2013 – After two days in the hospital, I was ready to get outta there! Landon’s birthday was the next day and I was determined not to spend it in the hospital. The nurses were very sweet and accommodating, even offering to let me use the family visiting room to host the party. Landon wouldn’t even care if his birthday was in a hospital as long as he had cake and gifts, they assured me. While this was probably true, I couldn’t imagine having my son’s 2nd birthday in such a sterile environment, let alone having to be wheeled in on a hospital bed. What about the Pinterest-inspired cake and decorations I’d planned? That afternoon I was released on the condition that I stay on partial bed rest, which meant I had to limit movement and stay reclined as much as possible. No lifting Landon or even a bag of groceries, no walks, working from home…basically confinement to the house. Not fun, especially when I’d endured months and months of rain and gray to finally enjoy Seattle’s brief summer. But I was willing to do whatever could to help Noah grow and thrive.
June 15, 2013 – Family and friends pitched in to make Landon’s birthday a hit! I didn’t want him to pick up on any worry or stress and just be able to enjoy his birthday. Landon loved the Mickey Mouse theme and had a beautiful cake courtesy of Kristen and Jessi, our fabulous nanny. Despite Cameron and my mom’s constant scolding for me to sit down, I was able to visit with friends and temporarily forget about all the stress of the previous few days.
June 17, 2013 – The doctors were still concerned about Noah’s growth, but they were encouraged by the fact that his heart rate had never shown any issues in any of the non-stress tests and nothing aside from his small size seemed abnormal. They were closely monitoring his growth and my amniotic fluid level, which had been creeping lower and lower as each week passed. My weekly doctor’s appointment was pretty much my only escape from the house for several weeks. I was told that I should be prepared to be induced at any point if Noah seemed to be failing in utero. Every week I drove to the hospital with my bag packed just in case. I continued to worry about Noah’s health and was both anxious and fearful for him to arrive. I fought the urge to constantly read online blogs and forums where people wrote about their experiences with IUGR. I hoped for the best, but silently prepared for the worst.
June 19, 2013 – My employer was incredibly flexible during this time and allowed me to work remotely from home for the duration of my pregnancy. I frantically tried to wrap up loose ends, knowing that at any time I might be induced. Margret, my mother-in-law, got me a super comfortable reclining chair that I set up downstairs in our little office. I had the screen set up on the desk and used a wireless keyboard and mouse on my lap. It was a pretty nice set up, but for an active person it felt like a prison. I longed to be outside playing with Landon and enjoying the sunshine. Instead I was holed up in our windowless office working and finishing up papers and assignments for my MBA class. Noah’s heart rate continued to be just fine, but his growth continued to lag. I was given some steroid shots to help develop his lungs in case he needed to be delivered early.
July 11, 2013 – I went in for a routine appointment…well, what had become routine for me. This consisted of a 20 minute non-stress test where a device was strapped to my belly and Noah’s heart rate was monitored on a screen, followed by a 20 minute growth ultrasound where they took Noah’s measurements and compared them to the previous week’s, followed by a quick visit by the doctor. With about a 15 minute wait in between all of these, the appointments usually averaged about 2 hours. This visit I happened to have a 30 minute wait between the ultrasound and the doctor’s appointment. Although the ultrasound technicians always tell you that the doctor has to give the analysis of the results, I had become an expert at reading the measurements on the screen. They hadn’t told me anything, but based on what I saw in the ultrasound Noah’s measurements had dropped below the 1st percentile (his estimated weight was 3 lbs 12 oz) and my amniotic fluid was now at a dangerous low. I knew I would probably be induced that day. I walked down to grab a bite to eat in the lobby and gave Cameron a call. “I think it’s going to be today,” I told him. Sure enough, the doctor felt that Noah was not thriving in utero and would do better outside my body than in. “It’s time,” she said. “You’ve made it to 35 weeks, let’s take you over to labor and delivery.” Unlike the last time I was wheeled to the hospital, I felt a strange sense of peace. I had prepared for this possibility and was relieved that Noah would be arriving soon.
Continued in the next post Noah's Birth Story.