This is part of my series 100 Days: Waiting for a Rainbow.
Once upon a time, not so very long ago, I sat face to face with a doctor who sadly looked me in the eye and said, “I’m sorry, there’s nothing more we can do.”
Since then, I’ve heard of multiple variations on this sentiment. I’m sorry, there is no heartbeat. I’m sorry, the surgery didn’t work. I’m sorry that treatment isn’t available to you. These words don’t exactly inspire thoughts of comfort when one thinks of one’s doctor. In my kinda-sorta-crunchy life, I don’t go to the doctor often. It seems that until we started working on this little Rainbow of ours, the majority of my experiences with those dedicated, hard-working and incredible people in the medical industry were… well… sad. They never came with a happily ever after.
So, a typical, routine check-up sends me into a tailspin. Unfortunate, when you end up at the doctor’s all the time. Although every appointment has been positive, with kind doctors full of encouraging words, simply walking in the door has a way of making my heart pound and my breath shorten.
So here’s the story of my morning, 96 days before D-Day.
I walk into the doctor’s office. By the time I’ve written my name on the sign-in chart, my heart is pounding. I sit in the waiting room, taking deep breaths and trying to distract myself with any available app on my phone. In the back of my head…. preterm labor, preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, bed rest, group b strep, no heartbeat, proteins, sugars, high blood pressure, blood clots, fetal abnormality… I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry…
On and on in a vicious circle they run, one after another. At first they’re slow and steady like the drip, drip, drip of Chinese water torture. The more I try to distract myself and take deep breaths, the harder my heart pounds and the faster the thoughts come. They pour down, drowning me in torrents of worry.
After an eternity, the nurse finally calls and I make the short trip to the exam room, by way of the scale. I make awkward jokes about how I hate the scale. I hate that scale as it climbs higher and higher. I wonder if the doctor will lecture me about my weight, and we’re back to preterm labor, undersized, oversized, failure to thrive….
I settle onto the vinyl table and warn the nurse that I’m anxious, that my heart is pounding, that my blood pressure might not be very pretty. I would like to tell her to go away, to come back after I’ve heard that precious little heart happily thumping and the doctor gives me a clean bill of health. I don’t. I make more uncomfortable jokes while the nurse makes sympathetic cooing sounds, trying to calm me down.
She asks questions about fetal movement and puffy hands. I try to be honest instead of giving her the answers I know she wants. Sometimes I feel Squishy more often than others. Sometimes when it’s hot and humid my hands and feet get puffy. She writes it all down, and I can’t help wishing I would have lied. Or wishing I could give answers that don’t sound paranoid.
The nurse sends me off to the bathroom for my monthly contribution to the office’s lab. As I wash my hands, the internal monologue is back… protein, sugars, preeclampsia, gestational diabetes…
And back to the exam room I go. And I sit. And sit. And sit. Those words pounding away in my head, until I have nail marks in the back of my hand, and my poor husband is ready to sedate me. And I still sit.
Finally the doctor. I haven’t met this partner yet, and his voice is horse and high. But he’s kind. He checks fundal height and declares it spot on. He pulls out the doppler and I hold my breath. But Squishy is there, ticking cheerfully away, blissfully ignorant of all the worry and fear on his behalf. The doctor gives me a big smile, clearly pleased. Away goes the doppler, and the doctor suddenly says, “I need to check on something. I’ll be back.”
And my heart stops again. What? What does he need to check? Test results? My blood pressure? The ultrasound from my emergency trip to the hospital last week? What could it be? He said everything was good. Why did he take off?
And then he’s back. We talk about progesterone shots, the pros, the cons, the whys. Doctor explains he wanted to double check the notes from the perinatologist, who hasn’t prescribed progesterone but has recommended steroids at a later date. The progesterone is the only known preventative of preterm labor, and the only drawback from my doctor’s point of view is “it’s a pain in the butt.” I agree to the weekly shots, because what else do you do?
I rapid fire questions about my urinalysis, the humidity-inspired puffy hands, and the rare Braxton-Hicks. Over and over I’m told “nothing to worry about, not a big deal, nothing to worry about.” I’m advised to take it easy if the Braxton-Hicks become more frequent, but by and large the theme of the Q&A is “don’t worry.”
Famous. Last. Words.
I’m dealt a swift needle to the backside. Again, with the awkward jokes on my part. And then I’m on my way.
I dial my mom, repeating the good news as I can recall it. Letting it sink in. And secretly hoping that the doctor didn’t miss something. That I didn’t forget to ask something. And feeling very grateful that, as terribly anxious as that office makes me feel, I get to go back in a week and hear once again that all is well.
I leave exhausted and am sedate the rest of the day. My heart isn’t pounding, but I’m ready for a nap. My backside starts to ache a bit and I try to keep my feet up in the afternoon. And I steel myself to hold one on more week until someone can reassure me once again that maybe, just maybe, this precious little person is going to be okay.