Every pregnancy is unique. Every pregnancy has it's own story.
I was fortunate to have had two great pregnancies followed by two great birth experiences.
This pregnancy we were faced with so many hurdles, so much unknown and with that lots of fear.
After two girls we were beyond thrilled to hear that we were expecting a baby boy. It was hard for me to believe even after Kai was born that he was, in fact, a boy.
The pregnancy started off great. I found a way around my morning sickness. Aside for some back pain in the first trimester I was feeling pretty good. The first trimester for most women is a struggle. You're feeling all sorts of change but you're not really showing. You're not telling people but you're acting different. In my case it's usually pretty obvious.
When we found out I was pregnant we were smack in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic and living at my in-laws because of renovations that were going on in our apartment. It was a challenging time for all. Morning sickness had kicked in and brushing my teeth in the morning was a nightmare. Assaf started making me ginger tea instead of my usual cup of coffee in the morning and that seemed to settle my stomach.
Picture this (if you can)-
Assaf, the girls and I living in a house with my in-laws, my brother-in-law, his two boys, 2 dogs, a cat and 2 birds... Yes, it was mayhem. Throw in some quarantine, family drama and only one full-sized bathroom and you have yourself a really intense atmosphere. My hormones were out of control and it was a tough time.
Fast forward to my second trimester, I was going in for all the standard check ups and ultrasounds and everything was looking great. My doctor had mentioned that the baby was measuring a little small but he wasn't worried. I went in for a blood test to check the Alpha fetoprotein levels. The results of this blood test are based on statistics. It also shows your HCG levels. From the start of the pregnancy my HCG levels were very high. We actually thought I was carrying twins or way more pregnant that I had estimated. I received the results a few days later and there in front of me were the words
"High HCG and AFP value. Increased risk of open malformation of the nervous system. You should contact a genetic counseling clinic as soon as possible in coordination with the attending physician".
Starting to freak out.... I immediately called my OB and, truth be told, I didn't feel like he was taking it seriously. There I was, freaking out, and he told me to schedule an appointment. I wanted to get vaccinated for Covid but felt I should wait to hear what was going on and causing my numbers to be so high.
We went in for an ultrasound and my doctor saw nothing. Phew, we were relieved. We asked why the numbers were so high and is it possible for it to be this way without a reason and to carry on with a healthy pregnancy. He said it's entirely possible and for now we have nothing to worry about. He told us we should get a second opinion by an ultrasound specialist at week twenty eight.
I got vaccinated for Covid and even went on a girls’ weekend with my friends. Aside for needing to pee every minute, I was feeling good.
Week twenty eight had arrived and I started bleeding. I went in to get checked and they couldn't find a reason for the bleeding. I was sent home and told to take it easy and if there's any change to go straight to the hospital and that's exactly what happened.
At any point in your pregnancy, if something doesn't feel right, it's always best to get it checked out. In my case, I went in and got things checked and was sent home but something just didn't feel right. I went with my instincts and decided to go in for further examination.
I ended up staying in the hospital from Thursday night till Sunday afternoon. After a few ultrasounds they found a possible separation between the placenta and the amniotic sac (Chorioamniotic separation). Did you read the part where I said "possible"…? This becomes a trend in this pregnancy. Finding things but not knowing why, how, what or really anything.... I remember feeling so hopeless in the hospital. It's a really scary feeling having such a lack of control over your own body.
I would close my eyes and just picture myself talking to my son. Asking him if everything's ok. And reassuring him that Mom's here and together we're going to be just fine. It's so tough when there's absolutely nothing you can do. As a mother you want to protect your child. You want to make sure that you do everything you can to keep them safe and here I was lying in this bed away from my other children and not knowing what was going on or how to fix it.
Emma was so sweet, she heard that I didn't have a pillow so she sent hers with Assaf to bring to me in the hospital. It was really hard being away from the girls. Emma kept asking me what's wrong. I could tell she was worried about me.
I was released to bedrest for a week. Being home and not being able to do anything when you're so used to doing everything is hard. I'm a bit of a control freak but the truth is Assaf was amazing. He cleaned, cooked, did the laundry and was really on top of everything, but sitting on the couch and watching it all was really difficult.
We went to the ultrasound specialist a few days later and he couldn't find anything that was a direct result of my high AFP and HCG levels but he did notice something that my doctor hadn't. Our baby's limbs were measuring significantly smaller than the rest of his body. Ok what does that mean? Is he ok? He told us to come back in a month and a week (ya, I thought that was weird too) to see if there is any change. There wasn't. The baby's femur was measuring significantly smaller than the other body parts.
He wrote us referrals for all sorts of check ups and the word dwarfism was mentioned.
Ok, let's not freak out.
We were told to do genetic counseling, amniocentesis, an echocardiogram on the baby as well as another ultrasound at the hospital to get a second opinion. It was a lot. We went in for all our different tests and we just kept hearing about more issues but none came with any concrete reasoning behind it. The cardiologist who did the echo found that the baby's heart chambers were two different sizes which was causing the pressure to be greater on one side. The ductus venosus (which is a shunt that allows oxygenated blood in the umbilical vein to bypass the liver and is essential for normal fetal circulation) was bigger than it should be and he was concerned that it wouldn't close on it's own. He wanted us to come back for a follow up.
The day came for the amnio and it was just long and emotionally draining. We had to sit through a meeting with the genetics counselor at the hospital and it's near impossible to sit in an office at 34 weeks pregnant and listen to a whole list of issues and defects we could potentially be introduced to with our son.
Amniocentesis-Amniocentesis (also referred to as an amniotic fluid test or, informally, an "amnio") is a medical procedure used primarily in prenatal diagnosis of chromosomal abnormalities and fetal infections as well as for sex determination. In this procedure, a small amount of amniotic fluid, which contains fetal tissues, is sampled from the amniotic sac surrounding a developing fetus.
We met with the doctor who would be performing the test and the cardiologist came in as well. They both agreed that they don't understand the reasoning behind the issue with the baby's heart because all is well and looking healthy.
I felt like a science project at this point. Being poked and prodded. There was nothing I could do and I barely understood all they were talking about. My ears kept focusing on the scary words...
The doctor did a quick ultrasound and from the moment he touched my stomach he said "Oh your placenta looks aged". I'm sorry, what now?
“You're placenta isn't healthy and I'm actually willing to bet that this is the issue. This is the reason why the limbs are looking small and the heart is having issues.”
Aged Placenta- The placenta is what delivers the oxygen and nutrients to your baby and eliminates waste. An aged placenta, also known as a calcified placenta, occurs when small, round calcium deposits build up on the placenta, causing it to deteriorate gradually. The process occurs naturally as you get closer to the end of your pregnancy. However, if placental calcification occurs before your 36th week, it could cause complications for you and your baby.
We had to wait up to ten days to receive the results from the amniocenteses test. Now that felt like eternity. The day the results came in Assaf had just dropped me off at the mall and he was going to do some errands close by. I remember walking in and all the sudden my phone dinged and I received an email. My heart started pounding and I immediately called Assaf. I couldn't bring myself to open that email. Assaf told me to forward it to him and that he would read it while I stayed on the phone.
The results were NEGATIVE! No sign of dwarfism or any specific defect in the babies chromosomes. The biggest weight was lifted off my shoulders. I didn't know if I should laugh, cry, scream.... I walked as fast as I could to the nearest bathroom and locked myself in a stall and pretty much did all three.
What a relief....
So maybe this doctor was right and it was all because of my placenta. Ok so what does that mean? What do I need to do now? How come no one else mentioned anything about it?
There were still so many questions. The amnio came back fine but is my baby ok? Will I be able to deliver on time without any interventions? We were still very confused.
From then I was told to start a weekly observation on the baby. Weekly ultrasounds as well as NST.
Everything was looking good. Baby was still small and nothing changed. He was growing just not very much. Every time I went in for an ultrasound I would ask if they saw anything with my placenta and there was never any worry. Week 37 came and I had another appointment with the cardiologist. He saw that everything was the same as before but this time he noticed that the baby's blood pressure was a little high. He recommended that I get induced at week 38.
I was told I needed my doctor to sign off on the induction and of course my doctor was unreachable... So now what?
Well I was scheduled to go in two days later for my weekly NST and Ultrasound so I figured I’d go in and check on the baby and then do whatever I could to reach my doctor or figure out what my other options are.
NST came back ok, not amazing and ultrasound was fine. Baby boy was still growing but still showing all the same issues. I went in to the doctor on call to be released and he asked me what I'm still doing here. If I was told to be induced why haven't I gone yet..... Are you kidding me?
So I left the doctors office with a referral to head to the hospital to be induced.....