Last weekend, I passed that ever-important pregnancy milestone: the 37th week. That makes me officially full term and means that bouts of contractions are met with a certain mixture of anticipation and anxiety rather than worry and anxiety. I could seriously have this baby any day now. Not that I am entertaining that notion any. My babies come late and are generally induced. But hey, it could happen. I could just be sitting here typing away and suddenly realize, “This is it!” I’ve only gotten to go through that once in five children. With my very first when I woke up at like 4AM and my husband told me to go back to bed.
So I fed rabbits and played Solitaire because he wanted to “make sure” before getting up at that hour.
I guess that is moderately better than almost missing your own baby’s birthday, but these things are impossible to miss when not scheduled.
So anyway, I went to my OB appointment not really expecting anything much in the way of progressing toward labor, But one can always hope that the night’s sleep lost to contractions did something.
That’s not where my mind was when his student PA took her measurements and listened to baby’s heartbeat. That little guy’s heart is supposed to be ticking along at 143 beats per minute (or thereabouts). Her measurement? 116. 110. 107. Long pause. She asked the doctor if he wanted to measure. He declined, suggesting they just listen a minute, but his normally jovial tone had turned serious and it suddenly seemed like no one would make eye contact with me.
“What’s it doing now?”
“Let’s do an ultrasound to see what baby’s doing. And a non stress test.”
And he asked me three times if I’d been feeling movement, as if he didn’t believe me. My three year old had been playing with little Cricket just before he came in, delighted at his little kicks in response to her little pokes. He asked me one more time if I was sure I had been feeling movement and sent me off for the ultrasound.
As I came out of the room, the receptionist was already on the phone with the hospital making arrangements. Did I have my husband’s phone number? How long would it take him to meet me? It was all so surreal. Like it wasn’t really happening, but it was.
And the ultrasound room seemed so far away. Every step seemed to increase the distance I had to cover. I prayed an odd sort of prayer. One that didn’t really touch on what I was thinking or feeling. Well, that would have been hard because I can’t really say that I was really thinking or feeling much of anything.
Just that none of it was quite real.
But we made it and I took a deep breath as the technician poured the lubricant on my stomach and got ready to start the ultrasound.
There was a long silence. The dreaded silence I feared most after reading about other women who were rushed off to the ultrasound room after exams found abnormalities. But perhaps that was all in my head. I can’t say my impression of time was the most accurate just then.
Finally, some statements.
“Blood flow through the cord looks good. The heart looks good. Measures at 153. He’s moving a little . . . look, there’s his little fist. Measuring fluid . . . it all looks good. Measures at 37 weeks, approximately 6 pounds, 4 ounces. Let me show this to the doctor, but it all looks good.”
“So,” I can’t help but ask, “Is there any reason his heart rate would drop like that?”
“Oh, they just do that sometimes. It’s usually nothing. Maybe in response to a contraction, but we have to check.”
And when I came out, they set up next week’s appointment without any dramatic rushing off to the hospital or instructions for bed rest or anything.
Then I started to panic.
Because that’s when it was suddenly all real.