I’ve been meaning to take the time to chronicle the adventures of my pregnancy. Looking back, I realize that there really were a few significant challenges…most of them only happening in about 1% of pregnancies, and most of them containing words I had never heard of (cholestasis, pupps, echogenic foci, chroid plexus cysts).
I first had the pleasure of “meeting” the little one at a little over 2 months when a trip home from the dentist turned into a trip to the emergency room at Montfort (the hospital where Max would be born). Driving down Metcalfe, feeling excited about the pregnancy (and not so much about being told I had my first cavity…you know what they used to say about “have a child lose a tooth”), when a man ran a stop sign, and plowed right into my little blue Suzuki Swift, on the driver’s side and pretty much exactly where I was sitting. I wasn’t badly hurt, but shaken and the car was rendered immovable. The ambulances came, the fire trucks came , the police came. About 2 months pregnant, I suddenly found myself spreading the news to strangers at a time when only my closest friends and family knew. It was recommended that I get checked out at the hospital. At first, there was no little heartbeat to be found (quite normal at that stage), but we had the opportunity to have a quick little ultrasound and make sure (as much as possible), that the mini-me was ok and from all indicators he was.
At three months I squeezed into my way too tight wedding dress (note to others, do not buy a too small wedding dress “planning on losing the weight”, then get pregnant. It took the full strength of my sister and I yanking down on the dress to squeeze it past my evolving and exploding bust!
Photo courtesy of our amazing photographer DanZiemkiewicz: http://danziemkiewicz.com/
After a lovely honeymoon in Guatemala and Belize, Rob went off to Afghanistan, and I had my 20 Week ultrasound. Starting to really feel good again, I was excited to learn the sex. The night before the ultrasound I’d had a very vivid dream: I was getting my ultrasound done, and there very clearly was a very obvious “boy part”. The technician turned to me and said “its 90% a boy”. I replied, “90%” that definitely looks like a boy to me!
Sure enough, the next day we found out it was a little boy! I texted Rob, super excited, and felt on top of the world.
The next day my midwife called and informed me that they had found 2 “indicators” on the ultrasound. “Cysts on the brain, and a white spot on the heart”. Closing my office door, I burst into tears (of course I had to immediately dry the red eyes and proceed to a staff meeting). In retrospect, I worried so much for so little, but at the time the news was devastating. The cysts on the brain were “Choroid Plexus Cysts” which are sometimes affiliated with chromosomal abnormalities such as Downs Syndrome: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Choroid_plexus_cyst. They occur in about 1% of pregnancies.
And as luck would have it, not only did the little one have Choroid Plexus Cysts, but what appeared as an “echogenic foci” as well. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Echogenic_intracardiac_focus These occur in 3-5% of pregnancies, and are also an indicator of potential chromosomal abnormalities. The combination of two indicators was worrisome to the midwives, so it was recommended that we speak to a “genetic counsellor”.
Of course, the night I learned all of this, Rob was somewhere over the Atlantic flying home from Afghanistan. When I picked him up from the airport and told him the news, he simply shrugged and said there was no point worrying about “what ifs”. I wish I could approach life like that! I worry about all the potentialities…..in the words of my good friend Marie “you star worrying the minute you pee on a stick, and you never stop”.
Not only had I never heard of echogenic foci or choroid plexus cysts, but to top it all off, I was being sent to a genetic counsellor. To me a genetic counsellor sounded like something dreamed up by Aldous Huxley in a Brave New World, I had never imagined that I would be meeting with one.
For those of you who don’t know (like I had any idea before), a Genetic Counsellor simply looks at all of the facts (family background, blood work, screening, and ultrasounds) and comes up with a percentage of the chance of a child being born with one of a variety of chromosomal abnormalities. Usually after this, the option would be to have an amniocentisis (which has a relatively high risk in itself of causing damage to the placenta, potentially ending the pregnancy), and a “level 2 ultrasound”. After speaking with the Genetic Counsellor we realized that the more we searched, the more we (ok I) would continue down a spiral of worry….(really, I would love to know what they would find wrong if anyone ever investigated me in such fine detail?). We decided enough was enough with all this “testing”, and that staying happy, healthy and stress free would be the best for everyone involved (easier said than done).
And the pregnancy continued….and so did the adventures.
Somewhere around 26 weeks I developed two more interesting problems. My stomach became insanely itchy, and covered with a rash. This was diagnosed as PUPPS – Pruiritic Uricarial Papules of Pregnancy, strangely much more common when carrying a boy. http://dermatology.about.com/cs/pregnancy/a/puppp.htm . This happens in 1% of pregnancies, and although terribly irritating for the mother, there are no associated risks for the baby.
And it wasn’t over….not only did I toss and turn all night, and try every lotion imaginable on my poor bulging stomach (which now had a little being in it that loved to hiccup, kick and move…), but my feet started to itch as though I had been running through fields of poison ivy. We were in the midst of renovations (try ripping out carpet, and installing hardwood floors 7-8 months pregnant…not recommended). I assumed that itchy feet were just one of those things that pregnancy brought like swollen ankles, sore joints etc etc etc etc. And if it wasn’t that, it was the dust in the house from the renovations. The itchiness, which often started in the evening, caused sleepless nights, and an extremely frustrated me. I tried to bath them in baking soda, I tried gold bond, I tried athletes foot cream, I got a pedicure. Nothing gave me more than an ounce of relief – In my sleepless state I contemplated the gruesome fairytale the “Little Red Shoes”, and understood why the poor little girl had been driven to such madness that she had cut off her feet (is that material really for kids??).
At 40 weeks, not sleeping a wink, I went into one of my final appointments and after spending the majority of the appointment discussing that I wanted to do everything to avoid being induced, I mentioned my itchy feet. The midwife looked at me very seriously as I tried to laugh it off to a dusty house, or some kind of weird skin disease. Immediately I was sent to the hospital for “bile salt testing” learning that itchy feet (and palms which I also had) were indicative of obstetric cholestasis: http://www.babycenter.ca/pregnancy/complications/obstetriccholestasis/. Obstetric cholestasis occurs in less thn 1% of pregnancies in Canada, and increases the risk of stillborn to the point that normally women with it are induced at 36-37 weeks. It results when the pregnancy hormones cause bile salts from your liver to leak into your blood stream. The itching is therefore “internal” and there is no magic cream or lotion.
The test takes a long time to get back, so after several days of bloodwork and no sign of Max making his entrance into the world, it was decided that I would be induced…So much for the planned homebirth.
I’ll save the rest of the story of the labour, and the post pregnancy problems (that of course I’d never heard of and seldom happen) for another day! For those of you out there contemplating a baby, don’t let this scare you! It is completely and utterly worth it the second you have that little one in your arms…and as for the itchy feet and not sleeping….well, that went away the second Max was born. Getting up for nightime feeds was an absolute breeze compared to trying to sleep with itchy feet!