I’ve had two normal pregnancies. Other than gaining more weight than I wanted to and having some third trimester hip/pelvic pain, they were mostly textbook, uneventful experiences. Both ended in relatively smooth, scheduled c-sections so even the deliveries were nothing out of the ordinary.
By the time the third pregnancy rolled around, it was hard to imagine anything other than a normal pregnancy. We did the nuchal scan at 12 weeks to check for any chromosomal abnormalities and everything came back low risk.
So when we went for our 20 weeks scan I wasn’t expecting anything other than news about the gender and a final reassurance that everything was developing well.
I WASN’T expecting to hear terms I had never even heard of, like “single umbilical artery” and “perinatal specialist” and “intrauterine growth restriction”.
We soon learned that “Single Umbilical Artery” (SUA) is the condition in which there is only one umbilical artery in the umbilical cord rather than the normal two. It is also sometimes know as having a “two-vessel cord”because there are typically three vessels in the umbilical cord–two umbilical arteries and one umbilical vein.
We also learned that, even though I had never heard of it before, it’s not entirely uncommon. In the case of SUA, it can either be an indicator of a greater problem, such as a chromosomal abnormality, or it can be “isolated”, meaning it occurs for no known reason and usually has no other associated abnormalities.
The first step was to see a perinatal specialist who would do a high-resolution ultrasound to check for other abnormalities. This would determine if it was an isolated case or related to something bigger. Since the specialist only took appointments in my OB office once a month, I had to wait a month for my appointment.
Most human beings, but especially pregnant women who are waiting for answers to unknowns, would probably agree with me when I say: waiting is the worst.
But that month of waiting was an interesting experience for me. Both of my previous pregnancies had been without complication, so I was in new territory. And I was surprised to find that it changed a few things for me.
I stopped worrying about weight and worried more about nutrition. I don’t love that we live in a society where the numbers on the scale feel like a loaded topic for women, but we do. Pregnancy is a complicated time in this regard because you inevitably gain weight (and you are supposed to). But with my past pregnancies I was startled by how much weight I had gained. To top it off, I started this third pregnancy weighing more than I wanted to. So I was determined to keep my weight gain within a reasonable limit. I wasn’t being hyper-disciplined or anything–just doing my best to be conscious about my eating and exercising.
But then the baby started measuring smaller than what she should be. And I started getting monthly ultrasounds to monitor her growth. Needless to say, the way I thought about food changed. It wasn’t about my body anymore, it was about hers. So I started paying more attention to protein and making sure I was eating enough calories and fruits and vegetables. And I stopped looking at the scale. Because if making sure she got the nutrition she needed meant the scale betrayed me yet again, then so be it. I have the rest of my life to worry about getting my body back in shape. This time right now is about her.
I stopped complaining about being pregnant. Ok, so I didn’t totally stop complaining. People expect you to have feelings about your third trimester landing in July and August in the midwest. So I did the “Ug, the heat!” thing when people asked how I was. And the heat does suck, but my heart wasn’t in my complaining anymore. When there is a chance that your baby could stop growing (intrauterine growth restriction) and have to be taken out prematurely, every day that you are still pregnant with a growing baby is a blessing.
I bonded with baby sooner. I’ve always felt a bond with my children before they are born to some degree. As a mother I worried about them and was excited to meet them and all that. But I never had any reason to worry that they wouldn’t come out perfectly healthy at the end of my pregnancy. However, when pregnancy gets complicated, you worry more. What if she is born too early and has to be in the NICU? What if there’s something wrong that could affect her quality of life? What if it is severe enough to be fatal? Somehow worrying about her more than I had the other two brought out the protective mama bear in me sooner.
I stopped worrying about my c-section. Both of my previous c-sections were fairly routine. Obviously with my first I was nervous because I didn’t know what to expect. With my second, I was TERRIFIED. I already had a child at home, what if something happened to me and she lost her mother? What if I never saw my little girl again? I honestly don’t know how I actually went to the hospital and willingly went through with the c-section without having to be drugged. That’s how scared I was. So when I found out I was pregnant with this child, I immediately began to dread the anxiety that I knew would come. After all, now I had to say goodbye to TWO children before I went into surgery.
But somehow, when I started worrying about her, I didn’t have any room left to worry about myself. Knock on wood, I’m not nervous at all. In fact, I’m almost excited for the day I will finally get to meet her and hold her in my arms and know that she is ok.
Gratitude. Quite simply, things that I might have taken for granted on a third baby became really big. Every time she kicks, I feel a rush of gratitude and relief. Because it means she is still doing okay in there. My ever-expanding belly means she is growing. Every day that I’m swollen and achey means a little more time for her to prepare to enter the world. By the third pregnancy it would be easy to take for granted how precious and fragile this time is. But I don’t now.
The month passed and we met with the specialist who determined there were no signs of other abnormalities; therefore, SUA in our case is an isolated event. We will have monthly ultrasounds to monitor her growth, but if everything goes well we will deliver a healthy baby girl at the end of all this.
That’s when the adventure really begins.