Getting past our little scare was relatively easy. My growing belly, the movement and kicks we felt each day, the fact that; now moms reading this, please try not to hate me too much, I hadn’t experienced any morning sickness or aversion to any foods or most smells, and the fact that we found out that we were having a girl as expected, everything was pretty blissful. I was due December 27th and after a talk with my doctor, we planned an induction for December 21st so that we would all be home by Christmas and avoid having our daughter share her birthday with a major holiday as well as avoid the bare bones staff at the hospital during the week of Christmas. Somehow, having an actual date to plan for made things much more real and satisfied the little bit of OCD and major planner in me. We told everyone when we were expecting to have our baby, all the while keeping it a secret that we were having a daughter.
We began shopping for her and putting together our baby registry and I traded in my two door coup that I leased when I thought I was never going to have a child to drive around. We stopped by one of our favorite stores, Lush, for some lotions and potions and got some great advise on a massage lotion bar for my growing belly. And when we left, we found a note and a gift congratulating us on our new baby! It was that generous gesture that will keep us going back to Lush forever.
We were floating on a wave of bliss as Summer started to draw to a close and fall was on the horizon. Feeling good, strong, and excited for this massive adventure we were on, I was excited by every movement and kick and every inch that my belly grew. I was feeling comfortable in the fact that this miracle baby was growing perfectly and was going to be a beautiful, healthy little person and had forgotten any worry I may have had. Rounding out a year of many concerts of our favorite bands, I couldn’t help but see my favorite band, Foo Fighters, one more time. It was the third time in 11 months that we had seen them, and the only concert we didn’t travel for. It might be one of the last big nights we would have out, so we jumped, carefully, at the chance. While I sang along with every song, my Belly Bean became more and more active until she finally mastered her first drum solo on my pelvis. I grabbed Kevin’s hands, put them to my belly and said “Babe, I think you finally have your drummer!” As soon as the song was over, she settled down a little until the concert ended, as it always does, with “Everlong”. This is my song. This was always my song. And when Kevin and I first started dating, we were talking about music and he asked me, ” What song do I remind you of?” I immediately said “Everlong” without even thinking and from then on, it’s been our song. My Belly Bean moved around as Kevin and I kissed and shared the moment. The fact that our she was there to share that moment was one I will never forget. Looking back, I should have focused a little more on the possibility that she chose the songs she did to be the most active, because she knew something we didn’t. In a few weeks my 29 week ultrasound and check up would go from exciting and “regular” to a day that I would never forget.
Four weeks earlier the ultrasound had shown very minor pleural effusions (fluid around the baby’s lungs), but on this day the ultrasound showed that those effusions had grown. This is a condition called hydrops. https://www.stanfordchildrens.org/en/topic/default?id=hydrops-fetalis-90-P02374
My doctors were now much more concerned and they referred me to the University of Washington Medical Center’s Materal Fetal Medicine specialist. They were serious about transferring my care to UW, and I began to understand how serious this was when UW called me a couple of hours later to come in the next day.
The next day Kevin and I spent around 5 hours having a very thorough ultrasound, meeting with a doctor, seeing a genetic specialist and having an amniocentesis. By the end of the day, we had heard more information than we could process. The one thing we heard loud and clear was that our little girl was in trouble. Her prognosis wasn’t clear, and we were told to prepare ourselves for anything from perfectly healthy to needing immediate intubation to the possibility that she may not survive at all. Also, one of the side effects of hydrops was the fact that I was accumulating a lot more amniotic fluid than normal, and that was making me a pretty big and a little more uncomfortable than I would normally be at 29 weeks along. My heart broke into a million pieces at the thought that my miracle baby, the product of an amazing love, and a baby that was so wanted, may not even have a chance to take her first breath. Kevin assured me that even if our girl had problems when she was born, she was strong, we were strong, and the three of us would come through this. The annoying thing about Kevin is that he is usually right. It is really annoying, but amazingly reassuring.
We agreed that we wouldn’t tell our family and friends until we knew more; with the exception of my mom. I suggested that maybe we cancel our baby shower that was scheduled for about a week and a half later. Thankfully Kevin was completely against that idea. He reminded me that our little girl was coming home. Maybe not a day or two after she was born, but she would be coming home and we needed to celebrate and be ready for her upcoming arrival. He was right, of course, and we had a beautiful baby shower! All of our friends and family were there to celebrate us and our Baby Bean. And while we basked in the love we held the knowledge that our little girl might be in for a rough start.
The next week we had another ultrasound and nothing had changed. The concerns remained that her lungs might not develop completely before we was born, that even if the lung tissue did develop as much as possible, the pressure that the fluid put on the lungs might damage the tissue and make it stiff, making it difficult for the lungs to expand and take in air after she was born and even after the fluid was drained off the lungs. We spoke with a neonatologist and she was amazing. Gentle, kind, knowledgeable and patient with all of our questions. Kevin, being the sponge of all knowledge and having a quick mind when it comes to science and anatomy, asked a lot of amazing questions. I sat listening, and acknowledging the conversation, but I was quiet. The doctor asked Kevin if he had any more questions and then turned to me. “Do you have any questions?” I took a breath and tried to stabilize my voice, and she stopped me, “I can tell you the answer to your question, and the answer is no.”
The tears welled up in my eyes and started to spill over onto my cheeks. A concerned Kevin asked “What was the question? Are you ok, babe?” And I let him in on what the doctor knew, that I wanted to know if my age (44) had anything to do with what was going on with my daughter. The doctor reassured us that my age had nothing to do with this. Sometimes it’s a genetic marker or a deficiency in something, and sometimes they never really know what causes hydrops, it just happens. It happens to 20 year old women and 45 year old women and everyone in between. And there is nothing that I did to cause this. While it was still very scary that this was happening, there was some comfort in knowing that I didn’t cause this.
So, there it was. Our daughter had hydrops. We didn’t know what caused it or why it was happening, we just needed to take care of me and her, watch her like a hawk, and get her and especially her lungs, to grow as much as possible before she makes her appearance. I was told that if we could make it to 34 weeks, that would be great. And if I could make it further, that would be even better. If the situation with the amniotic fluid became too much to handle, they could do a reduction, but it wasn’t something we could do more than once or twice, and it wasn’t a quick procedure. And the option to do a procedure to drain the fluid off the baby’s lungs was basically a non option. We had as much information as we could possibly have until she made her debut, and now I just had to get her to 34 weeks, let her lungs develop as much as possible and then see what our path would be from there.
As we drove home from the hospital, a familiar song played. It was the Foo Fighters tune that Belly Bean had played drums on at the concert. Now I knew why she chose this song. She knew something I didn’t, that there was about to be something thrown into our relatively easy pregnancy and lives, and something was a “Monkeywrench”.