Part I: My Pregnancy Journey
One night in January, my husband decided to go out with friends while I stayed in getting some writing done. There was nothing remarkable or unique about this night, yet I remember it with such clarity. As I sat in bed staring at my computer, my intuition very vividly spoke to me, telling me to take a pregnancy test. What? It was the day my period usually started, and I felt some cramping which is normal so I literally had no reason to believe I was pregnant. Still, I couldn’t shake what this energy was telling me. I reluctantly obeyed my intuition and lazily stumbled the however many feet to our bathroom and shuffled through my junk drawer until I found a test. I told myself that I would take it, see that I was being silly, and then have a good laugh about it later. I followed the instructions, tossed it on a paper towel on the counter, and waited. This wasn’t a digital test, but one of the old school ones where you wait for the line to appear, cause your girl is nothing if not frugal, amen? After a while I saw that only one line appeared, so I washed my hands, gave myself an “I told you so”, and swiftly returned to my previously scheduled broadcast. I returned to the bathroom a bit later and noticed that I hadn’t thrown the test away. I picked it up with the intention of having one last laugh before tossing it in the can. “Hahaha,” I foolishly laughed. “I can’t believe I thought I was-.” Wait. I looked a little closer and saw a very faint, barely visible second line. Huh? I quickly turned to Google regarding the validity of this test and found tons of results from women experiencing the exact same thing. If you’re familiar with the workings of pregnancy tests then you already know about evap lines, which is what I thought this was. There was also the possibility that this was a true positive, and the faint line was due to the fact that it was too early for there to be a significant level of HCG (pregnancy hormone) in my body. I decided to blame the cheap test, but I still wasn’t sure and I went to sleep that night as confused as ever. By morning I decided that I most definitely was not pregnant and went about my day without mentioning anything to my husband. Eventually the thoughts began to creep back in and I found myself in the supermarket staring at the wall of pregnancy tests feeling like the entire world was staring at me. In real life ain’t nobody worried about me. I ended up buying the exact same one I had already taken. I told myself that it was to compare the results, but in reality I just didn’t want to spend more on a digital one because I was still convinced that I wasn’t with child. To make a long story only slightly less long, I received another faint line and decided I would tell my husband that there was at least the possibility that this was happening for real. We both examined that second test for a good long time wondering if this could be real. He told me that he needed to run to the store and I thought nothing of it. We live at the grocery store it seems. To my amusement he returned with a bag full of any and every type of pregnancy test you can imagine. We decided on a digital test because they give very clear and distinct results. When I say clear, I mean very clear. We waited for the results and the fog lifted. The answer was as clear as day:
The emotions were real! We were excited, confused, afraid, energetic, and in a state of bewilderment. This was all within the first five minutes. Should I go buy diapers right now? Should I tell my mom? Call the doctor? Decide on a college? Wait, Adri. You haven’t even thrown the test in the trash yet.
The first big decision I had to make was when to tell people. By people, I mean my family. By family, I mean my parents. They had been badgering me about having a baby for a while (hi, mom). While I was excited, the decision to share this with others brought with it quite a bit of anxiety. This still didn’t even feel real. I hadn’t even been to the doctor yet for confirmation. It’s customary to wait until you’re in the second trimester to share this type of news, because of the possibility of miscarriage. What if I got everyone happy and invested only to have to deliver bad news later? These thoughts plagued me constantly. I decided that once we went to the doctor to confirm that I was pregnant, I would call my mother right away and share the good news. In reality, I ended up calling her that same evening. We talk nearly every day as it is. What was I supposed to do? Casually discuss the weather without mentioning that I was possibly carrying the next great thinker/philosopher of our time? Yes, I’m extra. Ok, so we called and told my parents and brother. There were shrieks, tears, oohs, and ahhs, and possibly even an “it’s about time.” Of course, Terrance had to call and tell his immediate family as well so it ended up being a pretty great night.
Prior to all of this I had already been searching for a new physician. Since moving to San Antonio, I’d seen a couple of providers, but nothing really stuck. I should mention that I have extreme anxiety when it comes to doctors, clinics, hospitals, needles, machines, etc. Pretty much anything that occurs in a medical setting, even just calling to schedule an appointment completely stresses me out. Once I’m comfortable with a provider I typically cling to them for dear life because no two doctors are the same and I don’t want to have to become accustomed to someone else’s way of doing things. So yeah, it was time for a new doctor. Yay? My first idea was to ask for suggestions from friends. My contacts in San Antonio are somewhat limited so this ultimately proved itself fruitless. I knew that I wanted a woman; preferably a woman of color. You’re only a quick Google search away from pages and pages of articles, anecdotal stories and legitimate studies about how Black women’s concerns are routinely ignored and how the maternal mortality rate for Black women is alarmingly high. I ended up finding someone (Latina) I was willing to try, but she didn’t have an opening for another two and a half weeks. I waited it out, but the anticipation felt like it was eating me alive. In the meantime, I continued taking prenatal vitamins, developed serious morning sickness, decided to temporarily pause my ketogenic lifestyle, and otherwise went about my life.
When the day came to finally see my new doctor, I was so on edge that I was waking up every thirty minutes the night before thinking it was time to get up and go. Arriving at her office and having to complete the endless paperwork that is typically issued to first-time patients did not help my anxiety at all. How am I supposed to know if my great-great-grandmother on my father’s uncle’s brother’s side suffered from hypertension? N/A. N/A to all of it! As we waited for all eternity (probably five minutes) beads of sweat developed on my forehead and I seriously considered running away and acting like none of this ever happened. I was in way too deep to do that. I was finally escorted back to the triage area where the nurse did all of the typical things – collected a urine sample, drew blood for labs, checked my weight and blood pressure, etc. Easy stuff. I was then placed in a room, Terrance joined me, and we patiently waited to see my new doctor. I saw the door handle turn, and in she walked. You guys! She. Was. A. Breath. Of. Fresh. Air. We’ll call her Dr. New New.
Dr. New New was a warm, friendly, knowledgeable, competent breath of fresh air. We first went through the routine things like my breast exam and annual Pap smear. It was then time to do an ultrasound and confirm the viability of my pregnancy. My heart was racing as she searched for my baby’s heartbeat. Either because of the position, or some other reason it was not easy to find at first. She finally found a good spot, and we heard our first child’s heartbeat for the very first time. I shed a single tear and knew that there was no way my life could never look, feel, or be the same.
The beginning of my pregnancy was fairly easy. I did endure some morning sickness, a strong aversion to meat, and a short bout with some pretty severe round ligament and pelvic pain. There were days where absolutely nothing sounded appetizing. Brushing my teeth became the longest part of my day because it would trigger such bad nausea. Other than that I spent my days working, looking for a bigger place, buying gender neutral clothing, and planning things like the nursery and baby shower. Each of my doctor’s visit were routine and perfect.
The first time that there was any indication that something may be wrong was during my 20 week anatomy scan. We were very excited for this day, and my family happened to be in town. As the tech performed the ultrasound I watched as she made various subtle faces. I’m the type of person who notices literally everything, especially when I’m anxious so I knew that there was something she wasn’t telling us. What we did see on the screen was that baby was moving around and had a strong heartbeat, which was great. She finished up and told me that she would send the results down to the doctor. I asked if anything was wrong, and she politely said that it was something that would have to be discussed with the doctor. UGH. I was slightly panicked, but she didn’t seem super worried so I wasn’t sure what was coming. We finally got to see Dr. New New again and she informed me that I had developed two fibroids and that the baby was measuring slightly behind. We discussed the possibility of me miscalculating the date of my last period, but that was not the case. My cycle comes every month on the same day like clockwork. She explained that while she was not overly concerned, she would be referring me to a specialist, as is the protocol. I would now begin seeing them both. Great, a NEW new doctor. She said that this was not cause to worry, and that many times estimated due dates are incorrect. She said that within a few weeks, the baby should “catch up” weight wise, in which case I would no longer be seeing the specialist. We left our appointment that feeling slightly afraid and confused, but excited because we found out the sex of our baby.
It’s A Boy!
A few more weeks passed before it was time to see the MFM (Maternal-Fetal Medicine) specialist. I honestly was not sure what to expect, but I tried to keep an open mind and remain positive. Again, I cannot overstate how much I do not like having to see a new provider. There are very few things in this world that give me more anxiety. I won’t draw out the details of this appointment; it was literally business as usual (paperwork, blood draw, weight, etc.) What was significant about this appointment was that the baby had not “caught up” in weight as they had hope would happen. In fact I had lost a little weight and the baby had fallen further behind. I believe he was measuring in the 12th percentile for his gestational age. On top of that, my blood pressure was slightly elevated – not enough for the doctor to be overly concerned, but higher than usual (my BP tends to run low), causing her to believe that I may be in the early stages of pre-eclampsia. Nope. I explained to her that during my pregnancy I had avoided junk food, remained active, drank plenty of water, taken my vitamins, listened to Beyonce’ – all of the things you’re supposed to do to maintain good physical and mental health. So no, I don’t have pre-eclampsia doc. What I didn’t know was that pre-eclampsia, which is characterized by elevated blood pressure, swelling of hands and feet, significant weight gain, and protein in the urine, can happen to any pregnant woman and there is little you can do to prevent it. Basically if you’re going to get it, you’re gonna get it. Even after her explaining this to me I was still in denial y’all. My feet hadn’t swollen at all. My weight was in check. I. Listened. To. Beyonce’.
All of this caused me to become extremely insecure in my pregnancy. I would count my baby’s kicks all day. I became obsessed with feeling him moving around. If I felt no movement for even five minutes I would get myself worked up, thinking something was wrong. Furthermore, I was still not gaining the weight that I should have been. People would even remark “wow, you look great” and “you don’t even look pregnant.” Not exactly what I wanted to hear. I stopped exercising, upped my caloric intake, tried eating more protein and carbs – nothing seemed to be working. I cried nearly every day. I was not in the best place mentally. I still had not been officially diagnosed with pre-eclampsia, but my specialist assured me that it was coming and that it was best to prepare and know in advance. At some point, she instructed me to do a 24-hour urine sample, which is absolutely as awful as it sounds. I was given a big orange container, and told to collect all of my urine in it for 24 hours, keep it on ice, and return it to the office promptly the next morning. They said that if I didn’t hear anything back within a day or two, then all was well. This was on a Monday morning. By the time my Friday appointment rolled around, I figured I was in the clear. Wrong! At my appointment I was informed that the protein in my urine was high enough for them officially diagnose me with pre-eclampsia. To make matters worse, the specialist told me to go to the hospital and that I would be admitted. Girl, what? She said that they would monitor my blood pressure and the baby’s activity. She also prepared me for the likelihood that my baby would be delivered early via induction, and that this pregnancy would not go beyond 34 weeks. She said that the hospital could opt to keep me there until that time. I was only 28 weeks pregnant at the time, which meant that I could spend about six weeks in the hospital. I had no idea what to do. I felt like that Mr. Krabs meme, where the world around him is a blur. I held it together long enough to make it work, inform my boss of what was going on and drive home to pack a bag. This was one of the only appointments where Terrance didn’t accompany me, so I sat at home waiting for him to come drive me to the hospital. As soon as he walked through the door I immediately began sobbing like a baby. I mean a good, ugly cry. I did not want to spend six weeks in a hospital. What would they be doing? How would I get paid if I can’t work? Is my baby going to be okay? Am I going to be ok? The house isn’t ready. The nursery isn’t ready. My baby shower is in two weeks, and out of town. All of this paired with the fact that the idea of childbirth still terrified was not a good combination.
I only ended up spending about a week in the hospital. All they did was monitor the baby’s movements and my blood pressure every few hours. In between those times, I was instructed to just stay in the room on bedrest. This got old after the first hour. Terrance eventually had to return to work and there’s only so much daytime television and hospital meatloaf I can handle before I want to stab someone. I tried to do as much baby planning as I could from my hospital bed, but that only took me so far. I felt lonely, depressed, and afraid. I cried at least once per hour during that week. I could barely sleep because every time I got comfortable a nurse, tech, doctor, or janitor was knocking on my door. I received steroid shots, ultrasounds, and a host of other tests and procedures. My blood pressure was consistently good and the baby’s movements were great, so I was finally discharged. I bankhead bounced all the way home.
I still wasn’t in the clear though. The doctor placed me on strict home bedrest. She said that I could shower and prepare light meals, but that was it. No shopping, exercise, intercourse, cleaning, work, going out, etc. At first, being ordered to stay home in bed was like a dream come true. That lasted the first day. You quickly realize that everyone else is going on about their lives outside and it’s very easy to feel forgotten. I stayed inside the house (other than doctor’s appointments) for 35 days total. By the time my 34 week appointment came around I felt good about the fact that I had made it to the first milestone that was set. The specialist had even said that if things were going well, then we could try to push the delivery out to 37 weeks. That made me incredibly happy because we would be even closer to delivering a full-term baby. After my ultrasound, non-stress test, and blood draw, I sat in her office very excited to hear what she had to say. In she walked with a very serious look on her face. She threw around words like “stillborn.” She calmly said that the baby’s growth had continued to lag, my blood pressure was even higher, and that the baby needed to be delivered.