I’m pregnant. 10 weeks today. Assuming that nothing has gone wrong, baby is 1.2 inches long.
For most women a pregnancy announcement would be said with joy and excitement, full of visions of a future with an adorable baby in the perfect nursery. For me, and for too many families out there, that positive pregnancy test brings not unbridled joy but muted hope. The possibility of a living baby is indeed joyous but we know all too well that this is not a guaranteed outcome. Instead of thinking happily about the future, we’re just trying to get through, day after day. We know exactly what could go wrong, because we have been there. We need a different type of care.
After Ada, I sought out a new medical practice. I found a group that included a doctor that has actually published research in the subject of pregnancy after stillbirth. From my first visit there, I was clear about my history and that we were planning to try again. They assured me that I would be treated as a high risk pregnancy, even though technically I am not high risk. I’m not over 35, I don’t have any genetic or infectious diseases, and I’ve “only” had 2 losses – Ada at 23 weeks and an early miscarriage in early September.
At my 8 week visit (just an ultrasound and quick blood draw for genetic testing) on Monday last week, I told the nurse that I had found a non-profit, Tiny Heartbeats, that would lend me a medical-grade Doppler for free during my pregnancy, starting at 12 weeks (a similar non-profit is Beats for Bristol). All I need is a prescription from a doctor, and the non-profit prefers that a nurse or other professional shows you how to use the machine. Having a Doppler at home would allow me to listen to the baby’s heartbeat whenever I needed, to help reassure me that baby is doing ok. I’ve even heard stories of babies’ lives that have been saved with a Doppler, because mom was able to see that the heartbeat was failing and get to the hospital in time for an emergency delivery.
The nurse told me that they would not give me a prescription for the Doppler. The reasons provided were 1) sometimes women can’t find the heartbeat and freak out, and 2) I can go to the doctor’s office whenever I need for reassurance, that they will just squeeze me in to check on the baby. I wasn’t entirely satisfied with this, but I was willing to at least table the conversation until my 10 week visit.
Over the weekend, I became extremely anxious about this pregnancy, convinced that something was wrong. I was trying to be calm, but even though some cramping with pregnancy is normal, I had cramps right before I found out Ada died and cramps during my miscarriage. So cramps = scary, at least to me. This pregnancy is so easy, from a physical standpoint – hardly any symptoms. So I have no continuing signs that I’m still pregnant, and that terrifies me. It is anything but easy from a mental and emotional standpoint.
I got up early on Monday and called the doctor’s office as soon as they opened to describe my concerns. I was expecting to hear “no problem, come right in, we’ll squeeze you in, it’ll just take 5 minutes.” Instead, I was told by the nurse that an ultrasound at this time is not “medically necessary”. I was so upset that I just said ok. I was crying when the nurse called me back to say she checked with the midwife I’m seeing for the 10 week visit and she confirmed that it wasn’t medically necessary therefore they couldn’t see me. I choked out an ok and attempted, mostly unsuccessfully, to go on with my day.
I keep replaying that conversation in my head. Why did I just say ok? It’s not ok! I need a different type of care. I am not some squeamish first time mom. I’m not a neurotic yuppie or some silly teenager that needs handholding. I am a loss mom. I gave birth to our daughter that died inside me. I carried her tiny body to the crematorium myself because that was the only thing I would ever be allowed to do for her because she is dead. Instead of a baby, I have a little cup of ashes.
Maybe the ultrasound was not medically necessary from an obstetrics point of view, but it is certainty medically necessary for my mental health. A five minute appointment would have saved me so much suffering this week. Either way, the nurse gets to go home and sleep soundly. But I get to toss and turn, wondering if this baby is gone. All of this sadness, the anxiety, the worry, the tears – it can’ t be good for the baby and that makes me worry even more.
My 10 week appointment is Friday and I have to go alone. It will be the first appointment that I go to alone with this baby. The first appointment I went to alone with Ada was the one where she had no heartbeat. I imagine the upcoming scene over and over – it’s a choose your own adventure only I have no say in the matter. Peeking at the pages ahead, I can see two options – either baby has a heartbeat and I go home to worry until my next appointment, or baby has no heartbeat and I descend into the darkness again.
If it turns out that this baby is still doing ok, we will be revisiting the conversation about the Doppler. This medical group already lied to me once. Shame on me for believing them. They’ll try to tell me again that I can come in anytime, but they lost their chance by not following through. If I don’t get the prescription, I will be seeking another doctor. Because I deserve better. I deserve a different type of care.