Our little man will hopefully make his appearance (hopefully in a much shorter and less painful way!) in the next few weeks… I hit 37 weeks a couple of days ago, and for me, this is uncharted territory as I went into labor with our daughter at 37 days on the dot. This has really felt like a milestone- as residents, we live our lives in month-long blocks, and the past two blocks have been the most intense physically and hours-wise rotations we have in our pathology program. We're all still in one piece though, and for that I am grateful. We met with our volunteer doula this past weekend, finally acquired a car seat, and took inventory of all the leftover clothes I had stashed from my daughter (mostly gender neutral, thankfully!) that we’ll be able to use again. This is finally feeling like a reality.
I wanted to share the strangest experience I had this weekend which I haven’t been able to shake. I’m sure many with multiple children relatively close together can commiserate over how different subsequent pregnancies are from the first… Beyond our work, our focus has been survival and spending as much quality time as possible with our daughter and being a family of 3. It’s been easy to forget about the pregnancy, and actually I’ve done a pretty good job at ignoring it so I don’t worry haha.. But this time, there have been no photo diaries week by week, no journal entries to my fetus, no shopping trips to buy anything special.
One experience we really treasured the first time around was going to one of those recreational 4D ultrasound places to find out the sex and see her face. We actually went twice- once around 15 weeks and once later on, maybe 25 or 26 weeks. I remember how much we stared at those photos- we even had one framed which I brought to my delivery haha. Her face was so beautiful... I still love looking at those photos in utero and seeing her face in them, her little button nose and full lips. Anyway a couple weeks ago, while feeling guilty realizing how little time was left and how little we had done, my husband and I decided to try to find a similar U/S place in the city we live in now. The place with the best reviews was far- over 30 minutes away- but we thought we owed it to our fetus to be appreciated for a morning and to let our daughter see him, haha. But it was actually disappointing… it was sort of a weird sterile office, not at all a warm fuzzy baby-friendly environment like we experienced back in California. Also, previously, we had to sign that we were receiving prenatal care and write down the name of the hospital and Ob practice in case there were any abnormalities that needed to be reported; at this place, all they took was our name and EDD. And unfortunately, our little guy was totally covering his face with both hands and feet at the session, so they invited us to come back for another look in a couple weeks.
So this weekend we went back to test our luck, and while in the waiting room, the doctor/owner of the business (radiology IMG, not practicing here; his wife seems to be the ultrasound tech) came out and asked if I could come help him with translation issues with his current Brazilian client that couldn’t speak English. He knew I had an MD, but I was caught off guard. Without thinking too hard, I shrugged and said, sure, I only had patchy Spanish and Italian to offer but maybe it could be a bridge to their Portugese. I entered the room to find a young couple with their two older sons, maybe 7 and 9. The woman looked scared. I started to feel scared. According to her LMP, she should have been around 10 weeks along. No cramping, no bleeding since. Regular periods prior. Apparently, no insurance and she hadn’t seen an Ob or PCP- only positive HPTs. The problem was that no heartbeat was detected, and she was measuring only around 5 weeks. My heart sank. It was clear they had all come to share the joyous occasion of seeing the baby for the first time as a family. I was so sad for them as I had been in the same position a year prior, the ultrasound planting the first seed in my heart of the possibility of miscarriage to follow. We tried to explain as gently as possible that time will tell whether the pregnancy will continue. But I was upset that I was in this unexpected position. I was upset that she didn’t have a doctor of her own. I was upset that she was receiving this information in this setting. I tried my best to encourage her to establish care with an Ob as soon as possible, but it seemed unlikely that it would happen.
I keep thinking about her today and wish the best. I truly hope this is a dating issue and that her pregnancy will progress. I keep thinking of my own miscarriage, the ordinariness and near universality of the experience and how isolating, unique, and devastating it still feels. I think of the miracle of our family now ready to welcome a boy just a year later. Of all the health we take for granted. I think of the fragility of our children, that this is all the beginning… by gaining so much in love we also have so much to lose. But I remind myself that the alternative, of not opening our hearts to the potential of more love and family, is also a sort of loss. I was reminded of this old song by Iris DeMent, called “Let the Mystery Be,” which expresses her coming to terms with rejecting organized religion (she grew up in a big religious family I believe) in a really beautiful way... I often sing this to myself when I feel like I need to let go and not worry... so much unexplainable mystery in life.
Here is the brief and only glimpse our little one gave us of his face in the two ultrasound sessions. He wants to stay a mystery and I accept that. I just can’t wait to kiss those chubby cheeks and lips and see what the rest of him looks like… well, maybe I can wait just a couple more weeks :)