Dr. Vanilla

Even though we had gotten what we considered good news from our neonatologist, we weren’t off the hook yet. Our baby still needed to be monitored closely, so I was to follow up every two weeks. $500 per visit. That’s after insurance. This was my first reality check that this child was going to have a lot of “expensive friends” (aka specialists).

I can’t even begin to explain how incredible my co-workers and administration were during this time. I would try to schedule my appointments during the day if I had a back-to-back planning periods or as close to the end of the school day as possible. The team of teachers I worked with did everything they could to help me. From splitting up my class of students for end of the day dismissal or stepping in and teaching an end or beginning of a class, they did it without hesitation and without complaint. There multiple times I came back after an appointment with chocolate on my desk, an encouraging note, or a funny story to lift my spirits.

My administrators were phenomenal. They encouraged me that if I needed a day to just relax or get a break, to let them know and they would pull from their sick days so I wouldn’t need to pull from mine (since I would need them for maternity leave). They told me that when I needed to leave for an appointment (because getting in to these specialists doctors isn’t always a breeze and you’re kind of a the mercy of their schedule), they would ensure my class was covered and I wouldn’t need to worry about clocking in or out. They checked in on me daily. If that’s not the definition of a work family, I don’t know what is!

By the time May rolled around, I felt like I lived at the hospital. I had my typical third trimester visits with my OB and then every two weeks, check-ins with the neonatologist.

My favorite memory from these appointments was a funny conversation I had with our neonatologist. Now, for privacy purposes, I will not reveal his name, but I do need to tell you that it includes a lot of letters that are very similar to an ice cream flavor. Because I had these appointments every two weeks, I’d schedule them in my phone under “appointment with ____ (insert doctor’s name)”. You know how they tell you that autocorrect is suppose to catch words and replace them to a similar word you use often? I think there’s some truth to that because every time I would type his name, it would autocorrect it to “vanilla”. So I started referring to him as Dr. Vanilla (not to his face, of course). My ice cream obsession was real.

When I shared this tid-bit of information with him, he laughed and said “I think you maybe need to cut back on the ice cream.” He was serious. I laughed right back and said, “That’s not happening.” Sure, I was stress eating. And I was more than okay with that. $2 for my twist cone was more than worth it. I didn’t tell him I was going 3 out of the 5 days of the week…I was what you call “a regular” at the ice cream shop.

The number of ultrasound pictures I have of our second child is a little ridiculous! “Come on back, room number two.” I got pretty used to this routine. I’d lay down, tuck my shirt up under my chest, hear that tube of goop make a farting sound as it was plopped onto my belly (at least it was warm), and away we would go.

They called it a biophysical profile test.
I called it sitting-in-a-room-making-small-talk-with-a-sonographer-for-thirty-minutes.

The doctors are looking for five main things: breathing, movement, muscle tone, heart rate, amniotic fluid. First was the ultrasound to check on baby’s movement, heart rate, fluid, and muscle tone. You and the sonographer watched with bated breath for “practice breathing”. If you can’t see the baby practice breathing via ultrasound after 30 minutes, it’s time to wipe off the goop from your belly and head over to “room one” to get hooked up to another machine. And you sit. And you wait. And you try pep-talking your baby “PLEASE practice breathe! Come on! You can do it!”

At my 33 week appointment, Dr. Vanilla said they were going to be keeping a close eye on our baby because he or she wasn’t growing as quickly as they should be. Really, wasn’t growing at all. I definitely noticed this as well, because my belly was no where near the size it was with our first.

At week 34 he told me, “The baby is gaining a little weight, but still not enough. We think your placenta isn’t giving him or her the nutrition they need causing intrauterine growth restriction.”

“For the love of everything holy! So what does that mean?!”

Our bodies are quite remarkable, and even in the womb, they know what to do for survival. With intrauterine growth restriction, the blood flowing through the placenta is restricted. This can cause the baby to get less oxygen than normal. The amount of oxygen and nutrients they are getting go to organs that are necessary for survival, and the brain typically gets the shorter end of the stick in this case. Because the brain was already a major concern for us, we needed to keep a very close eye on our baby which meant biweekly visits until baby is born.  We were slowly chipping away at that deductible…

At that 34 week appointment, I was told our end goal was to get baby to 37 weeks. At that point I would be induced. Ok, I could deal with that. The school year had ended. I was on summer break. I could be flexible. Time to get the nursery ready (yeah, we hadn’t even started painting it yet!), get the crib up, things were beginning to get real. While we had toured a couple of daycare centers, we really didn’t know what our baby’s needs would be. Would he or she need a full time nurse? Would he or she be on a feeding tube? We didn’t know, so it made the search kind of hard. When I heard we only had three weeks until baby, I thought “Well…to heck with finding daycare right now. In three weeks I’ll know what our baby will need, so we might as well just wait and see.”

At week 35 I went in for the weekly biophysical profile test. Two days later I went in for my regular OB appointment. That afternoon I got a call from my OB.

“Hi! This is Dr. J.”
“Oh! Hi!” (Why are you calling me? What do you want? What’s going on?)
“So…your baby is still measuring small. We think they will do better out than in. We’re going to induce you tomorrow.”

*#%$!!! WHAT!! I was 35 weeks, 5 days. Baby was going to be born TOMORROW.

I need ice cream.

Bridget Aschoff