I like to think of myself as someone who is relatively fearless. I don’t mind walking alone in the city, will always be the one to look down from a tall height, regularly perform in front of large crowds, and am able to confront most horror movies and raw emotions with little hesitation. Don’t get me wrong – if presented with a clown, I will find the nearest exit with my eyes closed. There are things I don’t particularly like to do, but most situations don’t scare me that much. This week I am confronting an entirely new fear, and one that I didn’t know could exist at such a cellular level.
Tuesday’s ultrasound had us on cloud nine. Not even Wednesday’s broken water heater could do much to dampen our spirits. But then came Thursday. Midafternoon on a regular Thursday at work, I started bleeding. Not spotting. Bleeding. A lot. It was entirely out of the blue and the most terrifying experience of my life. I called MKL and the doctor (in that order) immediately, and all parties concluded that I should get myself to the doctor’s office as soon as possible. Then I called a co-worker, who was also a bridesmaid in our wedding, and asked her to meet me in the bathroom. I don’t know what I said, but she arrived with her purse and car keys in hand. I have to take a moment to thank my dear friend who came to my rescue. She’s just the person you want to know when a crisis hits. The entire 20-minute ride to the doctor, her voice never rose above a whisper, quietly reassuring me every few minutes that everything was going to be ok, as she gently patted my knee. All I could do was sob. I didn’t even want to think about what was likely happening, and couldn’t think of anything else.
Meanwhile, MKL packed up the boy she takes care of after school and beat us to the doctor’s office. She looked shaken, but was definitely trying to hold it together for her ward (who incidentally had no idea I was pregnant). The nurses took me back right away, and put me on a scale. What? you want to weigh me at a time like this? Bitch. Then came a urine sample. Urine? Really??? It took a total of 5 minutes to complete both tasks (which, in hindsight, would give some clues as to the cause of the blood), but it seemed like hours. I wanted to scream, “get someone in here and make sure our baby’s ok, dammit!!!” Instead, I just sobbed as our doctor’s assistant came in to tell me Dr. B wasn’t in the office, and stroked my arm to tell me everything would be fine. After an eternity, or about 6 minutes in real-time, the midwife came in. She placed a doppler ultrasound on my belly and played our favorite new song, a sweet little rhythmic wah-wah-wah-wah-wah noise that signals the baby’s heartbeat. And then MKL and I exhaled for the first time in a half an hour. A subsequent ultrasound showed the monkey, safe and sound, dancing for us. It also showed my sub-chorionic bleed. My what? Oh yeah…that little hemorrhage in my uterus that doc discovered in my 8-week confirmation exam.
Just a refresher: a sub-chorionic hemorrhage (also known as a separation, a bleed, or a hematoma) is a gathering of blood between the sac and the wall of the uterus. We knew I had one. We’ve seen it on 2 ultrasounds, confirmed by 2 different doctors. Most women who have one of these little annoyances are asymptomatic. Since I’d never had any signs – none – we thought I was one of those ladies. At no time did it occur to me that this random bleeding was related to that. I didn’t even remember I had it! Once we heard and saw the baby, the rest was a blur. The midwife was an angel, and the doctor who came in next was great, though I don’t remember hearing a word she said. Thankfully MKL paid attention. I’m on pelvic rest, and should generally take it easy. No real activity until I’ve gone at least a week without any blood.
That night as the well-wishes and “phew – thank God you’re ok” sentiments poured in from our sweet friends, the bleeding subsided. By morning it was nearly gone. Somewhere in my head I knew it could come back. So there’s no telling why it was such a shock to me when it returned yesterday evening. This time my reaction was a little different, at least externally. I didn’t sob. I listened to the chorus of fears that played on a loop in my head and calmly rationalized with the voices, repeating a chant of my own: “I know what this is. I know what this is.” The fear loop won out a few times, but was eventually defeated shortly after midnight when the bleeding slowed and I went to bed. Other than a brief outing up the road to our bff’s house to shower (still no hot water…grrr), Dr. MKL has confined me to the house today. That means I’m cooped up with my own thoughts, which can be really dangerous. I’m prone to scouring the wise internet in times of uncertainty, and there’s a lot of misleading information out there about sub-chorionic bleeding. Surprising, huh? The internet is usually such a reliable source of truth. I choose to believe the doctor – this is a condition that hasn’t yet and won’t threaten the monkey. It’s just a nuisance, and if the symptoms get worse I will call the office.
It is an unseasonably warm day here in Atlanta. 68 degrees and sunny. It’s the kind of day that puts us in the mood to pack up the dog, some snacks, and a few magazines and head to the park. Or walk for a few miles around our neighborhood, soaking up sun and friendly “hellos” from the folks doing the same or prepping their yards and grills for Super Bowl parties. But not today. The closest I’m getting to that today is lounging around on the deck while I write this. I’m even trying not to rock in this rocking chair…pelvic rest, and all.
I’m still scared. It’s hard not to be. But perspective comes in strange forms. Today mine came in the form of a picture of one of my cousin’s almost-week-old twins, as taken from this morning’s feeding in the NICU. Both she and the babies were in some danger, so they were delivered by emergency c-section, weighing in at around 4 lbs apiece. We hope they will be able to leave the hospital in the next few weeks. Until then, every day my cousin and her husband go to the NICU to hold their babies, and every day they go home without them, giving me a new model for fearlessness.
By the way, the fabulous friend who drove me to the doctor’s office Thursday also watched MKL’s ward in the waiting room while we were in with the doctor. In her attempt to be as calming to him as she was to me, she inadvertently spilled our news and told him we’re going to have a baby. He’s ecstatic. If we don’t name the baby after him, he wants us to name it Wrangler. After MKL’s Jeep.