My first 3 NST’s were fine. I cried during the first 2 and on the way to the 3rd, but baby boy passed them easily. The 4th NST last Friday did not go as smoothly. A different nurse was getting me set up (my favorite nurse from this office actually, but she had been on vacation). She wasn’t finding his heartbeat as quickly as she wanted to, so she buzzed him. Then as she continued moving the sensor around, my OB came in and took over. I think my wonderful OB is hyper-aware any time they are looking for my baby’s heartbeat and never wants it to take too long, which I so appreciate. She wasn’t even in the NST room, but must have been listening from wherever she was (they always leave the door open which makes me a little self-conscious, but in this case it was good). As they were proceeding with this, they were jokingly insulting each other as they often do to lighten the mood. I told them I had just felt him on the drive over, so I knew he was fine. It felt a little scary to have to say that. But they found the heartbeat and left me alone with the little button to push when I felt him move.
His heart rate is usually around the high 120’s to high 130’s, hovering around 134 most recently. When he moves, it goes up into the 150’s/160’s for a few seconds. This time, it started out in the 150’s/160’s and stayed there for several minutes. Then instead of usual occasional movements, he was moving constantly–like crazy. The combination of these 2 things made his heart rate elevated for the first 15-20 minutes of the NST. My OB came in once and said it was looking good. She came in again and said she thought it was good, she just wanted to leave me on a bit longer because she couldn’t tell which was his baseline heart rate and if it was this one (pointing), he was having accelerations when he moved as he is supposed to. But if it was this one (pointing to different spot), he could be having decelerations which would indicate distress. As we tested longer, I looked at the paper running out of the machine and felt they were accelerations because the movement mark was always at the base of a crescendo. I wasn’t worried about his accelerations, but I was concerned that his heart beat started out so high. On my last NST with Luke, his starting heart rate was about 10 higher than at the other ones. When my OB came in, I mentioned my concern about the higher heart rate and she said, “Well, that’s because she buzzed him!” again razzing the nurse playfully.
Before he could settle down into a lower heart rate, he got the hiccups. This was neat because I haven’t been sure I have felt hiccups from him or from Luke before, but this was clearly hiccups. They were rhythmic and strong and you could hear the NST machine make a noise with each one. It was cute. However, it made it hard to read the test. He had the hiccups for a decent length of time, maybe 10 minutes. At this point, I think I had been on the machine around 40/45 minutes. My OB came in again and said, “Well, my gut says that these are accelerations and he’s fine, but I can’t be certain of his baseline. So, the protocol is to do a biophysical profile (ultrasound)”. She told her nurse that they were going to have to send me to the hospital. I began to get scared. I asked couldn’t I do it at her office (knowing I couldn’t, but just having to ask) and she said no because she didn’t have an ultrasound tech there that day. The nurse said something about it just being an inconvenience for me to lose several hours of my afternoon. I said, still a bit in shock this was happening, “Several hours?” to which she said, “Well, by the time you get over there, etc.” I foggily said, “I need to eat lunch…” and she told me to grab something on my way across town, but just not to take hours.
Even though I had thought myself that the test was showing positive accelerations and I knew clearly that he was alive, I began to feel panicked. I left the office in a daze, got in the car and called Josh. I was trying not to scare him, but when I said, “I have to go to the hospital”, I started crying. He said, “Okay, I’m coming”. I heard him say “Can you cancel my order please?” as he had just ordered lunch. I then was able to calm down enough to tell him more details so that he wouldn’t worry too much. We hung up and I realized I didn’t even know where he was coming from or how long it would take him to get there. (He drives a truck for work and is sometimes up to 1.5 hours away).
This was the first time I had re-entered the birthing center since we took the nurses chocolate-covered strawberries last summer, about a month after we lost Luke. Walking back in there felt big. I told the old man at the desk that my doctor had sent me over. He called someone and said they would come for me shortly. I sat down in a chair and waited. I was the only person in the waiting room. The birthing center desk clerk who hugged me last year as I walked the halls trying to induce labor with Luke came and got me and walked me back. She is also the lady who left me a voicemail thanking us for the chocolate-covered strawberries. She had thanked us when we dropped them off, but realized after we left who we were and felt extra thanks was due because of our situation, so she called and said so. It was nice.
If she recognized me, she didn’t say anything. I wouldn’t expect her to as she had a lot more contact with Josh than me and she sees SO many people. But I remembered. She took me to the part of the birthing center that I had only seen on the tour during our childbirth classes before Luke’s birth–little cubby rooms toward the front where you go if you think you are in labor. Kind of a gateway spot. A nurse introduced herself and asked me how I was feeling. I said, “a little worried”. They asked me to change into a gown and gave me a kit for a clean urine sample. I came out with the gown on backwards and she kindly told me so (oops! I couldn’t remember if it was boobs or butt that were sort of hanging out.). She helped me into the bed and placed the same 2 monitors they use for the NST around my belly. (I didn’t have both of these straps during my time in the hospital with Luke since there was no need to monitor his heart rate:( ) Josh arrived soon after and I was very glad. She told me they would monitor his heart rate and movements and that so far, they looked very good. His heart rate was back in the 130’s. She took my blood pressure and it was fine, despite my emotions. She said my neighbor next door was having the same thing and we would go to have the ultrasound after she was done with hers.
She asked questions about my history and had me sign some papers. When Josh explained about Luke (he is good at doing this for me early in these conversations), she said, “Oh, now I understand why you are worried.” A different lady came in, got my insurance info and put a hospital bracelet on me. We then just lay and waited for awhile. The baby’s heart rate was fine during all of this and was accelerating when moved just as it should. Josh said if they needed to take him out right now, he was all for it. He said, “Let’s get him out of there.” I was concerned about this prospect since I was only 34 weeks. I asked Josh if he’d eaten and he said no, he had canceled his lunch order when I called. I told him he could go get something to eat if he wanted and he left to go to the cafeteria.
Then the nurse returned and said it was my turn for the ultrasound. They wheeled me in the bed all the way across the ward (it seemed really far) and into a semi-dark room with a pale, serious-faced ultrasound tech. The nurse left me alone with her. She began looking and said almost nothing the whole time. Her silence and serious face scared me, so I started to ask a few questions to which she mainly answered that the doctor would talk to me after. She said, “I’ve seen all I need to see, but the doctor will be the one to go over the results.” At this point, a nurse arrived with Josh. The tech told the nurse that since she was there, she could wheel me back across. She told the nurse that the fluid was 11.something and that it was an 8/8. As we wheeled the halls again, I asked questions and thankfully, the nurse was more forthcoming. She explained that the 8/8 covered 8 things they were looking for like fluid, tone, breathing movements, motor movements, etc. I asked, “So is 8/8 like the best you can get?” and she said yes. Then I finally felt better. I wish the ultrasound tech had been a little less scary.
When we got back to the little triage room, the nurses said they were sure the doctor (who I never did see) would release me and told me I could go ahead and get dressed. They sent us home. As we walked out to the parking lot, I asked Josh if he was disappointed we weren’t delivering the baby. He said, “No, but I would have been okay with it if we had to”.
Josh later told me that he feels this way because they can’t do anything for him while he’s in utero, whereas once he’s out, they can intervene on any problems. I finally understood more his strong sense of urgency to get him out as early as possible. I’m also starting to feel more this way myself as we get so close to his scheduled delivery and closer to our point of loss. He is scheduled to be delivered 2 full weeks before our 39-week point of loss of Luke, but these last weeks are pretty harrowing. I am definitely hyper-aware of his movements and thankful each time I feel him. Luckily, he is very active right before I go to sleep and also when I first wake up, which really helps. He is on a pretty regular time pattern, so I can track him pretty easily. There have been a couple of days where I felt he wasn’t as active, and I used the Doppler the other night before bed because I needed some reassurance. I do trust that God has a perfect plan and all will be right in heaven; I just know that sometimes those plans can really hurt while we’re on Earth.
It was a somewhat traumatic day. When we came home, I fell asleep for a bit (I rarely nap) and didn’t do much for the rest of the day. My sister text asking if I might still consider driving an hour plus to Phoenix to go to a Tori Amos concert with her that night, which she had gotten last-minute free tickets too. I thought, “Really?! Do you not understand what we just went through? No way I’m up to that!”
Hopefully it was the only time we will have to go to the hospital before his delivery day on 8/15. I think if we had just been able to go across the hall to have the ultrasound at my OB’s office, it would have been much less of a big deal. it was much ado about nothing. I’m a little resentful she is without an ultrasound tech at the moment so that we had to go to the hospital (plus worried about how much it’s going to cost). It was going back to the same hospital and having to get in a gown and bracelet and all that official mumbo jumbo that made it seem huge. But, I’m glad my OB is cautious and I would certainly rather be overly checked than to miss something. And now I’ve gotten that first return trip to the birthing center done with, so the next one should be easier.
I’ve had one NST since then, yesterday, and it was back to normal. This time, he fell asleep mid-way, so the nurse used the buzzer again. This allowed me to see that it caused his heart rate to go up immediately and stay up for several minutes again. That explains his high heart rate last Friday. She probably should not have used that before we even started the test as it skewed the results. He does not like that buzzer! I feel bad when they use it on him:( It was never used on Luke.
2 weeks, 2 days and hopefully only 4 more NST’s to go. I can do it. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”. I can’t wait to see his little perfect face and kiss him.