Thomas was born in November 2001, at 37 weeks. My husband and I had a ridiculously boring pregnancy. I was 35 years old and slightly overweight to begin with; however, I gained virtually no weight during the pregnancy, and tests and routine visits were all normal with no signs of any problems. In fact, the only noteworthy complaints I had were morning sickness in the first trimester and the inevitable heartburn later in the pregnancy.
At my 36-week checkup, I reported to my OB a terrible pain at the top of my abdomen, underneath the ribcage, that had been present for a week or so. I tried antacids and warm baths, stretching, and not eating. Not eating was the best remedy, followed by minor relief that a bath brought. I was up many nights with excruciating pain. The doctor diagnosed this as a likely case of heartburn–which I protested–until she prescribed a short-term course of Motrin (800mg) in case the pain was merely musculoskeletal. The Motrin helped, but only while I was taking it. The doctor would not prescribe more given the risk to the fetus.
At my 37-week visit I reported continuing distress from the pain in my abdomen, and asked my doctor to consider pre-eclampsia as a possible cause. Again, the OB countered that the problem was musculoskeletal and that I'd have to tough it out. I did not appear to exhibit the other signs of pre-eclampsia such as protein in the urine or high blood pressure. So, for two weeks I endured an almost constant pain, which appeared to get worse following a meal (no matter how small).
One evening after a full day of work, two days after my weekly OB visit, I noticed the baby had not moved for some time. I shrugged it off, but noted it was six p.m. and went to sleep. I woke up at nine p.m. and still noticed no movements from the baby. I was worried, and at midnight I became very concerned. I prayed and tried to relax, then resorted to several tricks to get the baby moving. I played music through headphones placed on my belly, I ate something, I tried manually moving the baby by gently pressing on him, I tried a warm bath. I talked to the baby and begged him to give me a sign. At six a.m., we called the doctor who wasted no time in sending us to the emergency room.
The baby had been in fetal distress–alive, but with very little movement. He was also very small for his age (only four pounds) which had been completely undetected by my OB team. I was in a state of pre-eclampsia, which called for administration of magnesium sulfate to reduce the hypertension as quickly as possible. An emergency C-section was done.
Thomas was not premature, just small. He required intubation to help with breathing for about a day and spent the rest of the week in the NICU. I had more difficulty in rebounding due to complications with my platelets and high blood pressure that wouldn't drop, even after delivery. The placenta and cord were unusually small which probably led to the baby's weight being so low, also described as "small for gestational age" (SGA) or intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR).
I'm sharing this atypical birth story to reinforce several lessons we learned:
- Be informed about the possible complications of pregnancy and what to watch for.
- Pay close attention to fetal movements at the end of pregnancy and react quickly if you think there's a problem–it could spare you terrible tragedy.
- Insist on the medical care and attention you deserve. If you have a hunch something is wrong, be persistent with your care providers–it could save YOUR life or your child's.
I am happy to report that at three months of age, Thomas is a happy, healthy, hungry baby who is rapidly catching up to his peers on the height and weight charts. We thank God and information resources like BabyZone for giving us the tools to save our child's life.