So, our hiking trip didn’t work out (read more about that in Part 1), but that was okay because we were so filled with joy at the prospect being parents! After our vacation days were up, we tried to carry on with business as usual. I went back to teaching, and Mr. Lion went back to the teasing in his office. We tried to patiently wait for our first appointment at 8 weeks.
As the date of our appointment got closer and closer, I made the mistake of reading as much as I could about pregnancy and what to expect. Until that point I knew nothing about missed miscarriages, ectopic pregnancies, or any of the other things that could mean that what I thought was a pregnancy really wasn’t. The week before the appointment, time seemed to stop. I worried constantly… after all of this, what if he/she wasn’t really ok?
I will never forget the first time we saw our little “peanut” (as his aunt nicknamed him) on the screen, bouncing around with his perfect little heartbeat. It was such an incredible relief to hear that sound. Baby Lion was fine, perfect, growing just as he/she should be. We were so thrilled. I finally allowed myself to be really, really excited. We made plans to tell the rest of the world, including my principal, students, and their families. I knew already that I wouldn’t be returning after he/she was born, and I wanted to provide as much notice as possible.
We enjoyed several weeks of pure bliss. I started scouring the internet for nursery ideas. Mr. Lion started checking out consumer reports to find the best car seat and stroller. The anxiety started to subside. We knew with each passing day the likelihood of a miscarriage was decreasing, and we allowed ourselves to relax. Before we knew it, we made it to the blessed 12 week mark – the day of ”safety.”
The 5th grade class takes a trip to Washington DC every year, and this year it took place during the following week. I was so thrilled to have made it to the 12 week mark, and I was feeling so much better (hello second trimester!). The trip was exhausting, walking all over DC trying to keep up with 80 elementary schoolers, and I didn’t get anywhere near enough sleep or drink enough water. We traveled on Wednesday and Thursday, and had school on Friday. By the time school ended that Friday afternoon I. was. done. I got home from school and plopped in my bed, prepared to spend the weekend recovering. I wasn’t in bed for more than 10 minutes before it was clear that something was wrong.
I rushed to the bathroom, and my worst fears were confirmed. I was bleeding. A lot. The next minutes passed in a blur. I screamed to Mr. Lion that I needed to go to the hospital, and in a daze dragged myself to the car. I called my doctor, and she told me to go to the nearest emergency room. When we got there, I waited in line to check in. I told the receptionist that I was pregnant and bleeding, and she told me I would have to wait for a triage nurse, and that I should go sit in the waiting room. Now, I don’t know if you have ever been in this situation, but I was an emotional train wreck. She may as well have told me to go climb to the moon. My brain could not process the fact that they were not rushing me back to save my baby. “Wait in the waiting room” just didn’t make any sense.
In a panic, I called my doctor back and told her that they told me to wait. She asked me how much I was bleeding and when I told her, she instructed me to tell the receptionist that I was hemorrhaging. I did, and at about the same time the triage nurse was ready for me. I was a hysterical mess, but I managed to explain the situation to the nurse. Then, with the empathy of a saint, she told me that she knew I was upset, but that I should try to calm down, and that if I was having a miscarriage there was nothing that could be done. Oddly, this did calm me a bit…or at least helped me understand why no one was rushing to my rescue. She then took us to what she called the family waiting room so that we could have some privacy, since it was going to be a while before I could be seen.
We sat in this room, holding hands, crying, and just trying to make it through one minute at a time. I fully expected that we had lost this baby, and I just wanted the whole thing to be over. I clung to my belief that God’s plans are bigger than my own, and tried to figure out how I was going to get through the next few days. Finally, after close to two hours of waiting, they had a bed for me and took me back to check me out. I was still bleeding, but it had slowed quite a bit. The ER didn’t have any gyn beds available, so they propped me up on a bed pan to check my cervix and then put a catheter in. I didn’t know this at the time, but if my cervix was open that was a very bad sign. Thankfully, it wasn’t, and I began to hope, just a little, that maybe things would be okay.
Then a nurse came in with a doppler. She told me that she was going to try to find the baby’s heartbeat. She tried. And tried. And tried. After about 10 minutes of rolling that little wand around on my belly, she couldn’t find anything. My heart sank, and again I lost all of the hope that I had just gotten back. She assured me that it might just be too soon to hear a heartbeat, but I knew from my last appointment that his heartbeat was audible, so this did not calm my fears. I asked the doctor if there was any chance that our baby was okay, and he told me that they would need to get me to an ultrasound and I would just have to wait and see.
The next hour of waiting passed just as slowly as the hours before. Finally there was a room available, and they told me they would need to take me by myself, even though Mr. Lion was with me. That was not happening. I was sure that I was going to get the worst news of my life, and I was NOT doing it alone. After some persisting, they allowed Mr. Lion to accompany me (good thing, because I was an emotional wreck and they really did not want to mess with me). The ultrasound tech was very nice, but she was also very clear that she wouldn’t be able to tell me anything. She was only allowed to check things out. She would then give the report to the doctor and the doctor would tell me what she had found. She got everything set up, turned the screen so I couldn’t see, and set out doing her tech-ie stuff. But then, in a moment of incredible kindness and mercy, she turned the screen for me to see, and pointed to the tiny little flicker that I knew meant he/she still had a beating heart.
There had never been a more beautiful sight in the world. In the hours of waiting, I truly believed that this adventure was coming to an end. The discovery that my little peanut was still wiggling around and was alive was indescribable. I cried and cried and was so overwhelmed with gratitude. But we still didn’t know where the bleeding was coming from.
After some more waiting (oh, the waiting), we went back to the ER bed we were in before, and the doctor came to talk to us. He told us that I had experienced a Subchorionic Hematoma, and that although there was a lot of bleeding, the baby was fine. I was sent home and told to keep my feet up and rest, and to follow up with my OB on Monday.
If you aren’t familiar with this condition (I wasn’t), basically it means a blood clot has formed between the placenta and uterus. The doctors insisted that nothing I did could have caused or prevented it, although I have a feeling my trip to DC may have aggravated it. The risk of pregnancy loss with a SCH is very low (only 1-3%) and typically only occurs with very large clots. Usually they resolve on their own by either bleeding out or absorbing back into the mom’s body and cause no problems with the actual pregnancy. Problems usually only occur if the clot grows, so doctors typically require you to take it easy until it is gone.
We went in for our appointment on Monday, and baby was doing just fine. My doctor could find no trace of the clot, so it looked like we were in the clear. She had me stay home for one more day, just to be sure, and then I was allowed to resume my regular activities. On a bright note, our little one was positioned just right, and they were able to tell us very early that they were pretty sure he was a baby boy!
Then, a few days later, the bleeding started again. Not as heavy this time, but enough to send me back to the doctor. She was still not able to see the clot, so she put me back on modified bed rest and set me up with an appointment with a specialist and a level 2 ultrasound.
The level 2 was much like an early anatomy scan. It took a long time, about 45 minutes, and we got to watch our little one dance on the screen for the whole time. They checked everything, and assured us that he (he!) was just fine. The doctor did find evidence of the clot still there, which was a relief because we knew that the cause of the bleeding was a previous problem, not a new one. The doctor went on to tell me about how he thought I had a heart-shaped uterus, but that it most likely wouldn’t be a problem. The only complication that comes from this is possible preterm birth, and that my doctor would monitor me more closely later in the pregnancy. I filed this away in the back of my brain with all the other new info that I couldn’t quite process… my baby was healthy, he was a boy (for sure!) and everything was going to be fine.
Over the next several weeks we had many more ultrasounds. These were welcome opportunities to see our little boy and the only time I really felt at peace about my pregnancy, because I could SEE that he was fine. The bright spot of a complicated pregnancy is the frequent assurance of baby’s well being, which balances out the panic and worry. My second trimester was a roller coaster ride for sure. Sometimes they would see the clot, sometimes they wouldn’t. I had intermittent bleeding throughout, but none like that first day. I stayed on modified bed rest for about a month while the doctors tried to figure out what was going on.
After about 2 weeks with no bleeding, I went back to the doctor. She couldn’t see any sign of the clot, but before sending me back to work (at this point I had missed over a month with my students) she wanted to make sure that there was nothing there. She told me that she didn’t really understand why it appeared that the clot was coming and going, as usually they go away but don’t come back. She referred me to a high risk OB for a consultation. If all was well, I would get to continue with my regular doctor for the remainder of the pregnancy. If not, I would be transferred to the high risk office.
The high risk doctor could find no trace of the clot (yay!) and assured me that everything was fine. I got the all clear to go back to work, and we were so thankful that all was well. Bed rest may sound nice in theory, but is no picnic. So many well intentioned acquaintances told me to “enjoy it while it lasts” and “rest up for when the baby gets here,” as if I could bottle that energy and save it for later (7 months into mommyhood, I wish that had been possible!). There is nothing more frustrating than being in your house and not being allowed to DO anything. I was in nesting mode big time, but cleaning was a no-no, as was any of the other fun decorating stuff I wanted to do. To say I was excited about going back to work is an understatement. I was feeling good (seriously, the second trimester is such a relief) and was enjoying being on my feet again. We had 2 weeks left before our next, and final, ultrasound at 20 weeks.
Our 20 week anatomy scan came and went. We confirmed, again, that Little Lion was growing, was healthy, and was still a boy. It appeared that the clot was no longer a concern. I was back at work, trying to catch up from the time I had lost. And then one night several weeks later, my memory of our first specialist visit came back. I googled “Heart Shaped Uterus” to find out if there was anything to be concerned about. I learned that depending on the degree to which it is shaped differently, it can impact the growth of the baby. This, of course, immediately led to panic. How would they know if LL wasn’t growing correctly if we didn’t have any more ultrasounds? Why hadn’t my doctor even mentioned this? How could I have forgotten to ask?
The next morning I called my doctor (bless those nurses…. they were always so patient with my zillions of questions!) and asked if the specialist had shared what he had discovered. Turns out the notes from that appointment had not been sent to her office, and she asked me to come in for another ultrasound so she could check things out. By that point my uterus was too stretched by LL to be able to tell the degree to which it was heart shaped, but she assured me that it looked like everything was fine. They checked my cervix to see if I was at risk for preterm labor, and I was not. She did, however, observe that he was in breech position, which is common for women with a heart shaped uterus. She sent me home with plans to follow up at my next regular appointment, and told me that I shouldn’t worry — he still had lots more time to flip.
While I was trying not to worry, something in the back of my mind told me that this wasn’t over. Maybe it was because things had been so complicated up to this point. Maybe it was instinct. But, I resolved that before I left for Christmas break I wanted my lesson plans for the entire second semester to be done. It took several weeks of late nights, but I did it. It was such a relief to know that if, at any point, I needed to go on bed rest again, I could do so knowing that my students would be taken care of.
January and February were uneventful. I missed my weekly ultrasound peeks at LL, but soon after I was able to feel him kicking and rolling, which put my mind at ease. Since my plans were done, I was able to rest a lot more when I got home from work. This made the third trimester exhaustion much easier to bear (I was glad I used up my second trimester energy for a good cause). Mr. Lion and I went to Charlotte for the weekend after Valentine’s Day to celebrate our last holiday as a family of 2. We were starting to get anxious about baby boy’s arrival, and it was nice to get out of town, even if we didn’t go far.
Toward the end of February we were getting more and more anxious. We had completed our childbirth classes. The nursery was done. My most recent appointment confirmed that LL was still breech, and that because my placenta was in the way, I was not a candidate for an ECV (External Cephalic Version, which is a method for manually flipping the baby in utero). This most likely meant a scheduled c-section. While I was somewhat disappointed that I wouldn’t be able to have a more natural birth, after all the uncertainty of my pregnancy I liked the idea of having a definite end point — a date I could count on. I know vaginal birth is usually safer, but knowing that it wasn’t an option allowed me to relax and come to terms with the c-section ahead of time.
With all of the complications behind us and a month left to go, we considered taking a quick weekend trip to Florida to visit Mr. Lion’s parents (they rent a vacation home there for several months each year to escape the mountain winters), but we decided at the last minute not to go. Flying didn’t sound like a great idea at 34 weeks pregnant. Turns out it is a good thing we didn’t. Little Lion had other plans for us that weekend…
… to be continued.
Mrs. Lion’s Pregnancy and Birth Story part 2 of 31. A Complicated Pregnancy - Our Journey to Meet Little Lion - Part 1 by Mrs. Lion
2. A Complicated Pregnancy - Our Journey to Meet Little Lion - Part 2 by Mrs. Lion
3. A Complicated Pregnancy - Our Journey to Meet Little Lion - Part 3 by Mrs. Lion