Thank you for all your beautiful comments on my last post; many brought tears to my eyes, and all gave me courage and strength and further insight into just how much I have to be appreciative of in these surreal and magical days in which we find ourselves. 28w5d here; so much is going on around us that I have to make an effort to focus on what’s going on inside me (both physically and philosophically), and to stay in this place of quiet bliss that is the third trimester of pregnancy and the wondrous growth of our little seedling. And on that score, things may even be settling a bit.
I know I have always been a staunch resistor of that normative trope that is the chronological timeline so beloved of infertility blogs, but in the interest of filling you in on some of the chaotic, complicated background to the here and now, it seems the least strenuous option...
Week 20 – Doctors rule out the possibility of Down syndrome after discovering in little seedling’s brain that the lateral ventricles are enlarged, an amorphous condition known as ventriculomegaly, which can be linked to a range of developmental delays and medical needs. Totally left field. We are confused and terrified. We’d happily take the knowable issue of Down syndrome over this vague diagnosis.
Week 21 – We are sent to the big city hospital for a fetal MRI with one of the country’s top specialists (who will later, for reasons to become apparent, become known as the Dickhead Doctor). This test shows a rapid increase in the levels of fluid accumulating in little seedlings ventricles, suggesting ‘a dynamic process of the condition I have never come across’. Dickhead doctor also says there are indicators of hydrops fetalis. Both conditions possibly fatal. The possibility of (need for?) termination is raised. Total devastation, rage, more terror.
Back home that weekend, we rush to the hospital after I wake up gushing red blood. Sure she is dying. Examinations reveal placental hematoma; not in any way life threatening. Unless you count the further palpitations that my already over-stretched heart cannot really take right now. Return home to a week of bedrest.
Week 22 – The fetal medicine radiologist we’ve been seeing up until now (and who we’ve come to love) reviews the report sent by Dickhead Doctor and disagrees with his findings. Firstly, no evidence of hydrops fetalis, but rather a mild thickening of the nuchal fold which she sees as no cause for serious concern. Secondly and more importantly, although the ventricles remain enlarged, she doesn’t think there is anything to support the idea of a rapid increase; MRI and u/s will always have discrepancies in measurement, and in this instance, each method used a different side of the brain to reach their findings, reflecting not increase but asymmetry in the measurement of each ventricle. Obviously a fact that Dickhead Doctor, with all his years of expertise, should have also know and offered, instead of regaling us with horror stories.
But relief if momentary; u/s with Lovely Doctor finds that the connective tissue at the centre of the corpus callosum (joining the two hemispheres of the brain) is not altogether absent but far too thin to support normal brain function. Her liver is also slightly enlarged. Nothing for it but – yes, again – to wait.
Week 24 – Our next bi-weekly monitoring appointment is a mixed bag. Firstly, it appears that the enlargement of the ventricles and issues with her liver have stabilised; YAY! Then, Lovely Doctor finds another, newer anomaly; little seedling is diagnosed with duodenal atresia, a blockage of the intestine that will require corrective surgery at birth. BOO! This discovery leads our team to reconsider the initial probably-not-Down-syndrome-but-something-else prognosis. Now we’re at probably-Down-syndrome-and-something-else. This brings with it a strange kind of relief, since Down as an explanation for any of these other anomalies is far less scary (or potentially life threatening) than idiopathic diagnoses would have been.
In happier news, we also learn at this u/s that little seedling has ‘a mop of hair’, and get all the more excited thinking about who she is, what she’ll look like and who she'll become. One thing's for sure, life will never be dull with her along for the ride. On the train ride home, she fortuitously kicks me several times vigorously, allowing H his first real feel of her presence. He melts.
Week 25 – Nothing in particular happens. Normal week! No problems! Heady days!
Week 26 – Our little seedling is making miraculous progress in leaps and bounds. Not only are no new anomalies discovered (what feels like a first for us in this whole process), but there are astonishing findings in her neurodevelopment: the ventricles are not only stable this time, but have slightly reduced in size, and the connective tissue of the corpus callosum has thickened to the point where they think it probably won’t be an issue. Lovely Doctor says she is impressed by little seedling’s fighting spirit and ability to turn these conditions around, the likes of which she has never seen. Amazement, relief and pride in our courageous daughter. We feel positively jubilant.
We are also told that my amniotic fluid levels are slightly high, a common side effect of the duodenal atresia, since babies with this condition can’t make the swallowing movements required that normally keep fluid levels in check. Higher fluid levels carry a risk of preterm labour, and we may need to consider an amniotic reduction procedure at some point. Super close monitoring is not likely to end any time soon. Sigh.
Week 28 – Status quo! No changes, everything continues to look good. We get to see up close that huge crop of fluffy duckling hair she’s sporting. Lovely Doctor makes the rather obvious comment that ‘12 weeks is the longest now you’ll be waiting for this little girl’, and I am suddenly, inexplicably stunned. It’s really real.
because I am overly verbose and apparently incapable of abandoning
narrative style when I write that wasn’t actually the most effective use of
bullet-point-style chronology, was it? So for anyone with blog reading ADHD,
here’s the summary: we still don’t have an official diagnosis because we
refused the invasive testing, but expect little seedling to be born with Down
syndrome, and are grateful and excited to start the adventure of life with this
amazing, unique baby girl. We know because of her duodenal atresia she’ll
require surgical intervention in the hours after birth, and will have a NICU
stay of (hopefully not more than) 3-4 weeks to get her healed and feeding
normally. It now (fingers crossed) looks as though the issues with
ventriculomegaly and corpus callosum will probably not require any intervention
beyond occasional monitoring. <Phew!> Somehow abdominal surgery sounds so much
less scary and overwhelming than neurosurgery.
Basically, we’re just rolling with the punches and taking things one day at a time. It's been an insane amount to process. At the same time, we have so many reasons to be optimistic about little seedling’s future, not least her evidently badass baby nature. H’s words really were prophetic: she's a little barricade stormer.
With all this monitoring, (and because it seems Lovely Doctor is a sucker for a photogenic fetus) I am also pretty sure she may already be one of THE most photographed children in the history of the British Isles. To that effect, I leave you with one of my favourite recent images, highlighting her already chubby cheeks and pouty lips at just 24 weeks.
|One beautiful baby. Not that I'm biased or anything.|
How could you not love that face?