Friday, January 22, 2010


It's not like I needed any more reason to love my midwife, but now I have several.

I may have already mentioned that I'm measuring a bit small for my gestational date, a concern relayed from my midwife to my back-up OB to a perinatologist, who did two ultrasounds and a biophysical profile to determine that either A) she's just a small baby or B) the placenta isn't delivering the goods. So far it just looks like she's a small baby, but he recommended that I go in for non-stress tests twice a week anyway, Just To Be Sure.

At first they seemed like lovely little windows of enforced vacation: reclining with a funny book, a cup of iced juice with a straw, and listening to the tide-like gallumph-gallumph of my baby's heartbeat... why, let's do it three times a week! Each time, we'd pass the test with flying colors, with baby poking a heel or an elbow out at the monitors for dramatic effect, and they'd send me on my way.

After a few of these, though, I was getting bored. I met with my OB again to ask if we really needed to continue, seeing as how she's super active and nothing amiss was detected in either ultrasound. He said yes, Just To Be Sure. I did a mental shrug and thought, At least he's not pushing for induction, which is something the perinatologist had alluded to. I didn't feel like all the monitoring was warranted, but neither did I want to be too flippant. They really get you with those "off" chances.

So I went in on Friday for the latest test, got cozy in my seat while the nurse hooked me up, and finished my book while baby did some back-flips and body-rocks to my gastrointestinal soundtrack. I'd just eaten a huge bowl of oatmeal, and was sucking down some apple juice, so her heart-rate was in the the high 160's, and plus it seemed like she was doing some extra groovin' in there just to show off. The nurse said everything looked great, but when she came back from consulting the OB, she said he had read the dips in the chart as decelerations and wanted me to go over to perinatal assessment and have a Contraction Non-Stress Test, Just to Be Sure.

I kind of grumbled to myself and wanted to say no thanks, I've got to get my husband to work and my toddler down for a nap. I wondered briefly if the OB was actively searching for something to be wrong.

Jason was a sport, and agreed to take Auden to Whole Foods while I sat for another half-hour of monitoring. I forgot that things NEVER go as quickly as you plan, and I also forgot to give him the cell phone.

The second test looked much like the first, and even better when baby calmed down enough to establish a reasonable base-line in the 130's. The nurse said maybe the doctor had just read all the previous accelerations as baseline and that's why the dips looked so low. This is all German to me -- I'd have just as much luck reading a seismograph -- but she seemed positive about it, so I was ready to get out of there and get on with my day.

But she wanted to induce a few contractions to see how the baby dealt with those (hence the name of the test): if baby stayed constant, we'd pass go and collect $200; if her heart-rate dipped, it could mean some kind of distress and they'd be wheeling me over to L&D.

At that moment it stopped being about non-stress for the baby, and started being about an adrenaline-pumping limb-limpening dose of stress for me.

Intuitively I knew nothing was wrong with baby, but sensed immediately and acutely how little that would probably count. Like, would I be able to refuse to go? Would they threaten me? I mean, of course I could refuse to go, or could at least say Let me call my husband and my midwife first. But I was sufficiently impressed with how inevitably things unfold at the hospital, and how intimidated I was in the face of it.

So, great, let's stimulate those nipples and try to bring on some contractions!

The nurse helpfully brought out some gel-lubricant, and a sheet for modesty, and kept watch over the monitor for upwards of 45 minutes while I suffered through a potent combination of performance anxiety -- do I need to THINK stimulating thoughts, too? because this is waaaaaay worse than what it must be like to produce a sperm sample -- and downright indignation at being strapped to a hospital bed WHEN MY TODDLER NEEDS TO TAKE A NAP DO YOU UNDERSTAND HOW IMPORTANT HIS NAPS ARE???? I tried calling Whole Foods to page Jason to tell him no I'm not having a baby, at least not yet, and IS AUDEN SLEEPING? and dammit I should've just told you to head home and I'd take the damn bus.

If they'd had a tread-mill or a stair-master in the contraction non-stress test room, I'd have been able to give them three contractions in five minutes, but with lying down doing nothing but worrying, it took over an hour to be done with it and to prove, according to their seismograph, that my baby was Just Fine and for the doctor to agree. I forced smiles as I thanked everyone, including the perinatologist who noted brightly that I did in fact look bigger than last time! And even though I don't need to take it personally, and don't really hold it against him personally either, I left there feeling angry and totally annoyed by the whole experience.

Because it felt like none of it had to do with my actual baby -- it was all about their monitors and how they interpreted the numbers.

Perhaps you're thinking, "Oh sure, Doctors are all well and good when the advice is to sit around and eat and rest and have someone else do all the housework, but when you have to sit strapped to a hospital bed hour after inconvenient hour it's Bad Bad Medical Establishment." But honestly, it's more that... Hmm. Actually, now that you mention it, that's what I'm thinking too.

Jason reminded me that it's easy to gripe when you spend all day at the hospital only to find out it's GOOD NEWS.

Okay, fine, but I'd still rather be done with fear-mongering monitors, and I'm still pissed that Auden only got a 20-minute nap in the cafe of Whole Foods.



Benny Pendentes said...

Best to have been inconvenienced by good news than any other possible outcome when a doctor takes interest in you.

I'll keep finger fold (which, not sure if you know, is how the Japanese translate "keep my fingers crossed". The act much seem as strange to them as their words for it seem to us.)

robin said...

Benny -- thanks for that! I hadn't known but it makes all kinds of sense now that you've pointed it out.