Once I cleared the hurdle of genetic testing, I relaxed and enjoyed my pregnancy. There was the issue of my blood pressure to consider, but I was pretty sure that we had that under control as well. The biggest concern with having high blood pressure while pregnant is developing preeclampsia. All of the precautions were taken.
First, my medication was immediately changed to something safe for the baby. I did a 24 hour urine screen to check for any signs of protein in my urine. Now if you have never done a 24 hour urine screen, I’m not going to destroy your dinner by giving you all the details here. Let’s just say it’s not fun. It is, however, a necessary evil. Thankfully, I only had to do it once during my entire pregnancy. At 12 weeks, I added one low dose aspirin a day in addition to my prenatal vitamin and blood pressure medicine. I was also given some logs to take home so that I could check my blood pressure four times a day.
Sidebar: checking my blood pressure four times a day was cumbersome. Particularly since I work in a professional kitchen and stopping my day to go and do a blood pressure check was inconvenient. Not just for me, but for my co-workers. I have to say that they were pretty good about not voicing their frustrations out loud.
However cumbersome and frustrating it was, I did it. I also educated myself on the symptoms of preeclampsia so I would know what to look for. My mom did that same thing and it was comforting to know there was someone else watching. Just as a backup, because sometimes we can miss things about ourselves.
My blood pressure usually hovered in the 140/90 range. Sometimes it was lower and sometimes it was slightly higher. My high risk doctor seemed to be ok with that range, but my regular doctor was more cautious and even sent me to the hospital once when he felt it was too high. At the hospital, my baby and I were monitored. I was sent home when he was satisfied with my blood pressure. Between the two doctors, logging my blood pressure at home, and being watched like a hawk by my mother, I felt really good. At 25 weeks I didn’t have any swelling and there were no other signs of preeclampsia and…I could finally feel my baby moving around.
One more sidebar, if I may: Everything I read before I felt my baby move told be it would feel like flutters or butterflies. That is not how I would describe it. If you’ve ever brought a goldfish home in a bag, there’s a little ripple you feel while holding the bag as the fish swims around. That’s the feeling I felt when I felt her move. Beyond that, it was deeply personal, and I felt privileged to be only one who was able to feel this particular baby growing and moving around.
I took all these good vibes into a routine appointment at 27-28 weeks. Then I discovered that something was wrong.
According to my pregnancy app, at almost 28 weeks my baby should weigh over 2 pounds. So I was surprised to find that my baby only weighed 1 pound 13 ounces. I was even more worried when I asked the nurse/technician if that was small and she didn’t answer yes or no, she deferred to the doctor. I could see on the screen that my baby was measuring about a week behind and my due date had changed to December 16 instead of December 9. What a day to come to the appointment alone! I was deflated and on the verge of tears. I immediately suspected it was my age or my high blood pressure that was the problem. I was right.
Dr. Keeler came in an explained that my baby had fallen below the 10th percentile for growth and diagnosed her with Intrauterine Growth Restriction. He said that there was nothing I did, nor was there anything I could do. That this sometimes happens with mothers who have high blood pressure during pregnancy. In a nutshell, chronic hypertension can affect how well the placenta works and if the placenta is not working as well as it should then the baby’s growth is affected. There are other causes of IUGR, but none of them applied to me. I was only half listening to the doctor after that, I felt helpless and guilty. In cases where a baby falls below the 10th percentile for growth, the process is to move to twice weekly monitoring and weekly Doppler ultrasounds to check the blood flow to and from my baby. I scheduled those appointments for the next four weeks and went home. Dazed. I cried a lot that day.
The good news is that for the next four weeks my baby performed well during the non-stress tests. She was active and her heartbeat was strong. Once or twice I needed to drink some apple juice or something to wake her up, but once she was up she rolled around like a champ. The blood flow was always good during the Doppler ultrasounds. I suppose the silver lining here is that for the last twelve weeks of my pregnancy, I got weekly peeks at my baby. At the end of the first four weeks, at 32 weeks, I had another big ultrasound to measure her growth. More good news! She’d had a growth spurt and jumped from the 5th percentile to the 10th. Even so, my doctor wanted to continue with the twice weekly visits.
Another four weeks later, at 36 weeks, after performing well again, my baby was measured a second time. She had grown some, but was still measuring behind. I believe at that time I was told to expect to be induced anytime after 37 weeks, because it seemed that my baby wasn’t thriving as well inside my belly. I continued being monitored and I had one more ultrasound before I got the call from my doctor that I was going to be induced on December 5. At the last ultrasound my baby was measuring at 5 pounds 13 ounces, and she was in the 5th percentile.
This was tough and I took this one pretty hard. No two ways about it, discovering that my baby wasn’t thriving inside my body because of a condition that I had was heartbreaking. I felt like a failure. I also felt helpless. I allowed myself a bit of a pity party, but I could not stay in that place because it would have just made me even more worried and stressed out. I needed to keep my blood pressure down and that meant that getting stuck in a cycle of worry and stress was out of the question. I stayed positive and followed my doctors’ instructions. I counted my baby’s movements and got busy preparing for her arrival. I don’t know how this will affect my baby after birth. That remains to be seen…
Parting Advice…Next Up
Getting an IUGR diagnosis is upsetting. I would advise you to educate yourself about IUGR because knowing what I was dealing with helped a lot. The severity of this condition varies and reading the information on the internet can scare you. I avoided the forums and sad stories because it was too much for me. Try not to blame yourself. Keep all of your appointments. Do the best you can to be healthy while you are pregnant.
That is the end of this series. I hope you enjoyed this little glimpse into what it was like for me to be pregnant at 45. I hope it helped you get to know me a little bit as well. Next up is the birth story and some postpartum stuff. Stay tuned! Please comment and subscribe if you haven’t already.
See you in the next post!