Monday, July 8, 2013

ultrasound withdrawal, 16 weeks, 3 days


Hello. My name is Sarah, I’m a right-handed Virgo with a weakness for sea salt caramels and depressing documentary films and I am in ultrasound withdrawal. <takes bow>.

At 16 weeks pregnant[1] I have only had two ultrasounds. Two ultrasounds and one Doppler[2]. One Doppler where I felt like I might as well have been holding a Playskool toy microphone to my belly, or maybe a seashell with a string attached. It was so… anticlimactic. There was the heartbeat – totaldreametc. – but then the rest was left to my imagination. No pictures to take home to gaze at longingly stuff in my top dresser drawer alongside old, partially used packs of birth control and empty Clomid bottles which I’m obviously saving for… sentimental reasons? Some disturbed sense of martyrdom? To share with my therapist years in the future?

And now, here I am, 16 weeks pregnant, four weeks since I last saw this fetus – this baby – this living heartbeat with limbs and a not-fully-formed-face, smaller than a tomato, and apparently, growing, like, you know, inside of me.

It’s a strange feeling. This proceeding as though things are normal, this sense of the continued signs of what appears to be a viable pregnancy – some cravings, the-bad-taste-which-comes-every-night-like-clockwork, the early morning insomnia, the pants-tightening-shirt-tugging expansion of my mid-section, the uterine twinges and cramps and stretching. OHDEARTHESTRETCHING!

All this, alongside the palpable and ever present feeling of NO CONFIRMATION FOR OVER A MONTH OHMYGOODNESSIAMLOSINGIT.

And so, naturally, I thought of some options. Believe me, I almost went off the deep end. Attentive readers may recall that C is a space-traveling-werewolf! doctor. So, I thought completely hypothetically, what’s to prevent me from sneaking into the hospital with him, under cover of night, in a cat burglar costume, and scooting up to an unoccupied ultrasound machine and just like, oh, I don’t know, “checking” on baby? Except, you know, besides EVERYTHING, ETHICS, PROFESSIONALISM, I-SWEAR-I’M-NOT-CRAZY.

More reasonably but still with a distinct air of SHE’S COME UNHINGED! about it, I can, dear people of the interwebs, PURCHASE MY VERY OWN AT HOME DOPPLER!

For a cool 30 bucks, I can have the UTTER TERROR of desperately trying to find my baby’s heartbeat in the comfort of my own home. Now of course, as aforementioned, the Doppler leaves much to the imagination – will I know if my baby-tomato has developed 6 arms or turned into a fox? I will not. But it could be fun. Like a giant game of chicken. Or betcha-can’t-find-just-one-heartbeat! followed by hours of deep, unrelenting despair brought on by my novice understanding of biology and profound inability to locate my own uterus.

Despite the obvious plausibility of these two tremendously reasonable options, I have opted to do nothing but bite my cuticles down to the quick, while nervously imagining all that could go wrong while, and I really mean this, being immeasurably grateful that I have largely avoided total calamity thus far.

In a week and a half, I’ll have my third ultrasound. Until then, I’m planning my cat burglar costume.


[1] Seriously though, when on earth did that happen? I actually Googled whether 16 weeks was equivalent to four months. Not only did poor math skills lead me to a life of lawyering, but MY LANDS! where has the time gone. (Also, turns out I’m not the only one. Hello Lunar months!).
[2] Which is not to be confused with the measurement used by the National Weather Service. Or the Doppler Effect. Or Christian Johann Doppler. Or David Doppler, who apparently starred in The Three Musketeers at Iowa State University. I guess what I’m saying is… if you plan to image search “doppler” well, it’s a jungle out there. (I go down these rabbit holes so you don’t have to. You’re welcome.)

18 comments:

  1. I'm 23 weeks, have had 2 ultrasounds and (barring unforeseen complications) won't have any more. I'm a bit jealous that you get to see the baby more often!

    I feel you on the no confirmation for a whole month thing. I have monthly appointments with my midwife (standard in New Zealand, they get more frequent later on) and it's always nice and reassuring to hear the heartbeat.

    All the best for your next ultrasound :)

    (if you count 16 weeks as four months then you get a 10 month pregnancy :p )

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    1. NZ probably has the right idea - I guess we just get so used to this hyper-medicalized, invasive pregnancy monitoring thing. But it may be better for our sanity to take a cue from you guys :)

      Anyway, 10 months of pregnancy sounds... sadistic. Ha.

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  2. Ethics? Professionalism?! Hey, if the Grey-Shepherds can do it with their little brain surgeon offspring, why not you? And I mean, really, what's the point of being married to a doctor otherwise? (Sorry C)

    Seriously though, (and I know our situations are quite different) if I am lucky enough to get pregnant again I'll *totally be* that crazy, cranky unreasonably demanding patient who gets the u/s every two weeks for the duration of pregnany. I'm wary about dopplers, because I've heard so many stories from fellow loss moms about how anxiety-inducing it is when you can't find the heartbeat yourself (which is often the case); I guess they can incite more panic than calm. My mother, (who used to work in prenatal/neonatal care) is fond of reminding how until recently, u/s and indeed all interventions, were so much less common and you just *had to* use your imagination, and now that we take for granted all the technological stuff, it kind of creates a contradictory process whereby we both personify and objectify our babies more, as well as creating a false sense that medicine can manage everything around pregnancy (and prevent loss), and well, obviously.... She probably has a point, but you better believe I'll be seeking every intervention imaginable in any future pregnancy, no matter how irrational.

    Congratulations on reaching sixteen weeks!

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    1. Thanks, Sadie. I'm totally with you - in many places, ultrasounds are few and far between and only used when there's some kind of high risk pregnancy. I remember reading (in the NYTimes?) that more than 80% of UK babies are delivered by midwife - that OBs are considered "experts" who only step in when there's a problem. Meanwhile, I've become almost accustomed to a state of hyper-monitoring and over-medicalization, I've totally bought into the narrative and become a consumer who demands what I probably don't actually need. On the other hand, without my beloved Clomid and a petri dish, I wouldn't be here. Anyway, I sure hope you can soon become the crazy, cranky, unreasonably demanding pregnant patient - I'm gonna hold you to it! :)

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  3. The cat burglar costume made me laugh out loud. What does it say about my maturity level that I still imagine that this is the uniform for all robbers? Or you could always dress as the Hamburglar (cannot imbed links... joke flounders). I also love that 'cat burglar' is now a label on this blog, indicating that you may write about the topic again one day.

    Also, I love Sadie for referring to the Grey-Shepherds.

    Sixteen weeks! Wahoo! You'll have new u/s pics to stare at in no time!

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    1. Hamburglar = baby's first halloween costume? (okay, now I'm REALLY getting ahead of myself).

      Also, uh-oh, is that what labels are for? *crumbling under the pressure and expectation of future cat burglar posts*

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  4. I had an ultrasound almost weekly throughout my first trimester because of a subchoroinic hemmorage. I got really used to seeing a lot of the baby. But once it resolved, I have only had an u/s at 16 weeks and then my upcoming one at 20 weeks. I am going nuts. I have actually had a thought that I would call my doctor pretending that I saw some blood just so that I could get in for an ultrasound. I would never do it, but it has crossed my mind.

    Oh and after I saw my dr having trouble finding the heartbeat with her hand-held doppler at 12 weeks I decided against getting one of my own. If she was having trouble, what makes me think that I would be any better at it?

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    1. Ooh, lying! That's an option I had not until now considered... *pensive gaze into the distance*

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  5. You'll feel some reassuring fluttering around in there soon enough! Until then, avoid home doppler madness. You rock.

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    1. Ha, thanks. It's possible that I've been trying to sit quietly all day and will this baby to "flutter" about ever since I read that I just MIGHT feel something around 16 weeks - so far, just the normal twinges and stretches of my expanding uterus. And, you know, the unrelenting hunger pains...

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    2. That's true, I have found movements very reassuring. Of course then we he goes to sleep or has a quiet day I try to suppress the urge to prod my stomach vigorously to make him move.

      I didn't feel movements I could be sure were baby until 20-21 weeks (although my placenta is in the front and I've been told that can mean you don't feel movement until later).

      Here's hoping you feel some flutterings soon :)

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  6. You are utterly hilarious. Like, I am peed my pants hilarious. Of course, I now have the bladder of an 89 year old and pee nonstop, so maybe that's not saying much. :) Just kidding. Anyway, I am RIGHT THERE with you with the constant worrying. I am about a week and a half away from my next ultrasound and I cannot STAND the anticipation. Killing. me. Like you, I contemplated the whole doppler idea, but felt in the end it would just drive me bonkers. However, I reserve the right to change my crazy hormonal mind at any time. Best wishes with your next ultrasound! Are you finding out the gender?

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    1. I guess we both ought to start doing our Kegels, huh? Good luck with your next ultrasound and as for the baby's sex... details to come!

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  7. Oh no! I've just started season 5 of Grey's Anatomy and read Sadie's spoiler!!!
    Anyway... I haven't even hit the 8 week mark and have had two ultrasounds so far, with another coming up next week. I'm not sure frequent ultrasounds in the first trimester are a good thing. I'm worried every time if the heart beat is at the exact right speed or if the measurements are PERFECT. The RE thinks I'm crazy. I don't plan to get a doppler though. I can see myself calling the OB hysterically every day when I can't find the heartbeat. Or if it sounds slow. Or fast. Or "wrong."
    If it's any reassurance to you, baby foxes are freaking adorable.

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  8. My pregnant sister-in-law is a veterinarian. She switched the ultrasound machine to the pig setting and figured out the sex of her baby the week before her gender reveal ultrasound. True story. You should call her!
    She should run a clinic for nervous pregnants out of her rural animal hospital.

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    1. I have seriously always wondered if I am actually carrying a feral pig. Thank goodness there's finally a way to find out! Put us in touch already! Ha.

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  9. Ohhh I get it. My OB used to do an ultrasound every time I went in and I loved it. The midwives (obviously) don't do that. But their examinations somehow seem more intimate and I get to feel where the baby is. So it makes up for it. I also debated about the doppler but decided it wasn't worth the stress. Plus, I hear the heartbeat at the midwife appts.

    But here's the thing...the ultrasound panic doesn't last forever. As soon as the start feeling regular movement, that helps so much. (insert cheesy grin here) Course, I am still counting the days until I get to SEE him again :)

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  10. The ultrasound withdrawal is the worst, especially early on when you can't yet feel the baby moving and you've been used to very regular checkups, blood draws, etc. It all just suddenly grinds to a halt and you're left panicking... but I would advise against buying the doppler: 1. You often can't find the heartbeat, even if it's there, which leads to unnecessary freaking out; 2. You often just find your own heartbeat, which can be misleading; and 3. You will start to feel movement in another couple weeks, and once that happens, you really won't need to confirm a heartbeat anymore.

    Hang in there! You can do this. :)

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