The last few days have been a whirlwind. I’m writing all of this down more so for myself than anyone else. It will all seem like a blur by the time its over.
Two days ago I had an appointment with the specialist (perinatologist). It had been three weeks since seeing him, which is typical. My mom and I went in with the anticipation that I might hear my amniotic fluid levels have increased some more (currently have mild polyhydramnios), otherwise we’d be good to go… Not the case.
I’m 29 weeks along, will be 30 weeks tomorrow. Gabriel is only 2 lbs 4 ounces. At this stage in the third trimester, babies are supposed to gain about half a pound (8 ounces) every week. Well, Gabriel has been growing in the bottom tenth percentile of babies in-utero; not something to be utterly concerned with because he has Trisomy 21, makes the smaller growth more expected. Two days ago though, they tracked that he fell below the tenth percentile, substantially. He only gained 8 ounces in three weeks. On top of that, the blood flow between us has restricted, for some unknown reason. The perinatologist basically told me that I could go into the hospital and get two steroid shots to help mature Gabriel’s lungs, or that I could go home and come back in two days for another sonogram…but there would be a chance he would already be a still birth in two days. Obviously, that was way more than I was anticipating, totally knocked us off our feet.
I chose to go the steroid route because even if Gabriel was not going to make it, at least I did everything I could at the time. So, I’m going on 48 hours being in the hospital. Spent the first day in Labor and Delivery and received the first steroid shot in my hip and then they transferred me to Antepartum. My OB said Gabriel’s heartbeat was looking strong, so they were giving me a ballpark range of delivery sometime between 2 days and 2 weeks because once blood flow starts to restrict, it only means more negatives are to follow, meaning that delivery is imminent. A perinatologist came to explain what was going on in more depth that night. She said they would do a sonogram about twice a week to monitor his movements and the blood flow, but everyday they will hook him up to a heart monitor to make sure his heart is not in distress.
Yesterday I got the second and last steroid shot and in the afternoon, the neonatologist (who will care for Gabriel after he is born) came to talk statistics. At 29 weeks gestation, Gabriel has an 85% chance of surviving (only consideration made for prematurity, they can’t calculate the complications that can arise from his need for surgery on his intestines or the fact that he is so much smaller than where he should be right now). I was actually expecting the survival rate to be lower, however, the risk for long-term diseases and complications increases with such prematurity. The biggest risks are respiratory related (about 50-70% of babies at this stage need some type of breathing aid), stabilization, and bleeding into the brain. I didn’t know about the risk of bleeding before this conversation. Before 34 weeks, babies can bleed into their brain. There is no way to prevent it and there is no way to treat it once it starts. If it’s small, it’s not usually a big deal. If it’s fairly significant, there can be permanent brain damage…but there’s nothing the doctors can do about it. Next, I was told that I would have a 0% chance of holding or seeing Gabriel after he is born (will be a definite c-section) and to prepare for several weeks of not being able to hold him. I can have access to him in the NICU 24 hours a day, but only through a small opening in his incubator to hold his hand or foot. The inability to have much physical touch with him, especially because he is not guaranteed to survive and there are complications upon complications, is mortifying to me right now.
(For some reference, before I go on, it is always better for a baby to be in-utero, no medical technology can replicate what a mother’s womb can. The only instance this changes is when the baby’s growth decreases because it is a sign that he is not getting everything he needs. At that point, he has a better chance of survival outside of the womb than within.)
Then the perinatologist came back last night to do a sonogram, sooner than I had expected. She was expecting that the blood flow between us would have increased a little bit because of the steroid shots, but that didn’t happen. There was no decrease in flow from the day before, but the lack of increase has caused her to go from seeing me twice a week to once a day. Literally, if there is one more negative indicator or decrease in blood flow, then I’ll have a c-section by the end of the day. That could be today, it could be tomorrow. It’s a day-to-day game at this point.
I think this goes without being necessary to say, but we need prayers. Every day that Gabriel is getting everything he needs from me, his odds of surviving increase. He needs more time, but my body has to be able to give it to him.