In Her Words
The Longest 40 Weeks
Journey of a high-risk pregnancy
-Julie Ryan Evans
I take deep breaths and close my eyes as I lie down on the table and the technician squirts the warmish gel on my stomach. Then I look up to see images of the daughter I never thought I’d have dancing on the screen.
At 31 weeks, 5 days, the ultrasound estimates she weighs 4 pounds – more than twice the size of my son when he was born at just 27 weeks. I let out some of the breath I’ve been holding for months now and walk out shocked and stunned that this pregnancy has progressed this far, this well.
I’m an optimist by nature, but since I first saw those two lines appear, I’ve been waiting for the worst to happen, waiting for the miscarriage or the rise in blood pressure, waiting for bed rest, waiting for our life to be shaken so hard and so deep … again.
I’m what they call high risk – really high risk. After developing severe preeclampsia at 26 weeks and delivering a 1 pound, 15 ounces child, there tends to be a lot of red flags on my overflowing, fat chart. My odds going into this were up to 60 percent that it would happen again, and potentially earlier and more severe.
For months now, I’ve been seeing a doctor weekly – sometimes twice a week … to check, to measure, to watch me and my volatile body that could turn on me again at any minute. Most visits are filled with tears, as the anxiety that I don’t have time for the rest of the week spills out. My doctor is left trying to reassure me, without giving false hope. One week, after a rise in my blood pressure, he even kissed me; nothing inappropriate, just on the cheek — I think he just felt as overwhelmed by emotion as I did. And it kills me, because I like to – no, I NEED to be – in control. And nothing has ever been more out of my control than this.
My blood pressure is up every visit, but hours later outside the medical walls, it settles back at a nice level. White Coat syndrome they call it, which scares the hell out of me – that I do that to my body; and I stress about stressing too much. But again, control isn’t an option.
I’m a planner, a shopper, an organizer, and given a “normal” situation, the nursery would be complete, clothes washed and a hospital bag already packed. As it is, we’ve barely started on her room, we have few of the essentials we need, and we haven’t even agreed on a name … Because until now, until we’ve gotten this far, I haven’t been able to commit to these things, to get too excited about a baby who might not survive, who might not be as strong as my son who beat all the odds that were stacked so, so high against him.
Now with each week, with each kick, with each glowing report from the doctor, I know it’s time to let go of at least a little bit of the fear, to give into some of the joy and happy anticipation that “normal” expecting parents get to feel, and it feels good. We’re still not home free, but we’re so much closer than I ever thought we would be. Although, I never could have imagined just how very, very long 40 weeks can feel…