Stale sonographers, amniotic bands & a stubborn BOY!
Those who have been following our story know we haven’t had it easy, but I want to reiterate we don’t ever take it for granted and we certainly don’t want sympathy. I want to say thank you to everyone who continues to read my blog and it may sound silly, but in a tiny way you are sharing our ups & downs and supporting us without even realising. I know some of you have even shared my blog with others who are having a tough time, and this means I’m going to keep writing – so keep sharing! I am constantly being thrown new material to write and trust me, it will never get boring! This one’s probably the prickliest….
So we recently had our 20 week (morphology) ultrasound – the big one! To say it was a bizarre experience is an understatement! Please note: this scan was performed through an independent radiology service, so it was just us and the sonographer – who had the people skills of a fish. My mum came along to this scan (first time), and probably wishes she hadn’t. We were not informed of anything throughout the scan – not even a ‘this is your baby’s head’ (kinda obvious I know but work with me!). When I finally got the courage to ask the mean lady a question about the bubs head size, I got this response ‘well, if I’m honest, it’s actually a little narrow’, with no further comment (umm…what now?). Then the little dude wouldn’t roll over for one of the spinal measurements (which I found out later is apparently pretty common), but to the sonographer it was the end of the world. The next time she actually spoke to us was to tell us blatantly that ‘she needed to see that bubs could actually roll over’. Her attitude was very glum, again making me consider the worst! After a few impatient huffs and puffs, she left the room telling us to ‘go outside for a walk, a drink and try to make the baby move’ – am I supposed to know how to do that!? At this point I was worried that 1. our baby has a small head and 2. our baby is unable to roll over. This was about 45 minutes into the scan and to this point I don’t believe we were ever told anything reassuring or encouraging. On our endeavour to make bubs move (imagine me: star jumps, cartwheels, squats – I didn’t want to be scorned on return!), Scott googled that sugar can help, so I skulled a bottle of orange juice. While this helped minimally, the sonographer was still unable to obtain all the spinal measurements required to ‘tick bubs off’. By this point (1.5hrs into scan) I was on the verge of tears and Scott was well and truly over the hostility and huffs & puffs, and he asked what this all meant – remember, we are first time parents and had no idea what to expect! The sonographer finally explained that my bicornuate uterus seemed to be limiting bubs’ movement and we would have to return in a week to try and finish the scan. After more probing we also were informed that the head measurement was able to be corrected and all measurements were normal for his age. Hoorah! Really glad you waited almost 2 hours to tell me that*. At the end of the scan, we asked the sonographer to write down the sex of the baby on a piece of card so we could find this out at a later time (when we had recovered from our apprehension and horror!)
The next day, we flew to Cairns for a babymoon – so cliché, but so damn inspired! We spent a week in the tropics with friends and family, and during this time we found out Baby Purling is a ….BOY! Wait I already spoiled that, didn’t I?! We spent a day at Fitzroy Island where we found a quiet spot on the stunning, picturesque but poorly named Nudey Beach. After my initial freak-outs and hesitation, we opened the envelope to reveal we had a little man on the way. First thoughts: no it’s not (I was previously convinced we were having a girl). Second thoughts: what if the sonographer is deliberately misleading us and plotting against us? Third thoughts: OH MY GOD, we’re having a boy!! Both Scott and I are over the moon – he has a little football superstar on the way, and I love that my (one day) daughter will have a big protective brother like I did! After spending some time together soaking in this info we headed back along the beach to see Scott’s Sister Katie waiting impatiently for our news – to which she had tears and big cuddles for her little nephew! These are the moments we will remember the most.
After our week in paradise, we returned home and went back to have our second ultrasound to get the final measurements. But again, the stubborn little dude wasn’t in the right position – in fact, he was in the same position as last time! I drank some more sugar and, long story short, he rolled a bit to get a few more measurements, but still weren’t able to get them all. Our sonographer (who was lovely and was excellent at her job) told us that she wasn’t at all concerned with not getting the last couple pictures as everything was checking out perfect. The radiologist reiterated that bubs was still in the same position and his head did appear to be ‘stuck’ in the top of my uterus, proving he already had limited room to move and would most likely stay breech until birth. I was already booked in for an obstetrician appointment that week and they were happy with this and recommended close monitoring of his position. Stay tuned – I’m not done yet!
At our obstetrician appointment a few days later, we were given some gut-wrenching news. The radiologist had noticed an amniotic band near our little man’s head. Amniotic bands are string-like bands of tissue in the womb which can cause birth defects by entrapping fetal parts and restricting blood flow. Most commonly, the bands wrap around fingers and toes and cause deformity or amputation. And of course, the final blow, this was extremely rare and was just ‘unlucky’. I imagine you reading this right now can feel your heart sinking and the overwhelming feeling of sorrow. Now try to imagine how we felt hearing that our little miracle boy was being threatened with an amniotic band near his head, which can be fatal. Again, I can’t describe the grief that was flowing through me at this point. Our obstetrician couldn’t see if or how the amniotic band was affecting our boy, but reassured us that they couldn’t see any facial deformities and he was otherwise growing strong and healthy. He referred us to the Women’s & Children’s Hospital for a second opinion scan, but couldn’t give us any more information on what the outcome may be. We left his room with heavy hearts and a long wait until the W&C Hospital contacted us for an appointment. That day was full of heartache and emotion, and again I can’t sit here writing without tears filling my eyes. By the end of that day we hadn’t been contacted with any news, so I rang W&C myself, knowing I couldn’t wait any longer. The radiology department immediately recognised my name from the referral and, after a day of torture and anguish, told us in one sentence ‘the senior radiologist has looked at your pictures, and what was reported on your last scan as an amniotic band is actually your uterus septum’. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry, and I think my first thought was ‘what the f*%&’, is this some kind of sick joke!?’ My emotions were thrown from a crushing fear to an overwhelming relief in one split second. I’m guessing even you reading are feeling something similar right now! And as casually as anything we were told that the W&C would still like to see me at 24 weeks due to my uterus and our baby’s head position, but otherwise my obstetrician could answer our questions. How’s that for an unnecessary scare?!
So at this point, what we know for certain(!) is that our boy is breech in the right horn of my bicornuate uterus, with his head ‘squished’ near the septum at the top and his feet poking out into the left horn at the bottom (I wish I was an artist so I could draw this for you – but see pic below to get some idea of the shape and you can imagine where he’s hanging out!). His measurements are all normal and he is even slightly ahead in size, but his head is narrow due to the position he is in. We have been told that his head should continue to grow as needed, but the shape may be affected (luckily baby’s skulls are malleable!). We continue to be high risk and require close monitoring with input from specialists, but Scott and I feel like the strongest people in the world right now, and baby Purls is a fighter!
It is hard for me to write about the tougher times we’ve had, and as selfish as this sounds, I do sometimes ask ‘why me?’ (ok, a lot!). I will keep writing purely to increase the awareness and knowledge of the possible complications and variations in pregnancy. While our emotions have taken an enormous beating and I honestly don’t know if we could take any more blows, we have somehow at the end been able to walk away with a smile. I didn’t think we could be more thankful and grateful, but each setback certainly pulls us closer together and strengthens the bond between our little family that has become unbreakable. Luckily I have Scott and a few select friends who show me the positives in every situation. I know without them I wouldn’t be ok.
Remember, every single minute of every single day you are writing the story of your life. This is my story, and it should not be compared or judged.