Monday, November 26, 2012

A Prenatal Ultrasound Warns of a Problem

For You formed my inward parts;
You covered me in my mother’s womb.
Psalm 139:13 NKJV
            My doctor requested another ultrasound at the end of February. Once again I ingested the required amounts of water and waited excitedly for another glance at my unborn baby.
            Instead of my physician, an ultrasound technician performed the procedure. It was yet again another professional money-saving decision that proved to be catastrophic for me and for my baby. (Only later did I learn that static ultrasound pictures were of little use in diagnosing potential placenta problems like mine, since the placenta needed to be viewed dynamically – pulsing with blood – while the ultrasound was being performed.)
            The technician slowly moved the ultrasound head over my swollen abdomen and carefully pointed out all the crucial anatomical parts, except the reproductive organs, since I remained adamant about not knowing the baby’s sex until the birth. Initially the baby slept, refusing to reposition itself for better pictures. Finally, the little body wiggled, then flailed its arms and sucked frantically on its thumb in response to the ultrasound vibrations. The technician commented several times about my baby being exceptionally photogenic. I gushed with joy.
            I’d experienced a stunningly intense surge of love when I first witnessed my son Parker, with his tiny beating heart, on an ultrasound screen. It was the unexpected impact of first hearing, then actually witnessing that life-sustaining organ thumping out a loud, steady rhythm. Nothing had ever affected me the way his beating heart did.
            The identical emotion engulfed me as I viewed this new child; this baby who needed me to protect it as completely and selflessly as I could, even before its birth. The awesome responsibility God entrusted to me suddenly seemed overwhelming and fearsome.
            Suddenly I thought about how I was caring for my baby – how I should be caring for both of us in the future – then squeezed my eyes closed as tears dribbled to my nose and cheeks. I felt convicted. I hadn’t been doing a stellar job of caring for either one of us. Those lifestyle changes I’d thought about while confined to bed with severe morning sickness sprang to mind.
            While I contended with my emotions, the technician continued to move the ultrasound head around my abdomen. Suddenly, she ran over a tender area on my stomach that had been causing me pain. The monitor showed a bulge of the uterus into the womb. She said it looked like a large contraction of the uterine muscle. Whatever it was, it hurt, and pressing on it produced considerable pain.
            Yet it wasn’t that symptom that worried her. With her eyes fixed on the monitor and worry registered on her face, she spoke in a concerned voice, “Your placenta is really low, and you have tissue over your cervix.” She pointed to it on the monitor. “But I can’t make a judgment call about it; your doctor will have to make the diagnosis.”
            My mind raced. A friend had experienced a condition called placenta previa, where the placenta attaches itself partially or completely over the cervix. They discovered her pregnancy complication following an episode of spotting – usually the first sign – in her fifth month. Because of the problem, she needed confinement to bed for three months. I knew it meant an automatic Cesarean-section delivery. But I was ignorant of the possibly serious – or fatal – consequences this condition poses to both mother and child. My heart pounded wildly as my fears escalated and euphoria deteriorated.
            The technician completed the ultrasound and copied the pictures for me. The calculations indicated I was close to sixteen weeks, and my photogenic, active baby looked great. That was what I really wanted to hear! That’s what all mothers and fathers long to hear: that their babies appear physically healthy and active.
            We’d made it through the worst of the severe morning sickness and survived. And Chris and I were tough enough emotionally to handle any unforeseen physical problems that might be diagnosed after the baby’s birth. Everything was progressing well, according to schedule and the well-ordered plan.
            The technician sent me home with a small bundle of pictures to show the proud father. But show and tell would be delayed until after I returned from another late night at work.
            I’d think about the lifestyle changes I needed to make later, when I had more time.


NEXT WEEK: The complication is misdiagnosed, and I make the tragic mistake of not insisting on another in-office ultrasound.

Until then, thanks for joining me!



For more information on prenatal ultrasounds and their safety, drawbacks and benefits, please see the following links: