When My Routine Ultrasound Turned Scary

I didn’t post anything about this immediately because I was waiting to see how it was all going to turn out. Luckily, hopefully, everything is going to be okay. But here’s what’s been happening:

As background, I have a bicornuate or heart-shaped uterus – it’s actually a birth defect I never knew I had until I got pregnant the first time. Instead of a being a normal pear shape, my uterus has a deep indentation in the top center and looks like a heart. Depending on where the egg decides to implant, baby might not have enough room to grow to full term, so I am automatically classified as a high risk pregnancy. Even though Baby #1 was fine and Baby #2 is in the exact same spot and position (breech, stomping on my bladder), I still have to go in for fetal sonograms every 3 weeks. On the up side, I get lots of pictures (or I would if he didn’t keep his face smooshed into my placenta).

Well, I went in for another sonogram at 29 weeks to check my cervix length and the baby’s measurements. I had the same technician previously and she was unusually quiet this time, but I chalked that up to everyone having off days. Then I realized something might be going on when she stayed near the baby’s head for quite a while and kept recording images of the same area – I’ve had about a million sonograms now so I knew this wasn’t normal. I casually asked, “what’s that?” As in, what are you continually measuring there, lady? But the technician just said, “oh that’s baby’s head.” And very quickly afterwards said she was going to show these pictures to the doctor and she’d be right back (that is standard practice). Ooookay. But it isn’t standard to wait 20 minutes (ish, I tried to take a nap) with goop on your belly (usually they let me get cleaned up right away). When the doctor came in, she did her own measurements with the sonogram and then gave me the news: our baby boy had higher than normal levels of fluid in the ventricles on one side of his brain. Cue panic.

After speaking a bit more to the doctor and to the genetic counselor there, I came away with very few answers and an appointment for a fetal MRI. It could be nothing, it could be brain damage. This is something seen with spina bifida and Downs Syndrome,  however all my routine screenings showed we had a very low risk of either. The baby could need a permanent stint implanted in his head to release the excess fluid but then maybe go on to live a normal life… or not. I could have a amniocentesis, but since I’m already in my third trimester, there is a small risk of pre-term labor. Funny that they kept asking me if I had any questions after just telling me there were no answers until after the MRI.

Well, we decided not to do the amniocentesis. I’m going to have this baby regardless, so it didn’t seem worth risking a few extra weeks cooking in my belly just to know in advance. But we did still have to wait a whole terrible week for the MRI appointment.

So of course I Googled it. I know you’re not supposed to but I had to get more information. Strangely it didn’t make me more paranoid (as googling usually does) – I found out that it really was an equal chance of being something or nothing, good or bad, just a flip of the coin. I also read that this condition, when it is something, is often called “water on the brain” – and being as the nursery is ocean-themed and the name we’re 99% sure we’re going with is also in that same under the sea genre (more on that later), well… I’ve apparently got an ironic little stinker bug inside me and my love for this baby swelled just a little bit after that. Of course you’re going to choose the thematic disease, you ornery thing.

Don’t you love how when you can’t move, your nose will always start to itch? Other than that the MRI was another good excuse to try and nap (when you have a 2 year old, you take ’em when you can get ’em). Afterwards, the head guy (MRI specialist important title something), who my Obgyn reassuringly told me was one of the top fetal MRI people in the tri-state area, sat down with us and said that it looked to him like our baby boy was just on the high end of normal but he didn’t see anything else (blockages, bleeding, etc) to indicate some other issue. As long as the fluid levels didn’t increase, the baby would most likely be perfectly fine (with disclaimers about nothing being guaranteed, of course). Normal is a range, he said, so for example, a person might be 6 foot 10 and therefore way off the scale when looking at average heights, but that doesn’t mean there’s necessarily anything wrong with them.

At my 31 week follow-up ultrasound, fluid levels are still holding steady and the doctors who reviewed the MRI scans agreed with what I was previously told. I have another sonogram scheduled for 34 weeks (today makes 32 weeks/8 months!) so I’m not stressing (because that’s definitely not good for the baby) and we’ll see what happens. All I know for sure is that I’m going to love this baby, even if he is making me go prematurely gray.  :)

p.s.  yes, I know it isn’t actually irony with the water thing – it’s just a funny coincidence – whatever.

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