These are the words that the doctor used to describe me on my latest report.
I think I have finally decoded what these adjectives mean.
Alert: I have a blood pressure and I’m awake. Oriented: I have found the correct doctor’s office in the labyrinth at the hospital. Pleasant: Honestly, I think he just wants to say something nice about me since the rest of the report is filled with heavy medicalese regarding Baby Ocho.
For the last few weeks, I have spent the better part of one day at the hospital. Non-stress tests, biophysical ultrasounds, OB appointments, growth ultrasounds, etc. The epic moment of stepping on the scale.
I haven’t given weekly updates here as that seemed like too much play-by-play. But we are now 2 weeks away from Ocho’s arrival on October 14. Unfortunately, there has been some more difficult news.
First of all, Baby Ocho is currently breech. That had been the case several weeks ago but things finally changed as my child’s inner GPS seemed to self-correct and Ocho was heading in the right direction (pun intended) at the last two appointments.
But I found out today that the baby has turned again. The doctor was surprised. Part of the problem is that I have so much amniotic fluid that the baby is having a field day. High fluid levels are consistent with a diagnosis of Down Syndrome.
Unfortunately, the baby will need to be turned before birth. Hopefully, the baby will turn again on his/her own. If not, the doctors will perform a external cephalic version (I had to look that up) procedure to turn the baby to the correct orientation. This will take place before the induction of labor in the surgical suite where the doctors can be prepared for a poor outcome and immediate caesarean.
A second, new problem has developed with Ocho’s abdomen. There may be a potential blockage which would affect Ocho’s ability to feed. The doctors have been watching the baby’s abdomen and it only became problematic this week. While still borderline, I now need to follow up with a pediatric surgeon. Ocho may need surgery to correct this abdominal issue. Again, it’s not uncommon with a child diagnosed with Down Syndrome. But another potential roadblock and one I thought we had avoided.
Truth be told, this new information blindsided me. I have become somewhat comfortable with the baby’s cardiac situation and genetic diagnosis. I can talk about it without crying and understand what might be required to keep this little one alive.
But I wasn’t prepared for additional complications such as abdominal surgery or a breech presentation. As the doctor talked through these issues with me, I felt the tears well up. And I was grateful for the medical mask that hid my trembling chin.
It’s just so much uncertainty. So many unknowns. So many concerns. We just have to wait. And it’s hard to wait with multiple game plans in place. And no idea of the ultimate outcome.
The social worker came to talk with me after today’s bad news. She must have sensed my emotional fragility and she asked if I would like a hug. I said yes. She wrapped her arms around me and I wept. From somewhere deep within me, the tears came. And the fear. And the pain. Waves of grief washing over me.
She asked how I planned to handle the rest of my day. I told her I wanted to drive to see nearby family. My mom and dad are at my sister’s now, cooking unimaginable quantities of baked chicken and a variety of casseroles. I want to see my college girls and hear their voices. I want to run away from here and pretend this isn’t happening.
But more practical thoughts won over. I needed a sandwich. And a good waterproof mascara. I needed to be home when those precious children step off the bus and scramble to find the apple cider donuts hidden on top of the refrigerator. And to bark at my high school kids to get into bed at a decent hour tonight.
More than anything, I look forward to special time with Johnny at bedtime.
We have developed a sweet routine. He climbs into bed with me (as I no longer have a lap) and we read several picture books and a chapter from our novel. Then he lays his head on Baby Ocho while I pray the Rosary.
The familiar words repeated again and again as I clutch the well-worn beads. My fingers run through his hair and stroke his little forehead. His breathing slows. And he drifts off to sleep. Peace fills the room and a sense of calm settles in my soul. For a few moments, I know God is in His heaven and all will be well with the world.
Last night, Johnny looked up at me, moments before he fell asleep and said, “Mom, this is the best part of my day.”
I can’t imagine anything more pleasant.