Week 38 - Sugar and Stress

Dear Kaylee,

Despite it’s atypical beginnings, your mother’s pregnancy has been pleasantly prototypical. But on Tuesday, during a routine visit to the doctor’s office, two sets of test results would turn our world upside down. Phone calls would issue back and forth between the doctor’s office, your grandparents’ house, your mother’s phone, and my own. More visits to the doctor would be required, more adjustments to our daily routines. And we’d end up spending the rest of the week in a sort of daze, with a sense of heightened emergency, as if everywhere in our brains there were sirens going off.

All because of two silly test results.

I’d like to think that inside the womb you were blissfully unaware of all this nonsense, that, as you wiggled your bottom from one side of your mother’s belly to the other, you really had nothing on your mind save the mindless pleasure of shaking your baby booty. But the truth is that you probably were aware, at least a little bit, of how panicky these past few days were. You were inside of one of the people doing the panicking, after all.

Each visit to the doctor’s office was comprised of a number of procedures and tests. Though there were occasionally other things to get through, a typical visit involved the checking of your heart rate, the weighing of your mother, and a test of her blood sugar. Thusfar, no test result had given us any real cause for alarm. But on Tuesday your mother’s blood sugar level was quite elevated. She’d have to be brought in for additonal tests, the nurse said, but it was a manageable problem. They continued on with a vaginal exam, which went as well as vaginal exams go — I wish that I could describe to you the look on your mother’s face as she described the discomfort of this particular procedure, but words could not do it justice — and then your mother drove back to work.

Later in the afternoon, the craziness began. Your mother’s doctor, who had not been present for the earlier appointment, was alarmed by the test results and wanted your mother to come in immediately to meet with a nutritionist and to allow for a non-stress test to be done on you. Your mother did not have her cell phone on her, and when the doctor was unable to reach her on that line, he ended up calling the number for her workplace. She was pulled out of the classroom where she’d been working and asked to come into the office as soon as she could. She was nervous, because she never got calls at work, so it had to be very important, but she was also aggravated that they hadn’t thought to take care of this business earlier in the day, and frustrated that she was now being forced to leave her employer in a lurch. It seemed to me, when she recounted this story to me later that evening, that perhaps they should have been doing the non-stress test on her.

The doctor did eventually apologize for panicking her and for calling her back in, but a possible diagnosis of gestational diabetes this late in a pregnancy was a serious issue. A nutritionist went over the particulars of what your mother could and could not eat and she was asked to begin monitoring her blood sugar levels at home and reporting them back to the office. A non-stress test on you confirmed that everything was okay. A second non-stress test was set up for Friday and then finally, mercifully, the day was done.

Lost in all of this commotion was the news that, during the vaginal exam, the nurse had felt what she believed to be your head and what she believed to be some hair. Your mother was one centimeter dilated and at minus one station, which meant that your head was coming down nicely into her pelvis. And yet, even amidst this pleasant news of progress, there was further cause for concern. Because, also lost in the commotion about the blood sugar level was the news that your mom had tested positive for Group B Strep, a bacterial infection that, while relatively harmless to the mother, can cause serious illness in a newborn if not kept in check during delivery.

Group B Strep is kept in check during labor and delivery by the simple administration of antibiotics via an IV drip. All we were told that we had to worry about was getting your mother into the hospital as soon as the protective barrier of her bag of waters ruptured. It was that easy. But I couldn’t understand how it was possible that the nurse had felt your head without the bag of waters already having been broken. And if the bag of waters was broken, then why hadn’t she been admitted to the hospital right away?

So now your father was in need of a non-stress test, too.

I eventually got my answers the next day, when the doctor returned my call and explained that your head was felt through the thin membrane of the bag of waters (or else, the thin membane of the cervix; he didn’t specify which membrane was the thin one), that the bag of waters was almost certainly still intact (your mother would have noticed if it had broken), and that I shouldn’t be overly concerned.

Okay, so, we had one situation under control. But, what about the blood sugar?

Well, on Thursday we had ourselves another scare of epic proportions. Your mother faxed her blood sugar test results to the doctor’s office that afternoon. Unsatisfied with the results, the doctor opted to prescribe an anti-diabetic medication to help control the problem. But he couldn’t get ahold of your mother; she wasn’t picking up her phone. And this was after she’d already left the office, so he couldn’t go that route again. Left with no other choice, he dialed the emergency contact he had on file, which was your grandmother, who in turn tried to get in touch with your mother again and, when unable to, ended up calling me.

I was on the commuter train, on the way home, when all of this went down. The best I could do was try to call your mother, but she still wasn’t picking up. I couldn’t make the train go faster, and I suppose there were people who I could have called to go check on her, but I figured a simpler explanation for all of this business was probably the right one. This was probably a case of your mother having turned her phone on vibrate and having left it in her pocket book. She was notorious for doing this, and these phones of ours were new to boot; we were still getting used to their little eccentricities. So, when I couldn’t get ahold of your mother, I decided to make the call to the doctor’s office, get the prescription called into the pharmacy, and just wait for your mom to call me.

In the end, your mother was fine. She did have her phone on vibrate and she hadn’t heard it go off (though it had been going off, practically non-stop, for an hour). We ate dinner, she took the pill, and we went to bed.

And then we were up in the middle of the night because the pill was too strong. Your mother was sick to her stomach, and then throwing up, and we were making yet another phone call to the doctor’s office.

It was just that kind of week.

By the time your Aunt Anisa showed up on Friday evening, things were beginning to calm down. The second non-stress test, conducted that afternoon, had been more complex, mostly because you refused to move for the nurses who were trying to judge your activity level (your heartbeat was fine), and they ended up having to do an ultrasound, but the results had been fine. And now we were settling in for the weekend. Your mom was to take half a pill for the next few days, and that would work out beautifully, with no side effects and a solid reduction in blood sugar levels. We spent all day today with your mom’s side of the family, celebrating the Bahá’í holiday of Ayyam-i-Ha, and we planned to spend some time tomorrow, Sunday, with my parents, putting together an armoire, the final piece of furniture for your room. It all worked out. In the end, it always does. But that doesn’t stop you from wishing it had worked out a little more smoothly than it did.

Love, Dad

LettersE. Christopher Clark