I’ve haven’t written this down yet, and there are many reasons for that. I don’t want Gabby to ever think that I was or could be ashamed of her. Or that I was sad about her, ever. And I know that once this is out there in internet land, it will never be private again. But I feel like it is very important for other women who might be going through a pregnancy where the health of the baby is unknown, to know that its okay to be scared.
So here we go….
I found out I was pregnant with Gabby in the early summer of 2011. I thought I had the flu. My mom came over to help me with the girls because I just couldn’t function. While she was over, she asked if I thought I could be pregnant. I told her that it was a possibility but I didn’t think so. Well, obviously she was right. Momma knows! (she’s had 4, I would hope she could tell!).
My first prenatal visit was on Lily’s 2nd birthday. August 3rd. We got to see the little peanut, and everything looked great! We took home some copies of the sonogram for the baby book, and one for each of the big sisters. My due date was predicted to be March 26, 2012. Bella’s birthday!
Everything was just as a pregnancy should be. I gained the right amount of weight. I was a little sick at the beginning, nothing major (after my flu like symptoms subsided). I craved spicy foods. The hotter the better. And everyone would warn me, you’re going to get heartburn, and heartburn means hairy babies! Who came up with that one anyways? I don’t even know how that one is logical. Anyways, I showed early, as is normal with a 3rd pregnancy. At our 19 week visit (maybe a little earlier than that?) we learned that we were having another GIRL! A little disappointing, because I had always wanted a boy, but happy none the less, that our new little bug was healthy.
A few months later, it was pretty obvious that I was measuring big (four weeks ahead!). And the bigger I got, the more concerned I got. I wanted to have a natural delivery this time. It would be a VBAC because my 2nd daughter, Lily, was breech and a c-section. My doctor said I was a perfect candidate for a VBAC because I had already had one previous vaginal birth, and he was confident that my body could do it again. I researched natural births. I researched birthing balls. I did exercises on my own exercise ball at home so that I could practice getting into the right positions, opening my hips. I googled. I youtubed. I was prepared to go natural, partly because I wanted to experience it at least once, and I figure that 3 kids is pretty much my max. Anyway, I was getting bigger and more uncomfortable. I was swollen and my hips were killing me. So my doctor ordered another scan to measure baby. I have a history of large babies. And so does my mother, so it was a valid concern for me. My first baby was 9lbs 14oz! So I was all for it. I love getting any chance to peek in at my little loves while they’re growing in there! It still is pretty amazing to me, even after 3. Anyway, after that scan the ultrasound tech had me go in and talk with the doctor. He informed me that there were some discrepancies in the lengths of her limbs and wanted me to have a better scan, around the corner at New Milford Hospital. And a Non Stress Test too.
Well the NST was normal. Baby moved like crazy and they couldn’t get a resting heart rate for her very easily so I sat there for almost an hour with two nurses pushing the darn thing into my stomach. It was pleasant. Well, the ultrasound tech at the hospital found the same things. That the babies limbs were measuring behind. I went back to my doctors office, still in shock. Disbelief. Confusion. None of it had really sunk in yet. At my doctors office, they explained that this means that the baby had a skeletal dysplasia. But since there are over 200 forms, could not even begin to tell me what, if anything, was wrong. The only terms they could tell me were “dwarfism” and “achondroplasia”. My doctors had never seen this before either.
I called my husband and mother and sobbed the entire way home. I had done something wrong. I had not taken my prenatal vitamins religiously. I had used a new face cream that was “clinical” strength. It had to be my fault. I knew it was.
I was about 36 weeks pregnant when I found out, give or take a week or two. Why didn’t they tell me sooner? Why didn’t they see the signs? How could this happen, when my other two pregnancies were 100% normal and uneventful? I’m not in a “high risk” age range! (I’ll answer those questions…keep reading).
That day, they scheduled me at UCONN for a level 2 ultrasound. I met with the top doctor in the hospital for ultrasounds (apparently). Not what I had expected in a doctor. He had both ears pierced, his nose too I think. But he was very nice. At this point the baby was so big that they hard a hard time seeing all of her on the ultrasound. Her limbs measured behind. Very noticeably. He could only find one arm and one leg because of her position. He could not see her face to tell if there were any abnormalities there. He could not measure her chest, because she was too large to fit on one scan. What he told me was that my little girl did have a skeletal dysplasia. A type of dwarfism. He couldn’t tell me more, because of how little of her he could actually see on the scans. I asked why this wasn’t caught sooner, and he said it was because most skeletal dysplasias present around 23 weeks. Since our anatomy scan was weeks before this, there were no indications yet. It finally started to make sense. I was asked to speak with the prenatal genetic counselor, and had to wait for her to be available to see me. My sister was in the ultrasound room with me, and she was amazing. She hugged me and let me cry. And promised that we would all love her no matter what.
My poor husband was getting calls and texts from me, he couldn’t come. His job doesn’t have any paid time off, and we couldn’t forfeit a day of pay for him to come with us.
The genetic counselor’s office was windowless and not much larger than a closet. She asked me some questions about our family history. If we were Irish, Jewish, or if we had any family history of dwarfism or any other skeletal anomalies. No, no, no. We are all healthy, no allergies, no conditions. No nothing. We are all tall. Very tall. And since the ultrasounds couldn’t tell us anything conclusive, neither could she. So I cried. It went in waves. Of course I would love her no matter what. She is my child, and nothing could ever change that. I wished that they hadn’t even told me. It didn’t change anything. She still had to come out, it wasn’t like I could say, “oh thanks, but I’m not going to have her now.” So telling me did nothing but let me worry. We left her office with her business card and the promise to call if we “needed anything”. I never called. What would I say?
I cried off and on for days. No one understood what I was going through. No one could. I wasn’t crying because I didn’t want her. I was crying because I didn’t want the things that she would possibly have to go through, for her. Not for me. (I want to be clear on this. I never didn’t want her. I never thought she was a mistake. I just know what this world does to people who are different. And I wanted to protect her from that.) Every night I would search “dwarfism” and “skeletal dysplasia” and “achondroplasia” on the internet until my head was swimming. My husband told me to calm down, and just wait and see. And she would probably be just fine, because doctors are never right anyways. And that helped me. He was the calm to my crazy. He let me cry when I needed to.
My Mom and my sisters were amazing. They all rallied around me and kept me busy. They came over at every chance they could. They were scared and worried too of course. For me, for the baby. They knew I needed to be out of the house, away from my computer. Away from the sites that showed the horrible side of things. I’m thankful every day for the love my family has for me and my girls. It really has gotten us through some emotional times. To me, there is nothing more important than family. And while everyone says “family is who you make it”, to me, family is blood. Family is who will give anything for you, because they are a part of you.
Because of her head size (it was off the charts), the doctors asked me to deliver via c-section at UCONN in Farmington, CT. So all of my hopes for a natural birth went right out the window. But I was lucky on one count, my doctor has privileges at UCONN, So I wouldn’t be with a stranger. UCONN has an amazing NICU, and with not knowing if there would be any complications due to her condition, they wanted to make sure I was in the best place for her care. And because the maternity ward is also an ICU, I would be able to have her with me as much as possible, as soon as possible. Even while I was recovering.
I was scheduled to have her early on the morning of her due date (which was recalculated to March 23rd). So the night before, my sister came to sleep over. She slept in Lily’s bed, Lily slept between Eddie and I. And at 5am when he and I left for the hospital, she climbed in our bed with Lily, so that Lily wouldn’t wake up alone and be afraid. I learned after that she did wake up, and freaked out when she realized it was Auntie in bed with her, not mommy! Whoops! Auntie also got a crash course in getting herself and two kids ready, she had to go to work that day after bringing the girls to the hospital for us! I really am lucky to have such great sisters!
Gabriella Kathleen was born Friday March 23rd. At 7:14 in the morning. Weighing 10lbs 8.5oz and 19.5″ long. The nurses in the operating room had tried to shield my husband from seeing anything, and kept him up by my head. But he shimmied the curtain down a bit, while they weren’t looking. “She’s fine!” he told me! And I wanted to cry. I was pretty drugged and dehydrated at that point, so I couldn’t actually cry, but I was relieved. When she first cried, she sounded like a billy goat. A loud, angry billy goat. The nurses swaddled her and brought her up to me so I could see her and give her a kiss. She looked like a little sumo wrestler! She was all baby fat. And she was one of the most perfect little babies that I had ever seen in my life.
Every ounce of worry had left me. They took her to clean her up, measure her and weigh her while I was being sewn up and brought back into recovery. I told my nurse maybe a thousand times in the 2 minute ride back to my room (it was directly across the hall from the OR) that I wanted her brought to me as soon as possible. My husband had gone to follow her around, because I’m paranoid that someone will try to feed my babies formula without my consent. She was in my arms within 20 minutes. And I immediately nursed her. She latched on without any guidance or help from anyone, she was born for nursing.
It wasn’t until later that I unwrapped her swaddling blanket and really looked her over. Yes, her limbs were shorter than average. Her fingers had a different look about them. But she was absolutely perfect. The pediatrician and the doctor that originally did my ultrasound at UCONN came in later that day and told me, after a visual assessment they were diagnosing Gabby as having Achondroplasia. And that since this type of dwarfism is the most common, they were certain that she was very healthy, and did not need extensive tests or to stay at the hospital for an extended period of time.
I had done some useful research in all of my wanderings on the internet. And so in the hospital I had asked for them to do a “car seat test” and an apnea test. These tests measured her oxygen levels while sleeping, first in her car seat, and then just while sleeping in her crib. She passed both with flying colors. The doctor also asked for an ultrasound on her head, to look at her ventricles for possible swelling, and she had none. Thank God, our baby is healthy!
And so, only three days after she was born, we went home. On her big sisters birthday. We even took big sister out for dinner that night!
10 months later, she is still amazing us 🙂
This is the story of Gabby. She’s pretty amazing, in case you didn’t know.
(disclaimer….its been 10 months, so forgive me if I didn’t get every single detail right!!)