It’s no surprise that during the course of my work, I meet young girls that are having babies. Babies having babies. Little things that are too young to know how to get the oil changed in their car, and yet they’re about to bring life into this world. It scares the living crap out of me.
Last night was no different. Now, this was not the worst case I’d ever seen. My patient was 18 years old, which is ripe and mature by the standards of my hospital. And, to be completely honest, I fully expected this to be her second or third pregnancy, which is also common as cake.
I rolled my little patient into the room, and had her get up on the bed for me. I had to move her IV pump from the wheelchair to the bed post, and those things weigh almost as much as I do. I said, under my breath, “This isn’t going to be fun. Ugh.” as I started to un-attach the pump. She looked at me with terror in her eyes and asked, “What’s not??”
I chuckled and said, “Don’t worry, hun. I just have a really hard time moving these pumps. They’re heavy. Your ultrasound isn’t going to be bad at all.”
Her relief was immediate and not just a little comical. I had already figured out that this little girl was terribly innocent, and not terribly bright.
As she laid down on the bed, she said, “Look how swollen my feet are!”
They were. They were sausages. Her toes were like little Vienna snacks attached to her pork feet and ham-hock ankles. It was disturbing to see on such a small girl. She couldn’t have been more than 5 foot 2, perhaps 120 pounds at 35 weeks pregnant. I asked her, “Have you had a high blood pressure?”
At this point, I had started scanning, and had seen that her baby looks great. There was plenty of fluid, measurements were on time, and the kid was active – kicking and turning all over. As I’m showing her where the baby is laying, and what parts are sticking out of her belly, she quietly asks me, “Do babies that are born at 35 weeks survive?” I could hear the fear in her voice.
“They do, sweetie! Almost every single one of them do!” My heart was aching for her, and the absolute terror she had of her baby dying. “They have to go to the NICU for a little while, but then they are okay… Are they worried the baby is coming? What’s going on?”
“They’re maybe going to induce my labor tomorrow,” she told me.
Hmm. Swelling. High blood pressure. “How high has your blood pressure been?”
“It’s been about 190 over something. I don’t really know. It’s come down to 160 though.”
My eyes flew wide open. “Have you been having headaches?”
“Really bad ones.” I could tell she had no idea. Her blood pressure, the headaches and swelling all pointed to pre-eclampsia. They weren’t taking the baby because they were worried about the baby… they were worried about momma. And the sooner they got that baby out, the better. I told her that it was a good thing that they were thinking about inducing her labor. She shouldn’t be afraid.
She was quiet for a moment, and then asked, “Do they let mommas see the babies when they are in the NICU?”
I was speechless. My eyes even started to tear up. This poor, sweet, clueless girl was about to birth a child – HER child – and all she could imagine was someone coming and taking it away to an unknown corner of the hospital, and keeping it. I can’t imagine the fear that was in her heart, or how badly she wanted to hold on to being pregnant, despite what it could mean for her.
I set her straight, told her that it was still her baby, and she could spend every waking moment in the NICU if she wanted to. I gave a little mini-PSA about how important it is to breastfeed premature babies, and told her how much every nurse in the hospital would help her if she tried. And then I sent her back to her room, hoping for the best for her and her baby. Hoping that everything would turn out okay. Hoping, really, that she was more ready for what was about to come than she seemed.
Ultrasound Resonates is a way for me to share stories of my experiences in ultrasound. Privacy and HIPAA will always be protected in these stories, but they are really a way for me to share an accounting of the people that touch my life through my work.