The Pregnant Life: When Baby Fails the Heartbeat Test

ultrasound foot
That's a foot!
I’m doing this antenatal testing thing each week, and I promise not to write about it every time. But today was both annoying and reassuring. Annoying because a 20-minute appointment turned into a 3-hour ordeal. Reassuring because my doctors are, once again, even more paranoid than I am as I round the corner on Week 33.

Sorry, Dr. S -- not paranoid. Cautious!

Here’s what happened:


They hooked me up to the thingies, and I listened to the baby’s heartbeat and watched to see if any contractions happened. It was late morning, which is when Birdie naps, and I hadn’t yet had my usual second breakfast. I didn’t think anything of it until the nurse came in and started clapping and yelling at my belly: “Come on, baby! Wake up now!”

Remember last week, when I felt so superior because my pint-sized love was percussing so enthusiastically that I was in and out in no time flat? Now I was the idiot with someone yelling at her belly.

So it turns out there’s a 10-point scale for this test. You get 2 points for 5 different criteria. One is that the baby has to move a certain number of times, one is the amount of amniotic fluid, I think one is her lungs (so weird to see them “breathing” fluid in and out so quickly!) … well, it all went past me pretty fast, but the last one is that once they establish a baseline heartbeat, they want to see it go 15 percent above baseline, twice in the testing period. She only went that high once. SO not a big deal, I was absolutely not worried -- but they wanted me to either come back the next day or go across the street to labor and delivery and sit for a longer version of the test.

“If we were really worried, we wouldn’t let you walk across the street,” Nurse Kim told me. “We have a special elevator. With a key!”

I figured I’d get it over with. Besides, when I called Randy -- well. I was so careful to carefully word it so he wouldn’t be alarmed, as the nurses gave me a silent thumbs-up for my reassuring tone. “They are not worried,” I said. “Nothing is wrong, they just want to do a --“ “DO IT NOW!” he blurted. “Go now. Now. Let them look right now! Not tomorrow!”

Poor guy. You wake a fella up at 3 a.m. with a bed full of broken water just once -- and it’s like you’ve scarred him for life.

All right, so I waddled across the street. It was a gorgeous spring day in San Francisco, which is to say it was arctic-cold with a freezing wind whipping along Parnassus Street. But the sun was out! As I took the elevator up, I made sure to chow down on a snack bar, and grabbed a huge Big Gulp of cold water the minute I got to L&D. As I settled in with my copy of Marie Claire, I felt the reassuring thump of tiny feet and hands doing their best Lloyd Dobler in my abdomen. I was fine, she was fine. I knew it. They cut me loose after about 45 minutes and I was back at valet parking, with the attendant urging me to stay inside till the car came, because “that wind crunched my hair this morning.”

So, you know, I can complain about money woes, a mild case of the pre-baby-blues, missing my East Coast friends, and worrying about Penelope’s well-being when I’m in the hospital. But really, the bottom line is I’m in good hands, and I’m in great shape, so what is there really to bitch about?

This Friday is the first meeting of my second-time-mamas' group! We all have summer due dates, we all have toddlers, we all live in the same neighborhood -- but I don’t know what else we have in common. Guess I’ll find out. My summer solstice resolution is to be more assiduous about finding and cultivating real-time friends, not online artificial cheese-food friends. To that end, I’ve got a packed social calendar over the next week … yikers! Full report next time.

Any of you guys know the difference between “prenatal” and “antenatal"? How come sometimes they use one word, and sometimes another? Tell me in the comments!

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