Monday, August 08, 2005

Some answers

I was a wreck waiting for our 6-week checkup, especially since right after it, we had a meeting with the neonatologist who took care of J. in the hospital. He wanted to go over the autopsy report with us.

But as it turned out, all the time I'd spent worrying - that I wasn't going to be healing fast enough, that he'd tell us to wait a year before trying again, etc - was for nothing. When I asked Dr. S about trying again, he said that as long as we felt recovered enough that the anxiety of a subsequent pregnancy wouldn't outweigh the joy, that was enough for him. So we're cleared to try as soon as my cycle gets back to normal! I asked about my scar giving way and he said he wasn't worried about it; I asked how many more C-sections I'd be able to have and he said up to 4 total (which would allow us to have 3 more children, should we want to). I was in shock - I'd been mentally preparing myself for all kinds of worst-case scenarios.

So, feeling much better, we headed to the hospital to meet with Dr. H., the neonatologist. I hesitate to say that what he told us is "good news," but I suppose it's the best we could have hoped for:

- they determined a cause of J.'s death, which is more comforting than having it be a complete mystery;
- that cause was not genetic;
- it is extremely unlikely to recur in future pregnancies.

Dr. H. explained that as far as they can tell, J. aspirated a large amount of amniotic fluid sometime during my labor. They don't know exactly why, but since there was a small amount of meconium in my water (also a sign of fetal distress), there was probably a brief interruption of his oxygen. That's not uncommon, and neither is it uncommon for babies to aspirate a small amount of fluid, but for whatever reason J. took in so much that when he was born and tried to breathe, his lungs were too overwhelmed to do it. There were no abnormalities found in any of his organs. Basically, a tragic fluke accident.

We asked if there were any machines or medications that might have saved his life if they had been available at the hospital. According to Dr. H., it wouldn't have been possible because they were unable to get J. stabilized - if they had been able to do that, he would have been transported to Mass General, but since they couldn't, even having the most sophisticated machinery right there in the room wouldn't have made a difference. At least there is no regret that we made the wrong choice of hospital, or that the doctors didn't do all they could.

Part of me is devastated that my baby was perfect - it makes his death seem so horribly pointless and unfair. This is such an incredibly rare thing; why were we the ones it had to happen to? I try not to dwell on these thoughts too much, though - the only way it doesn't seem overwhelmingly sad is if I look at it another way, and feel hope. Dr. H. says that for this to happen again would be akin to lightning striking the same place twice.

I was told that even though my risk for such a thing happening again is no more than anyone else's, any future pregnancy would be treated as high risk, which has some benefits. I would see the hospital's high-risk OB in conjunction with my own OB, and they would do anything they could to give us extra reassurance, whether that was more/more detailed ultrasounds, more visits to check the heartbeat, etc. I will also most likely have a scheduled c-section a week or two before my due date - which is fine with me. Even though the risk is low, since this happened during labor, there is no way on this earth I could go through labor again, wondering the whole time if my baby was going to make it.

So overall, it was a bittersweet day. I miss J. terribly and I always will, but I have more hope for the future than I've had since that terrible day. I think that finding out what we did will help us begin to move on.


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