Two months have passed since we first found out about Baby E’s limb difference. Lately, when people who know about our situation ask me how I’m doing, I tend to reply, “As good as I can be,” and that is the honest truth. I have come to accept the reality of our son’s left hand limb difference, and know that while it will present him with unique challenges, it will not hold him back in any way; however, one problem remains. We still do not have certainty that a left hand limb difference is the only challenge that our son will face at birth. Nonetheless, I have been allowing myself, as much as possible, to trust the current data and to “not borrow worry” all the while knowing that a date was looming that could change everything: July 11, 2019 – our 28-week follow-up ultrasound.
That morning started like any other “appointment morning” since our story began. Me as a complete and utter nervous wreck. I tried to approach this appointment with cautious optimism, but the truth is, I knew that one of two things was going to happen: 1) Status quo would be maintained; or 2) This ultrasound could reveal further complications and we may need to face the real possibility that our babe’s limb difference is not an isolated incident.
Lyndon and I headed to the hospital for our 8:00 am appointment much earlier than necessary, which turned out to be a good thing because once again, we managed to get completely lost in the maze that is our local hospital, despite having been there before. By the time we arrived at the maternal assessment check-in desk, Lyndon was quite grumbly about the layout of the hospital making no sense and I was too nervous to respond.
We sat in the waiting room among several other women with incredibly pregnant bellies until our name was called and we were introduced to a pretty, young, resident sonographer. She explained that she was still learning the ropes and told us that she would take the first set of pictures, followed by a more experienced sonographer coming in to continue. After some technical difficulties, she got the system up and running and our baby boy, in all of his 2D glory, popped up on the screen. The resident chatted easily with us, sharing exactly what she was looking at as she snapped pictures of all our boy’s bits and pieces. “Look, his legs are crossed! Do you see that?” she asked us smiling. ‘What a gentleman,’ I joked to myself, and I started to relax. Everything seemed to be measuring accurately!
Then the second sonographer came in and took over. She was less talkative with us, but explained to the resident what she was doing and why, while she worked. When she found Baby E’s left hand, it looked exactly like I remembered. Slightly flexed with no question that he was missing his thumb and half his fingers. Seeing his left hand again didn’t evoke any difficult emotions in me. I silently applauded myself for my true acceptance of the situation.
Next, she located his right hand and starting taking pictures… and then more pictures… and then digging the Doppler into my belly unusually hard and taking yet some more pictures. Why were we spending so much time looking at the good hand?! The mood in the room shifted. Or did it? Was it just me noticing this shift? Was I imagining things? An all too familiar spike in anxiety occurred as my intuition that something problematic may be happening kicked in. While I was busy in my head, Lyndon continued to chat with the sonographer, and I heard him say “…we really are just looking for confirmation that everything else continues to look good.” The more experienced sonographer diplomatically replied, “I’ll just finish up here and then we’ll send you to a consult room where the ob-gyn will review the results with you.” My feeling of dread deepened. Something wasn’t right, and all I could think was that I had yet to be wrong when I’d gotten this feeling in the past. Call it a mother’s intuition?
The two sonographers exited the room telling us that it would be about a five minute wait before they would come back to escort us to a consult room. It was a long five minutes. The moment we were alone, I shared my anxiety with Lyndon, and in his usual, logical manner, he replied, “We will find out very soon.” In my usual manner, I didn’t drop it and started needling him about if his “spidey senses” were also tingling. He did not confirm nor deny; however, he did ask me, “If they found something else, would we reconsider amniocentesis?” I took his question as an affirmative that he too was concerned about how this appointment was unfolding.
The door opened and the sonographer popped her head in and told us that the ob-gyn would come talk to us in the room we were currently in rather than going to a consult room. Thirty seconds later, an unfamiliar face entered and introduced herself as a resident ob-gyn. She apologized for what she was about to say, and then proceeded to tell me that she would like to take some more pictures. My heart dropped. I re-settled onto the table and the new doctor immediately located our baby’s RIGHT hand. So many thoughts raced through my mind… If our son also had a right hand abnormality, we could no longer consider his situation an isolated incident. Suddenly, the likelihood of all of the scariest causes for fetal limb differences seemed all too real.
The door opened again and our ob-gyn from eight weeks ago walked in and greeted us. In her usual no nonsense manner, she cut right to the chase (which I very much appreciated!). “We want to take a better look at his right hand. I feel like we got a good look at it last time, but we’re not getting a good view this time, and given his left hand, we want to be certain that his right hand is intact”. Deep breaths. I told her that yes, we absolutely want certainty on that, but admitted that this was making me incredibly nervous. The resident looked at me empathetically and said, “I can’t even imagine how you must be feeling.”
While one of the doctors shifted the Doppler over my belly, back and forth, up and down, The ob’s (and Lyndon) discussed the limits of ultrasound technology and how the pictures can only offer “slices” of images, making it meticulous work to get a good picture of a tiny moving hand. I couldn’t take my eyes off of the screen. All of a sudden there was a chorus of, “There they are!” among the room. His fingers had been spotted! All five of them flexing like little baby fingers typically do. “I feel confident that his right hand is just fine!” our ob-gyn announced. She went on to tell us that everything else in the scan continues to look typical and that she didn’t think it was necessary to take another look prior to his birth. A feeling of immense relief overcame me. “So you’re saying that all evidence continues to point to his left hand being an isolated incident, and otherwise, he is likely going to be just fine?” I asked her, looking for all the confirmation in the world. “Yup,” she replied, and told us that if we would like, she would refer us to orthopedics and plastics so that we could meet with the team ahead of time and discuss possible options for his left hand when he is born. We agreed to proceed with the referral, thinking that anything we could do, before we became sleep deprived new parents, seemed like a solid idea.
Leaving the floor, I felt a renewed sense of reassurance that all was going to be okay. We had every reason to believe that the Lucky Fin community was going to gain another member in a couple short months, and we couldn’t be more proud.
Instead of leaving the hospital immediately after our appointment, we made a very special pit stop. I have been fortunate enough to experience the journey that is pregnancy alongside one of my closest friends, and she had given birth to a healthy baby boy the morning before our appointment. With newly elated attitudes, Lyndon and I set off to the postnatal ward to congratulate our friends and meet the tiny kiddo that we hope will one day become one of our son’s besties.