Don’t Panic

It was Friday night, and I was on a cold table in a hospital room.

The doctor had said that likely it was probably nothing; women bled during pregnancy all of the time.  He told me that I would be spending the weekend on the sofa; no Academic Games competition for me.  My friend Julie stopped by that evening to pick up all of the materials she would need to run everything the next day.  I couldn’t believe that I would miss what would be essentially the biggest thing in my career so far.  For probably nothing.  Still, I was worried.

The ultrasound had been the doctor’s idea.  It was hard to get one on such short notice, but he’d pulled a few strings at the hospital and lined one up for me at 8 o’clock at night.  R had flown home and made it just in time to drop Zach off at my sister’s and take me to the hospital.   He thought it would be reassuring for us, and just an extra measure of safety for him, since he had not performed one on me yet during this pregnancy.  I hadn’t expected one; I’d never had one with Zachary as I had been considered low risk.  I still was, at age twenty eight.  But just to cover all of the bases, we would get this done so I could rest easy this weekend.

I answered all of the tech’s questions.   “I’m going to be twelve weeks on Tuesday,” I told her confidently, as if that time frame made any problems less of a possibility.  “No, just a few spots.  Brown.  No, not red.”  All of my answers seemed like they must be the right ones.   Bright red blood would be bad, right?  I didn’t have that.

“OK this is going to feel a little cold,” she told me as she started the machine and moved the wand, searching, searching.  I looked at the screen, not even realizing I was holding my breath.

A wooshing sound suddenly filled the room.  I smiled at R.  That was the baby’s heartbeat.  I could relax.

“That’s your heartbeat you’re hearing,” the tech told me in response.  “It’s harder to find the baby’s this early.  But don’t worry, we’ll find it.”

And suddenly, I could see it, on the screen.  The baby.  A tiny blob, to be sure, but recognizable.  I could see hands, and feet.  I’d looked at my pregnancy books enough to see the shape and recognize it.  Was it alright?  Was it not alright?  Everything was blurry and unclear.

“And there we go,” said the tech cheerfully.  “There we are.  Everything looks good.  How far along did you say you were?”

“I’ll be twelve weeks on Tuesday,” I answered, still half holding my breath.

The woman wrinkled her brow slightly, almost imperceptibly.   “That’s strange.  The measurements I’m getting on your baby are smaller than that.  All of the readings are eight weeks, three days, or eight weeks, four days.   Are you sure of your time frame?”

I glanced over at R, his face unreadable.  I could feel panic setting in.  “Yes, I’m sure.  I know exactly the day we conceived.  I’m definitely further along than that.”

“Alright then,” the woman said cheerfully.  “Your doctor asked us to call him when we had the films, so I’m going to get that done and have him check them out.  But I don’t want you to worry,” she said, seeing the look on my face.  “I saw the heartbeat, you’re going to be fine.  It’s just small, is all.”

I nodded.  R took one of my hands in his; he was so warm against the chill of my fingers.

“Don’t panic,” he told me as she left the room.  “There’s no reason to panic.”

I could hear him, I could.  But it was too late.  I just knew something was very, very wrong.

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