Never Apologize

“Well?”  I asked, impatiently.

It all felt like deja vu, but drawn out in slow motion.  I’d called the doctor from California, but of course I was in a new practice that I’d visited all but one time; and even then, I hadn’t seen a doctor, just a nurse practitioner.  They gave me the standard line about how there was nothing to be done but to wait and see, and so I spent the rest of our California vacation at a heightened state of anxiety, all the while keeping my worries a secret from the extended family surrounding us.

When we returned home to Ohio, my doctor’s office sent me to the local hospital to have my blood drawn.  This mystified me. By now I was eight weeks pregnant, and a heartbeat should be easily seen on an ultrasound.  I was sure my good looking doctor from Oklahoma would have run one on me right then and there, but not my new “Women’s Health” conglomerate.  I had to go for two blood draws to see if my HCG levels were rising appropriately.  I complained to R about the whole idea of HMO health care and how this seemed like an ill advised cost cutting move; any anxiety I now felt was at an escalated pitch and likely not doing a thing for my possibly in jeopardy pregnancy.

When the lab finally returned my results, I read them in disbelief.  They showed that my HCG was not doubling quickly as I had heard it should.  My doctor’s office seemed unable to return my phone calls and when they finally did, a nurse explained in a rushed phone message that they were not concerned with the lab results but I should just “take it easy” for the next little while to be safe.

I sat on my staircase yelling into the phone receiver at R, since the nurses were unresponsive and unwilling to listen.  “Maybe you should talk to another doctor, see what they say about the results,” he advised.  “Some of the women here at work like the OB at the same practice at our pediatrician.  Maybe call over there, explain your situation and see what they have to say.”

Which is how less than 24 hours later I found myself on an ultrasound table at Good Samaritan Hospital.

The OB in our pediatrician’s practice called me back within an hour of me leaving my message.  He patiently listened to my history, my experience so far, my symptoms and my lab results.  “Well, if you were my patient, I would have you in for an ultrasound immediately.”

“Is there any way that could be arranged?” I had asked, amazed at his response.

So R and I met the next day at the hospital in the city, waiting the breathless minutes between the tech starting up the machine and the delivery of news.  It felt so eerily similar to our experience two and a half years ago that I had to force myself to open my eyes and look at the doctor by the bedside; my doctor hadn’t been there then.  I had to remind myself that I’d lived through this once and I could again, if I had to.  I had to tell myself that whatever was meant to be, would be.

None of it stopped the tears from coming, unbidden, as my doctor watched the monitor as the tech performed the test.  Just like then, I could see it:  arms, legs, a clearly formed human inside me.  I was just shy of ten weeks by now.  I had no idea whether or not I was looking at a picture of life or death.

“There,” said the doctor, pointing to the screen as the tech held still.  There was the unmistakable blinking of a tiny heart on the screen.  “That’s the heartbeat.”

I let out the breath I didn’t even know I was holding.  “Are you sure?” I asked.

He nodded as the tech continued measuring and moving the wand over my stomach.  “Everything looks just as it should be for this point in your pregnancy.   The measurements are to the day.   You have nothing to worry about.”

R squeezed my hand.

“Thank you so much,” I said.  “I guess I came to you totally overreacting,” I apologized, feeling a little silly.

“Not at all,” said Dr. B.  “Your history and symptoms absolutely warranted this test.  I don’t know what the other doctor’s office was thinking, but they were one hundred percent wrong to not bring you in for a scan right away.    You did the right thing.  Never apologize for advocating for yourself, or your child.”

And with that sage advice, he shook our hands and left the room.


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