I sat in the darkened ultrasound room, three stories up in a 15-story office building in downtown Denver, waiting to see yet another maternal fetal medicine doctor. I was 37 weeks pregnant, and was feeling pretty confident after the growth scan ultrasound. Of course, the stenographers aren’t allowed to tell you much, but after so many weekly ultrasounds, I was figuring out how to read more of the numbers on the ultrasound screen. And the stenographer had said my baby was over the 3rd percentile. So he thought.
While waiting for the doctor, I prayed, trying to not let myself get too excited. I’d been praying specifically she’d be over the 3rd percentile so I could carry her full term, or at least to 39 weeks. That morning, I’d hurriedly packed a hospital bag — just in case — since the doctors had repeatedly told me if she didn’t do well on this growth scan, or if they caught any stoppage in the umbilical cord blood flow, they’d have to induce me, possibly even immediately.
This roller coaster ride had started at my 20 week routine ultrasound, when they discovered my baby was a girl (!) … and that she sized under the 10th percentile. Since I have no health conditions (and don’t drink :), their only guess was that it was caused by an oddly shaped umbilical cord or the fact that the cord was inserted into the side of the placenta, instead of the middle. My OBGYN said she had no experience in this area, so she referred me over to the huge university maternal fetal medicine clinic. What followed was an exhausting load of twice-weekly doctor appointments, seemingly constant monitoring, and so, so many ultrasounds.
To be honest, I was never actually concerned about my baby’s life or health. Every time they checked, her heartbeat was so strong. She kicked and hiccuped and did everything else you’re supposed to feel while pregnant. But each appointment felt like an emotional roller coaster, because I was never sure what to believe.
Perhaps because of my type-A personality — or because I was simply nervous about labor and wanted to feel a sense of control over it — I had spent countless hours researching natural birth, listening to podcasts of “positive birth stories” and trying to prepare myself. But each appointment slowly scratched away at my plan, my sense of control, my confidence. Most the time, I was wary. I felt like the doctors were just managing risk, didn’t care about me personally, or were just stuck to their number charts. As each consecutive growth scan measured smaller, taking her down from 5th percentile to 1st percentile, they kept warning me there was risk in continuing to carry her past 37 weeks.
Thirty-seven weeks! From all the stories I’d heard and everything I’d read, I was terrified of induction or even a possible C-section. Plus, that felt far too early, and I wasn’t ready to have my baby until March. Not at the beginning of February.
And yet each doctor’s appointment, God was doing a sweet work in my heart. For the first few weeks after we first found out about her IURG (Intrauterine Growth Restriction), I had to surrender my dream of the natural, unmedicated birth experience I had planned for. I still hoped, still tried to prepare, but I realized I couldn’t hold so tightly to my plan, my sense of control.
Her vitals always looked great at appointments, but I felt the instability more from the doctor’s comments on a given week. One day, the secretary up front said she wasn’t going to schedule any appointments for me past 37 weeks, “because they always induce people like you early,” she said. I felt mad. Said who? Didn’t I have a say in this? Other days, the doctors would hint that everything was looking great and maybe I could carry her longer. So my emotions went up and down.
Slowly, I surrendered my “birth plan,” but in its place came an anxiety about the baby’s health if born so early. What if she had trouble latching like so many small babies? What if she had to stay in the NICU — and the unthinkable, I had to go home without her? What if I had to triple feed her, which I had been warned is mentally and physically exhausting? Again, I had to work through each wave of “what-ifs,” trusting the Lord with each one.
My husband and I continued to be pretty staunch about refusing induction, at least before 39 weeks. I was rightly concerned about the many complications that could come from such an early labor. One week, I voiced my concerns to the maternal fetal medicine doctor on duty. She was a mom herself, who had delivered a 37-week old baby. “They tell us in medical school that 37 weeks is full term, but it’s not. It’s early, and my baby had complications,” she admitted. She then wrote on my charts that she approved for me to carry to 39 weeks. “Unless, she said, your baby shows up even smaller on her 37 week growth scan.” I was elated. Surely, my baby could grow just enough to be over the 3rd percentile by then!
I was still terrified at the thought of being induced as I approached 36 weeks. I finally started praying that if this was God’s will, he would take away the fear. That Sunday, I bumped into a mom of four at church and started opening up about my fear. Clearly, the Lord had sent her my way. She had experienced four natural, unmedicated hospital births, and the last with an induction. Calmly, she talked me through her experiences and then encouraged me to trust the Lord. That conversation was what I needed. The Lord began to fill me with His peace, whatever He would bring my way.
As Thursday, the day I turned 37 weeks approached, my mind was just on our upcoming busy plans. In the back of my mind, I knew there was still a possibility I would need to have my baby that day, but I also really wanted to help out with our church’s youth retreat that weekend. Plus, work had been very stressful, and I still had a good two weeks of projects to finish out before I could go on maternity leave. I wasn’t ready yet.
But Thursday morning, just in case, I packed my hospital bag. I imagined calling Barry at work, being whisked over to the nearest hospital, “they have to induce me … right away!”
But sitting in the darkened ultrasound room, all of those fears seemed to melt away. I was at peace with whatever the Lord had. And yet, I felt confident after the ultrasound that I could go about my weekend as planned. The baby would be fine to wait.
I heard a knock at the door. “Come in!” An Indian doctor walked in, whom I hadn’t met before. I had been hoping that same mom doctor would appear again. But with such a large practice, you never knew. She was blunt and to the point. “Your baby is below the 1st percentile. You’ll need to be induced.”
I asked a lot of questions. What would be the risk of waiting? She explained that my baby had only grown 400 grams in the last month. Contrary to my logic (that the longer she stayed in, the bigger she’d grow), the doctor explained the placenta must be dying so she’d be at risk if we continued to keep her in. I pestered her with questions about the studies, how many of them related to severe growth restriction, if the statistics were impacted by other health conditions, and more. Finally, I sighed. “Let me call my husband and we’ll let you know about our decision.”
It all felt surreal. I normally used my driving time after appointments to call Barry or my mom and tell them about how it went. This time, I didn’t feel like talking to anyone. I prayed on the way home and just tried to process. At least it wasn’t an emergency C-section. At least I would have the weekend to prepare. When Barry got home, I told him all about it. I wanted him to just make the decision, and I could go with it. When I laid it all out, he told me, “It looks like the decision is made for us. We’ve met with five or more maternal fetal medicine specialists, top university research doctors, and they’re all recommending this. So we’d probably better do it.”
I called my OB. “Would you like to come in tomorrow night?” they asked. That’s too soon! I thought. “How about Tuesday?” They agreed, as long as I kept tabs on her movement. Because I still had an insane amount of work to finish before I could go on leave, we decided Barry would go to the youth retreat and I would stay home and work over the weekend.
That weekend was hard. It was the first time since we’d been married that I’d been left alone at home at night without Barry. But the Lord had gone before, giving me a peace about the coming induction. To evade the loneliness, I worked hour after hour, late into the evening on the massive Google and Meta ads project I had to finish for work. It was a helpful distraction.
Two days later, our Zoey Joy was born after 12 hours of active labor, 5 lbs, 19.25 inches (and yes, induction was just about as bad as everyone had said!). One of my first questions after the birth was “Is there something wrong with the placenta?” They said, not, not that they could tell. And Zoey was bigger than they’d thought she’d be. We’re grateful. God spared me of a C-section, and granted us a healthy baby with no NICU stays! Yes, such an early birth wasn’t easy, either on me or her. I am having to triple feed. She does have some trouble latching. My hopes of getting her on a nice sleep schedule is out the window right now until she finally gains a few more pounds.
After Zoey was born, my landlady was visiting us and asked “do you regret having her so early?” That was the question that had bothered me all along, leading up to her birth. I didn’t want to regret having gone through so much trouble for nothing. But no, I was able to tell her with full honesty. I explained that God is sovereign, whether the doctors were right or wrong, and he led us and gave us peace about the decision. For me to go back and be angry at “second causes” does nothing. I might not make the same decision next time, but this time, we acted in faith and God was sovereign over the result. Through it all, the Lord has granted grace. And more importantly, He’s grown my faith!
I can’t help sharing some pics of Zoeybug 🙂
2 Comments Add yours
julianna, what a privilege to read this story and have been with you during those last few days – seeing the peace God was giving you and the faith He was strengthening you with. So thankful for week Zoey Joy!
Pregnancy, birth, mothering…I think God uses them so much to teach trust and surrender. There has been nothing else in life that has taught me how little control I really have. Thanks for sharing your story!