That morning I poured myself a colorful bowl of Captain Crunch and sat down at the table, thinking about the fact that I realistically could have a tiny baby in my arms before the milk on the shelves at the grocery store became expired, and that was so strange to me.
Today is the 31st of May, and we are only 31 days from my doctor given due date. At any time during the next four weeks I could deliver my baby. One week ago that surreal fact excited me, but it doesn’t today.
This morning I sat down at the table with a bowl of chocolate chex. By the time I had finished swirling my spoon around in the white-turned-chocolate milk, the cereal was soggy and I was so filled with worry that I couldn’t eat it, so I poured it down the drain.
I kept thinking, how can this be…? However surreal, it is a fact: yesterday at Kinsley’s 36 week ultrasound, the doctor came into the room and said to Nick and I, “your ultrasound gave us an interesting surprise today,” and he described the potentially dangerous complication that was found.
According to the doctor, Kinsley will be a baby born with a Single Umbilical Artery or SUA. What this means is that Kinsley’s umbilical cord only has two vessels, a vein to take things to her, and one artery to take things away, where a normal umbilical cord is made up of three vessels total: two arteries and one vein.
Anywhere from half to two-thirds of babies born with a single artery umbilical cord are born healthy and with no chromosomal or congenital abnormalities. Of the remaining babies born with SUA, studies suggest that about 25% have birth defects, including chromosomal and/or other abnormalities. These can include trisomy 13 or trisomy 18, however, the most common pregnancy complications that occur in infants with SUA are heart defects, gastrointestinal tract abnormalities, and problems with the central nervous system.
The doctor explained that while it isn’t a normal thing, it isn’t the rarest complication ever to exist, and it isn’t super uncommon. He mentioned that sometimes these babies can be born with congenital defects like double uteri or two ureters, some babies can be born with organ abnormalities like having one kidney or three, or two where only one works properly, and other babies with SUA are 100% healthy as if having only one artery in their umbilical cord had no effect on them whatsoever. He said that in extreme cases, these babies are born with chromosomal defects, where they have more than one copy of certain chromosomes, like #13 or #18, in which case ultrasounds will pick up serious and sometimes fatal organ damage or delayed development.
Our doctor told us we shouldn’t be worried about those things because all of our ultrasounds have come back perfectly normal, and none of the typical symptoms of these abnormalities have been found on our scans. Typically, a baby with SUA that has chromosomal or other abnormalities will be born before 37 weeks, and will show signs like low birth weight, a sloping forehead, organ damage/extra organs/two few organs/organs in the wrong place, stunted growth, extra fingers or toes, etc. However, Kinsley is weighing 5 pounds 8 oz at 35 weeks and 4 days, which is one quarter of a pound larger than typical babies at 35 weeks, and much larger than babies with abnormalities.
The doctor informed us that since ultrasound scans are very good at picking up abnormalities, due to the fact that we have had normal ultrasounds it is likely that our baby will be born without any congenital or chromosomal abnormalities. Nothing is 100%, and we will not know for sure if she is completely healthy until she is born, but he has instructed us not to worry until then.
All of my remaining weekly appointments have been changed to include non stress tests (NST) which will take place at the beginning of my appointment. I will go in and they will put straps around my belly to monitor Kinsley’s heart rate better. When she is moving her heart rate should increase and when she is at rest it should decrease. If this is the case, the test results will be deemed “reactive” and no issues will be found. If not, sometimes further testing will be done to determine if she is getting the oxygen she needs from the umbilical cord despite it having only one artery.
The doctor explained that if it is determined at any of these appointments with non stress tests that Kinsley is not getting what she needs on the inside, they will schedule a cesarean and she will be born early to ensure she is able to get what she needs. He said it is common for babies with SUA to be born early, and by cesarean. In addition to that, my ultrasound shows that I have extra fluid, which may also cause me to go into labor sooner. He laughed and added that this extra fluid is also the reason I am measuring a bit bigger than most women at 35 weeks, and is likely the cause of most of my discomfort.
Before we left the appointment he assured us that babies with SUA are born healthy all the time, in fact, he delivered over the weekend with a single artery umbilical cord, and that woman’s baby was perfectly fine.
Of course, nothing is 100%, and that’s the thought that had me in tears on the phone with my mom last night as I told her the worst that can happen to this precious child.
Nothing is 100% is all I could think as I tried not to sob while chopping the vegetables for our stir fry last night.
Nothing is 100% ebbed away at my glass half full for the rest of the evening, even when Nick hugged me and told me not to worry because everything will be okay and he needs me to be strong for him too.
Nothing is 100% slammed around in my mind when I poured my soggy chocolate chex down the drain this morning.
One week ago I sat down hardly believing that I could have a tiny baby before the milk in our fridge expires, and that’s still a very real and strange possibility. Today I’m eating my breakfast with excitement and worry over when she will be here, and I’m praying, too- for her, and Nick, and myself.
I’m not praying that Kinsley June is born ‘normal’ because she is already whatever she will be. I’m praying that when she comes I will be ready for whatever that is, no matter what the outcome looks like.
I hope you’ll pray for us too.