free hit counter Snacks, please!: Part 2

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Part 2

A couple of years ago, one of my sisters and I saw a psychic at a Connecticut spa. Get a pedicure, hear your fortune, eat low-call food that's supposed to taste high-cal, that kind of thing. Anyway, the psychic told me that I was an extraordinarily lucky person and I thought, well... I don't know about EXTRAORDINARY, but I think I am pretty lucky, yes. Generally speaking, I think things are usually going to end up okay and they do. So, you can imagine my surprise, finding myself at 4 a.m., a few nights after Christmas, praying to the Mother of God and my dead grandmother for intercession.

And that's because, by Christmas, it was pretty clear that the twins did have TTTS. In fact, by Thanksgiving, the writing was on the wall -- my little piggie was swimming around in 5 centimeters of fluid, while her wee sister barely floated in just 2. By Christmas, it was closer to 10 and 1. I remember being up in Connecticut and my sister saying, "Oh, I think you're getting bigger before our eyes! What nice fat babies you're going to have!" But no, it was just fluid, as we moved swiftly into the first stage of the syndrome. (And it was hard not to think of her as a big ol' selfish piggie. I told one of the many doctors that we saw that I thought it portended poorly for her personality. She politely disagreed -- and I'm sure wrote something about the mother's poor perception of reality in our chart.)

Anyway, we cut short our vacation to see a TTTS specialist at the University of Maryland in Baltimore. And I think that's maybe when we really did get lucky. There are only like 10 or so centers in the country where they treat TTTS with laser surgery -- the latest thing -- and we lived just about 45 minutes from one. I kept thinking, what if I lived in Kansas? What would I do? The babies wouldn't have a chance! (I would never live in Kansas, but that's beside the point... stay with me, here.)

Anyway, I felt good about the place -- at least they knew what they're talking about. And I liked that when the head doctor reviewed the ultrasound scans, and took a second look himself, he didn't mind leaning against my leg to reach the other side of my gigantic belly. I rationalized that if he could touch my maternity corduroys, he probably wasn't going to deliver very bad news. One would maintain a certain distance, at least a few inches of decorum, I think, if one was going to say something like, "Your babies are dying."

The actual ultrasounds were done by a very fashionable doctor -- leather boots and well-tied scarves -- who said absolutely nothing, but frequently winced. When I asked her how it looked, she told me to save my questions for the end. She needed to concentrate. She had some kind of accent and I decided she was Israeli. (They're all humorless people and I can say so because my husband is almost Jewish.)
Okay, okay! Not all of them.

Anyway, they decided not to do surgery (after we get my mother on a plane down here to watch Lucy) for many reasons, but they can be summed up like this: The babies would likely die. Of course, the babies would likely die if we did nothing too... but they reasoned that I was at 25 weeks and we really only needed to get to 28 weeks. I didn't want 28-week babies. I told them that I wanted surgery. The doctor said, "Well, if you really really want it, I will do it. But I don't want to." And what can you say to that?

We opted for medication, hoping it would reduce the fluid around the big baby. And it did, but it also caused some heart problems with the big baby, who already had heart problems -- a thickening in the heart wall that might require surgery. Now, in addition, something, a ductus maybe, was closed that should have been open, or maybe it was the other way around... (There was so much to process!) And then, our pediatric cardiologist found there wasn't enough blood going to the little one's brain either. Aw, fuck -- and you know I don't often swear -- now that sounded bad. (Or was it?? Our expert in Baltimore argued that the cardio guy was just measuring wrong. It is a very difficult measurement, he said archly.)

A low point: The fluid around ma petite drops to 0.5 centimers. She is what they call, in medical parlance, "a stuck baby." And then her bladder disappeared. "Um, where did it go?" I asked. "Because, it was just there last week..." It wasn't really GONE, they explained, it was just empty -- and because the ultrasound only sees fluid, it disappeared from the picture.

But the weeks were going by, 26, 27, 28, 29, and the babies were still cooking. And finally, the Israeli cracked. One day, she actually smiled. "I think you're going to find success," she said.

(To be continued...)


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