On Thursday afternoon we had a follow-up detailed anatomy (anomaly) scan to last Wednesday’s emergency ultrasound intended to assess whether Azulito/a had any visible anatomical abnormalities that would confirm (or refute) the positive test result for alpha-fetoprotein I received last week Tuesday, indicating elevated risk of Spina Bifida or Anencephaly (or other open neural tube defect).
Thursday’s ultrasound was performed by Mary Poppins. Her pleasant bubbly nature is the only kind thing I can say about the entire experience. She started by asking me if I knew why I was there. Suppressing an urge to plant a fist in her throat and rip out a handful of the hair carefully tousled and tied atop her head, I responded with “You have not read my chart, have you?” as I heard the LP shuffle his feet in the chair at the foot of the examination table on which I was lying.
She assured me she had viewed my last ultrasound but that she liked “to hear from patients”. Trying not to roll my eyes and pinning my fists beneath me so as to avoid risk of assault charges, I recited in 7 seconds or less why we were there on Thursday and why we’d been there the week before. I did not get into the fact that this was pregnancy number 10 for us and that the LP and I suffer from what would surely be diagnosed as some form of ultrasound- and pregnancy-loss-induced post-traumatic stress disorder and could be just get on with it already and let me see what the hell she was looking at (she refused to let me see the screen until the end when I got to see the cutesy baby stuff that people who only get one or two ultrasounds always want to see).
I was upset, scared and angry. In my gut I immediately knew things were not going to go well before she even began the ultrasound. Things ended much worse than I could have expected. She refused to let us talk to the doctor, saying he was busy and needed time to compare last week’s report and images to this week’s. She said we had to wait for him to do that, write up his report, send it to our doctor and make time to speak with my doctor once she received the report.
My doctor is still off work sick (this is two weeks now – did she have a bloody breakdown or catch an infectious disease? For heaven’s sake already!). We went to her office immediately after being rebuffed at the ultrasound clinic. First available appointment with my (about to be fired) doctor is February 12, 2015. Perfect. Universe, are you kidding me?
As a child, I loved Mary Poppins. On Thursday, I wanted to pummel her.
To keep what could otherwise be a long story very short, we learned…. Well…. Nothing. Not entirely true. We learned that Azulito/a has adorable hands and feet. How delightful. Is my outrage and anxiety projecting itself between the lines here? I ask because it is leaping up like bile from my gut and lapping at the back of my teeth as I type this.
Don’t get me wrong, Azulito/a. I love your feet. And your hands. And your little button nose. I love everything about you and am doing everything I can to bring you safely into this world. But what I really wanted to know – what the LP and I really needed to hear was that at 18 weeks the doctor – not Mary Poppins – still could not see any abnormalities consistent with a finding of Spina Bifida or other open neural tube defect.
Mary Poppins not only refused to get the doctor for us to speak with. She refused to tell us how big Azulito/a was measuring so we would be able to assess if the growth was on track from last week in a desperate measure to draw assurance from anything she had scanned in the follow-up that the doctor had recommended. Her secrecy triggered many prior ultrasound experiences in which technicians have either acted evasive and refused to tell me or, when the LP has been with me, to tell us anything or the times when the technicians have outright lied to me (the best one being “I just need a moment to find the heartbeat we saw last time”. Yeah, that never actually happened and I knew the baby had died all the while she kept telling me that lie.)
The LP said “if she’d seen something she would have gotten the doctor” at first but I pointed out that with all of the complications we had with the Miracle Toddler’s pregnancy, not once did the technician ever let on a single issue – we were always blind-sided by the report when my doctor would go over it with me or us later. Upon recalling that, his anxiety level shot up, too. This was very different than last week when they were eager to comply with our (in my view, completely reasonable) request to speak to the doctor and the doctor was candid and forthright in saying the scan was earlier than they’d like, technically difficult and not perfect but did not reveal any abnormalities.
I want to believe everything is going to be okay or at least not fatal or near-disastrous. I truly do. But nothing about what happened on Thursday or what’s been going on in my mind since then is making that easy.
I am no stranger to the bureaucracy of our public health care system. I defended doctors in this regime against litigation and complaints for several years. I have hired and worked with doctors, nurses, others in the Western medical field as experts. I get the CYA protocol that underscores every move every professional makes. And that only makes me more anxious. Because everyone likes to share good news. The lips get sealed when the news is less revelatory.
In short, I am scared. And deeply enraged by the inhumanity of the system in which we are forced – because there is no alternative to the public health system where we live – to accept “care”. If I did not need these people as much as I do right now, I would be writing a scathing letter of complaint to the Colleges of each of the medical professionals by whom I feel utterly and repeatedly let down right now. But for now, that is not in the cards. I hope in time good news will overshadow the bad and I will let go of this outrage, hurt, silence, terror and anxiety and those complaints will go by the wayside.
I know, making them might improve things for others. That’s what my mother would say were she still alive. But I don’t need to be a crusader here. I am barely making it through each day when the stress levels are as high as they have been lately. Besides, I am not convinced another complaint or two or twenty-seven would make one lick of difference in the long run. Experience has taught me that is just not how those complaints work. The doctors and others who get them suffer momentarily, but their Colleges do nothing or next to nothing. And systemically, nothing changes.
And on that sour note, I end the hostile portion of this post.
Now on to something a little sweeter. A note to you, our dear baby. We love you, Azulito/a. Please be okay.
What is next? We attend the Perinatology Clinic next Wednesday, February 4th, for a Level II Ultrasound and to speak with one of the perinatologists there (I will not leave until that happens) about the positive screen, elevated aFP and whether that ultrasound and the ones this and last week suggest any neural tube problems. If so they will offer us amniocentesis. If not I hope this ends our current foray into yet another experience I would not wish on any expectant parent.