I laid on the ultrasound table in the dimly lit room with my hands draped just above my belly. I had been in that position for so long that my fingertips had begun to tingle. I had only moved them a few times to wipe away tears.
These ultrasounds at the maternal-fetal medicine specialist were very long and very frequent. The doctors always confirmed what we already knew: this baby’s lungs were small and his bladder was absent. His postnatal existence would be a passing whisper in the wind.
This was not my first time, either. Three years earlier I had been in this same place with these same medical professionals telling me the same things. And I had gone back, month after month and then week after week to these ultrasounds because they told me I needed to.
But somewhere between the times where they walked me down the hallway just to use a newer machine, and the many medical students that came to observe my anomalous situation, I realized that these ultrasounds weren’t as necessary for my care as much as they were for educational purposes.
I kept going back when they told me to because, despite feeling like these ultrasounds weren’t purely for my own best care, I wanted so desperately each time for them to find that my baby had been miraculously healed. But they didn’t and she wasn’t.
I felt so exposed, physically and emotionally, over those long and vulnerable ultrasounds. I vowed, should this situation happen again, I would be stronger and advocate better for myself and my baby.
So there I was on that same table. The doctor asked me casually if, after this ultrasound, I would go with her down the hall to another ultrasound room with a different machine. I nodded reluctantly but felt angry that I had.
I knew that no matter how many ultrasounds we had, the prognosis for this baby would remain poor. Nothing that could be done and no amount of hours on that table would change that.
After the doctor gave me some simple instructions about where to go for the next ultrasound, I took a deep breath and said, in a quiet, shaky voice, “If it’s ok, I would rather not.”
The doctor looked up at me, her face a combination of disappointment and annoyance.
“Are you sure? This new machine will let me take a closer look at the baby’s heart,” she said, trying to convince me to reverse my decision.
I shook my head no and she turned and walked hastily out of the room, obviously quite unhappy at this change of plans.
Later that day I received a call from the ultrasound technician. She told me she knew I had denied the ultrasound this time, but asked if I would be willing to comply next time.
“No, I don’t want to. It’s just too much …” my voice trailed off.
The technician kindly told me she understood and wished me a pleasant day.
I felt a deep sense of contentment that I had been brave enough to advocate for my delicate emotional state and my fragile baby.
Mama, I want you to know you don’t have to go to every ultrasound or appointment. Certainly, the safety of both baby and mother should be of primary concern. But after that, the choice is yours.
Do not feel pressured into extra ultrasounds if you do not feel they are aiding in your best interest. Feel free today to say no and protect your emotions and your limited time with your baby.
Photo credit: Dallas Totra via Lightstock
Sarah Rieke is a wife and mother who has walked the impossible road of infant loss twice. The existence of her two sweet babies, Evie and Charlie, are the heartbeat behind Sarah’s desire to extend genuine compassion, empathy, and emotional support to mothers who have experienced loss.