“It’s like kidneys. You are supposed to have two, but you can live with just one. Or like eyes. Most people have two, but you can see with just one.”
When my doctor said these things to me, I wasn’t sure if I should feel more concerned or less concerned. I had just had my 20 week anatomy scan, and was told my baby girl had single umbilical artery, more commonly known as SUA. Most umbilical cords have one vein and two arteries, but my baby had one.
My baby was missing something and I just couldn’t shake that feeling. Immediately, I was consumed with the thought, “I can’t do this.” What if she isn’t normal? What if she is physically deformed? What if she is cognitively impaired? And while I didn’t want to go there, I did. What if she didn’t make it? I couldn’t do it.
I didn’t have the presence of mind to actually ask any questions. I was shocked, confused, and scared. One kidney? One eye? None of those things seemed like a good thing to me, or even an okay thing.
I went back to work feeling hollow, not sure what to do. And I finished the day pretending my world wasn’t just turned upside down full of fear and grief.
Fast forward to that evening, and within three to four hours, I was a regular ole expert on SUA, thanks to Dr. Google. (A word to the wise, don’t ever Google).
SUA occurs in less than one percent of singleton pregnancies. It is associated with IUGR (Intrauterine Growth Restriction), heart and kidney defects, genetic abnormalities, etc. I read somewhere that 70% of babies with SUA have “isolated SUA” and turn out perfectly fine.
70%? I’ll take those odds in a card game, but not with my child.
But the problem was, I didn’t have control over those odds. I didn’t have control over anything. This was my first real lesson of motherhood—by creating life, there has to be an acceptance that with life comes challenges and always death. I already had a burning desire to make everything right for my baby, but I knew it wasn’t really in my hands. It is in God’s hands. I went to bed that night knowing it was beyond my control.
I’m forever thankful for the most amazing support system (and truly, amazing doesn’t do it justice) of family, friends, and even strangers, but this was still incredibly difficult. Even as I was beginning to grasp this, to understand a mother’s unconditional love, I struggled internally. I woke up the next day with panic edging in.
The next step was another anatomy scan, two weeks later. My husband and I went to that appointment, hoping to hear those coveted words, “isolated SUA.” Instead, we were referred to a high-risk doctor.
Ultrasounds were scheduled for every other week but they quickly turned into weekly ultrasounds. I lived for those scans. I felt like my life was on hold, as I was just moving about in a haze holding my breath and counting the days until the next scan. Always seesawing between the tormenting thought that I could lose my baby and the all-consuming love of that baby and acceptance of an uncertain future. The next scan would come and go, and I would just be left
again waiting for the promise of that next appointment.
I spent the next 19 weeks and 1 day reminding myself, over and over, that whatever happened during this pregnancy, there was a beautiful soul that I loved unconditionally.
Sometimes, I feel like I missed out on all of the joy of my pregnancy. Uneasiness consumed me. I spent so much time worrying, crying, and praying. From being referred to the high-risk doctor, to having an impossible time finding baby’s heartbeat, to an unplanned hospital admittance, to a last minute c-section, I had to continually accept that motherhood was beyond my control and that with motherhood comes life and death and everything in between.
And the only way to bear it is to accept it as a beautiful, worthy journey.
I can clearly remember that when I was in the operating room, they told us to listen for the word, “uterine,” and that is how you’ll know she is coming. I waited anxiously—and then I heard it. But it felt like an eternity between hearing that and finally hearing her first cry.
The second I heard that sweet song of a cry, it affirmed what I already knew: she was indeed a breath-taking miracle that I would always love unconditionally.
Now, I spend my days playing with my sweet, healthy six month old baby girl. And even though my mama heart still worries, I choose again and again to accept that she is ours to love, care for, and nurture for as long as God allows.