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Susan's Story: Don't Panic

Susan's Story

Meet Susan

Jim Daly

It was only a few months ago that Focus on the Family's "Celebrate Family, Celebrate Life" ad aired during the Super Bowl. The upbeat celebration of the bond between Heisman trophy winner Tim Tebow and his mother. And that is where a young woman named Susan enters the picture.

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Don't Panic

I'm pretty sure the phrase – "There is no reason to panic" – has never really reassured anyone about anything.

Because I have several small risk factors (migraines, stomach issues, advanced maternal age and the previously mentioned blood cord issue), I have been getting fairly frequent ultrasounds. At 31 weeks and 5 days, I went in for another screening. After the technician did all the scans and gave me more pictures, the doctor came in. He first gave me a list of everything positive: The baby weighed three pounds, nine ounces, and had plenty of amniotic fluid; her bladder was functioning; she was moving around well; and so on. Then he told me he was a little concerned that her stomach had gotten skinny. While she had not stopped growing, apparently a thinning of the stomach is a first sign of trouble for babies who do stop growing. Usually if a baby has stopped growing, the problem is a placenta issue, and I learned that there isn’t much I can do about that.

The doctor wanted to see me back in two weeks. I would be just under 34 weeks at that point. The doctor explained that if the baby didn’t show adequate growth, he would give me steroid shots to help develop her lungs in case they had to deliver her early. Those shots had to be administered before 34 weeks. He assured me that I shouldn’t panic and sent me on my way.

Shouldn’t panic? While I’m usually the kind of person who takes everything in stride, I just wanted to cry after hearing this news. The doctor had written on the report that he was only moderately concerned about the condition. I decided not to ask on a scale of 1 to 10 where moderate ranked and what would cause severe concern.

To be honest, I started to worry that the baby’s weight problems were my fault. I have always struggled with weight gain, and at the start of the pregnancy, I was concerned about regaining too much of the 97 pounds I had lost over the previous 18 months. During the first trimester I gained only 4 pounds. It’s funny how quickly I went from worrying about my weight to only caring about the baby’s health. By the end of the second trimester, I had gained about 20 pounds. I was surprised when my weight gain slowed in the third trimester – I lost one pound, gained two, gained half a pound, and so on.

I’ve had stomach surgery in the past, so I have to limit how much food I eat in one sitting. This got even harder as the baby grew and began to push on my stomach. I was concerned that the baby’s weight problems were possibly caused by my not eating enough. I added up my calories and was shocked at how little I was eating. I felt like I was eating all of the time! I consulted with a dietitian, and while it was true that I needed to bulk up my caloric and protein intake, the dietitian assured me that nothing I was doing was hurting the baby. She explained that the baby’s weight problems were a result of the placenta, not because I’m struggling to eat enough. Still, I tried to increase my eating and waited for the next ultrasound.

At the next screening we got good news! The baby’s weight was estimated to be four pounds, seven ounces. At the previous ultrasound her weight had been in the 33rd percentile and her stomach was in the 14th percentile. At this visit her weight was in the 32nd percentile and her stomach was in the 16th percentile.

So what did that mean? Essentially her percentiles were remaining steady. Babies who have placenta problems or who aren’t growing enough fall further and further behind. My little one’s growth had stayed consistent. And while the doctor plans to keep a careful eye on her and to continue having more ultrasounds, it seems as though my girl is simply going to be a smaller baby.

No reason to panic at all!

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