We're currently at Week 34, entering into Week 35 tomorrow.
Week 34 may not be a very signifiant "milestone" in medical terms because it neither signifies the beginning of a new trimester (Week 27), nor full-term (Week 39), but it's a very special milestone to Boon and I. Here's the story.
During our structural scan on Week 20 at FMGC with Dr. Patrick, doctor did a detailed scan and found everything to be normal and well, except that baby's kidneys were slightly dilated (enlarged/swollen). This meant that baby had Urinary Reflux, where his urine does not drain out of his bladder properly and backs up in to the kidneys. Doctor said this was common among boys and the likelihood of him still having this problem when he's born is very low, and even if his kidneys are still dilated after birth, antibiotics or minor surgeries could easily solve the problem.
This may seem like a small problem seeing that it can be easily solved, but both of us were concerned because we don't want our poor baby to suffer anything, ANYTHING at all. We shared with our families but kept it close to ourselves, and prayed for baby every chance we get that his kidneys will be strong and back to normal again. I kept thinking of ways that I can help to improve his situation, but apparently there was nothing much I could do. The helplessness I felt of not being able to do anything to help my baby's situation was horrible. I also felt that maybe it's because I don't drink enough water, so I increased my water intake in hopes that it would help with baby's kidney dilation.
On Week 29 (13/10), we went for a follow-up check following our structural scan, Dr Patrick did a scan and confirmed that baby's kidneys have become back to normal size, to which we were hugely relieved and overjoyed.
But that was not the only thing that doctor found. While on one hand we had a good news, on the other, he found that my placenta was slightly matured. Having not heard anything about "placenta maturation" before, we didn't know if that meant to be a good or bad thing. After our scan, doctor sat us down and told us about it.
He said that he found calcium spots on my placenta, which indicates that it is maturing. At Week 29, it was a bit early for my placenta to start maturing. He further explained that usually placenta starts maturing towards the end of pregnancy, which explains why it becomes dangerous to keep a baby within the womb past Week 41 cos usually by then the placenta fully matures and ages, and isn't able to properly supply nutrients and oxygen for the baby anymore. Apart from the placenta calcification, he also discovered the amniotic fluid level in my uterus is lower than healthy level, which could cause the womb to be a hostile environment for the baby to live and grow in. If it doesn't become better, and if the baby isn't growing at a healthy rate following the subsequent checks, then we would have to opt for C-Section once we approach Week 34.
When we heard the words C-Section at Week 34, we didn't know how to feel.
Week 34 would mean that baby would be born pre-mature, which means if his lungs and other parts of the body isn't strong enough to sustain him on their own, baby would need to stay in NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) for a few weeks until he is strong enough to go home with us. That is the positive part of it. At worst case, if he isn't strong enough even with NICU, we might lose our baby.
And to hear that I would need to undergo C-Section (caesarean) to give birth to the baby, I was honestly discouraged. I had planned and hoped to ideally have everything go natural- natural birth, breastfeeding, etc etc. And I had been looking forward to exercising and getting back in to shape the moment I'm out of confinement. With C-Section, I would have to wait for months and months before I can start exercising again. And I've been hearing that the pain is much harder to bear. Going for C-Section never crossed my mind, but now that it could mean my only option to safely deliver my baby into this world, I was left with no choice but to accept the fact that not everything is ideal. I know not everything would be ideal, but I didn't think I would have to accept it this way.
We left the clinic with lots of uncertainties and anxiety. We didn't see it coming, we never heard of placenta calcification, and didn't fully understand what it meant besides the brief points that our doctor explained to us. We only knew one thing- we might have to prepare for our baby's pre-term birth, and I'll likely have to go for a C-Section. From 11 more weeks to go, if baby has to be out by Week 34, it meant we only had 5 more weeks to prepare for his arrival. That's half the time left to get ourselves and the house ready. Boon was still actively travelling for work. We were not ready at all.
The doctor says the earliest that we can deliver the baby safely is Week 34. From the sound of the severity of my placenta calcification, we were only hoping to make it past the Week 34 mark, and nothing more. On one hand we wanted to be faith-filled and optimistic, to believe in being able to reach full term at Week 39. On the other, we also wanted to prepare ourselves for the worst and for the high possibility of baby's early arrival.
When we went home, I did my research online about the topic of Placenta Calcification and found that a lot of women go through that as well, some made it til full term, some had to give birth before Week 34 and their baby had to spend 3-4 weeks in the NICU before going home, and some gave birth to stillborns because the baby couldn't receive enough nutrients and oxygen to survive, and by the time they found out about the maturation of placenta, it was too late.
That really scared me. I became so fearful and stressed out that I began to hate it when people ask how's my baby. We only told our family and close friends, and didn't want to do too many explanation to others because we, or more like, I didn't like to talk about it. So when people ask me out of good intention how's pregnancy coming along and how's baby doing, I would always say he's doing good and everything is good. I just didn't want to explain. I didn't want to see the concern in that person's eyes and feel even worse about our situation. I just wanted time to pass quickly and check with our doctor again to see if baby is doing better. I felt so bleak and slightly helpless/hopeless.
It was tough to juggle between faith and accepting our circumstances, and we could not do anything at all other than praying for my placenta to stop/slow down the maturation, for the amniotic fluid level to increase in my uterus and again, to keep drinking more water. I literally increase my water level so much that I became constantly bloated with water. I suffered from water retention and looked like I grew fatter with all the water weight inside of me. I gained weight like mad. These thing that used to matter to me didn't anymore, because I only had one goal- that is to improve my physical situation and bring my baby safely into this world. Whether or not I bloat into a fat whale, it didn't matter anymore.
I also read that doctors would advise women with placenta calcification to take bed rest for weeks and not put too much stress on the body. Some of the causes that lead to early placenta calcification were smoking (which I don't), old age pregnancy (I'm 26), and stress (which I didn't think I had). Then I started to think if driving might have contributed to this situation. I started to dread going out, driving by myself and stressing out driving. Every time I jam break my stomach would hurt a little due to the shock. I began to dread driving and going out. I just wanted to stay at home and reach Week 34 safely.
I became so stressed out and sad about it that whenever people asked about my baby, I would need to hold back my tears and just smile and say everything was okay. There were a couple of times that I would just stay in bed and cry out of fear and uncertainty. I really didn't want anything bad to happen.
Two weeks ago (Oct 27), we went to see Dr Patrick again. We were so anxious to find out if things have gotten better or worse. To our utmost relief, doctor said my amniotic fluid level has increased by double, and it's back to a healthy level again, and that though there was still calcium spots on my placenta, our baby was still able to receive nutrients and oxygen from it and even grew to 2.1kg! It was a good sign that my placenta is still in good condition. Doctor was overall satisfied and told us that we didn't have to go back to see him anymore, and regular check-ups with my usual gynae would suffice.
That was music to our ears. We didn't have to go back to see Dr Patrick anymore, because he saw no concerns anymore. We were so relieved I felt like we won a major battle that deserved a huge celebration. Truly thank God for this miracle, for bringing us through our difficult season of uncertainty and fear.
We're now in Week 34, crossing over to Week 35 tomorrow. Baby is growing more active and bigger by the day, which is a good sign that he's doing well inside. By this week baby would have been born pre-maturely if we hadn't received this miracle from God. But it didn't happen. God answered our prayers and brought us through safely and healthily until today.
4 more weeks to go to hit full term. Believing in faith wholeheartedly to reach Week 39, to give birth to a healthy and strong baby naturally, to come home together as a family on the second/third day after labor.
This is why Week 34 is significant to us, and this is our little testimony. There's no prayer too small that God will ignore. Every prayer and tear means a lot to Him, and He will answer to those who call upon Him.
Thank You for your love and protection, and big thanks to all who have been offering positive words of encouragement, prayers and support.
And of course, thank you husby for being my pillar of strength, my cheerleader and ball of positivity throughout this time. You were so sure that we'll make it through which at some point made me feel a little mad cos it seemed like you didn't feel the severity as much as I did. But I thank God that you were positive when I wasn't, and strong when I was weak. We've made it through another difficult season, and I'm so glad we did it together.
That's all from me for now. I've so much to share about my third trimester journey thus far. It's getting more difficult by the day, but I'm doing fine. Shall update soon :)