Things didn’t get worse last week, which means they got better. According to the doctors at the Ottawa General Hospital, this was supposed to be the week my son should have been born. He would have been almost two months premature.
But after our appointment on Tuesday, after the doctor completed my girlfriend’s physical exam, and checked the ultrasound report, he told us the pregnancy should continue another three weeks. The cerclage is still doing its job, it’s still the only thing holding the baby in his mother’s womb. My girlfriend’s cervix is now shaped like a really shallow funnel, the baby’s… sack, for lack of a better term, has almost completely filled the space behind the cerclage.
But, the doctor said, he’s seen worse. We’re still on a day-to-day schedule, things can still go wrong — the cerclage could still fail, the contractions could get worse, the water could still break — but the chances things could go wrong are all within the margin of error. So the baby could be born sooner, but right now it looks like it’ll happen later.
Which is great, because in three weeks it’ll be Week Thirty… which is seven months and two weeks. And then it’s only two short weeks until Month Eight. And being borne one month premature is a lot better than the two or three months we were expecting not too long ago.
Every extra week in the womb is a serious reduction in the complications involved in a premature birth. We’ve been literally counting days since we found out my girlfriend was pregnant, so our doctor giving us an extra twenty-one is a new reality which hasn’t really set in yet. At least not with me.
We’ve got appointments with the Ottawa General Hospital’s high-risk pregnancy department every Tuesday from now until the baby is born. And we’re supposed to be prepared for my girlfriend to move into the maternity word at the end of each appointment, depending on the doctor’s evaluation of the cerclage. But a huge amount of pressure has been lifted. I think.
I’ve felt numb for a little while. Maybe longer. After my girlfriend came home from the appointment last week — she went with her father, I stayed to look after her son — she was panicked, and it was infectious. The doctor had told her, based on the continued deterioration of the cerclage, to expect the baby to be delivered soon. Really soon. Which freaked her out, which freaked me out.
But on Tuesday I asked the doctor a couple of questions based on what my girlfriend had told me about the previous appointment, and right away I could tell he was looking at me with his patient “you’re a first time father-to-be” face. It was pretty much then I realized my level of panic might be justified based on what I thought was going on, but not entirely based on reality.
So this is my understanding of what he explained… the cerclage could fail completely. It would be unusual, but it might happen. But even without the cerclage we would still have hours to get to the hospital — which is a lot better than what I had understood. Based on everything I’d heard up to that point I figured we’d have twenty minutes from strange pains in my girlfriend’s stomach, to the kid asking where his breakfast was.
If the cerclage holds, but my girlfriend goes into premature labour and her water breaks — another unusual scenario, we’d still have time to get to the hospital because the baby can’t get through the cerclage. And, of course, if she simply starts having contractions we’ve got time to get to the hospital.
When I asked about ambulances, and speed — because we’re an hour from the hospital — he suggested we could use the air ambulance to get from our little hospital to Ottawa. But that was the point where I realized I was being “that guy”.
In that moment I realized… we’re not unique. Of course people other than my girlfriend and myself have gone through this before and, since there haven’t been a lot of news stories about women dropping kids out of their uterus while walking through a mall, the survival rate must be pretty high.
Worst case scenario would be the cerclage failing completely, the water breaking and the contractions starting all at once. But what happens then… is my girlfriend gives birth. Taa daa.
For some reason, in my head, this scenario meant either the kid was automatically dead, or the baby would tear through my girlfriend’s spine and pop out of her back like that thing in Alien. But, according to the doctor, all we have to do is what almost every other pregnant human couple living in Canada has done for the past 60 years… we drive to a modern, shiny, socialist hospital where a team of specialists carefully removes my son from his mother.
It sounds like a crazy dream, but apparently it works pretty well.*
Something good did come from spending a week thinking my child was in a life or death situation. Thanks to the panic I was feeling we finally gave the boy a name.
I didn’t have much of a list to chose from. My girlfriend had thirty names, but half of hers came from novels about vampires… she’s a huge fan of Laurell K. Hamilton’s books. She even had my biological father’s name on her list, because it’s also the name of a character in a vampire novel.
We ended up going with family names. So our kid is named after my grandfather, and her father: Victor David.
I wanted to have names that meant something to us. I would’ve gone with Victor even without the family connection, considering what the kid has been through so far I think it just fits. And my girlfriend’s dad is a good man. I do have… lets call them ‘issues’ with my grandfather. He was distant, he was missing for a good part of my life, but he also led an incredible life. And he’s a good man.
Plus, chances are way better now I’ll be in the will.
I still think ‘Cooler’ would have been an awesome name for the boy. But my girlfriend didn’t want him named after my cat.
* …and it’s all free. All of it. Just saying.