The Nurse Put a “C” on My Chart for Crazy

Information can be good and bad. If you hear what you want, it’s good. If you don’t, well, it can be detrimental.
I think every new mom is anxious about the health of her baby, but I believe I harbor even stronger fears and anxieties than most. Daily I remind myslef that everything seems to be going really well. I feel great, the baby appears to be growing if my tummy is any indication. I still think I’m feeling him/her move sometimes (I may have even had two little kicks at dinner yesterday. He likes au gratin potatoes and I do too), but it’s so subtle it could easily be something else. I look forward to the day when the movements are regular and recognizable, because I think they’ll not only be a source of wonder, but a source of comfort. If baby is kicking, baby is still okay.
But last week I was offered another way to check on the little one. My place of employment has a really old fetal doppler, a device that can be used to detect fetal heartrates. For about 4 or 5 years now, since we stopped using it for official business, it has been passed from one pregnant employee to the next. The woman who last had it is due tomorrow, and she doesn’t need it anymore, so she passed the torch to me.
I waited for it to be delivered to my inbox with a mixture of excitement and apprehension. What if I get to hear my baby’s heartbeat! What if I don’t? Do I really want to mess with this technology when I don’t have a clue what I’m doing? But I believed everything was fine, so why should I be nervous? Was I being pessimistic to worry? Am I a bad mother for not just trusting that all is well?
It arrived, but the one friend on my hall who knew how to use it was out for the day. There it sat, in it’s blue zippered pouch, taunting me. I couldn’t decide if I saw it as a tool or a weapon. I tried to ignore it and do my work, but I swear it was looking at me.
Finally, the next day she was at work and offered to give me lessons. I tried to act nonchalant, but I was so nervous.
She turned it on, and touched my belly with the device. I heard a loud heartbeat. “That’s it! That’s the baby!” she said. At first, I felt a surge of relief. But the device also calculates heart rate. The rate was about 110, and a slow panic started building. At my two previous appointments, the heart rate had been in the 160s. I voiced my concern, and she didn’t seem too worried, but tried again. This time the heart rate was about 120. “The battery may be low. That will affect the readout,” she tried to reassure me.
I acted like I was okay with the whole thing, but as soon as she left I started panicking. Why was it so much lower? Had something happened? I turned to my sometimes friend/sometimes foe the internet for answers. “The average fetal heartrate is between 140-160 beats per minute.” Stupid internet.
So I ran to the nearest store and bought new batteries. Back in the quiet of my office, alone, I tried it again. I had no trouble finding the heartbeat, but the rate still wavered between 108 and 125. Finally, I turned off the doppler and called my doctor’s office. I sheepishly explained my situation to the receptionist, embarrassed that I had been busted using equipment I was not trained to use. But if something was wrong, I needed them to know and to tell me what to do. I needed advice, and quickly. I called Lee, and when I tried to tell him what happened I couldn’t keep the tears from coming. I had only used the stupid device to get reassurance, and ended up terrified instead.
While I waited for them to call back, I considered throwing the doppler out the window. I had been doing pretty well managing my fears and anxieties, but I was a wreck thanks to that technology. I stared at my email and all the work I needed to do, but I couldn’t do any of it. All I could do was will the phone to ring.
Meanwhile, my friend came back in my office and I told her I had bought new batteries and it hadn’t made a difference. She said, “You look like you’re about to cry.”
“Too late,” I said.
She thought I was being overly concerned, but suggested we try the doppler again and count the beats this time instead of relying on the digital readout. It’s old, and could be faulty. I didn’t really want to because I was now ofically scared of the thing, but I also couldn’t come up with a reasonable argument at the time, so I agreed.
She put the doppler on my belly again, and I heard the heartbeat. She moved it around a little more, and then suddenly, I heard something else. It was a heartbeat, but it was softer and much faster. “That’s the baby! You can tell the difference” she said. “And its heartbeat is 159! Are you happy now?” She showed me the doppler, and sure enough, 159 was on the screen. Every other time we had been measuring my heartbeat, not the baby’s!
I was so relieved, and it was like a cloud of fear was lifted from my eyes and I got my first good look at the situation. There I was, lying on the floor of my office behind my desk. We had propped some stuff in front of the window beside my door to keep passersby from looking in. My shirt was pulled up and my co-worker had squirted lubricating jelly on my stomach, accidentally filling my belly button too. What would someone have thought if they opened the door just then? They’d see my feet sticking out from behind my desk, and my friend hovering over me with the doppler. I’d have some explaining to do.
As I looked up at the pressboard underside of my desk and at the ceiling tiles, I laughed and laughed. We both laughed until we were crying. I laughed because I knew how funny this looked, but mostly I laughed because I was so happy that the baby’s heartbeat was fine.
I called the doctor’s office again, and when I finally talked to a nurse I was very apologetic. I explained what happened, and expected a rebuke. But she was kind, and said everything was fine and to call anytime. I asked her if she was going to put a C on my chart for Crazy, but she said she’d seen much worse.
But there are still 23 weeks to go. Plenty of time for more meltdowns.
And just for the record, I’ve tried the doppler twice more on my own, and although it took me a minute, I was able to find the heartbeat. And it sounds wonderful.