My 35th week started out very normal. Besides the fact that I've been slowing down a bit (which I assume to be normal at this stage), I had been feeling well, watching baby kick and wiggle and just starting to mentally prepare for the last 4-5 weeks of pregnancy.
On Thursday, however, I noticed an annoying itchiness all over my body. At first, I thought this was a normal pregnancy symptom (several people confirmed this to be typical, especially around the belly and breasts- as your skin stretches that make sense). Then I thought it potentially could have something to do with that termite funigation just over a week ago at our apartment. Maybe my sensitive skin was picking up on some residue left behind from the gases. For the most part, however, I could ignore the little itching and it didn't bother me enough to be distracting.
Thursday night, however, I woke up in the middle of the night with extremely itchy feet- the soles of my feet in particular. In the morning I asked Kevin if he maybe also felt itchy (maybe it was those fumigation chemicals?) - but he didn't- and he suggested itchy feet could mean athletes feet. But I've never had that before and thought that was highly unlikely. So... where do you turn for answers these days except google?!
When I googled "itchy feet pregnancy" some results came up about cholestasis. I didn't have any of the other symptoms listed, and it seemed very rare, so I doubted I actually had this condition. But, I wanted to learn more and get more advice. So after Google, you call mom (who thankfully in my case is a super nurse, with a PhD in research) :) Mom looks up the condition and after getting a little worried herself confirms I should call the doctor. Here's where I start to get a little nervous, more actually more irritated.
The doctor of course wasn't open yet for an hour, 8:30am and I didn't feel like it was an emergency to be put through to the doctor on call- so I waited to talk with the nurse. When I called back she was busy at 8:30 and I left a message. No reply after an hour, so I stepped out of meetings to call again at 9:30am. When I spoke to the nurse, told her my symptoms, she was completely unconcerned and mentioned a possible referral to dermatology. I shared that I had done some internet searches, to which she said "oh no, don't look anything up online" and "you don't need to come in early for blood work, just keep your 3pm appointment and the doctor will probably refer you to dermatology." I was pleasant, but annoyed with her "bedside" manner and the fact that she didn't make me feel better at all. A previous nurse I'd worked with at this clinic was wayyyyy better about easing my concerns and always offered to have me come in if I was distressed.
Luckily, I had my 35 week appointment already on the books for later that day, so I just planned to talk with the doctor about it. I also planned to mention how unhelpful her nurse was- maybe she can work on that...
At the doctor when I was checked in by the technition who always takes my vitals, I mentioned the itchiness to her. She asked probing questions "was the itchiness on my palms of my hands and soles of my feet?" To which I replied "yes". She immediately put the notes in the file and said "okay"- she clearly knew what this indicated and after she left the rom I immediately felt that I was going to be taken seriously and supported.
We unfortunately had to wait an hour for the doctor, due to an emergency with another patient, but when they offered to reschedule everyone else except me- the tech noting "you have to be seen today" I knew this was more serious and I didn't mind waiting.
My doctor talked with me about my symptoms and said this was likely Cholestasis. She asked if I had googled it, not in a condescending way like her nurse, but more with an "of course you did" but let me make sure you have all the facts, attitude. She told me basically that Cholestasis is when your liver is not functioning properly and while the itchiness is definitely an annoying symptom, the much more scary possibility is "infant demise", which can occur out of the blue, typically after 38 weeks. Although she was clearly experienced in this, and said she had never had a patient that lost her baby from this condition, the words "infant demise" can make anyone pause. And cry. So tears of course began forming in my eyes and rolling down my cheeks.
She said we would now run some blood work, some of which would come back quickly and other pieces would take a week. Likely, all this means is that the birth of our baby just would be a bit more interventionist and less natural than I had planned and hoped for. She would probably induce me between 37 and 38 weeks. Also, the tests could
come back and show nothing, so we would wait to see.The only thing I need to do is kick counts to keep track of her movements 3 times a day. She moves a lot so I wasn't too concerned over that. Furthermore, I have weekly visits planned through the pregnancy now, so next week we could make a decision. Kevin was great, asking tons of helpful questions to learn more (he always is great about that)- I basically sit there in shock and processing silently- my questions never arise in the moment. But I left the doctor assured again with her that we were in very good hands.
After the blood work (luckily the blood tech also was very friendly and kept my mind at ease or simply distracted with talk about little baby girls and how exciting it was because he had all sisters...I say this as
a thank you to those of you in the medical field or really any field of work dealing with people and being kind to them on a regular basis- kindness always helps!!) - the news really starred to sink in- and I was devistated. Mainly concerned about this rare rare possibility of losing the baby or also being affected by liver disease in my future and not being able to help kevin take care of the baby - I practically lost it on the way home, and have had many moments of that in the past 40 hours.
The morning after the blood work, we had planned to work around the house nesting :) getting everything completely cleaned, organized and prepared for little baby bears arrival, which we still thought would be at least 2-3 weeks away now. Kevin and his mom basically did all the hard work and prep, while I folded cute little baby socks and onesies. After we felt really accomplished and orgnancized we sat down on the couch to watch tv and rest at 1pm, when I also checked my health app to see if any of the test results came in. That's when I was hit with another shock and freak out moment.
Although only half of the results were back, my doctor messaged to tell me that my liver enzyme levels are extremely high and that she had scheduled me for an induction this week on Wednesday. I would also need to go into the hospital on Monday for a nonstress test and a shot of steroids to ensure our baby bear's lungs are fully developed. She had called to tell me but I had missed the call and we knew she had a planned vacation so couldn't be immediately reached. I immediately freaked out again. This week?! We are not ready!!! I was not ready for this.
Kevin and I called the on call doctor, who was extremely helpful. Kevin again asked all the best questions while I was sitting there dumbfounded like "okay, okay, okay." We decided to go in immediately to have the baby monitored, get the shot and extra blood tests done.
So here I am, smiling, because the baby was doing well and I am so grateful I shared my weird but important concern about "itching."
Red face and swollen eyes are a symptom of the on and off crying and worry I've been doing all this time, including another round of crying when we showed up in labor and delivery because this was still such a shock and still feels a bit surreal.
So at the hospital yesterday, baby showed up as doing fantastic :) I received a shot in my butt with steroids for her lungs (painful but anything for baby) and they did additional blood work for Hep C, which is necessary when your liver enzymes are as elevated as mine are. I also must again put out immense gratitude for the wonderful labor and delivery nurses who were so kind to us yesterday and I'm sure again we will get to experience in just a few more days.
Today we have a (previously scheduled) day-long labor class, and I have to return for a second steroid shot. Tomorrow and Tuesday I just plan to rest and mentally prepare for the baby to be born on Wednesday! I feel so bad about taking her out of her warm and cozy womb 4 weeks early- but I am very confident that this is what needs to happen. Also I feel that we are both in very good hands with my doctor and all the care that Stanford provides.
My final note, and the main point of this whole post is a reminder to myself and others out there to listen to your body. You know what is right and what seems off. If I hadn't pursued this strange feeling I had, we never would have had extra blood testing or this diagnosis. You are your best advocate.
I truly believe that everything happens for a reason. While I still feel sad that my body has reacted in this way and worried about our little girl, I feel that she is meant to join us this week- and how exciting we get to meet her beautiful little face, fingers and toes. I am immensely grateful for the love that got us here, and that which will continue to help us thrive as a growing family. Thank you to our family and friends for your ongoing support and love and we can't wait to introduce you to our baby bear later this week 💓