10 years ago...
The most important day of my life was the day I found out I was pregnant. I know most people may say the birth of their child is an important day, but that event was almost anti-climatic when compared to just one week earlier. You read that right, I found out I was pregnant one week before giving birth. I had always thought that only happened to teenagers in denial, but not to someone like me. I was over 30 and intelligent and I had just seen my doctor a month before, wouldn't he have told me I was pregnant?
My husband, Brian, and I were living in Iceland. He's in the Air Force and we were finishing up a three year tour and were sad to be leaving. Iceland is gorgeous and nothing like what most people imagine. Brian and I had already been married for almost 10 years and although we had been trying to get pregnant were told we would need lots of help to do so. We decided to put the idea out of our minds while living overseas and away from our families.
It was our last weekend on the island, we wanted to go sightseeing with friends one last time. Our desire was to visit one of our favorite waterfalls, Seljarlandsfoss, it is beautiful and you can walk behind it looking out from behind the cascading water. I was carrying both a video camera and our friend's four year old daughter, it was muddy and I didn't want her to slip. I was so miserable. I couldn't breath and felt completely out of shape. I had just been to see my doctor a month prior to this, complaining of tiredness, backaches, weight gain and swollen ankles. He had done a blood workup and determined I did not have diabetes or a thyroid problem. He advised me to lose the extra weight as he felt that was the root cause of all my other problems.
After getting back to the vehicle and complaining of my out of shape condition my friend asked me if I would take a pregnancy test. I laughed and said that I had just been to see the doctor and I'm sure they would have mentioned it. She persisted saying it was just a hunch and I finally caved in. The next morning I woke up and took the first test of the double pack she had bought for me. I read the results and didn't think I had done it right, I'd tried the direct to stick method and felt that there hadn't been enough contact, so the results were inconclusive. I waited an hour and then tried again. This time I tried the stick in a cup method making sure there was enough contact between the liquid and the tester. This one couldn't be denounced by operator error – it was definitely positive.
I was stunned. Well, I thought, that certainly explained a lot. I still had no idea how far along I was though. I called the base hospital and pleaded with them to come in on a Sunday and do an exam to see if I was in fact, pregnant. I was leaving the island the next weekend, headed out on a plane and back to the states. I'd be on vacation without medical care for over a month. They were so understanding and we headed right in. I had spoken to our friends and everyone was now placing bets as to how far along I was; first trimester with twins, second trimester, triplets...
Once at the hospital they were preparing me for an ultrasound when the doctor asked to do a visual exam first. My old doctor had already left Iceland and was now stationed elsewhere. With her next words my entire life changed. “Well, you are dilated to about a 4, my fingers are touching your baby's head, and you are having a contraction as we speak”. Is that what that was? That had been happening for a couple of weeks now, I thought I just needed to use the restroom – but then nothing would happen. Once I was finally hooked up to the ultrasound I was introduced to my baby. Not just the little blurry peanut shape ultrasound that everyone claims they can see is a baby, I was looking at a big baby head in profile! The best part was that it was father's day, I handed the ultrasound picture to Brian and while crying said “Happy First Father's Day”.
More tests were to follow. The measurements taken lead them to believe I was 39 weeks pregnant. “How far along is that?” I asked trying to divide by 4 to figure it out in months. I was told a normal pregnancy is 40 weeks, but because I was so far along it was too hard to know for sure. Because of the contractions and my lack of prenatal care they want to keep me longer for observation. I was laughing and crying at one point when my nurse came in asking me why I was making his monitors so erratic. Between the tears and hiccups I cried “I can't have a baby, I haven't read any books yet!”. He laughed and promised me this was something he could help me with. He came back with two books, one in each hand. The first, he read out loud “What to Expect When You're Expecting”. That one he threw over his shoulder and out into the hallway, sending me into more laughing hiccuping fits. The second one, “What to Expect the First Year”, he handed to me “I'd pay particular attention to the first chapter”, that chapter explained the process of delivering a baby.
This observation was followed up by an ambulance trip to Reykjavik, the capital city of Iceland. I had more tests and more consultations with Icelandic doctors to determine if I was actually ready to deliver. My contractions had stopped and they were considering letting me go back home. During another ultrasound an Icelandic technician was training another technician from Denmark. They were speaking English so when they were describing what they were viewing, and worked their way to the baby's sex, there was no mistaking it - we were having a boy! They were worried that I had wanted to be surprised and they had just given it away, “you can't surprise me anymore than I already am!” I laughed.
This is just the exciting beginning to our wonderful story. Our son, Alexzander, decided to hang in there for another week. I was briefly able to enjoy being pregnant without worrying that something else was terribly wrong with me and all indications were that the baby was just fine as well. In the meantime, we made tons of phone calls. Our families were so happy for us, although we were sad to be missing Brian's sister's wedding. We had to contact several military agencies making sure that they knew not to kick us out of military housing and off the base quite yet. We had shipped off our vehicle already and were living with only our two suitcases. We were told we'd be staying for an extra two months for our son's passport, thankfully between the baby gifts and borrowing from friends we had enough stuff to see us through. Alexzander decided to come one week later. The next Sunday morning my water broke and later that night I had a c-section. He was a perfectly healthy 8 lbs. 6 ozs. 20 inches long.
I've learned so much from this adventure. I now trust myself more and listen to my own instincts. I do not rely so much on intellectual knowledge, whether from a book or from a professional. I am also more open to the unexpected and the unplanned, knowing that something amazing could be just around the corner - a true miracle from God. I left Iceland with the best souvenir I could have ever imagined.