I mentioned at the beginning of December that the pregnancy had been complicated by several things. Well, really two things. One was already diagnosed, gestational diabetes. I was put on a tiny does of an oral medication once a day and my blood sugars were looking very good. I knew I would have to be very careful over the approaching holiday, but I was so pleased not to require insulin, I was very happy to be as strict as I needed to be to keep things under control.
The second complication was something called Intrahepatic Cholestasis of Pregnancy. You can read about it here. I've had it before. In the past pregnancies where it occurred, it was always in the last 3-4 weeks. I was induced at 39 weeks with Agnes because I had started itching at about 38 weeks. This time I was symptomatic at 30 weeks and blood tests showed liver enzymes were elevated. That's why I was sent to the perinatologist twice a week to check on the baby. As one of the doctors put it, one of those conditions on its own was something to be cautious about, but the interplay of both conditions was more serious. I was put on medication to help control the cholestasis but was reminded that it was not a cure. Just like the diabetes, only delivery would cure the cholestasis.
As the week of Christmas approached I was feeling better. The medication was mostly working. Even with the hassle of all those doctors visits, each time I could see our baby boy was looking great, moving around and growing. The midwives and I picked dates for induction in mid-January since the perinatologist did not want me to go beyond 38 weeks. Let me pause here to say that I have a love/hate relationship with these doctors. On the one hand, I knew everything they were doing was about protecting my baby's health and so I was grateful to have their expertise. On the other hand they utter phrases like "sudden fetal death" like I say good morning. Yikes.
It dawned on me that from Friday December 19th through Sunday December 28th, our family would be out of the house, or hosting company every single day. Every single day. I admit I was a little terrified and begged God to keep the cholestasis under control. See, the worst part of the disease is that the peak of itching happens at night. It is like an exquisite form of torture that left me feeling ill and debilitated the next day. So when on that Sunday before Christmas I was up all night I began to panic. I remember praying all that Monday that it was just a tiny attack and the medicine would keep on working. I told the perinatologist at my appointment and he suggested adding a dose of medication. Monday night was no better and on into Tuesday night still bad. And still we kept to all our commitments. I dragged myself through the days, dreading the darkness. It was now Christmas Eve. Big family celebration. I love Christmas Eve at my parent's home. At the same time I was beyond exhausted and now a little scared. All that day I would suddenly stop, terrified I had not felt the baby move enough, eating something sweet, drinking cold water. Looking back, I know he was moving around just fine. I know my anxiety was the severe sleep deprivation and just feeling sick. It was with that anxiety that we walked into the standing room only church for the vigil Mass. As we walked in, with the lights low, and I caught a glimpse of how beautiful and peaceful the altar looked, I felt the tears come to my eyes. Dave made sure I had a seat while he stood with the children. Then I heard the amazing voice of a dear friend of ours as he lead the choir. As his voice rang over the church my sweet baby began rolling or heck, dancing around in my belly like I had not felt all day. Every time my friend sang, my baby moved. (Not by coincidence, I'm sure, Dave had been thinking about asking this friend to be the baby's godfather.) Then the tears fell. I'm sure the people on either side wondered what was wrong with me. I think part of me is still stuck in that moment on Christmas Eve. Everything that has come since feels like a blur. In that moment I knew our infant Lord had the care of my son in His hands and really in many ways, that is still exactly where I am.