Tiny But Mighty: Our IUGR Journeys

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Intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR) is when a baby isn’t growing as expected during pregnancy.

There’s a chance you’ve never heard of it. I hadn’t, until the doctor was sitting in front of me asking if we had done any genetic testing or if our first baby was born small.

I still remember being told to meet the doctor in his office.

It was my routine anatomy scan during my second pregnancy. When the ultrasound tech walked back in and said to follow her to the doctor’s office I immediately panicked.

“Your baby is measuring small. We’re going to send you downstairs for bloodwork and have you come back in 4 weeks for a follow up scan.”

I remember going home and immediately googling, which was definitely a mistake. Why was he small? Was there something wrong? Was this my fault? It was a long month, but I had hope he would have a growth spurt and be back on track.

But he didn’t.

I was then told I’d be coming back to maternal fetal medicine (MFM) in 4 weeks, and every single week after that. On top of an appointment once a week at my regular OB.

For the last 6 weeks of my pregnancy I had 2 appointments a week. Both appointments included a non stress test, and the appointment at MFM also had an ultrasound.

Many women beg for more ultrasounds like I was getting, but honestly it was exhausting. It was a constant worry that he would stop growing. I had appointments where he wasn’t responding on the monitor how they wanted and I would be there for hours. A few times they were close to sending me upstairs to labor and delivery for more monitoring. Luckily his cord blood flow was always great on the ultrasounds and he eventually passed all of his non stress tests.

Finally on December 14, 2015 I had my little IUGR baby. I remember the doctor saying “true knot” the second before they pulled him out. He had a knot in his umbilical cord, which was likely the cause of his growth restriction.

Then I heard my little 5 pound 15 ounce baby cry. And every single worry quickly faded.

I went on to get pregnant again, and he measured on track the entire time. No extra appointments, no extra stress. A healthy 7 pound baby born just after 37 weeks.

When I got pregnant with my fourth, another IUGR diagnosis didn’t even cross my mind. It was just a fluke the first time, and my last pregnancy was fine.

Unfortunately, I was wrong.

Once again, baby measured small at my anatomy scan. With my history of IUGR they immediately scheduled me to come back for a follow up. This time, I wasn’t as worried. Every appointment brought anxiety that he would stop growing, especially since he was even smaller than big brother. I knew that each appointment meant I was closer to him being safely in my arms.

On November 15, 2019, exactly 37 weeks, I had my fourth and final c section. I remember my doctor holding him up and my first thought was that he was tiny! I knew he was going to be small, but I wasn’t expecting him to be so small.

4 pounds 15.5 ounces and 17.75 inches long.

He wasn’t even on the growth charts. I’m so grateful he was healthy and didn’t need any time in the NICU.

We weren’t prepared, even though we had an IUGR baby before. After leaving the hospital we had to stop at target for preemie diapers. We even had to order preemie clothes because newborn size was way too big.

We had extra weight checks in his first few weeks of life. He struggled to latch because his mouth was so small, so I pumped until he was around two weeks old. But he was healthy and finally started gaining.

At a year old he’s still small, but catching up. We still get comments about how small he looks, which always brings back memories of his pregnancy.

Both of my IUGR boys are feisty. They were tiny, but mighty. Our journeys, in hindsight, could have been harder. I was blessed with amazing doctors and no major blood flow or placental issues. We didn’t have to deliver too early and avoided any major complications or NICU stays. But in the moment, I was overwhelmed and worried constantly.

So to any mama facing an IUGR diagnosis during pregnancy, you’ve got this. It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it. These babies are miracles. They are fighters, and oh so special.

 

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