Kidney Blues

When we had our 36 week ultrasound, we thought it would be a breeze. We were going to see how big our little guy was and considering the immense fortress of my stomach and that my husband was 9lbs 3 oz (4.167 kg) when he was born, we didn't think small. So we were not astounded that he was on the big size - measuring nearly 6 lbs (5 lbs 14 oz) at 36 weeks and nearly 8 lbs at 38 weeks (7lbs 10 oz) - we both felt the force of his kicks!

We however were very unpleasantly surprised to find out that all the organs of his urinary system showed dilation. The most gut wrenching part of our ordeal was when the sonographer, who had up to that point been very chirpy and garrulous, widened her eyes and became taciturn in response to me asking for her to check whether she could see two healthy kidneys. For the next half hour as she pursed her lips and looked stoically at the screen, we thought the worst. Before I had asked her to check the kidneys, she was checking his blood and we were both embroiled in stygian thoughts that our son had kidney failure or an issue with his blood. I tried to be calm and not cry, as it moved my belly and affected her exam, but they welled up and gushed out. My little guy! How could this be happening to him? And, why? I immediately started to wonder whether it was something that I did. Did I not drink enough water? Was it because I drank coffee and wine at times in my pregnancy? Was it because I had too much acid in my diet? Too much potassium? Was it because I exercised too much? Was it because I slept on my right side as often as my left? What kind of mother was I, that I hurt my son before he even came out of the womb!

I understand - particularly as an attorney- that the sonographer cannot voice their opinion and that you must wait for the doctor's assessment but the ordeal of waiting is agonizing, particularly as you can see the panic and concern on their face and so you think the worst and ask - are his kidneys OK? Is his blood OK? And the learnt response - "the doctor will be here shortly to explain everything to you" - that strikes at your heart with a bitter blade.

When the doctor finally came to explain what had caught the sonographer's eye and stunted her in a brooding silence, it was much better than we expected. He had moderate dilation of his bladder, both kidneys and ureters. The doctor explained that the organs were healthy and whatever obstruction he may have was not preventing him from peeing as my amniotic fluid was at a healthy level. However, he did warn that there appeared to be some obstruction and that either it would go away after he first peed out of the womb, he would need antibiotics or he would need surgery. He reassured me they caught it in time to avoid kidney failure. On further research, I found the odds were on his side. My doctor made me feel a lot better when she said patients that were dilated up to 20 mm (he was at 11) were fine after their first pee. In any case, I am going to watch his pee like a hawk and take him to the pediatric urologist to err on the side of caution. My (not so) little one!

We've been having weekly ultrasounds since then and so far his condition is stable. I have been trying to employ the art of biofeedback, visualising his urinary system working like clockwork, but I am not sure whether biofeedback transfers from the mother to her baby in utero. It can't hurt.

Once we knew his condition was stable, we looked at the tragic humour of it all. I had just finished writing the first draft of my novel, which centers around a spontaneously sentient kidney and a girl dying from polycystic kidney disease. It had to be his kidneys....I did briefly wonder whether my research and writing on kidneys, kidney diseases and their trafficking somehow was at fault - oh, the cruel caprice and connivance of the cosmos!

I suppose worrying is part of the package of being a mum and I've already started to metamorphosize into the worry bean. My center of gravity has also shifted (physically as well as emotionally). Yesterday I craved an iced coffee from a particular cafe and walked there only to spot their cleansing juices. I knew this was better for my son, so in I went with a tooth for coffee and out I left with a citrus ginger blast (which is also yummy). En route, I spotted earrings that I wanted to buy and went inside the shop ready to indulge myself, not having bought myself anything for a long time -apart from maternity wear- and left without earrings and with an elephant onesie instead. I didn't want to splurge on both, so without thinking, once I saw an outfit for him, I instinctively lost the desire for my little indulgence and indulged in the bigger happiness of buying something for him - I can't wait to dress him up in it! So that's the instinct of motherhood and how a girl becomes a protective and caring mama bear.


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