Since I submitted a photo of my belly cast from my pregnancy with you to Natural Parents Network's pregnancy-themed Wordless Wednesday post for today, I figured there is no time like the present to share the story of how the belly cast came to be!
Relatively early in my pregnancy with you, I ordered a belly cast kit and looked forward to what was sure to be a messy but memorable project. I planned to hold off as long as possible, aiming for the 38 week mark, so that the keepsake that resulted would reflect the full extent to which my body nourished and made room for you. Of course, one of the most important lessons I've learned from pregnancy and motherhood is that it's good to have plans, but it's vital to be adaptable and roll with the punches when things change.
The story of your belly cast starts with your anatomy scan, the first ultrasound we had. In addition to learning that you were a girl, we learned that there were some minor abnormalities detected with your kidneys and stomach. We declined more invasive testing, but agreed to have a follow up ultrasound and scheduled it for 33 weeks gestation. When the time for the follow up arrived, there was some good news and some bad news. The good news what that the abnormalities from your anatomy scan had resolved, as the doctor told us they were likely to. The bad news was that you were very comfortably breech, and that you had unusually low levels of amniotic fluid.
The low AFI (amniotic fluid index) meant more follow up ultrasounds and non-stress tests (NST). At 35 weeks pregnant, ultrasound revealed that the AFI had dipped to what was considered a "dangerously low" level, and I was admitted to the hospital where I spent the most traumatic 4 days of my life. I was given a battery of tests to try and determine if there was reason to take you from the womb prematurely. Thankfully, in the end, it was determined that you were best off staying put and cooking a while longer, and I fought tooth and nail against suggestions to schedule a cesarean and allowed you to choose your own birthday.
That weekend was filled with ups and downs. I was prepared for the possibility of a surgical birth of a premature baby. I was warned of the chance that you might have to spend a considerable amount of time in NICU and need a lot of special care after you were born. I was shown videos of what to expect in various scenarios, and they were heartbreaking to watch.
Despite our fear and concern, your father and I tried to make the best of it. He stayed with me each night in the uncomfortable hospital bed. He brought me favorite foods, we watched movies, he rubbed my feet, he held me when I cried, he told the nurses to back off when they were coming on too strong. He was not only a strong and supportive partner, he was an amazing advocate and stood up for me and my wishes.
When we found out that you might be coming earlier than we expected, I was desperate to do the belly cast. I was optimistic that you'd make it to full term, but I didn't want to risk missing the opportunity to create the keepsake I'd been so looking forward to. The second day of our hospital stay, when your father made a trip home and returned with a suitcase for me, he had packed the belly cast kit, along with an eclectic mix of items that included a variety of bras; even a strapless one!
We nervously asked the nurses if we could do the belly cast in the hospital room, promising we wouldn't make too big of a mess. They graciously obliged our request, and didn't even complain when the mess got MUCH bigger than we'd anticipated.
Creating that belly cast was certainly memorable, and was the brightest splash of sunshine in an otherwise bleak experience. Your father had far too much fun covering me in plaster, and the nurses were impressed with the cast while it dried in the corner of the room. We contemplated a number of ways to finish and decorate the cast, and 9 months after you were born, we finally got around to completing it.
Today, it hangs in our front porch, just above and to the left of my desk. When I sit here and write these letters to you, I often glance up at it and smile, remembering how much I loved being pregnant with you, and how in awe of my own body I was as you grew inside of it.