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  • Abnormal ultrasound - the words no parents want to hear
  • Catherine Brooks

Abnormal ultrasound - the words no parents want to hear

As many of you know, Lest and I are pregnant - exciting times at Natural Supply Co. However, as I've blogged about (here and here), I haven't found the pregnancy process particularly easy. From nausea, fatigue, hormonally charged emotions (read: lots of tears!) and a normal douse of anxiety about a raft of things, I'm not thoroughly enjoying the journey - yet! 

But there are some enjoyable aspects. Such as being motivated to finally implement some work / life balance into my life (I'm surrounded by great people at work and the 14 hour days are starting to wear thin). Such as feeling my beautiful baby kick and somersault inside me. Such as great nails - thanks bub! 

The other really enjoyable part is getting an ultrasound and seeing our hidden away little baby become real and visible on the screen in front of us. I remember after my first ultrasound thinking "why didn't I choose this as a career!? How awesome to be able to watch life growing and show this amazingness to the parents." It's like giving someone the gift of sight. Such joy and wonder. But after our second ultrasound I realised the very big downside to this career. Having to tell parents when issues are found during a scan.

As I lay there looking blissfully up at my baby, my husband became aware that something was amiss. "I could tell that the specialist was measuring, and remeasuring, this one part of the baby and zooming in on that part multiple times" said Brendan. "That's when I thought something was wrong'. The specialist finished the rest of the scan and then, after I'd wiped the goo off my stomach, told us that there was an abnormality on the scan. The baby had four cysts on one of its kidneys. We would need to go to the specialist clinic at the Royal Women's Hospital and get it reviewed there.

My heart dropped. I had no idea what any of it meant and I was not in the most rational headspace anyway. So we did what all concerned parents do - Brendan got on the internet. And then he told me promptly that that was not a good idea, so I didn't look myself.

A month passed and I finally had my specialist appointment yesterday at the Women's. They were amazing - so kind and caring despite their massive workload. The doctors confirmed our worst suspicions, bub has only one functioning kidney. But, they rushed on, the good news is that everything else is working fine, including the other kidney and his bladder (did I mention that we're having a boy!?).

The whole time that I was lying there, stressed to the max, being brave and holding back tears, our baby was kicking and squirming around. It was the most reassuring sight to see. It was like he knew that now would be the time to demonstrate just how well he truly is! Thanks bub.

The doctor ran me through all the info - lots of babies are born with one functioning kidney. The whole left kidney is covered in cysts so it's not functioning at all. Most likely, this will not effect the baby or the birth. Bub will likely have a bit of a swollen tummy when he comes out because the bung kidney will be bigger than normal, but then that should reduce and shrivel. In rare circumstances, they may choose to operate on the bung kidney but only if they see malignant growths. Regular monitoring was all they recommended for now. 

As you can imagine, this was all so much to take in. I managed to hold it together (mainly because the staff were all so kind) until I got in the car and called my sister, then it all came pouring out! For some reason, my sister always provokes tears. Maybe it's because she always says the right thing - a combination of "it'll all be ok, but it's totally understandable that you feel panicked and upset right now". And then my brother in law got in on the action by telling me that Tom Lonergan lost a kidney in 2007 and went on to play in three premierships and is still a professional AFL player! Thanks bro! 

After a stressful appointment, I then stood around waiting to get my next appointment booked in. A group of doctors started discussing another ultrasound within earshot. It became clear to me quite quickly that the baby in question was in trouble. The term 'lethal' was used a number of times. My heart immediately went out to the poor parents and that baby. The reality of my otherwise insignificant concerns hit home. Our baby could survive with one kidney. It is unlikely that it will cause complications at birth. In actual fact, much of the news was positive as everything else is functioning really well and there are no visible signs of a chromosome issue.

Sometimes it's the small things that we need to cling on to, to make us realise just how lucky we are.

Right now, I'm trying to enjoy every movement in my tummy, and I'm feeling very grateful to be living in Australia where I can get such great care.

Have you experienced the awful news of having an abnormal ultrasound? Do you know anyone living with one kidney?  



  • Catherine Brooks

Comments on this post (3)

  • Dec 10, 2015

    Dear Catherine,
    So your news was a shock, my mother had the same shock 50 years ago when my brother was born with the same problem. He is now 50, 6’ feet 7, three kids, successful business and not a day of ill health related to having one kidney. So what the doctors have said is correct but relax and enjoy the settled weeks of pregnancy that are ahead.

    — sharon

  • Dec 10, 2015

    Friends of mine found that their baby had only 3 chambers in the heart, not four and was told open heart surgery would need to be performed on their newborn. How stressful! On the upside, all went well thanks to the talented doctors in Melbourne and the amazing health care we have at our disposal. I’m sure all will be fine and I hope you can carry on and enjoy the remainder of your pregnancy.

    — Nicole

  • Dec 10, 2015

    Great post Cath….and by that I mean that not enough of us take the opportunity to discuss just how awful this experience is. I am very sorry that you are enduring this anxiety and heartbreak as we speak ? As “healthy” and"helpful" as it is to focus on the positives in times like these, it is also equally important to grieve what ever it is that you have lost – such as the carefree and enjoyable pregnancy experience that many women get. I couldn’t agree more about the staff at the Royal women’s hospital…their bedside manner and equipment is amazing! Take care of you and enjoy every minute that you have with your previous little boy…inside or out, these minutes are priceless xxx

    — Jess Novak

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