New insurance card in hand, I walked into my first prenatal doctor visit for my 6th pregnancy. I waited in the waiting room with all the other women and their companions. I wondered what my doctor was going to say. My last baby had been my 5th cesarean section. I had asked for the tubal ligation and the doctor had readily agreed that was a good idea. We were all surprised that I was back here again for this specific reason.
When I was called back and he came walking into the room he said, “Well, here we are again!” and we both laughed. “I did not see this coming” I told him. “Neither did I” he said, “I’ve performed over 10,000 tubal ligations in my career, you are the fourth out of that many that has gotten pregnant afterward. Statistically, it happens one in every 1,000.” I really felt like one in one thousand was much more common than I thought it would be. That was probably only because it was happening to me.
“Let’s see how you’re doing” he said. By this time, he knew me. He had been my doctor since 1998. I never went to the doctor unless I was pregnant or having a major health event, like appendicitis. He began feeling my lymph nodes. With his hands gentle on my neck, he paused and asked me, “Did you know you have a growth here on your neck?” Confused, I said, “No, I didn’t know.” He looked at me and asked, “Have you had any trouble swallowing or breathing?” I shook my head and said, “No, not that I noticed.” Stepping back and making a note in the chart he said to me, “Well, I’m going to make you a referral to have this looked at. Most of the time these things are nothing at all, but I want you to get it checked out. Don’t leave here without the referral. I’m sending you to a colleague of mine that I trust.” I replied, “Okay” not really thinking anything about it.
It was too early to know if the baby was a boy or a girl, but he did an ultrasound anyway. The baby was in there and growing right on schedule. Before I left, he once again mentioned the growth. “Go to that appointment and we will talk about it at your next visit.” By the time I was checking out from that visit, the nurse handed me the appointment card for the referral with instructions about where to go for that. It was in two weeks.
When I showed up two weeks later at the imaging center for the ultrasound on my neck, I did not know what to expect. I had looked up the neck growth stuff and got mixed information. Dr. Google said it probably was not anything to worry about. I did not really trust him anymore after he lied to me about the tubal pregnancy. Why did I keep consulting him? The ultrasound tech took me to the back and set it all up. She did the entire neck ultrasound without saying anything. “Any ideas?” I asked her. “It’s for the doctor to look at, I can’t say” she said. “Hmmph” I replied.
I was obviously pregnant, and noticing that she said to me, “Do you know yet if you’re having a boy or girl?” I told her, “No I don’t know yet. I have 5 boys already, though!” Shocked, she said, “You’re kidding me! Well, we have to take a peek, then right?” Excited now, I said, “Well, yeah, if we can!” She pepped right up and moved her machine around. We both turned our attention to the screen.
After a few minutes she thoughtfully said, “Well, you’re only 17 weeks and I can’t say with 100 percent certainty, but if I was guessing, I’d say this is another boy.” She sounded sad at the revelation, as if in the 20 minutes she had known me she desperately wanted me to have a baby girl. “It’s okay” I told her, “I actually think it would be much easier on us all at this point if it was another boy. We have nowhere to put a girl!” She smiled at me, but still looked sad. I patted her on the arm and told her I was happy with the news. As I walked out, I thought it was funny that I had consoled her about it. We did not tell anyone outside it was a boy until after the big ultrasound a few weeks later. We enjoyed having that knowledge to ourselves for a few weeks.
Over the next five months things got interesting. I had a needle biopsy on my neck that came back inconclusive. Our options were to ignore it or schedule a surgery after the baby was born to have it removed and tested. The ear nose and throat doctor said to me, “If it was in my body, I would want it out!” and I believed him. Before the baby was born, the growth doubled in size. At first, I hadn’t even noticed it was there. By March I could see it when I turned my head to the side. There really wasn’t a lot of time to dwell on it. We were also doing steroid shots in my hip since the little parasite inside was going to have to come out a couple weeks early. Apparently, it was not good for a uterus to have 6 surgeries, but whatevs. I always did like a challenge.
The morning our sweet Jude was born to the outside world, we got to the hospital bright and early. A well-intentioned nurse informed us we could not possibly have an elective c-section this early. It was against the law. Her tone and demeanor made it seem as if we had been idly sipping mimosas on the golf course and decided it would best fit our schedules if we just popped on over to the hospital to get this birth thing out of the way in the most convenient fashion possible. Really, nothing screamed convenience like this entire journey! She made a huffy phone call to my doctor while Steven and I watched in fascinated silence from across the room. “Oh, well, okay then.” She said and hung up the phone. She started making notes in on her chart. “Well, what did he say?” I asked her. “You have a uterine window, I didn’t know that” she replied. When she left the room, we of course, googled “uterine window” because we had never heard the term before. Was it possible to feel worried in retrospect, because I totally felt worried in retrospect.
The operating room was full of medical personnel. Prepared for any number of problems, they had called in extra medical staff to be on hand for the delivery. Thankfully, it went off without a hitch and they slowly exited the room. The tiniest baby I’d ever given birth to at 6lbs 9 oz stole our hearts the second we saw him. Even his little cry was adorable. He was like the cutest, sweetest, most expensive little toy we had ever been gifted!
They did another tubal ligation. When people asked me if I would be having any more children, I would now simply throw my hands in the air and say, “Who can know?” In case you were wondering why they did not just take it all out, (yes, people ask me that all the time) I had another surgery on the horizon to remove a hormone producing organ. They did not want to overdo it. Why make that year ridiculous, after all?
Jude gave us a little scare, developing a pneumothorax. We had been down that road before with a different Goodrich boy. This was not as bad as the first experience. He had a 6-day jaunt at children’s hospital and recovered completely. He came home to be the most held, carried, rocked, and cajoled baby we had ever had in the house. He probably still is, almost 6 years later.
Oh, and that tumor? It turned out to be Hurthle Cell Carcinoma. Thyroid cancer makes up 1% of all cancer. Hurthle cell makes up 3-5% of thyroid cancers, making it a true rarity. In a year when I had my sixth son, after a tubal ligation, of course I would have nothing less than a true rarity! Two surgeries, radiation, and an isolation period later, we came out the other side. I’ll write more about all of that, and the amazing people who helped us get through it, another time.