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The Pregnant OB Part 6: I can see my baby

Posted on Apr. 7, 2015 ( comments)
pregnant ob 24 weeks sarah

It's kind of weird to think about what's going on inside of me. Because I know exactly what it looks like.

As I stare down and touch my expanding belly, I envisage the growing uterus under my skin. I see its pink-purple color and the dilated blood vessels that surround it and bring blood flow to the growing fetus.

I can also picture the fetus — my baby. Over the past few weeks, I’ve imagined his translucent skin, his fused eyes and his little hands and feet.

I visualize him not from some memorable pictures in a book, but because I've delivered premature babies into the world. I've held their tiny bodies, not fully developed, in my hands.

Now it's my uterus, with my fetus inside. And, I swear, I can see my little boy.

Outside the womb

Babies can potentially survive outside the womb from about age 24 weeks.

This time marks what doctors refer to as the threshold of viability, because, at 24 weeks, enough lung tissue has developed for a machine to successfully supply oxygen to the baby born early.

Sometimes, sadly, babies don’t make it even this far, though.

There are many reasons why a baby may be born before 24 weeks. If the uterus starts to contract early, labor may begin before it's the right time, and all the medications we have may not stop true pre-term labor.

Also, if the cervix starts to shorten too soon, it may not be able to support the growing baby, and the baby may come early. 

There are other reasons babies can be born before that 24-week mark as well. When they do, it's heartbreaking. There's nothing that can take away the pain of a mother holding her 22-week-old child in her arms, watching his heart stop beating. 

And here I am — 23 weeks’ pregnant. I’m just one week short of viability. What if the same thing happens to me?

Staying positive

My mind races back to all the babies I’ve delivered at 23 weeks. I remember giving them to their mother to hold, knowing I had no further medical intervention to offer.

A few miraculously survived, but usually, they did not.

So I return to my visualization. I build beautiful, positive images of my baby encased in a nice, thick membrane, swimming in warm, amniotic fluid, cushioned by the squishy placenta that I know the texture of all too well.

A woman’s uterus is the best incubator possible, better than all the medical technology available. So I pray my baby stays there, wrapped in his protective casings, until he's full term.

Related stories
The Pregnant OB Part 1: How to find the right doctor
The Pregnant OB Part 2: First kicks
The Pregnant OB Part 3: Holding my breath
The Pregnant OB Part 4: Baby on board, will travel
The Pregnant OB Part 5: The 20-week ultrasound

More information
Find an excellent MultiCare OB/GYN to guide you through a healthy pregnancy and delivery experience.

Learn more about pregnancy and newborn care.

About The Author

Dr Sarah Chen Dr. Sarah Chen
Sarah Chen, MD, The Pregnant OB, works at our MultiCare Kent Clinic. She recently graduated from Loma Linda University and moved to the Pacific Northwest with husband Benjamin Chen, MD, an orthopedic spine surgeon at MultiCare Good Samaritan Hospital. The couple welcomed their first child into the world in July 2015.
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