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NST Not So Stressful After All

I fought with my OB about it. I consulted two midwives for second and third opinions on the protocol. I discussed it with my doula. I obsessed about the issue with various friends and family members. And then I did it.

I went for my first fetal non-stress test (NST) today.

Since the midwives in particular both agreed that they would also prescribe the twice-weekly monitoring based on my age and SUA issues, I decided to stop feeling so railroaded by the medical establishment.

Because the test is particularly centered on fetal activity, my doula relayed a story about an OB she knew who advised a patient to "have a coke and a candy bar" before the test, to make sure the baby passed.

Those two items are not exactly part of my pregnancy diet repertoire, so I did my version: I stopped by Café Gratitude before my appointment and picked up an "i am chipper:" a smoothie made from nut milk, almond butter, dates, and raw cacao chips. (Yes, this place really exists. Come visit me in the Bay Area and we can consume our affirmations-named menu items together.)

I sucked down the smoothie in the car on the way to the hospital — the one where I will be having my baby in a very short time!

The antenatal testing room was sunny and the bed comfortable, though not a good place to get my knitting done, it turns out, because you have to lie on your side.

The nurse on duty was very friendly and kind of fun to talk to. As she strapped the two monitoring belts onto my belly, she explained that she would be looking at the baby's movements and contractions of my uterus, and checking to make sure that his heart rate goes up when he's moving (the same way ours does when we exercise), and when it does, that it varies by about 15 beats per minute from the baseline. She said I would be on the monitors for 20-30 minutes.

I asked if we met the criteria in five minutes, could we get off the monitors sooner.


I can't remember if she said his heart rate was supposed to go up or down during the contractions, but I kept my eye on those numbers. Every time the baby moved, I saw them go up. He seemed to fluctuate between about 135 and 161 BPM.

The nurse brought me juice in a big cup with a bendy straw and asked me a bunch of other questions while I lay there. She typed my answers into the computer. Most were pretty standard, about my pregnancy, the name of my pediatrician, etc. Perhaps the strangest one was whether I consider myself a visual, auditory, written, or demonstration learner. I'd never thought about it. She explained that the hospital is polling patients to help them devise the best methods for teaching us about things like breastfeeding.

I decided that I'm visual, but I probably used to be written before I got pregnant and burned out on reading so much pregnancy-related stuff.

At 20 minutes, she took me off the monitor. I'd barely made it through the first third of the gossip magazine she'd provided (only looking at the pictures, of course). We passed with flying colors. Totally healthy.

Next I went down to the ultrasound lab where a patient backup left me sitting on a folding chair in a hallway for forty minutes (ah... time for meditation and knitting!). I met another AMA mom in the ad-hoc waiting area who had also just completed her NST, also due in about three weeks with a boy, and sees the same OB as me. We'll probably be crossing paths here again.

When it was finally my turn, the brief five-minute ultrasound revealed that my baby is (still) head down, my amniotic fluid level is fine, and though they weren't checking for it, I asked her which way he was facing and she said spine up and I gave a little cheer because that's where we want him to be.

Go team!