Assuming I make it to our planned delivery date ~37/38 weeks, I’m over half way through this pregnancy with Jay. And I can feel my anxiety levels creeping up.
In the beginning, I was proud of how I coped. I took a logical approach, reminding myself that nothing could be done before viability (24 weeks) to change the outcome. I experienced almost zero pregnancy symptoms – I could simply ignore the fact that I was pregnant, and this is precisely what I did, as I let some hope infiltrate my life. My spirits lifted some.
Though at my 13 week appointment, my pragmatic ways flew out the window. My doctor tried to find Jay’s heartbeat with the Doppler, and it took her at least two minutes. But it felt like an eternity – it was enough time for me to visualize all the procedures I’d be undergoing. Tears streamed down my face as I began grieving another loss of a baby I already loved more than I thought I’d allowed myself to. And I thought about how I’d break this devastating news to the few we’d told.
But then she found Jay’s heartbeat. And I was so relieved and thankful. But the logic ship had sailed, as I leaned back on the table, unable to believe Jay was really alive, even as I listened to this beautiful sound. And my doctor understood, so she offered me an ultrasound, so my eyes could confirm what I should’ve been able to believe. But I knew intellectually I was being irrational, so I declined it only to rush back to her office the next morning begging for “an ultrasound to visually confirm presence of heartbeat.”
So that day Mark ordered a Doppler, which I’m acutely aware is worthless in so many ways given that Matthew died as I was attached to an effing medical grade fetal heart monitor. But upon its arrival, we started using it nonetheless. And at first we only used it maybe once per week as well as before subsequent appointments, to ensure that if we were to be told, “There is no heartbeat,” then at least we wouldn’t be surprised. (As if this would make it any easier.)
But then we started to use it every three days and then every two days and then once per day. And then, this past week, Mark went out of town, and I decided to start using it by myself. And each day he was gone my usage grew, until Mark returned to find me using it about four times per day, which is where we stand currently.
I use it each morning to ensure Jay survived the night, as I now know this is the time period during which studies have shown babies to be most vulnerable. I use it before heading off to work, to ensure Jay survived my morning workout and breakfast (as if these activities are dangerous). And I use it upon my return home from work as well as at bedtime.
But this doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of my crazy…
Some of Dr. Collins’ research suggests women with low blood pressure are more susceptible to having babies with cord issues, though even he acknowledges this can’t necessarily be proven, as women with super low blood pressure have healthy babies all the time, and, conversely, women with dangerously high blood pressure lose their babies to cord accidents too. Also excluded from his studies are women whose babies survived potentially dangerous cord issues, as data on umbilical cord pathology aren’t collected upon delivery of healthy, living babies.
But the low blood pressure speculation is where the cluster fuck begins for me, as I have low blood pressure… So I’m engaging in all these scary thoughts and maybe (or maybe not) irrational practices that begin with the low blood pressure issue but end in some sort of far off universe. And my activities/thoughts usually involve things like this…
To try to increase my blood pressure I’m attempting to flood my body with fluids – mostly water and Gatorade, which is filled with sodium. But then I think about Gatorade not being organic, so I worry this will harm Jay, so I try to stick with primarily water. I drink two to three bottles of water each night, if I can, since blood pressure tends to drop during sleep. And the bottles have been a great way for me to track my water intake, but then I worry that the chemicals from the plastic bottles are leaching into my water, also harming Jay.
Apparently compression stockings can increase blood pressure too. So I planned to sleep in these beginning after Jay’s anatomy scan. (Though I actually missed a couple of days before starting this.) So for the past few nights I’ve worn tight yoga pants, but I’m not sure whether they’re tight enough, so Mark ordered me some medical grade compression stockings to see if these work better.
So I’m doing all these things, which may or may not be futile, freaking out at any sign of failure (yellow vs. clear piss, or my pants not feeling tight enough), wondering if any of my “mistakes” will kill Jay. And I flip my shit at a blood pressure reading lower than 110/70, even though there’s no strong medical evidence to suggest this isn’t okay.
Oh, and despite testing negative for all blood clotting disorders, I take a baby Aspirin each day to reduce the risk of some random, spontaneous clot killing Jay.
And I wonder what if I’m eating too many carbs or not enough protein or not enough vegetables, or what if I fail to maintain the proper weight to the pound? Will this kill Jay?
Or what if I wake up on my right side or on my back? Will this kill Jay? I don’t think so, but it didn’t stop us from placing a huge pillow barrier in the middle of our bed to stop me from rolling over again. But conversely, what if I’m the one person for whom left-side sleeping isn’t optimal – like what if left-side sleeping is actually the worst for me and compresses Jay’s cord in some way?
And I think about the kick count app I need to find. Is there one on the market I can use all day, every day? One that will generate graphs showing Jay’s expected movement patterns based on historical data and then flag any deviance from said expectations? Or will I have to invent something like this?
And, though I generally live only one day at a time, I’ve begun engaging in some forward thinking, because our doctor recently asked whether we’d like to get our delivery date on the calendar. And neither Mark nor I could even begin to pick a date. Because there are so many things to consider. And I think we’re both (irrationally) concerned about all of the potential, low-probability, scary consequences (mostly outside our control) of possibly choosing the “wrong” date, which is so weird, because I wouldn’t have considered either one of us to be superstitious prior.
But barring any unforeseen circumstances or repeat tragedies, heaven forbid, I’ll likely have an elective, scheduled C-section. Because all parties involved agree that any attempted natural delivery would end in a C-section anyway. (Because I’d be screaming for one at first sight of an inevitable variable deceleration in heartbeat.)
So do we opt for 37 or 38 weeks or 36.5 weeks or 37.5 weeks? Apparently white males are most susceptible to lung immaturity, but ~95% of babies’ lungs are ready by 37 weeks. But what if we go too early and he dies? Or what if we go too late and he dies?
And do we pick July (the month Matthew died) to hopefully bring some light to an otherwise sad month and to honor Matthew in some way? Or do we pick August for Jay to have his own month entirely? Do we have my doctor perform my C-section? Or do we have her father, who did an excellent job with my first C-section, perform this C-section too? (Depending on which date we pick, my doctor could be on vacation.) Does the exact date matter? Should it share similarities to the numbers included in 7/13/2015, or should we strive for dates that share no numerical similarities whatsoever?
Should I just check into the hospital at ~36.5 weeks for “pre-term labor” that hopefully doesn’t even exist and do round-the-clock monitoring until we’re sure his lungs are ready?
And then I stop myself, because Matthew died at ~33 weeks, and, at this point, we can only hope that we’re lucky enough to even get the opportunity to make these decisions and live out their consequences.
But I feel as though I’m walking on egg shells. It feels like a one-wrong-move-and-he-dies type of situation. I know this isn’t rational, nor is it true. But I wonder if I’m struggling with some feelings below the surface – I wonder if, deep down inside, the smallest part of me still believes Matthew’s death must have been my fault in some way, despite me not knowing in what way this would have been and despite the fact that I would have given my life if I knew this might have saved him.
But I can’t say it helps when, upon hearing the news of my pregnancy, I’ve had people attempt to assuage my fears by offering, “But this time you’ll know what to look for.” (As if I didn’t know before.)
I constantly swing on the pendulum between thinking that Jay will definitely die and that Jay will definitely live, though I usually rest somewhere in the middle.
The rational part of me knows that I’m receiving great medical care, but that so much is still outside of our control. The rational part of me knows that tragedy is statistically unlikely to strike again. The rational part of me knows efforts or non-efforts such as wearing compression stockings at night aren’t necessarily backed by science and seem especially ridiculous upon consideration of things like the frequency with which illicit drug users actually deliver healthy babies.
But I think all rationale disappears when you’ve landed on the wrong side of statistics before, and there’s so much fear involved as a result. All rationale disappears when you’ve experienced the living hell that is the first few days and weeks and months following something as horrific as losing your child. All rationale disappears when, though you continue to grieve and struggle so much, you’ve also worked so damn hard to claw your way out of the throes of hell, coming so far, eventually daring to dream again by choosing hope over fear. All rationale disappears when you’re acutely aware that you could land right back there at any given moment, and, if this were to happen, you’re not sure you would ever make it out again.
So all you can do is hold your breath and worry and engage in both rational and irrational thoughts and behaviors and hope and pray and wait. Tick, tock.