In addition to opening my eyes to many other things – how I’d been taking for granted the simple joy of tying my own shoes or comfortably and effectively shaving my legs, how nasty DHA supplements taste when you burp them up, how incredibly imperative it is that I have a sour watermelon snowball every single day – pregnancy has opened my eyes to just how much we can change over time, and I don’t just mean physically. Throughout my three pregnancies, I have evolved a great deal.
With my first, which sadly ended in a miscarriage at 14 weeks, I was incredibly naïve. I fully believed that I could get through the whole nine months with only my primary care doctor; it didn’t even occur to me to call an obstetrician until I was about eight weeks in. I read every word of What To Expect When You’re Expecting and cherished my brief moments of queasiness and insisted I was having intense cravings for various things (avocado, vanilla pudding, pickles) at only six weeks along. I wouldn’t take so much as a Tylenol for a headache; I didn’t even drink alcohol during the two weeks when I thought I might be pregnant but didn’t yet know for sure. I strongly suspected that the world might stop if I didn’t take my prenatal vitamin every day, and I took my doctor’s word as gospel.
Then came Ruby. I got pregnant with Ruby – unexpectedly – on the heels of my miscarriage, which means I was drunk pretty much every night during the first two weeks of her embryonic existence. In fact, when the doctor called to tell me that my blood test indicated that I was pregnant again, I actually winced at the sound of the phone ringing because I was hungover and my head was killing me. (I am not proud of this or anything, but it’s the truth.)
Just after the miscarriage, I had been diagnosed with a blood clotting disorder, and when I wasn’t drinking or crying, I was researching. I was seeing a high-risk doctor in addition to my OB, and I was bringing in pages of research (thank you, PubMed) to them to argue passionately about what I thought my course of treatment should be. I had literally thrown What To Expect in the trash because I felt like it wasn’t alarmist enough for my new state of mind. Far from the “my body is a temple” stance of my first pregnancy, I now believed that my body was a death trap, and in addition to taking my fair share of Tylenols, I also took medicine for morning sickness, an underactive thyroid, anemia and the B vitamin deficiency that accompanied my clotting disorder, as well as twice-daily injections of heparin.Instead of the monthly appointments I had scheduled for my first pregnancy, I was seeing both doctors weekly. Instead of learning I was pregnant from a pink plus sign on a pregnancy test, I had my hormone levels tracked via blood tests every 48 hours. I went to the emergency room several times for no real reason. I begged for an amnio. I had more than 30 ultrasounds. And I still wanted more – more medicine, more monitoring, more reassurance. I was jealous of women on hospital bed rest who got to be hooked up to continuous fetal heartbeat monitors, and when the high-risk doctor said he thought my daughter might be growing too slowly and he might have to do an emergency C-section at 34 weeks, my first thought was not panic but relief: In the NICU, other people can keep her alive, so it won’t be solely on me anymore! I was actually disappointed when he decided she looked OK in there after all.
Looking back, of course, this all seems more than slightly insane. This time around, I am certainly more vigilant, knowledgeable and proactive than I was in my first pregnancy, but I am nowhere near as paranoid as I was in my second. I have had probably five ultrasounds, one ER visit (completely justified this time, after I started having contractions after a fall down some steps) and no invasive testing. I am still taking the medications and doing the injections, and now I have weekly non-stress tests, but the terror alert is much closer to Yellow than the blinding Red panic that characterized my pregnancy with Ruby. I actually – can I say this without feeling jinxy? I think so – trust my body to do what it’s supposed to do.
So this time around, I switched doctors from my high-risk one to a normal OB who fully understood my blood clotting condition and knew how to manage it but didn’t see the need for the complete medicalization of my previous pregnancy. Instead of another C-section, I am at least tentatively preparing for a natural labor and delivery. Instead of wanting the baby out as soon as she had a decent chance of survival in the NICU, I am prepared to wait as long as a week overdue, provided I keep passing the non-stress tests. I am drinking red raspberry leaf tea. I am seeing a chiropractor. I am considering acupuncture. I am taking birth classes where I don’t have panic attacks and yell at the teacher that she needs to be more realistic about the possibility of stillbirth. What has happened to me?
The pendulum, in other words, has swung from one extreme to the other and settled in the middle. I knew when I started on this whole “having babies” thing that I would, ideally, grow tiny humans inside of me. What I really didn’t realize was how much I would grow myself. It’s been a truly miraculous journey, on all fronts.