My first pregnancy, I made it to 32 weeks and 4 days before everything unraveled. A normal day gave way to seizures, dangerously high blood pressure, extremely low blood platelets, and the premature delivery of my son nearly 8 weeks early with little to no memory of what happened.
With an invaluable amount of therapy and antidepressants, I was able to give myself a pat on the back for being resilient, mostly being driven by now having someone else to care for – someone who needed more care than I needed myself. But when I found myself pregnant with my second child, the grief and depression I had moved past were replaced with new feelings of anxiety, fearing for a similar outcome. Some ways my anxieties came to fruition were more benign than others, but it was all in an effort to prepare for the worst while hoping for the best.
Found out sex
With my first pregnancy, we elected not to find out the sex. I figured there are so few surprises left in life, especially big ones that are good regardless the outcome, and I wanted to milk that for all it was worth. Unfortunately, the moment when my doctor told me it was a boy was vastly overshadowed by the grief I felt learning I had delivered early and my son was likely be in the NICU until his due date – news all given in the very same sentence.
So, as soon as we were able, we found out the sex the second time around. I would have my moment of joy even if it was over the phone, in the middle of doing a load of laundry, while my husband listened in on the speaker. Safe to say, it would probably be the happiest I’ll ever be folding underwear.
Restraint in buying baby clothes ahead of time
With my first born arriving prematurely, many of the clothes I bought or received in advance were no longer seasonally appropriate by the time he was big enough to wear them, such as an adorable Independence Day outfit he could have very well worn for Halloween. During my second pregnancy, I tried to rein in my impulses to buy as many cute baby clothes as my shopping cart could fit despite having a little girl to shop for. I found myself buying basic items, like onesies, zipper jammies, and drool bibs, that could be worn any time of year.
With my first pregnancy, I arrived at the hospital by ambulance wearing a skirt and an old college t-shirt – things my husband struggled to put on me so the paramedics wouldn’t find me in my birthday suit. The thought of having a bag packed so early hadn’t even crossed my mind, so over my week-long hospital stay, my amenities were pieced together by my family between quick trips to my house and the hospital gift shop. My second pregnancy, I had a rolling suitcase packed and tucked away in the corner of my closet from 26 weeks on.
Anxiety at OBGYN visits
I had my 32 week visit the day before I had my first child. I remember sitting in the nurse’s cubicle, her testing my urine sample, and the protein levels being so high as to get the attention of the nurse in the next cubicle over. However, this was quickly written off with my blood pressure reading being normal. In hindsight, this was a glaring red flag for what was to come, being indicative of the preeclampsia which would become eclampsia when left untreated.
Once I reached around the 32 week mark of my second pregnancy, each weekly visit to the doctor’s office I waited for bad news with bated breath, not knowing if I would need to be whisked off to the hospital to deliver another baby ahead of schedule. My blood pressure would always have to be taken after the results from the urinalysis in order to be calm enough for an accurate result.
Opted for an epidural
One of the deepest, most nagging losses from my first pregnancy was barely having any memory of the day my son was born. This past January, when the admitting physician prepared me for the possibility of another emergency c-section, she informed me that it would need to be performed under general anesthesia if an epidural were not already in place. Though I had planned on laboring naturally as long as possible, hearing I could potentially not be present again for another delivery immediately made me decide to go forward with an epidural as soon as my blood pressure began to rise (and honestly, the epidural couldn’t have come soon enough at that point). I still have a sense of guilt having this moment with my daughter when I didn’t with my son, but I still would have done anything to have that moment happen.
Many women have experienced miscarriage, stillbirth, and premature delivery. It makes me feel foolish putting myself in the same camp as women who have suffered far greater, knowing things could have ended much worse for my son and me. For those of us that continue onto having other pregnancies, we tread a little more cautiously. It takes away some of the levity to the bliss of pregnancy, being well-aware of what can go wrong. It weighs on us heavily every step of the way and shows itself in many forms. But if we have the good fortune of those pregnancies going right, it makes the moment of joy and the feeling of gratitude that much more.