I feel compelled to write this post, because someone that I know has been using her blog as a medium for a lot of information that comes off as anti-modern medicine. Her posts, though I’m sure meant to generate compassion for her decisions while pregnant (and trust me everyone has an opinion on your decisions when you’re pregnant), are opposing views to many of the choices I needed to make while I was pregnant. This is not an attack on that person…so if you’re reading this—it is not personal. I simply feel that information of all spectrums should be available and accessible to those who want it. Therefore, for the sake of a karmic internet, I would like to share my pregnancy story here. And for the gentleman who may be reading this post…Its going to start off pretty graphic…and possibly remain pretty graphic.
When I was 20 years old, I had never been to a gynecologist, yeah I know pretty stupid. I was in the midst of one of the most stressful times in my life and my period had been somewhat irregular for possibly up to a year or two before that, I hadn’t been paying too much attention. On a Thursday morning, I awoke in my dorm room in a pool of blood. I had my period, and I was used to heavy bleeding, but this was different. My roommate and a friend helped me clean up (after I assured them I hadn’t been stabbed) and I finally figured it was time to address my health, as surely THIS WAS NOT NORMAL. I was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, or PCOS. The basic breakdown is that my ovaries do not drop eggs (or ovulate) regularly and unruptured follicles on the ovaries appear, mistakenly called “cysts.” It is estimated that 5-10% of women have PCOS and the symptoms include irregular periods, irregular ovulation, hair growth where you don’t want it, hair loss where you don’t want it, depression, obesity, an inability to lose weight and infertility. Although not completely understood, the medical consensus du jour is that PCOS is a result of insulin resistance and like me, many patients are treated as “pre-diabetic” with Metformin, a drug traditionally prescribed for type 2 diabetics that helps the body absorb insulin. Depending on which symptoms manifest in each person, oral contraception is also often prescribed to regulate the absolutely crazy periods one might get *see next paragraph…
Over the next 5 years I struggled with taking oral contraception…struggled, I say, because I am absolutely, ridiculously, notoriously awful when it comes to taking prescriptions. So, like the terrible patient I am, I would take it off and on and then my script would run out and instead of going to the gyno, I’d let my period get crazy irregular again and go when it became an inconvenience. For example, I once had my period for 6 months. Not once a month for 6 months, SIX MONTHS STRAIGHT. It was also a time when I was depressed and hardly left my bed anyway, so what did it matter?
Speaking of depression, for me much of the vicious cycle of depression that comes with PCOS is tied up in feeling like there is something wrong with you. Why is my body different? Why did I suddenly gain 15 pounds when all I did was substitute my ramen noodles for 2 ice cream sandwiches (this was college remember)…Why are my cheeks fuzzy? I’m so fat/ugly/tired from all the continuous menstruating…I CAN’T GET OUT OF BED (Plus all the external stressors I was experiencing).
Fast forward to that magical time I was trying to get pregnant…for a year. Yeah, that was fun…12 whole months of OMG OMG OMG, I KNOW I AM THIS TIME!!! Followed by Erik telling me that everything would be ok as I sobbed into a pillow. We used Clomid to conceive. After trying for so long the risk of multiples far outweighed the possibility of never having a baby. I joked in those months that I was going to have quintuplets and name them April, May (or Maynard), June, Juli (or Julian), and August (or Augusten). Finally, in the third and final month of my prescription I got that coveted second blue line. It was so faint, but undeniable. We confirmed the next morning with a digital test. I count myself infinitely lucky that it worked as I know quite a few women who have not had that fortune and of those more than one who has suffered far more than a few tears in a pillow. My sister laughs when I say this, but there was a time when I thought my dog would be my only child I’M NOT KIDDING.
Well it just so happened that God afforded us that miracle. Digital tests don’t lie, I was pregnant. Like any pregnant woman with PCOS I was at risk for Gestational Diabetes. So like a much better patient than I ever was before at 20 weeks I took my glucose test. I just barely passed it…so to be safe I was scheduled for the second test. EPIC FAIL. In the week and a half that had passed between tests, I went from borderline to full-blown GD. And as my pregnancy progressed and I did EVERYTHING IN MY POWER (including trying the most disgusting pizza I have ever eaten in my life—fyi soy flour crust) it just got worse. Gradually I went from diet controlled diabetes to an insulin junkie. Just because there is a correlation between an increase in glucose levels as a pregnancy progresses doesn’t mean that everyone’s body can handle that increase and I had needle trails and sore fingertips to prove it. So in case you were wondering GD is not hype. It’s a real disorder with real consequences. Additionally, I would say that having a “fat” baby wasn’t really even a main concern of mine (Macrosomia or “fat” baby is usually considered a major risk of GD). After all, c-sections are available…not wanted but available. No, my main concern was how my body felt as a diebetic and I can’t really explain it but it wasn’t fun. When you’re pregnant you tend to worry that not feeling well (in any sense) will affect the baby.
Here is a bit of information that I’ve found to be extremely interesting. One of the risk factors for GD is pregnancy over the age of 25. That’s it, 25 years old. Also, I have come across several people in my life who seem to believe that Gestational Diabetes is preventable, or basically IT’S THE MOTHER’S FAULT. That what I was eating directly resulted in my diagnosis as though I had just dumped pounds and pounds of sugar on everything that passed my lips or dunked all in a deep fryer. This is simply ignorant, poor diet does put you at risk for diabetes (and is by no means an absolute indicator in either direction), but gestational diabetes is an exception. It manifests in approximately 18% of preganacies and has more to do with the fact that you have a baby growing inside of you than if you have a penchant for HoHo’s. It bothers me when people are under educated on an issue but throw in their two cents. I had and continue to have a healthy diet that avoids many foods with sugar or fried foods.
Which brings me to part 2 or “Why I have 6 ultrasound pictures of my child.”
Another fun thing that happened to me and my utterly imperfect and stupidly unnatural body while I was pregnant was a lovely case of high blood pressure. I never actually tipped the scales to Preeclampsia THANK GOD because Preeclampsia is a dangerous and terrifying condition—it is the leading cause of fetal complications and can become Eclampsia, which is the second leading cause of maternal death. Before I was pregnant, my BP deserved a plaque at the American Heart Association…no kidding…30 years of 120/80…pure perfection…down the drain. Apparently my body did NOT get the memo that it’s just supposed to perform how it always performed…or uh, I guess better than it always performed. If you ask me what the worst part of having a baby was, I will not say labor. I will not say having gestational diabetes and having to stab myself with insulin. No, I will unanimously declare that being treated with Magnesium is the absolute worst thing on the planet. It makes you nuts. It makes you tired. It’s quite possibly the worst drug on the planet. But then again it probably saved my life so if needed again I would take it gladly.
On top of all these body issues that normal people don’t have…I also had a gall bladder attack. I went to the ER in my 6th month of pregnancy thinking something was wrong with the baby…I was in a ton of pain and it hurt to breath. Well, the attack passed and it was kept at bay until Lily was 4 weeks old…I had another attack and got my gall bladder removed. You know what sucks? Spending the night in the hospital with an infant at home and crying yourself to sleep.
With all these things that my naïve body was doing (I mean really, it should have known better) and the fact that my unborn baby was highly uncooperative during 90% of my fetal monitoring appointments, my crazy doctor (I’m being sarcastic, I actually have a shrine to him) thought that it would probably be a good idea to have some extra ultrasounds. Yes, I had 6 ultrasounds. Are there risks involved in having an ultra sound done? Possibly…Medical research is inconclusive and the FDA’s current position is that it is safe. There are studies that show that more than 30 minutes of ultrasound can harmfully heat the cells in a developing fetus or create pockets of air. The ultrasounds that I underwent never lasted anywhere near 30 minutes and the person performing them, whether my doctor or a licensed ultra sound technician operated the equipment safely. I will note that the FDA does not recommend fetal ultrasounds for non medical purpose, for example those freaky looking 3D ultrasounds that are all the rage in some circles. (Seriously, what is the appeal of those things? The babies are all smushed and ugly inside of you anyway.) My body’s short-comings also led us to the decision to deliver at Capital Health Systems, Mercer Campus which has the only regional Level III Neonatal Care Unit. I cannot give enough praise for this hospital. The staff was no less than amazing at all times.
So, with all the terrible things that my body went through what was the result? A mother developing the utmost faith in her obstetrician and who, despite it all LOVED being pregnant and most importantly a healthy baby girl.
Which brings me to part 3 or “Did you say push”?
But, you ask, what about the fact that the baby was born 3 weeks early. Well, that’s a tale on its own. During my 37 week growth ultra-sound…one that is usually scheduled, the technician and the doctor on call both felt that my amniotic fluid looked low. They were specifically looking for this because I had Gestational Diabetes. Turns out, once my water broke it was clear that I had plenty of fluid and it was a false alarm. Was my doctor’s reaction to the fact that he had induced me for no reason defensive or off-putting? No. In fact, my doctor, who is more mild-mannered than Clark Kent, was actually rather pissed. The fact that he made a point to bring this up to us confirmed what I had suspected all along…that no matter what happened he had me and my baby’s best interests at heart.
The rest of my birth story is rather comical. From my ultrasound appointment that day I went home got my hospital bag and got checked in…My induction began at 5pm. My blood pressure spiked and I was given magnesium, I was on Petocin, I was given Benedryl (my allergies were acting up and it was an unseasonably warm day in April with the windows open)…needless to say I was pretty out of it. Erik and I watched Slumdog Millionaire, pausing the laptop for contractions. I woke up sporadically during the next day…
At around 9:20-ish my doctor came in the room, checked between my legs and addressed me…”ok, Jill, you are fully dilated, do you think you are ready to push?” Was I ready? Let’s say for the sake of amusement you go back and read that line again…then when you get to the word “push” insert a contraction, add a bit of delirium and you have me shouting “YES” as I BEGIN TO PUSH…the next 9 minutes are a whirlwind of my doctor and Erik shouting to the nurses to “get in here.” Nothing was prepared…no baby cart, no blankets…Just my Doctor and Erik scrambling as I pushed away determined to get the baby out as quickly as possible…2 more contractions/pushes and out she popped. MIRACLE OF LIFE….DO IT. Erik cut the cord. I listened for her cry and held her to my chest…then I slept…and it was awesome…
I recovered from the high blood pressure and diabetes for 5 days…and then they sent us home, a brand spanking new family.
Am I bitter that I had such a difficult ordeal? Not in the least. I say again, I LOVED being pregnant. From holding a positive pee stick in my hand to holding a newborn to my chest I adored every single second and can’t wait to do it again. What I want people to understand is that pregnancy can be a dangerous and harrowing experience. Yes, my situation is high risk. Yes, I needed to pursue the route of modern medicine. But even without all the added risks that my body threw into the mix, pregnancy is still dangerous. With all the advances of modern medicine, the United States is still only 29th in the world for infant mortality and ranks below 40 other countries in maternal death. There are no guarantees. For more information on the risks involved in pregnancy feel free to visit the following sites:
For Statistical Information: http://www.americanpregnancy.org/main/statistics.html
For Information on Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome: http://www.pcosupport.org/
For Information on Gestational Diabetes: http://www.diabetes.org/diabetes-basics/gestational…
For Information on High Blood Pressure during Pregnancy: March of Dimes
There are so many sources of information out there and the internet can be a tricky. Remember when you are doing any research online to search out trusted sources. And please, for the love of cookies, do not get me started on vaccines…