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placenta previa

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A Beginning

 

This post is for women like me who might be facing an unwanted c-section and are similarly terrified. I hope my words can do a little to help. Looking back, I think most of the anxiety came from not knowing what to expect. I’d studiously ignored every section about c-sections in every pregnancy book because  wasn’t having a c-section! I was going to have a home birth! In my living room! With candles and a goddamn birthing tub!

Sigh.

This post gives an overview of what actually happened. And why it was the best thing that could have possibly happened.

(FYI: Despite me having to have a c-section, our amazing midwife was still able to attend our birth. She took pictures throughout the surgery and I am including some which feature a newborn with birth-gunk all over her. Additionally, some might find the details of the surgery unpleasant so I’m putting the rest of the post after the jump, should you choose to read it.)

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Flux

              

It has been a strange weekend.

I’m here in the middle of something bigger than myself, in the midst of cycles older than time – life and death, beginnings and ends – events are converging around me and I’m sitting here in the middle alternating between despair and euphoria and a kind of contented numbness.

My days are split between doctors appointments and updates back and forth from the East and me sitting in silence rubbing my belly; thinking, thinking.

We met with our midwife this morning and talked about how to keep this babe in for as long as possible. We talked about surgery and sudden bleeds and anesthesia and whether or not I’d be able to hold my child after it’s born.

We talked about lung development and the NICU and if I’d be able to breastfeed. I felt like crying but I didn’t. 

As we sat there speaking about this birth, this rather rocky beginning to a new life, half of my mind was listening for my phone, half of my being was devoted to the knowledge that my grandmother is dying in a hospital in Toronto.

I completed a standard screening questionnaire for postpartum depression. It asked “Have you found yourself crying for no good reason?” and I sat and stared at that question in all of its black and white.

No, I decided as I checked the box, not for no good reason.

I have been crying, I mean, but for very good reason. For of life and death, for the gossamer-thin line separating the two.

Life and death, beginnings and ends.

My days lately have been consumed by how to best bring one new life into this world, how to best give an old one the divine exit she deserves.

I’m woken by raucous kicking, a happy celebration of movement from within, and while trying to get back to sleep I read the latest updates about my grandmother’s condition, the gradual slowing down of her body before it stops.

We’re just waiting for it it stop. 

I’m writing back and forth with my siblings to coordinate two journeys, one to a funeral in Toronto, the other to see the new baby at Thanksgiving. I am trying to coordinate both but unable to fully participate in either.

I’m not allowed to fly. Not allowed to leave the city. I won’t be able to see my grandmother before she dies, nor will I be able to attend her funeral. As I sit here trying to figure out accommodations for my family over Thanksgiving I have no idea if I’ll have a baby by then, if I’ll be in the hospital or out. Cut open or still whole.

And despite how maudlin this all sounds, how great the uncertainty and how huge these two disparate events are, I’m not depressed. I’m not filled with overwhelming sadness.

I’m just sort of here. Waiting. I feel like I’ve reached a strange place where so much control has been taken from me that I’m just waiting to see what happens next. This whole journey has turned from something I felt I had agency over and important decisions to make, to this huge undertaking where my body isn’t working the way it should and therefore its responsibilities have been put in the hands of others. Doctors, specialists, dieticians, surgeons. I’m just sitting in the centre of all of this bustling activity, waiting. Praying to a god I’m not sure exists. 

The most bizarre part is how I still feel so happy. In between the bad news and the roadblocks, after each new appointment which seems to bring with it another complication, another what-if turned reality, I am still so very, very happy.

(Perhaps strangely), I wouldn’t characterize this pregnancy as “difficult”. Adam agrees. Despite the kidney condition and the placenta previa and the gestational diabetes and the c-section. Despite it all, throughout it all (and yes now, even now) I have felt a swelling sense of joy and anticipation. Hopeful happiness. I have felt good, I still feel good. I have loved virtually ever second of this experience, this feeling. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

There’s a lesson in here somewhere about losing control, about the futility of planning. I’m spending a lot of time trying to learn it, studying it from all angles, ruminating.

I’m ending up with a birth experience that is almost funny in how diametrically opposed it is to what I had hoped for when I began, but I’m strangely alright with that. My entire being is just focused on how I can do my best, do the most I can to make sure that in seven weeks (or six, or five, we really don’t know but we’re hoping seven, please god let us just make it just seven more weeks) I will hold my baby in my arms and see those eyes fixate on my face, this strange little half-person, a stranger but so familiar. This tiny amalgamation of Adam and I.

I’m in the thick of it.

And my grandmother. I think of her slowly fading, disappearing bit by bit. She was admitted to the hospital on Friday, my mum flew out on the weekend and now we’re all just waiting.

Random memories of her keep flitting to the surface; her giving us her old lipsticks to play with when we were little, how when she hugged you she’d slap your back so hard it hurt, how when something was really good it wasn’t just great, it was divine.

I think of her at our wedding, hearing her voice when we told her that I was pregnant. I’m heartbroken that she won’t get to meet her great grandchild. It kills me that I won’t be there to say goodbye.

I think about when I visited her last summer. I wrote that as I hugged her goodbye I thought to myself “I will never see you again.” I think about how I didn’t. I won’t.

I think about my mum telling me how my Granddaddy tried to explain to his wife of over sixty years why he was removing her respirator. Needing her to hear him, to understand, to forgive. I think of the helplessness he must be feeling, the aching solitude of seeing his girl slip away. 

Oh god it’s strange, this feeling. This swirling mass of euphoria and despair. Contented numbness. This waiting. 

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Lazy Bones

Being told I’m not supposed to lift anything over 10lbs anymore has made me realize I have absolutely no concept of how much anything weighs.

This whole weekend has been filled with Adam leaping around shouting, “Maddie! You can’t lift that!”

Our vacuum? Over 10lbs.

Basket full of wet laundry to be hung outside? Over 10lbs.

Bag of ridiculously expensive, grain-free, holistic, human-grade dog food? Waaay over 10lbs.

Good thing I got the small package of goat cheese, otherwise I’d be seriously bummed right now.

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What Up, Cesarean?

The midwives called. My placenta has not moved. C-section y’all.

I had a good ugly-cry about it. I hugged Adam and felt it all – anger, disappointment, sadness. I called my family to update them on this new development and let my mom comfort me in that familiar way that only moms can.

I’m a bit heartbroken. I also feel, inexplicably, like I’m cheating. I’m getting the baby without doing the work. I feel like a huge section of this whole experience (pregnancy/birth/baby) will be missing, torn out. A blank, replaced by a blue curtain, surgical steel and scalpels. Adam in scrubs standing by my side, blending in with the doctors.

Now I need to let go. I need to finally let go of what I had always thought the birth of my first child would look like. Those movie moments; my water breaking, feeling contractions, labouring through deep breaths and tightly held hands. How I thought it was going to work, how I thought it was going to happen.

It’s a damn hard thing to do, saying goodbye to something you always assumed would happen, something that I had always assumed went hand in hand with pregnancy – actually giving birth.

                                                            *****

On our after dinner walk tonight I tried to reflected on the positives. I focused on how blissful it felt at that moment to be walking in the cool night air after a hot, muggy day, hand in hand with my husband. I thought about how lucky I was to be pregnant at all, to be waddling around with a big basketball belly watching our newly four-year-old dog frolicking in and out of the streetlight’s shadows.

I rested my hand on the rounded shape of our little one’s fat butt poking out above my bellybutton and I started to mentally make the following list:

                                                 Positives to Having a C-Section

  1. We will get to meet our son or daughter earlier (with placenta previa they want to avoid the start of labour as there is significant risk of hemorrhaging, so they typically schedule the surgery for 37-38 weeks, that’s under two months guys, HOLY SHIT!).
  2. My vagina will not be torn asunder by the giant heads that seem to run in Adam’s family.
  3. I will be done work earlier (Ha-lle-lujah yes please).
  4. We will have a concrete date for baby’s arrival -for a planner like me this is fabulous. I might even tempt fate by ordering a cute wall hanging with the date printed on it.
  5. I get to neatly sidestep the unmedicated birth issue, the kidneys and labour issue, the whole shebang.
  6. Since I will be put on more strict limitations re: the amount of lifting and activity I can do, I get to do a lot more ordering around. Adam called me “Bossy McBossBoss” tonight, but sweet lawd he hasn’t seen the half of it yet.
  7. My mother (a former nurse) swears that c-section babies are the most gorgeous right after birth because they have perfect heads and faces, not having to be smushed through the birth canal and all.
  8. I don’t have to talk about my stupid placenta anymore. Can we all just celebrate this small fact? No more placenta talk, this could be the last time I ever write the word placenta. HAPPY, PLACENTA? 

I need this list. I need to keep adding to this list and focusing on this list and embracing this list.

As a natural-birth fan I have long been a mildly card-carrying member of the “C-sections are evil” brigade.

I thought of them as an easy way out, pushed upon people by overzealous doctors worried about potential lawsuits. I read the books and watched the movies and tut-tutted over the 30% c-section rates of some hospitals.

I could recite a dozen reasons that c-sections are bad for the baby, bad for the mother, just bad in general.

But, as is often the case with this sort of black and white thinking, I never considered that in some cases this looming spectre might be your best option, your only option in fact.

If I wasn’t able to have a c-section, Baby G just…wouldn’t come out. Like, ever. So I now need to forget all of that anti-cesarean propaganda and embrace this surgery with open arms.

I need to welcome it and be happy about it and love it because hey! Hi cesarean! You are what will enable me to finally meet our baby, and isn’t that fabulous? Good for you! Thank you!

You are the means to the end, a rainbow at the bottom of which sits my darling demon baby, healthy and strong and ready to wreak happy havoc in our lives.

So hey, change of plans guys – I’m suddenly pro-cesarean!

Let’s DO this!

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This Is Not An Update

Well, I mean, it is. But it isn’t. Not really.

Let me explain.

We drove down to the ultrasound clinic this morning bright and early. We got into a fight trying to find it, both our nerves stretched taut and close to breaking (oh wait, that was just me! Adam was mostly just calm and sleepy.)

I lay on the exam table, heart thudding, the room silent as the technician slid her little wand around in lazy circles over my belly. The screen was turned so that I couldn’t see it, every so often I would look over at Adam to check if he could see anything, he would shrug and shake his head, unable to make anything out.

This ultrasound felt different than the one we had at 18 weeks, where after getting the necessary measurements the technician showed me Baby G’s fingers and feet, pointed out the string of pearls for a spine.

This time I lay there and the tech didn’t say much as she clicked away. At one point she asked, “How far along did you say you were?”. I replied that I was 30 weeks.

A few minutes later she asked again, “Are you sure you’re 30 weeks?” “Yes,” I replied, “positive.”

Then again a few moments later, “When was your last period?”

I felt like shouting “What? What’s wrong! Just tell me! Is the baby too small? Is it not growing? Why do you keep asking me how far along I am?”

Well it turns out that I may be growing a little chunky monkey in this here belly ‘o mine, as all of the baby’s measurements are more consistent with a 32 week old instead of 30 weeks. A whole two weeks ahead of schedule! What an overachiever!

So now Demon Baby is MEGA DEMON BABY! swear I saw Adam swell with pride when he heard this, and now he thinks it’s quite amusing to make huge stomping Godzilla movements whenever he sees me coming. He’s also taken to growling “Me want FOOOD” and then cackling hysterically whenever I eat.

My self-esteem is doing great, why do you ask?

(I should probably note that my midwife says not to put much stock in ultrasound measurements this late in the game as they tend to be notoriously unreliable. Nonetheless I’d prefer a big chubby bub than a tiny one. Just sayin’.)

Despite mocking the size of his unborn child, Adam does deserve some commendation however, for staying strong whilst the technician hovered the wand over our baby’s genital area. Looking at me she asked, “Do you know what you’re having?”

“No” I replied.

“Do you want to?” she asked with a smile.

Time seemed to slow, then stop. Did we want to know? With all of this uncertainty – in the hospital, out of the hospital, vaginal birth, c-section, what if we just took one unknown off of that? What if we knew one thing for sure? What if we said yes?

She could tell us now, right now. We could choose a name, start saying he or she. It was tempting, so tempting.

I looked at Adam and he looked at me. We jointly shook our heads.

“No.” I answered, “No, we don’t want to know.”

The technician smiled and nodded her assent, resumed her measuring.

It felt so much like having one finger under the corner of the wrapping paper, knowing you could just tear a tiny corner and see it all, finally know everything. But as an experienced present-snooper I knew what comes after that initial jolt of adrenaline – it’s a blank sort of empty knowledge trying in vain to fill the hole that just seconds prior was stuffed to the brim with possibility. I’m glad we voted for uncertainty. Mystery.

Now. The main event. Ye olde placenta. I don’t really have any news on this, hence why this isn’t an update, not really.

The tech did remark in passing that it’s still low-lying, which isn’t necessarily a great sign, but she didn’t get much more specific.

My midwives have said that the placenta needs to clear the cervical opening by at least 2 cm in order for them to allow you to a vaginal birth. They haven’t received the report from the ultrasound clinic yet with exact measurements, but they’ve promised to call me and let me know the details as soon as they do.

I would be lying if I said I wasn’t googling all day. I would be lying if I said my heart didn’t drop and my eyes well up a little with disappointment when the tech said it was still low, that it hadn’t miraculously – through the force of my visualization and reiki and acupuncture and my little sister’s placenta dance – migrated into its proper position atop my womb.

I am preparing myself for bad news. Adam calls this crazy, I call this self-preservation. I’m hopeful, I mean 2 cm! That’s nothing! Surely I can manage 2 cm? But I am also reading up on c-sections, trying to find out how late I could push it, what the baby’s birthday would be, trying to figure out game plans for if I have to be put on bed rest.

At this point, please believe me when I say that I am with you in hoping that soon I never have to hear about my placenta ever, ever again. Hear that placenta? We’re all sick of you! Just go away! (preferably upwards and more than 2cm please!).

Especially those of you that read this jumble of words and aren’t family members and aren’t pregnant and maybe don’t ever want to be – those of you who must, occasionally find yourself wondering why you are wasting so much time reading about the internal reproductive organs of a stranger – thank you for wading through this with me.

In the meantime, more waiting. More waiting! UGH.