Saturday, October 02, 2010

Pregnancy Sucks: Under Pressure

You can't compare pregnancy to anything else. Not even parenthood.

Yeah, sure, "It's easier to take care of them in there than out here!" Well, that depends on what you mean by "easier." Yes, "in there," I don't have to DO anything to feed Troy Emmitt; once he's "out here" feeding him will require action on my part, or the part of one of the many other people who will be caring for him once he is no longer part of my body.

But that's the problem.

EVERYTHING I eat, he gets.  Once he's out, if I'm breastfeeding, he gets most of what I eat, but there are ways to get around that -- I can wait until the offending food is out of my system before feeding him again. If I formula feed, I don't have to worry about that at all. But now? Nope. I eat it, BOOM! immediately, he's eating it.

If I'm not eating enough, he's not eating enough. If I'm not drinking enough water, he's not getting enough water. If I have caffeine, he's having caffeine. And while it may be "fine" for an adult woman to have ONE caffeinated drink a day, it's not "fine" for a newborn to have that same amount of caffeine injected directly into his bloodstream. So imagine what that does to a fetus that's even younger and smaller than a newborn.

Same goes for any medicine I may need to take. Fun, huh?

Same goes for any involuntary actions and feelings.

If I'm stressed out, guess what! He feels it. Yeah, sure, tell me to "relax" and not worry about stuff. BECAUSE THAT'S GOING TO TAKE CARE OF IT.

I can make myself LOOK relaxed. I can take deep breaths and smile and sit quietly -- that's not going to make the stressful situation or feelings go away, it's just going to make those of you outside of me feel better about it.

I can refrain from talking about the stressful situation, but I can't stop my mind from thinking about it. Trust me, I try -- my mind's going to go there. I can try to focus on other things, but it's going to find a way to go back to it.

I can control the outward appearance of "stress," but I can't control my body's physiological responses to it. And the fetus feels the physiological responses, not my outward demeanor.

But, FUN AS THAT IS, it's not just that.

Right now, I'm the only person in the world who can feel Troy Emmitt.

Yeah, you can put your hand on my belly and feel that foot that just kicked me in the ribs. Or you can put your hand on my belly and feel the rhythmic thumping of his hiccups. (You, however, can remove your hand when you get bored, and stop feeling these things. I'm stuck with them 24/7. Yeah, it was cute at first. Exciting, and all that jazz. But after a while? I just want to sit, okay? I want my body to stop doing these weird things.)

But whose responsibility is it to check kick counts daily? Is he moving? Is he dead? When was the last time he moved? Is he moving enough? Has the frequency of his movement changed? Has it changed enough that I need to contact my doctor, let her know something may be wrong?

We found out about halfway(ish) through that we were at a higher risk than most for a stillbirth. That's nice. So, besides dealing with everything that life involves, I need to be constantly attuned to my uterus and its movements -- because a decrease may mean my fetus is dead. And the only person who can be in charge of this oh, so pleasant task is ME. No one can relieve me of this duty, or take over for an hour. Just me!

So far, I'm 37 and a half weeks and I haven't killed the kid yet. He's still moving around in there. So that's good.

But yesterday we found out he has a "prominent aorta." Which could mean there's something wrong with him, bad enough to require surgery once he comes out, or it could mean nothing at all.

I don't know if you noticed, but yesterday was Friday. Which means today's Saturday, and tomorrow's Sunday. Monday doesn't show up until AFTER that, so that's how long we have to wait until the other doctors can do yet another sonogram to look at this uppity aorta and decide if it's nothing, or if it could be something. If they say it could be something, then we get to go to yet another doctor to do yet another test to see what sort of something it could be.

(Remember that "stress" thing? Yeah.)

We've been having weekly sonograms for seven weeks now. Why did this aorta thing not show up in any of the other sonograms? Did it just grow from last Friday to this one?

That's what would make the most sense, right? This abnormality JUST NOW developed.

So... where did it come from?

What happened NOW that made this thing screw up?

I currently have two huge, red scratches on my left thigh from when one of the cats tried to get in my lap when I was sitting on the toilet. I also have several smaller scratches on my hands, from when I had to pick up the other cat to get him out of the bedroom, and he felt he should stay in there.

Throughout the last eight months I've accumulated quite a collection of bites and scratches from our four cats. Three of whom are known hunters. Who kill and eat wild game. (If suburban rats, mice, and birds are considered "wild game.")

You know why pregnant women aren't supposed to garden or change the cat litter? Because there are bugs in dirt and cat feces that can cause birth defects. These bugs are not just in cat feces, but in cat bodily fluids; the reason we focus on the cat poop is because that's how most people interact with bodily fluids or excretions.

These bugs come from cats eating raw meat. Like rats, mice, and birds (wild and suburban varieties).

Despite living with cats for pretty much all my life, at the start of this pregnancy I did not have the immunity to these little bugs, which means if I was exposed to them sometime during the pregnancy, I could make Troy Emmitt have some nasty, horrible birth defect.

I've been getting scratched and bitten by cats who kill and eat raw meat. And now my fetus has a "prominent aorta" -- a potential birth defect.

You do the math. What is any rational person going to assume?

They may be "easier" to take care of "in there" than "out here." But you know what would be nice? NOT being the one and only person to blame.


  1. You have done everything a rational, normal, healthy human being would do ---plus so much more meticulous research, strict limiting of what you eat/don't eat, do/don't do --- to give Troy Emmitt the best environment you can offer him.

    And you -- nor anyone else -- do not control more than that. Sometimes we would RATHER feel guilty than powerless. I think I prefer powerless to guilty, but that's me. If you ask enough intelligent, grounded people though, I think the consensus would be, YOU ARE NOT THE ONE who controls whether your child has certain chromosomes, gets a specific gene mix, contracts a specific disease, reacts to the stress you encounter, etc. You only get to influence, to some degree, some of the processes in your body that impact him, and you are busting your butt to influence as much as you can, as positively as you can. THAT'S ALL YOU GET TO DO, that's all anyone, including Troy Emmitt or Greg, or your mother or your mother in law, or, pardon my audacity but I think I'd include Jesus Christ too, can hold you accountable for or ask of you.
    You didn't create the stress in your workplace, you would have had stress if you LEFT your job. Pregnant women would not be allowed to be around cats if it were remotely clear the chances of risk to the fetus were anything close to what alcohol, cigarettes, etc. are. There is NO WAY you can assume responsibility for whatever the sonogram may show or not show about his aorta.
    I am remembering the agony of finding out on a Good Friday, in March of 1997, that my 22 year old had a brain tumor and we had to wait til Monday to meet with a neurosurgeon. I am holding you in my heart all weekend.

  2. Anonymous12:02 PM

    And antis go on and on about how easy it is to be pregnant and how it is just a minor inconvenience and that women just need to suck it up. Fuck that, you sound far more than mildly inconvenienced. Good luck.

  3. Unfortunately, I hate to break it to you but as the mother you still are the first person to get the blame for anything wrong with your kid. And the worrying doesn't stop, either. =(

    On the cats: how many other times have they scratched you? And you never got toxoplasmosis from that. I've never heard doctors warn pregnant women about cat scratches, though clearly anyone who owns a cat will get scratched from time to time. And, you're at the end of your pregnancy-- I've read up on this before, and by this point toxo is relatively harmless (it's most dangerous in the first trimester, when everything's developing).

    On the aorta-- what's the chance it could have been a fluke? Ultrasounds can be wrong. They're far from perfect science. If the past several weeks have shown nothing, and suddenly this week you see something, could it just have been user error or a fluke?

    On the fetus-- babies are sensitive to what we do/eat/etc. But remember, they're also pretty resilient creatures. Think about all the women in history, and in poorer countries than where we live. They've survived and even thrived in spite of bad nutrition, lack of clean water, high stress. Babies are MADE to be extremely resilient, and to get what they need-- if you don't eat enough or drink enough it's more likely YOU that suffers, as Troy Emmitt makes sure he gets what he needs from you.

    I'm so sorry that this pregnancy has been so hard and stressful for you. I've tried to find info on the NT scan/stillbirth link, but pretty tough to do... (especially with any more info that "increased risk of..." which means so little). I don't know if it helps to keep this in mind, but the chance of stillbirth to begin with is REALLY low (something like 5-6 per 1,000 births) so even if your risk of stillbirth doubles or triples because of the NT results, that still gives you an over 99% chance of holding a healthy, happy (ok, crying) Troy Emmitt in just a few weeks.

    Love and hugs. The other thing to remember is that there's only so much control any of us have over anything in life (especially pregnancy and parenting). Sometimes all you can do is think happy thoughts and trust God to be nice to you.

  4. Wow. You are so informed. You've done so much research! I'm sorry for all you have to think about. I think Marcy has a great point, about mothers being blamed for their children's problems. I hope your baby is okay. The waiting must be awful.

  5. Good luck, Criss! I can only imagine what you might be going through. I'll keep you and your family in my thoughts and prayers. ♥

  6. Anonymous12:48 AM

    It's not as if the things you eat go directly to the baby in pure undiluted form, so ease your stress a little! :) The placenta is a wonderful filtering organism. Pregnancy is a natural state, and was designed with protective systems. As for the toxo - if you had it before pregnancy you will not transmit it to your fetus. Ask your doctor if you were screened for it (TORCH panel). If you did not acquire it early in your pregnancy, it probably did not cause a birth defect. I hope this helps, even a little. You are almost there, Criss. Hang in.

    (and I'm so sorry, but I really think it is kind of crappy of not guilty to interject a jibe at 'antis' in a post that really had nothing to do with that particular discussion)

    Take care.
    Elsie (an l&d nurse following with interest)

  7. Actually, I'm sorry, since it appears to me that a lot of commenters have missed your point, Criss. (NG actually seems to be one of the only two that didn't, unfortunately). The point that stress is not logical or rational. It's emotional, esPECially with all the hormonal changes going on during pregnancy.

    Or the point that pregnancy reQUIRES a woman to be the only one to support the developing fetus. Even if a woman, as a mother (meaning, after birth), is blamed for almost anything that goes wrong with their child, afterwards, you know that that did not arise out of a requirement that was placed on you and you alone.

    I think most people feel guilty for a variety of reasons. Not just a feeling of powerlessness. Just wanted to get that out there. ^_^;

    And, like Macy indicated, pregnancy is designed with protective systems for the fetus, which place a whole other set of responsibilities on you, as the one with the body that bears the fetus as it develops.

    I want to pass along all my hopes and wishes that everything will go as smoothly as you could have wanted without any further hitches or added stress. :)

  8. You're right. Pregnancy is stressful. It's emotional. It's painful at times. It's uncomfortable, and it's all on the mom. I think we all have our own worries and issues that we need to deal with. I think the most important thing that we as moms can do is find a support system for before *and* after birth. Talk to a friend who has been through it before who will be honest with you. Call her and share the pressures with her. Mothering is hard, and it's not meant to be a one-woman show.

    Also, I have to add that while it probably means nothing, I wouldn't make any sort of connection between you working with cats and the possibility of your baby having an increased risk of a birth defect. Even if someone did everything "they" said to do, defects can and do happen. Do what you think is best and know that you're doing all you can to give your baby a safe and healthy place to develop until he's ready to join you on the outside.

  9. Thanks, y'all. :)

    RATIONALLY, I know that crappy things happen when you do everything right, and things work out fine when you do everything wrong. BUT IT DOESN'T FEEL THAT WAY.

    It's hard to not second-guess everything you've done and wonder if you'd done something differently, if it would have turned out differently... Meh.

    I have to confess that part of the reason I wrote this post is, yes, to point out that the anti-choice movement likes to paint pregnancy as a mild inconvenience, when in reality it's much more than that. This is part of the reality of pregnancy. So, Not Guilty is really not out of line with her comments.

  10. Anonymous12:45 AM

    I stand corrected. :)

    Anyone,regardless of view, who thinks pregnancy is a mild inconvenience is....well there's not a big enough word for the lunacy.

    And since I read your latest post I'll add that it's excellent that everything checked out ok with your baby.

    Your turning final now! Hope you and Troy have a happy landing.


  11. I hope sincerely that I do not offend anyone. SINCERELY I do. Because, if I have learned anything at all thus far, it's that I know nothing and we're all just winging it and no one knows something better or more than someone else. So please, anything I say is about me and me only and completely without judgement.

    Okay, end disclaimer.

    The thing is, pregnancy sucked. SA-HUCKED. Every single gosh darn day it sucked. It sucked in ways I never imagined it would suck (drooling and spitting! Nausea so unrelenting I could neither eat nor sleep nor swallow! Vomiting on the side of the Interstate! Eight months pregnant! Doubled over, puking and pissing! In my clothes! On my way to work!). And it sucked in ways I never expected: it's all on me. It's ALL on me. I was sick EVERY DAY of my pregnancy. Every day. Not a single damn day off. That's a lot of days. And I was too scared to take medication. My husband was anxious and freaked out about side effects and long term outcomes and his anxiety was overwhelming and my nausea/heartburn/drooling/vomiting was overwhelming and it was just horrible. Because I was expected to not only exist in misery, daily, but do it it happily. Happily! You're pregnant! Isn't it a mother effing miracle?! Aren't you just sooooooooo happy?!!?

    I wanted to kick people in the teeth everytime they told me how HAPPY I was supposed to be. Because I wasn't HAPPY, I was MISERABLE. And I didn't feel like I was allowed to be. No one, not one person I met during those 9 months sidled up to me and whispered, it really sucks, doesn't it?

    A lot of women love pregnancy. They love it SO MUCH! And that's so fantastic. It really is. But there are women who don't love it, who loathe it actually, and they need permission to voice that g*ddamnit. And not be pandered to or dismissed or told it's all "natural" or "part of the plan". They need to hear, it's sucks friend, and it's OKAY TO SAY SO.

    And most of the time everything works out okay. And in the end you have the perspective and luxury of looking back. But when you're in it, anxious and worried and feeling so unbelievably alone hearing someone else tell you "it will all be okay!" is like someone telling you "you're only going to be sick for 296 more days!"

    Again, just my $0.02.

    I wish you luck and strength and all the fortitude in the world.