Today I am on self-prescribed bed rest. I’m scared, but I’m telling myself not to be. I’m telling myself that every little thing gonna be alright. And yes, Bob Marley is singing it to me over and over in my brain. He’s singing me out of that bad place that I go to sometimes in the back of my mind, or he’s trying to anyway. Ok, so he’s deceased, was never a personal acquaintance and couldn’t possibly be trying anything earthly at the moment, even such a noble deed as singing me out of the bad place. It’s me that’s trying, but it’s hard.
Today I am 32 weeks pregnant. I’ve had a relatively easy time so far (shhhhhh Mom. I know I bitch and moan too much), but last night I got a phone call from my midwife that scared me and sent me to the bad place.
You see, I suffer from some pretty severe anxiety at times. I’ve always been neurotic. I had terrible separation anxiety as a child. I’ve never slept well because that’s when the worries of the world attack my unsuspecting brain. I spent most of my life unmedicated, and very brief periods medicated (all within the last five years). I’m currently unmedicated, and although it’s scary I prefer it that way. I hated the time when I felt like I had no choice (but I really did have no choice at the time) but to take the drugs.
Most of the time I think I’m fine and the door to the bad place remains locked; but last night, even though I didn’t really want to go there, I found myself searching for the key. I didn’t quite find it, but I did spend a good couple of hours sitting pathetically in the doorway, cheek pressed up against that cold, unyielding door, before snapping myself out of it.
So here I am in bed, surrounded by pillows, puppy at my feet, baby feet poking into my ribs. Feels like he’s kicking the back of my rib cage today. It hurts like hell. I’m super uncomfortable. I have heartburn like you wouldn’t believe. I forget what it feels like to not have heartburn. I’m really short of breath. But I can feel my baby moving, and even if he’s destroying my ribs I am so grateful for his little baby movements telling me that he’s still doing his thing in there.
Turns out there’s a reason for all my early discomfort. I have too much amniotic fluid and it’s putting a lot of pressure on my stomach and lungs. Baby H is big for his 32 weeks, but not so big that it’s alarming. He himself is measuring only slightly ahead at about 34 weeks. It’s all this fluid that is making me look (and feel) full term.
Google searches are the devil’s work. I know I shouldn’t have done it. Searching ‘polyhydramnios’ (the condition of having too much amniotic fluid) yields some scary results. Words like ‘birth defects’, ‘premature labour’ and ‘stillbirth’ attack a mother’s heart like a thousand little shards of glass.
It’s strange to think of yourself as a mother when you’ve yet to hold your baby, but I can tell you without a doubt that I am a mother worrying about her child. I honestly don’t care what I go through, so long as he’s okay. When I thought I’d lost him when he was just a little 6wk old embryo I felt like I was dying. Sitting and waiting in that hospital to find out if I was miscarrying or not was the scariest time of my life. Even after I knew things were okay it took me awhile to calm down. I returned home clutching a precious piece of paper, the hospital report containing the words ‘viable pregnancy’, collapsed on the floor and just cried my eyes out. It’s what I’d wanted to do all day but didn’t want to make a scene in a crowded hospital waiting room (never mind the fact that one of the last places I want to be is with my cheek pressed to a hospital floor… ew). Back then, on March 19th, I didn’t look pregnant. I didn’t feel pregnant in the way that I obviously do now. I couldn’t reassure myself by massaging those precious little baby feet that are, now, always sticking out of my right side. I couldn’t ask his Daddy to talk to him just for the joy of feeling him move and falling more in love with my new little family. I just had to take their word for it. There was an embryo and that embryo did indeed have a heart beat.
Now I can feel all these things and I’m trying not to be paranoid during the in between times. Even fetuses need sleep. I have to try pretty hard not to keep waking him up.
Statistics are also the devil’s work. The evil Google search told me that in 50% of polyhydramnios cases there is no known cause and baby comes out healthy and happy. The other 50%, however… 50% is a pretty big scary number.
The thing about statistics, though, is that it can be too easy to take them at face value without considering the context, without asking, “what else do we know?” In my moments of panic, this is what I forget. Fortunately, I have a midwife who cares, who returned my page within 10 minutes and then spent 40 minutes discussing my entire chart with me. This reminded me of what I do know. I do know that 1) Between 12 and 15 weeks Baby H was screened for down’s syndrome, trisomy disorders and spina bifida. He screened negative. 2) At 20 weeks we did the anatomy scan and he looked perfect. At that time he was measuring 1 week ahead. 3) He continued to measure only 1 week ahead right up until 29 weeks which is when the first jump in growth happened. 4) His heartbeat is regular and strong.
Given all of this information, this case of polyhydramnios likely falls into the 50% where nothing is amiss. All it should mean is that I have to be prepared to go into labour at any time. Chances are I will make it to at least 37 weeks, but the risk of preterm labour is increased with this condition simply because there is that much more tension with the extra fluid, making it more likely that the water will break early. Of course, to know this for sure I have to wait. I am being referred to an OB and will likely have to undergo more tests. Probably another anatomy scan, and possibly an amniocentesis (which sucks, because fear of amnio is right up there with my fear of epidurals. Big huge needles invading my baby’s little nest or sticking into my spine? Merci, mais non). At this point, as unconventional as I may think I am when it comes to medicine and childbirth, I think I’ll go with whatever the OB suggests because I can’t handle the worry. I have to know as much as there is possible to know.
But while I don’t know, I’ll try to focus on the positive, and the positive doesn’t live in the bad place.
And so, I’ll just think of Bob and his three little birds.
Chances are, every little thing gonna be alright.