We’re coming up on the first birthday of the nugget, so I wanted to capture for posterity and curiosity what my birth experience was like.
First, let’s start with how we got here.
Andy and I knew we eventually wanted to have kids, but wanted the timing to be as ideal as possible. We got married while I was in graduate school and decided to start trying once I was out of school. I had an Implanon birth control implant in my arm and had it removed in January of 2015, just after graduation. We were going to give my body a chance to recalibrate to making babies and agreed to start trying that September.
After removing an implant it can take a few months for the body to re-regulate, but in April and May I had two periods like clockwork. Then I had irregular periods for a few months. Some very close together, others very far apart. It made it difficult to time when I would be ovulating, so we kept using other forms of birth control. Then in early November we “pulled the goalie” just to see what would happen. A few weeks after our first real attempt, I went to the doctor to talk about the possibility of having Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. I had a lot of the symptoms and thought this might be why I was having irregular periods.
I met with my amazing doctor who said that I did, in fact, have PCOS. We agreed to let me try to get pregnant naturally for a few more months before trying on medication to make ovulation predictable. I got some blood tests done to check in about what variety of PCOS I had, meaning what hormonal levels was I dealing with. The results came back on the same day I was having some breast tenderness and on a whim I decided to take a pregnancy test. Turns out I was two weeks along and had been pregnant at the appointment with my doctor. The results were flagged and showed nothing about PCOS but everything about me being pregnant.
I remember I was laughing and crying at the same time as I read the test. Andy smiled when I showed him both the tests I had taken, but he was reserved and wanted to get an official result from my doctor before we got our hopes up. We drove to the GroupHealth building and I took, to my surprise, a pee test not dissimilar to the ones I had done at home. 10 minutes later we were in the car driving home and I checked my email. I found waiting for me my test results and confirmation that I was pregnant.
I remember calling my mom who also laughed and cried at the same time at the news. My brother said congratulations and how happy he was for me. My dad commented that I guess we didn’t need to get the turkey baster. No idea what that was about.
My symptoms started immediately. I had intense food aversions. I had nausea when I was in a car and sometimes during the day. I mostly wanted burgers and sandwiches and I wanted someone else to cook them for me. All during my pregnancy I would have aversions to water, vegetables, fruit, dairy, meat, cheese, and fish. This is where Andy and I would start joking about how the concept of “Intelligent Design” was bullshit. What intelligent designer makes reproduction include an aversion to water? Mostly cooking was what would cause the biggest reaction. Andy perfected his scrambled eggs and I got clever with water consumption using flavored fizzy water and adding citrus to my water bottle.
More than anything I was tired all during my first trimester. I would want to be horizontal most of the day. I would wake up and move to the couch, sometimes nap, but mostly just lay. My brain was foggy so I would have to be very judicious about working and fortunately only had to cancel one client meeting as a result of pregnancy symptoms.
Then, in the second trimester I went to a routine prenatal appointment and my blood pressure was high. I assumed it was stress because of work and a huge fight I had had with my dad. I was hospitalized for a day and had a few experiences that made me extra grateful that I had choses midwives over an OB. My biggest fear was receiving some sort of inappropriate treatment because of my fat body (though I am decidedly Lane Bryant fat and not the kind of fat that causes staring on the street, so I definitely experience I bit of privilege there).
While at the hospital I had a doctor tell me to eat more vegetables even though I said I was having aversions to them. She also told me it was important to exercise, which I was still doing regularly despite my growing pregnant belly and exhaustion. I was also working a job that had me on my feet about half the time, so I was getting more activity during my regular workday than the average American. It highlighted for me how this doctor made a lot of assumptions about my health based on my appearance rather than actually asking questions about my health and lifestyle. At one point when she asked how much weight I had gained and I said 30 lbs, she told me I should have only gained 20 at most. As if I could have changed it at that point. This subtle fat shaming in medical treatment is something I don’t experience with my regular doctor and hadn’t since moving to Seattle, so I was surprised by how this interaction went down. The whole thing left a bad taste in my mouth and made me desperate to continue my care with the midwives because of their natural assumption that I was doing my best to keep me and my baby healthy during the pregnancy.
I was released and had to start taking a regular dose of a blood pressure medicine call Labetalol. I also brought an OB onto the team, who turned out to be one of the most caring and compassionate men I have every met. He seemed to understand the fear I had for my baby and me and was aware of the drastic shift my pregnancy had taken seemingly overnight. The original due date was August 4th, Barack Obama’s birthday. Because of my new gestational hypertension, I would undoubtedly be induced around week 37/38 in mid July. Longitudinal research had shown that mothers and babies who were experiencing high-risk pregnancies would fare better if labor was induced early. I was emotional about it. Because getting pregnant had been relatively easy, I assumed my good reproductive genes would give me an easy pregnancy like my mom had had and the hospital visit was a blip in an otherwise normal pregnancy. At the time I didn’t recognize it as feeling failure, but in retrospect that is definitely what I was. I felt like I had failed our baby since I couldn’t carry him to term.
We hired on a doula at that point, too, realizing we would want some help navigating the decisions we would have to make with the new course of action we were taking. We brought on Kim James, who I have talked about before.
What I didn’t know is that this would ultimately be the beginning of a really challenging journey with my health that would give me some incredible perspective on the kind of body I had and how lucky I had been up to that point. Next post I’ll talk about the hospital stay up to the start of my labor. It was a doozy and something I still think about regularly both from the perspective of a patient and an organizational development consultant.