Let’s talk babies. Okay, let’s not! How about pregnancy? This time I’m serious, and to the guys and gals who haven’t been touched by this phenomenon (yet or ever plan to be), keep reading, maybe you might learn something new. Besides, it’s not a science or anatomy lesson, but mostly about my not-so-normal experience with it, and like most things in my life, this too was an atypical and somewhat eventful episode.
Pregnancy under the best conditions, can be a very stressful, emotional time in a woman’s life, partly because of the body’s hormonal imbalances, partly because of the physical and physiological changes, but mostly, I believe, it’s from fear of the unknown. Your whole existence becomes centered on the welfare of this unseen, mysterious entity that has taken up residence in your body for which you are ENTIRELY responsible. Awesome, yes, absolutely! But it’s also quite overwhelming, and at times, simply terrifying! It’s the one time you’re the most selfless (or should be); it’s no longer just about you. Even when you’re puking your guts up or feeling like you’re on the verge of collapse, your main concern is for the baby’s well-being. Is it developing properly? Am I doing all the right things, taking all the right precautions? How will I know if something is wrong? It’s very easy to be cavalier and brash, saying things like, pregnancy/childbirth is the most natural thing in the world, women have been doing it since the beginning of time, UNTIL it’s your turn or that of someone you love. Then it becomes this remarkable, incomparable experience, unlike anything anyone has ever experienced before! It’s like you invented the idea! Let’s be honest, ladies, most of us think we’re pretty damn special when we’re pregnant, and we expect people (especially our significant others) to cater to our every need or whim no matter how ridiculous or unreasonable (and some women do take it WAY over the top!). But growing a human inside you is a pretty big deal (no pun intended). And it’s the one thing that men are incapable of doing, much to their relief, I’m sure! Having said that, this capability by no means makes you superior to women who, by chance or choice, never had the experience, because we’ve all heard about or know someone who really didn’t deserve the ability to procreate. Harsh, yes, but true all the same. Conversely, there are wonderful, kind, loving women in this world who’ve never been pregnant for whatever reason. But, I digress.
So imagine if pregnancy is stressful under the best of conditions, what it would be like when there are unknown risk factors already in play! The worry and stress increase exponentially as you can well imagine! As I indicated in my last post, the timing of this pregnancy was far from ideal due to the fact that, according to my GI, my body had not yet fully recovered from major surgery (a small bowel resection), and the hardcore drugs (which included prescribed narcotics) I’d been taking for a very long time, had probably not yet vacated my system. So yeah, the fear and uncertainty became so overwhelming, I was on my way to an epic meltdown. As the weeks progressed, instead of slowly gaining weight as pregnancy dictates, I was rapidly losing it, so much so that it was causing my doctors (and me) great concern. That was so not good! I realized then that I was literally sabotaging myself and it had to stop. After some serious self-reflection, I came to the conclusion that I was being ridiculous. I mean, wasn’t worrying and stressing to this magnitude not just going to guarantee the bad outcome I was worrying would happen in the first place? If you get my logic. I was jeopardizing, not just the baby’s health, but my own as well, creating the ideal situation for my Crohn’s to flare up and further complicate an already complicated situation. I needed to get my head in the game and my act together, PRONTO!
An Unexpected Revelation
No, I didn’t find out I was having twins or triplets. RELAX! The truth was once I stopped worrying (as much), and took things in stride, I discovered that I was, in fact, feeling great, physically. Such is the power of positive thinking. Things were progressing nicely; I started gaining weight, and my checkups revealed all was well. I made a very conscious effort to think good thoughts, try to stay calm, eat properly, and follow my doctor’s orders. I adopted a very Zen attitude, and wouldn’t you know it, everything progressed like clockwork. I continued to work while making preparations at home for the impending arrival, going on shopping jaunts for baby stuff, just enjoying the experience as a whole, even though it was my second time around. Life was good. But life always seem to find ways to shake things up, at least in my world. Around my sixth month, I went to a scheduled appointment with my OBGYN, but when I got there, I was told that he was away, on sick leave, and the other OBGYN who shared his office would be taking over my care in his absence. This totally caught me off-guard, I wasn’t at all happy about this, because remember, I was referred to this doctor specifically due to my high risk situation. When I pressed the receptionist about how long my regular doctor might be away, she indicated that she couldn’t say for sure, but did share that he was in fact in the hospital, and might need to have surgery. I was in shock because when I saw him a few weeks before, he looked fine. Although I was obviously upset for myself, I was also now very concerned about him. What she revealed then, totally blew me away; she told me that he was having a very bad flare up of his Crohn’s. Wait, What!! His What?! Yes, he has Crohn’s Disease, and had had it for a very long time. Apparently, it had been in remission for quite some time, until just the week prior. I could not believe than I had been seeing this doctor for six months, and never had a clue, not that he was obligated to share his personal information with me. No wonder, he was so good with my care, so tolerant, so thorough, so reassuring, he completely got my concerns. In hindsight, I understood why my GI referred me to him specifically. I also felt very badly about initially judging him at my first appointment, the man was probably having a bad day. I learnt a very important lesson that day, which I still live by to this day. NEVER judge anyone by their appearance or harbour preconceived views about people. You just don’t know what their story is or what’s going on in their life. This is something IBD sufferers have to deal with all the time because these are invisible diseases. Our state of health is judged by our outward appearance ALL THE TIME.
The first question I asked my new OBGYN was whether he too had IBD. No, he didn’t. Hey, just making sure. With about twelve weeks left, I felt it was a fair bet that this doctor would be seeing me through the remainder of my pregnancy and the delivery because I knew how long it took to get a flare-up under control, even longer, if surgery was involved. While I didn’t have as much time to develop as good a rapport as I had with my previous doctor, the new guy did a good job monitoring my progress. I’d already had several ultrasounds that showed that the baby was developing on target, size-wise, and was very active, sometimes painfully so with all the kicking around and pressing on internal organs. I was finally scheduled to have an Amniocentesis done to check for certain abnormalities. After reading up about this test - the risks and benefits, and having it further explained to me by the doctor, I won’t lie, I was dreading this test immensely, mainly because it’s an invasive procedure, and also of the potential risk of miscarriage, even with normal pregnancies, far less for more complicated ones. I was told it was a necessary evil, in my case at least, because in addition to my other issues, I also have a rare blood type: B-negative with an Rh factor. In case anyone is wondering why having a rare blood type is important in pregnancy, I’m going to detour briefly and try to explain. Firstly, during childbirth, there can be complications, like an emergency C-section or hemorrhaging, where a blood transfusion might become necessary. Since there isn’t usually this blood type in storage in the blood bank, measures need to be taken to ensure a supply is on hand at the time of delivery. Also, if the mother is Rh B-negative (like me) is having a baby with an Rh B+positive blood type (like mine had, because my husband had B+ve blood), precautions had to be taken to prevent mixing of the blood during birth because that would be very bad for both mother and baby. Since no one is probably interested in a science lesson right now, if you want more specifics on Rh Incompatibility, for yourself or someone else, check out ACOG website.
Okay, getting back on track, I had the amnio test without incident, and since we decided we wanted to know, we found out we were having another son! Of course, you’re given the lecture that while this test can detect chromosome abnormalities, like, Down’s Syndrome and Spina Bifida, it doesn’t show ALL abnormalities. My positive mindset had always served me well in the past, so I decided that everything would be just fine. As the time got closer to my due date, although I kind of expected it, but was selfishly hoping anyway, my original OBGYN still had not returned, and I resigned myself to the fact that he would not be delivering my baby. Two weeks before my due date, just a couple of days after going on maternity leave, I went into labour. After fourteen hours of very hard labour, with no time off for good behaviour, my seven pounds eight ounces son was born on the fifteenth floor at Mount Sinai Hospital, Toronto. He looked perfect, with all visible parts intact and seemingly functional. He appeared to be healthy and made his debut into the world very loudly, all of which I was tremendously grateful for. But, here’s the rub, although physically perfect externally, there was no way of knowing whether he was the same internally. Only time would determine that, but the way I chose to look at it, was that these concerns applied to any newborn, except for a higher risk in my son’s case. I truly believed he would be perfectly fine, and he was.
Just imagine, that during the three years prior, on the fourteenth floor of this same hospital, just one floor below the one where my son was born, was the place where I spent months, enduring unimaginable pain and suffering from a disease I’d never known even existed. The very place where I had experienced the worst time of my life was the very place where I experienced the greatest joy. Coincidence or fate? Ironic, for sure.