As a young child, I thought birth having a baby was a simple and natural thing that just happened. In my mind, if you wanted a baby, then you just had one. Period.
The ignorance of youth is a blessing and a curse. You believe all is possible at all times, but as you grow older you realize there are certain realities no one told you about or that you didn’t notice. As I grew up, I learned that having a baby, especially a healthy baby, is a miracle. It isn’t merely a biological fact as I once thought it was.
One of the first facts I learned was that not all women can have babies. They may try everything in their power to get pregnant, even going as far as IVF, but it still might not happen for them. I saw this with some family members who tried with no success, and I know it was a painful journey to realize it would not happen for them. It broke their hearts and the hearts of those who loved and wanted it for them.
As I continued to age (and my biological clock started running down), I saw more people I knew suffer miscarriages. I knew that could happen because my mom suffered a miscarriage before having my younger sister. I honestly believed, though, that miscarriages were rare. It wasn’t until my husband and I started on our journey to parenthood that I discovered how common miscarriage is. It’s easy to believe miscarriage is rare when no one talks about it.
For me, four out of my seven pregnancies have ended in miscarriage, a 57% miscarriage rate. If you count all eggs that fertilize (not implanted yet) the rate of miscarriage is 70%. Basically, that means only 30% of fertilized eggs ever become babies, a number that just emphasizes the true miracle of pregnancy. The rate of miscarriage, once you get a positive pregnancy test, is 30%.
I want to be clear about the statistics. This does not mean 30% of women will miscarry. It means 30% of all pregnancies will likely end in miscarriage. It means a lot of women know the pain of this loss.
No matter how many babies we’ve lost, one thing does become clear when you lose a child and/or suffer infertility, you know how much of a miracle it is just to have a baby.
But, yet again, even the pain of loss and infertility doesn’t tell the whole story on how miraculous giving birth to a baby (much less a healthy one) is. I’ve known women who had still-born babies. I’ve met women who learned during an ultrasound that their child’s skull never developed and that baby would be lucky to live a few days, much less a few hours, after birth. Babies are born with Down’s syndrome (true miracles because most of these babies miscarry like my fourth baby did), other genetic illnesses, or health problems.
It’s no wonder that so many women are nervous wrecks when pregnant.
Today, I’m 11 days from giving birth, and I’m nervous and scared. At 43, I face more risk than most younger women. I’ve lost four babies, the last being lost last June. Early in to this pregnancy, I couldn’t relax because of the fear I would lose another. But, miraculously, the baby grew and developed. Once I felt the baby move, I started to relax.
Two weeks ago, I had an ultrasound and my fears resurfaced. I was diagnosed with mild polyhydramnios, basically I have too much amniotic fluid surrounding my baby. The levels are at the low end of the diagnosis, thank goodness, but it doesn’t stop the worries. My doctor did not seem overly concerned, believing that my sugar levels and a larger than normal baby are the contributing factors. Googling was not recommended, but I did it any way and worried more.
This past week, at my 37 week appointment, my doctor told me that she wanted to have the baby on a fetal monitor because studies recommend that be done on moms older than 40 (it helps detect and prevent issues leading to stillbirth). My appointment would run longer than normal, but I didn’t think anything of it. I was fine with listening to my baby’s heart for 20-25 minutes. Only, I was there longer than that. My doctor didn’t like the results of the fetal monitor because it didn’t have enough variation (or peaks) in the graph so she had me get an ultrasound.
During the ultrasound, I got to see my sweet girl and her head full of hair swimming and moving, slightly (she was napping most of the time). And, with the ultrasound tech, I waited an additional 25 minutes after she started waiting to see a reflex on the baby, a breathing movement. We never saw it. Now I was truly scared. Could this mean something terrible?
I spoke to my doctor who told me that she believes the baby is fine. That the fetal monitor was borderline and she wanted to make sure the baby was okay. Based on the fact that I continually feel the baby moving and it does have a strong heartbeat (an average 132 bpm), she was not concerned. Of course, once I revealed that I hadn’t eaten anything in hours she said that was probably the issue with the fetal monitor in the first place (and even the breathing movement). I could go home, and she would see me in a week. “Don’t forget to eat before coming to the appointment,” my doctor said.
At this point my adrenaline crashed, and I came close to tears. I am eager to meet this baby, and I am well aware of the miracle it is to give birth. Knowing that something could go wrong at this point scares me half to death. I’m ready to give birth, hold my baby girl, and see that my baby is okay. I don’t think I’ll fully relax until that happens.
Giving birth to a baby is a miracle in itself. It isn’t a given, unfortunately, but a true blessing.