Don’t get too excited by the title — baby is still on the inside!
Tomorrow is my birthday. It’s also the anniversary of my daughter’s due date. It’s also the official “full term” 39-week mark in my pregnancy with my son. Quite the triple-whammy of extremely mixed emotions.
Last time I wrote, I said I was mostly relaxed, content to wait for a while to meet my son. Well, that equanimity has gone out the window this week, I can tell you! Two of the last three nights, I’ve woken myself up crying in the middle of the night, the first time because I had a dream about delivering my daughter last year, and the second time because I was worrying about my son being stillborn. The anxiety about wanting to KNOW that he’s arrived safely is starting to get to me, especially since I know that I’ve reached the upward slope of the U-shaped curve of stillbirth — even though the absolute odds of stillbirth are still low (about 0.5%), they’re increasing with every week that he stays inside, and will approximately double over the next two weeks. I want to be patient and wait for spontaneous labor, but I also want to induce and get him out while I know he’s still OK. A lot of my anxiety is coming from the fact that I never did settle with my doctors when we would induce if I don’t go into spontaneous labor (which I so far show no signs of doing, although obviously it’s still early). I find myself fearing that they’ll try to make me go to 42 weeks, and I just don’t want to do that.
I want to induce no later than 41w0d, which I think is backed up by good science. I would probably chill out even more if the induction date were set a few days earlier, but at least right now I feel that I will completely panic if they try to make me go later. Not only am I worried about stillbirth, but I’m also worried because my mom went more than two weeks overdue when I was born, and I went into fetal distress and almost died after her emergency C-section (it’s not clear why, but might have had to do with an aging placenta). And when I say I almost died, it’s not an exaggeration — my mom was a labor and delivery nurse at the time (now she’s an OB/GYN nurse practitioner), so she knew that what was happening was truly scary. It involved Apgar scores of 1, 2, and 2 (as my mom likes to say, it was the only standardized test I ever flunked). Apparently I was the giantess of the NICU for a few days (since the NICU is mostly full of preemies, and I was the one huge post-term baby). The very fact that my mom went late with me means that I’m more at risk for going late with my baby, and the fact that I have a history of placental abruption means that I’m at higher risk for placenta-related problems in this pregnancy. Taken together, these things mean that I want this baby OUT before something really bad has a chance to happen. Not to mention that I feel that giving birth to one dead baby is more than enough for one lifetime, thank you very much, and I’m happy to accept the risks of induction (which at this stage do not include an increased risk of C-section, it turns out) in exchange for a lower risk of stillbirth.
Phew. OK, now that I’ve got that off my chest…
I’m trying to relax and enjoy these last few weeks of pregnancy, but it’s really, really hard as my anxiety ratchets up. It’s also poignant to experience the anniversary of my daughter’s due date and my birthday in my hugely pregnant state. It makes me think about where I am in life: tomorrow, I turn 33. I would also be celebrating my daughter’s first birthday this month (probably this week) if she hadn’t died. But of course, she did, so I’m not — even though I consider myself her mother, I’m still “childless” in the eyes of the rest of the world. I’m finally on the brink of giving birth to a living baby, but he’s not actually here and safely in my arms. Yet because birthdays make me think about life in a broader sense, I can’t help thinking ahead to my next pregnancy (if there is a next one) — my husband and I have always hoped to have at least two children, and IF our son is born healthy, we plan to start trying for #2 around his first birthday, since it took us 2.5 years to get to this point with him and I have known tubal scarring that will make conceiving again tricky. That means that in all likelihood, I’ll be at least 35 by the time our second baby is born (if, indeed, we are lucky enough to get there at all). When we first started talking about kids, back before I turned 30, we said we wanted two or three, and we were going to start having them right away. We planned, and God laughed. Now, as I turn 33, my biggest hope and dream is that our baby boy will finally join our family sometime in the next two weeks… it seems like too much to hope that he might have a little sibling in the next couple of years, but I can’t help but dream about it and hope that things don’t get too much more complicated as I get older.
So, in the meantime, I wait. I will say that my birthday tomorrow is looking very exciting! First, I am planning to submit the paper I’ve been working on to the journal — it will feel so good to get that done before the baby arrives! My coauthors have been really great about doing their share of the last-minute work to make sure it’s ready for submission, and it feels like a nice, solid piece of work. I’m really quite happy with it. Tomorrow is also a big day in science because of the expected announcement of the first-ever detection of gravitational waves! This is huge news, guys — extremely likely to be awarded the Nobel Prize in physics over the next few years. I’m planning to watch the press conference live at 10:30am EST, and I invited the rest of my department to come watch it projected on the big screen in our library along with me. Assuming the rumors are true, it’s going to be a pretty spectacular scientific birthday present! Then, of course, I officially hit “full term” in my pregnancy tomorrow, which is exciting in its own way. In the afternoon, my husband and I get to go talk to lawyers to do the super-fun job of drawing up a will (we’re being responsible future parents!). And then my husband is cooking me my traditional birthday cake, the same one I’ve requested for three years running.
In the meantime, I’m trying to take a deep breath and coast through these last days (please, let it only be days!) of pregnancy. I’m still feeling fine physically, still capable of tying my shoes and walking my dog two miles a day, and more or less able to sleep at night. I mention this not to gloat, but rather because I only seem to read about how physically miserable all women are at the end of pregnancy — I’m not, and I want to make sure my own positive story is out there in case it makes anyone feel less apprehensive! My main discomfort is just that I’m slightly obsessed with poking my baby all the time to make sure he’s still kicking. Poor kid. Hopefully I’ll be able to update you soon with pictures of him on the outside!