Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Hey, pregnant ladies! Take care of yourselves!

According to my medical chart when I was in the hospital last year for a pregnancy-related procedure, I have what is known in medspeak as "BOH" - Bad Obstetric History". It took about nine years, five natural pregnancies, three failed egg donation attempts (including two that took us to Europe - gotta love fertility tourism), a wide variety of fetal birth defects, nearly every invasive test out there, meetings with an assortment of geneticists (I even have one of my own now), and the loss of one preemie to finally have our son. It's been a wild, emotional roller coaster, and I wouldn't wish what we've been through on anyone. And, when we finally did manage to succeed, the pregnancy was fraught with peril. I won't go into the details, but let's just say that I was ordered to stay home (not in bed, thank god!) from the 16th week, following an emergency surgical procedure. Difficult pregnancy, long labor, difficult birth. High-risk all the way around.

Through all the pregnancies, I did everything right. Gave up caffeine, no heavy lifting, no alcohol, drugs, etc. Didn't over-exert myself. According to my geneticist, I've got defective genes somewhere, but no one has been able to figure out which genes (and samples have been sent all over Europe and the US at this point) are causing the problems. All the geneticists she's spoken to, both in Israel and outside of Israel (she mentions my case at different forums, meetings, etc.) think it sounds terribly interesting, but no one has a clue as to where the problems lie. All we know is that I was born with a few rare birth defects (all fixed, and you'd never have a clue from looking at me), and in three out of the first four pregnancies, there were birth defects - different defects in each pregnancy, all severe (the fourth one ended in spontaneously, so we don't know if there were defects or not, though we assume there must have been).

Needless to say, I'm more than a little sensitive when it comes to issues of taking care of one's self during pregnancy. When you repeatedly do everything you're supposed to and it still doesn't work, you get really frustrated. You look at other pregnant women and wonder why you can't seem to get it right. Other women make it look so easy, yet you just keep failing. It's awful. So, I'm sure you can all imagine how angry I get when I see pregnant women abusing their bodies, not taking care of themselves. My neighbor is pregnant with her second child - still in the first trimester, I believe. And, as she did with her first, she is continuing to smoke. We are quite friendly, and it's not like she doesn't know the risks (or maybe she does, but it's certainly not my place to tell her), but when I see her light up, knowing that she has this little creature growing inside of her, it makes me crazy. I just don't get it! How can a woman knowingly endanger her unborn child? It takes all of my strength not to let her have it, and it's not easy to hold back.

I remember when I was in the hospital after giving birth. Another woman who had just been wheeled into my room after giving birth asked the nurse if she could get up - she wanted to go outside for a cigarette. She had literally just come from the delivery room! I heard her confide to the nurse that she hadn't given up smoking during the pregnancy, then later on in the day, I heard her talking on the phone to a friend, wondering why the baby was smaller than she'd expected. Gee, do you think maybe there could have been a connection? Ok, not definitely, but maybe, just maybe, the smoking could have been a contributing factor, hmmm? I just wanted to shake her.

For women who have never had problems getting and staying pregnant and then having healthy children, they most likely haven't got a clue what it's like for those of us who agonized over each period, whose lives were lived according to the color of a pee stick, the tests, the failures, the out of control hormones, etc. They just assume that everything's going to work, and it usually does.

For many of us, it doesn't. Many women (couples) are still waiting for their "happily ever after", for the chance to be parents, to experience the wonderful world of parenting (I almost cried with joy the first time we walked outside, the three of us holding hands - it was a dream come true). It is painful, more than you can possibly imagine if you haven't been there. What makes it even worse though, is to see other women taking their condition for granted and not taking care of themselves as they should, knowing that they will still probably have a successful pregnancy, when no matter what you do to take care of yourself, you probably won't succeed. It hurts like hell.

Not sure how to close this, other than to say please, ladies, if you're pregnant, take care of yourselves! Take care of that precious little life growing inside of you! It's a privilege to be pregnant and have children, and should be treated as such. Not everyone has this privilege, and to abuse it is simply criminal.

Just want to add that I am actually very strongly pro-choice. A woman's body is her own and nobody else's. However, if you choose to continue your pregnancy and have your baby, for god's sake, take care of it!


ontheface said...

This is a very moving and evocative post. It actually reminds me of the time I leaned across a table and practically begged a pregnant woman not to light the cigarette she'd just put in her mouth. Her response: "the doctor said that four a day was okay."


Liza said...


Oy! I actually got the shakes reading your comment about the "four a day" woman. I just can't understand why someone would knowingly put their child (whether already born or not) in danger. I have a friend who, when she found out she was pregnant, immediately gave up smoking for the duration of the pregnancy. Obviously, she did it for her baby, but she told me that my story had a profound effect on her, and through the story, she knew that it was the right thing to do.

christine said...

I feel much the same way. I got 3 live births out of 8 pregnansies and one of them was so premature that she only lived for 16 hours. I cannot understand how people cannot give these babies their best.

Liza said...

Our preemie was born at 26 weeks, weighed 700 grams, and had birth defects that were repaired. The combination of being a preemie and having serious birth defects was just too much though. He survived for 6 1/2 months, and never left the hospital. I remember coming out of the NICU after a visit with our son, seeing a pregnant woman in a hospital gown, talking on the phone and smoking a cigarette. It's just incomprehensible!

Ruth said...

I completely relate! Parenthood came late to me because it took me some time (and 1 divorce) to find the suitable father. I am praying to have a third child and I will include you.