Raising Richmond: Pregnant pause

I’m having a classic second pregnancy: less anxiety, less documentation, living in a hospital. You know, the normal stuff.

My second pregnancy has been different from my first in almost every way. When I was pregnant with my daughter, we told family at 10 weeks, and then the news made it around way earlier than we wanted. This time, I told only my sister at 10 weeks and we told friends if we saw them. We told the rest of our families at 16 weeks. I waited a while to tell people at work, other than my manager. I wasn’t planning to write about it publicly until just before I was due.

I kept the baby news close the second time for many reasons. I have hang-ups about privacy issues and how easily any information about our daughter has been shared online with people I don’t know. 1 The longer we could keep this new one between us, the better I felt. It was our news, not anyone else’s. I wasn’t ready for all the follow up questions from grandparents and for them to start planning things. Truthfully, I wasn’t that excited, either. We had wanted another child, and I was looking forward to it being here, but being pregnant definitely was on the backburner with other life things happening. There were too many variables to make planning possible, but I knew that the baby would be home eventually and we could get the next part of our lives in motion once he/she arrived.

Like most expectant parents, I also didn’t want to share the news because I then didn’t want to have to report back any complications or bad news to anyone casually interested. My daughter’s pregnancy was healthy and I had her at 38 weeks. I had a wave of complications after her birth, and discovered later that it was remarkable that she made it to term, giving me more to worry about the second time.

When I found out I was pregnant again last November, I chose a different hospital–another major difference between the first and second pregnancies. My first ultrasound with the baby wasn’t until 20 weeks. I was OK with that at first, but about a month before it was scheduled I grew worried that something was wrong or that I had more than one in there. No one else was concerned and the midwives made me think it was normal to wait so long for an ultrasound. Then I learned–yet another difference between pregnancies I–had to pay for a chunk of the ultrasound costs out-of-pocket. I felt more at peace with the decision to only have one ultrasound after that.

The ultrasound revealed a healthy, single baby (we still don’t know what we’re having), and a short cervix. Well, not short–certainly not short considering my first baby went to term. But short enough to cause alarm and follow-up visits and medication and added worry and stress on me, although all the research said I wasn’t at-risk for pre-term labor. But I am? Science is the worst sometimes.

Also, I’m 35. That’s the magic age for being “at risk” in general during pregnancy. A woman who is 35 is basically a crumbling structure who shouldn’t house babies, according to medicine.2 Any older moms know the stress that comes with being made to think you will deliver a squid baby at 25 weeks for no other reason than your age. The good thing is that being accused of being at risk, yet feeling physically fine and being very healthy otherwise, made me feel more of a bond with the unborn babe than I had before. We were both being told trouble could be coming, but all either of us could do was stay calm and occasionally roll around.

I had a positive midwife experience the first time. I want to treat pregnancy as a thing my body was born to do. It was empowering, and I’m grateful that I was able to have it work for me at least once. I want to be an example of how pregnancies don’t mean that a woman is disabled or weak. I can take the stairs! I walk all day! I ran a half marathon the weekend after I found out I was pregnant! I need to stay strong and fit for labor. Obviously I’m more limited, but it’s my call to say what I can and can’t do. To paraphrase a quote that was in the midwives’ office, “The secret isn’t that childbirth is painful; it’s that women are strong.” That makes me well up when I think about it. So true!3 Despite all that good intention, I’m having the opposite experience I had the first time.

Another difference between pregnancies is that my water didn’t break with my daughter. I went to the hospital dilated to seven centimeters after laboring at home for 10 hours, and my water was broken there. My water ruptured at home at 25 weeks with baby #2. I didn’t know what happened, but I knew it wasn’t normal. I tend to ignore most discomforts, but the pre-term alarms were ringing. It was 10:30 PM, and when the midwife called me back 90 minutes later and told me I could probably wait to come in the next day, I was over the laidback midwifery and told her I wanted to come in anyway.

As I’m writing this I’m on my 18th day of bedrest at a hospital. I didn’t go into labor that night. My water ruptured but the baby is hanging in there and is healthy, and I feel well. The night I went to the hospital where I was planning to deliver, I was rolled into a second hospital with a better NICU at 4:00 AM and was already told that if I didn’t have the baby that night I could be in the hospital waiting for up to two more months. A nurse gave me the best advice about facing bedrest for that long: “Just don’t think too far ahead.”

I’m at risk for a couple of situations that could be dangerous to the baby, and if those happen, the baby has to be delivered immediately (which is why I’m at a hospital and not at home). At least those risks are unrelated to being 35. I could go into labor any day or I could be here until June. I will go home before the baby does.

I had the intentions for a July birth, a summer maternity leave catching up on The Mindy Project and doing adorable loads of laundry, and eating lots of watermelon while holding my newborn baby outside. All those plans have changed and I don’t know what the summer will look like. Now that one of the things you don’t want to happen has happened, I don’t mind the bad news being shared, especially since the bad news could be so much worse. Ours has been the best-case scenario for a complicated pregnancy, but we’re still bracing ourselves.

There’s a chance things could be perfectly fine. There’s a chance that the baby will have major developmental and health issues. There’s a chance it won’t make it out of the hospital. Every day I can go without having the baby makes it stronger. Even the days from when my water first ruptured to today have made a significant difference in the baby’s development.

Instead of worrying about if I will have time at home with my baby before I have to go back to work, what happens to my job after FMLA runs out, how my husband and daughter are doing without me, and trying not to be too homesick and anxious, I focus on staying pregnant through the day, because that’s the best thing for this baby. Now every morning when I wake up, when I didn’t want to tell anyone the news before, I gladly share with a few people, “I’m pregnant.”

  1. You guys don’t count. 
  2. My friend Jess wrote about flack she got for having a baby in her late 30s. Most of my peers didn’t start having children until they were past 30, but apparently some people take issue with the idea. 
  3. Any way you give birth is the best way. But I have a lot of stuff happening right now and don’t have time to be inclusive and pay tribute to all pregnancy choices. 
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Kelly Gerow

Kelly Gerow lives and writes in Richmond. She probably does other stuff in Richmond, too.

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