Life and its traumatic experiences color our perspectives. We bring those perspectives to every conversation, gathering, event. Because of our fertility issues, early miscarriage, and Big Man’s premature birth, how I look at pregnancy and childbirth is completely changed. I’ve also gained an inordinate amount of knowledge on pregnancy, prematurity, birth defects, early childhood development, and related issues. Not that I’m declaring myself an expert in the least. But I was unwillingly thrown into this world when my body kicked my son out three-plus months too soon. I lost the dream of that huge, uncomfortable belly, that perfect delivery where your baby is placed on your tummy right after birth, and getting wheeled out of the hospital with your baby in your arms, balloons flying above, to go home. Suffice it to say, I know too much about what can go wrong, and what all-too-frequently does go wrong. When friends or family tell me they’re pregnant, my initial reaction is not extreme joy, it’s extreme fear…fear for them, fear for their baby, fear they will learn as I did all the things that can go wrong. I find myself holding my breath and continually praying until I find out they have delivered a full-term healthy baby. Then I am envious they can still live in that ignorance, although I am happy for that ignorance at the same time.
Now, I did go on, after Big Man’s premature arrival, to have two full-term, healthy, happy pregnancies. I was terrified every single day. With the Princess, I was so sure we were going to be in the NICU again. I would not allow myself to bond with her at all. I rarely touched my belly. I didn’t talk to her. She remained an abstract. I was stressed out, and extremely anxious. My fear took so much away. I regret that to this day, even though the she and I did eventually bond and have an awesome relationship. With Little Man, I was anxious and terrified to repeat what we’d gone through with Big Man, but I did better than I had with the Princess.
Now, I am not a person to make waves. I hate conflict and will avoid it at all costs. I am terrified of offending anyone or hurting their feelings. I am more apt to keep my mouth closed and stand there silently when I hear something I don’t agree with, than say anything that has the potential to cause conflict, disagreement, heated discussion, or hurt feelings. I also respect that everyone has their own opinions and their own choices to make. However, everything I wrote above gives me a certain perspective. My journey has given me certain knowledge and experience. So when I hear someone say they want to have their baby at 36 or 37 weeks because they want to comfortably eat Easter dinner, or because they don’t want the baby to be bigger than 7 pounds, or that’s when their mom can be with them, it literally takes my breath away. I get that it’s uncomfortable at the end of a full-term pregnancy. Been there, done that. But I was also grateful to be uncomfortable. When you start bleeding not two weeks after you start wearing maternity clothes, give birth on the first day of your third trimester, stare at your medically fragile child who is covered with tubes and wires attached to life-giving machines through the walls of a plastic box, can only hold him on his “good days” when the stimulation of his own mother’s touch isn’t too much for him, watch other parents make the horrific choice to take their tiny infant off life-support and quietly, tearfully, heartrendingly say goodbye, leave your son to the care of doctors, nurses, and machines every day and night for 93 days, and wonder if your child will not just survive but survive without lifelong medical and developmental issues, all you do is wish to reach 40 weeks, hugely uncomfortable, and then deliver a big ole fat, healthy baby. When you hear women say it’s okay to drink this, eat that, do this or that during pregnancy when you’ve seen FAS (fetal alcohol syndrome) babies in the NICU, alongside babies born addicted to cocaine or heroin, you’ve watched them twitchy and scream and fight just as hard as your tiny son to survive, you get a little edgy. We did EVERYTHING right before and during our pregnancy, and yet we still ended up with a 26-weeker. When I hear people say they aren’t vaccinating because of the mere possibility of autism as a side-effect (scientifically proven false), which then puts my medically fragile child with still-damaged lungs at even further risk, I get a little flustered.
The truth is, 1in 9 babies is born too soon. The truth is “full-term” is not 36 weeks. The truth is 36, 37, and 38 weekers have been shown to have feeding issues, are more prone to jaundice, are more likely to experience sleep apnea, are at higher risk for SIDS, and have more likelihood of developing learning and/or developmental delays. Granted, having a 36, 37, or 38 weeker isn’t always by choice. But if you have the choice, wait. So much brain, lung, and systemic development occurs between 36 and 40 weeks. We will never know exactly all that occurred in Big Man’s brain for coming so early. So many synapse connections were not formed, or were severed, just by the mere fact of stimulation at an inopportune moment that would not have occurred had he still been where he belonged…in utero. He was at an 80% higher risk for ADHD just by nature of the gestation he was born. The truth is, 1 in 33 babies is born with a birth defect. The truth is, not vaccinating because of a possible side effect which has been proven false by multiple scientific studies puts other kids at risk.
I’m sure I have offended someone. I apologize in advance. That was not ever my intention. I do happen to have this soapbox because of all we’ve been through, all we’ve experienced. I so rarely haul it out because I’m terrified and it makes me uncomfortable. I know I have my own perspectives, and they have colored my opinions. We live in a day and age of information. It amazes me how much misinformation is still out there. I’m not a doctor. I’m not a scientist. I’m not an expert. I’m just a mom who has walked a certain journey. And I hope that someday what we’ve lived through will be able to help someone else, because that would help me make sense of it all.