I like to know things. I like to do research. I like to read many opinions and ideas about a subject before making up my mind. I like to find the answers. I like to analyze problems. I like to connect dots and draw conclusions and support them with evidence from the text. I spent the last ten years of my life practicing this skill.
I don't like it when I can't figure something out.
Unlike my pregnancy with Eliza, I have done very little reading and research this time around. I'm actually relying more on my doctors and less on Google (mostly because I don't need to be more worried than I already am). What I do know is that at this point in my pregnancy, all the statistics are in my favor. I know that I'm being closely monitored and there is what one of my doctors likes to call a "safety net" around my pregnancy this time. I know that I'll have high-tech ultrasound and non-stress tests and kick counts and we'll do everything we can to make sure this baby is okay. I'll take all the necessary precautions (and probably a lot of unnecessary precautions as well).
But I keep coming back to the same question: When you don't know what went wrong the first time, how do you prevent it from happening again?
I'm seeing two doctors for this pregnancy. My regular OB from last time, a very kind man who promised me that what happened last time won't happen again, and a maternal fetal medicine specialist who only takes high-risk patients (I know, I'm so special). She's the only woman in her practice, and she manages to be both warm and nurturing and also sassy and no-nonsense. I like and trust them both. Since I have two doctors, I have an appointment about every two weeks. Plus high tech ultrasounds (two so far, another scheduled for early February). Later in my pregnancy, I'll go in for weekly and then bi-weekly non-stress tests and bio-physical profiles that will track the baby's heart rate and movements and measurements and mood swings (ok, not really, but that would be interesting).
Our last ultrasound looked good. The doctor was encouraging and optimistic. The Deuce was measuring right on target, growth appeared to be exactly perfect, body parts were proportional (and adorable), heart rate was strong and steady.
But guess what? They said the same thing about Eliza at that stage. And at 20 weeks. And at 24 weeks. So "good growth" only brings me so much comfort.
Eliza was declared perfect at every. single. doctor appointment and ultrasound that I had. But at 34 weeks and 3 days, I suddenly and rapidly went into labor. By the time I got to the hospital (just two and a half hours after I first started having contractions), I was fully dilated and Eliza had no heartbeat. An hour later she was born. And NO ONE CAN EXPLAIN what happened. Not from my blood tests ("normal"), not from autopsy results ("normal"), not from the placenta pathology report ("normal"). There is no clear explanation for why a healthy, PERFECT baby died.
So once again, I ask: If you don't know what caused a baby's death, how do you prevent it from happening again?
My OB, bless his heart, the older gentlemen with the beard, is so soft spoken and gentle and kind. But when we first discussed trying to get pregnant again, I asked him that question, and he actually hit his desk with his fist as he said, "This will NOT happen again."
So here is what you do when you have no answers:
You try to trust your doctors and their medical equipment. You take a baby aspirin every day. You take extra folic acid. You take a lot of deep breaths. You wonder many times a day if the baby is actually still alive.
And you freaking hope you get lucky this time.
Because there's really nothing you can do.
I mean, seriously, a BABY ASPIRIN? You're telling me that's what stands between life and death for The Deuce? A pill I can buy over the counter without a prescription, in fact I don't even have to be 18 to buy it! A CHILD could buy this "lifesaving" drug! A pill that is so small I could swallow it without water if I had to? My doctor assures me that aspirin is actually a remarkable drug because it can cross the placenta and work for the baby as well as the mom. I asked her why they don't give it to all pregnant women--do you know how crazy it makes me to imagine that a fucking baby aspirin a day could have saved Eliza?--and she acknowledged the validity of my question--and probably the fury behind it as well. She said there are some risks involved with any blood thinner during pregnancy. Along those same lines, she didn't recommend that I do Heparin or Lovenox injections--believe me, I asked--which was somewhat disappointing because, as it turns out, Fear of Dead Baby totally trumps Fear of Needles. And OMG isn't there SOMETHING I can do besides take a FREAKING baby aspirin?
My doctors assure me that I should actually consider it to be a positive thing that I don't have a specific health issue, like a clotting factor or genetic abnormality that caused Eliza's death. But I think that would at least give me something specific to TREAT, something to FIX. I mean, give me something to work with here! They think that my perfect health history means I'm likely to have a successful pregnancy this time, but to me, it just feels like there's something mysterious and medically undetectable that could kill this baby just like it killed Eliza.
If Eliza's heart stopped beating sometime between 34 weeks 1 day (I felt her move for sure on Saturday the 4th) and 34 weeks 3 days (on Monday, when she was born), then who is to say that The Deuce's heart won't suddenly stop beating at 16 weeks, or 20 weeks, or 36 weeks?
Statistics are supposed to be on my side. The doctor who read my last ultrasound told me we have a 97% chance of bringing home this baby. He said (and I quote), "Diapers are almost certainly in your future." (Anybody else only hear the "almost" in that sentence?) But I just know that he would have said the same thing if he'd seen Eliza's ultrasound at 14 weeks. And that is what keeps tripping me up.
It all comes down to this: We have lots of questions. We have no answers. And if The Deuce lives (and it's likely The Deuce will live, at least according to all the information we have right now), we'll probably never know why this baby was okay and Eliza was not.
Unlike baby aspirin, I have a hard time swallowing that.