One of the hardest part of losing a baby is that you’ve also lost your innocence.
In the Expecting 411 book*, the last few chapters are about the “scary stuff”. The start of that section specifically says not to read it unless you are diagnosed with one of the conditions listed there. No need for the glowing momma to be to worry her pretty little head about these things unless absolutely necessary, right? This seemed like a perfectly reasonable strategy to us, back when we were having a perfectly healthy, normal pregnancy. Of course, my perspective is a bit different now.
Since Ada died, I’ve voraciously read everything I can about “adverse outcomes” and how to detect or prevent them. I know all about reduced movement, fetal distress, cord issues, too much or too little amniotic fluid, infections, and more. I’m not innocent anymore. I now know that every baby born is a miracle – so very much can go wrong. I see many pregnant women around me, both friends and strangers, and I desperately want to tell them. It’s not that I want to intrude on their bliss – I just want them to have some preparation in the chance that their pregnancy isn’t perfect. I want them to have a chance to intervene before their baby dies, a chance that I did not have.
We prepared for every contingency that we knew about, from a baby with birth defects to me dying in childbirth, but we never ever thought about stillbirth. I guess if someone had asked me, I would have said we knew stillbirth was a possibility but it seemed like something that was so rare, so strange, that it didn’t even warrant consideration. I guess I thought it happened in countries without modern medicine, or in cases where the pregnant women are very sick or abusing drugs or alcohol. No one ever said, “hey, everything is going great, but you should know there is a chance that something unexpected could happen.” No one ever said that stillbirth is 10 times more common than Downs syndrome.
Looking back, I wish someone had warned me. I wish we had had a tiny inkling of what the possibility was so we could be somewhat mentally prepared. There’s so much I wish that I knew. So now I’m thinking – if I don’t tell people that bad things could happen then I am leaving them in the same unprepared boat I was left floating in. I have a responsibility to tell them! Chances are, everything will be fine and they will have a healthy baby. But in that fairly small chance that all is not well, I would feel incredibly guilty for not telling them.
But how do you do it? How do you politely, calmly, quietly tell them to do kick counts for the love of all that is holy and please get every diagnostic that you can afford and pay close attention to any cramps or bleeding and watch for leakage of amniotic fluid and… and… it’s a lot. It’s scary. It doesn’t help that everyone and their mom is pushing home births and low-intervention without even having a doctor present at the birth because pregnancy is natural and who needs doctors anyway? Aaaah!
I’m trying to be calm and just say “be careful”. Listen to your doctor, and do everything you can even if it seems like overkill. I feel like constantly apologizing for my “breaking the spell” of an innocent pregnancy, but I must do it.
As Lindsey Wimmer (nurse and founder of Star Legacy Foundation) puts it: “expectant parents deserve to have all the information available about the health of the mother, the pregnancy, and the baby. This includes the good, the bad, and the ugly. Many organizations are worried about the increase in the use of medical interventions, but, to me, the number isn’t significant – the ultimate outcome is.” Even if delivery is less than ideal, such as induction or c-section, it really doesn’t matter as long as you get to go home with your baby alive.
* Our favorite pregnancy book, by the way. They have a lot of additional content on their website, too. I actually contacted them via their Facebook group to express concern that they had so little information about miscarriage and stillbirth, when these are such common outcomes. They actually responded quickly and said they were in progress in developing some extra content on this subject, which will be included in the new online version of the books.