Monday, March 25, 2013

Placenta previa

This is one of those things I never wanted to blog about – at least not until after the fact. Because I kept hoping it would go away (and it will, ultimately). But today I was thinking about it and realizing that it might be therapeutic to write it out, and it also might help someone else who is in my situation. Because, since the time I first heard “placenta previa,” the internet was a place I kept coming back to, and still do.

As you know, up to this point I have been a model of pregnancy and childbirth. My three children gave me no sickness or difficulty as I was carrying them and came easily into the world punctually and without incident. With such a track record, our joke this time around was that we would schedule conception by choosing the exact date we wanted to have the baby, who would, as had its predecessors, come out easily and naturally on its due date.

When I went in for my ultrasound at 21 weeks, it went pretty much as I had expected. The baby was indeed a boy, and he appeared healthy and whole. But. At the end of the ultrasound the technician suddenly asked, “Have you had any bleeding?” I hadn’t, and she informed me that it “looked like (I had) placenta previa.” She then told me that it looked like I would probably need a c-section at 36 or 37 weeks, and should talk to my doctor soon.

I left feeling confused and kind of irritated. I had anticipated coming out of my ultrasound and calling our baby’s grandparents and friends with the exciting news of our baby’s gender. Now I didn’t want to talk to anyone; I just wanted us to be okay and to be able to have the same great, healthy delivery I had last time.

I went home and looked up placenta previa in my “What to Expect” book. When it came up under the chapter, “When Something Goes Wrong,” I was not a happy girl.

Over the next few days and weeks, I read enough internet articles and message boards to scare the pants off of me. I was so opposed to the idea of having a c-section. At one point I read that 90% of previas resolved themselves, and then I was mad that people had even brought it up, since it was something that would probably be a nonissue.

My next OB appointment didn’t end up happening for another month, but when it did, I came home and bawled. I had been put on “pelvic rest,” which meant that I wasn’t supposed to lift anything or clean or exercise or do anything enjoyable with my pelvis until (unless) the placenta moved. I was also referred to a high-risk OB: I had been labeled “High Risk.” I was frustrated and felt like the diagnosis had taken the joy out of my pregnancy (and I really do enjoy being pregnant). I still didn’t want to talk to anyone, but I called my mom and told her so that she would be prepared in case we needed her sooner than expected. I hoped and prayed, not knowing even what to ask for.

Then, last Saturday, I woke up with bleeding. They had told me to go straight to the hospital if this occurred. I called around until I found someone who was in town and would answer their phone at 8:00 on Saturday morning during Spring Break, and within 5 minutes she was at my house to take care of the kids and Steven and I were off to the hospital.

Since I already knew my diagnosis, I was hoping they would say, “Well, that’s placenta previa for you,” and send me home. Instead, they monitored me, noticed (as I had not) that I was having some contractions, and kept me there for 2 days, or until I had not bled for 24 hours and they were sure that the contractions were Braxton Hicks (or our very active baby head butting his placental pillow). I was released to complete bed rest, and that’s where I am now.

As much as I hated my stay in the hospital and my interactions with the doctor who was on call, I think it was good for me. I had not previously grasped what the full risk was with my condition, and it was sobering to realize I really could bleed to death very quickly, or have a very premature baby. In comparison, bed rest and a c-section is much less aversive.

On bed rest, my life is reduced to thinking about what I have instead of what I am doing, and that’s been a blessing for me. I’ve been able to recognize the many things I’m grateful for: my husband and kids whom I treasure and crave being with; wonderful friends who have been taking care of me and my family; a comfortable home that I want to be in; a healthy baby boy who continues to grow, unfazed by a misplaced placenta; loving parents who, without a second thought, will drop everything so that my mom can come out and be my body for a month. I’m grateful just to be able to be here to see my kids in the morning when my neighbor comes to get them up, and home when people drop them off. I’m grateful to be able to read my kids books, or sit outside while they play with water, or comb their hair. I’m grateful to be able to do crossword puzzles and snuggle with Steven on our bed. I’m grateful for a good education that taught me to enjoy reading long, long books. I’m grateful for every moment that passes that I don’t bleed, for every day that ticks by where my baby can get a little more developed. I love my life, I’m grateful for it, and I want to keep it. That’s my motivation while I’m on bed rest.

On Thursday morning I went back to the hospital for a checkup with the high risk OB. Everything looks great with us – the placenta’s about as previa-ed as it possibly could be (almost 5 cm away), but the birth canal is still long and tight and closed up – bed rest has been doing its job. “Wow,” she said, “this baby’s measurements place it exactly on May 21st, its due date.” Well, of course they do – because that’s exactly what would happen if the placenta would cooperate. Even as it is, though, things are looking really positive for us to make it into full term. It was the first time in a long time that I’ve come out of an OB appointment feeling happy and optimistic instead of really ticked off. And I’m grateful for that, too.