So a couple of nights ago I forced myself to watch Call the Midwife, a charming although occasionally brutal series about a group of young midwives working London's East End in the 1950s. I knew it would terrorize me because I HATE labor scenes. In fact, even now they often give me mild to severe panic attacks. "And you're thinking of having another baby?" Read on.
Spoiler alert - don't read on if you don't want to read certain details of the show. The reason I watched it was because I am an Anglophile and am suffering mild withdrawal now that Downton Abbey is on hiatus, and all my friends are watching it and talking about it, and honestly I wanted to test my resolve to try for another baby. Turns out my resolve is not as steady as I'd thought.
The very first episode depicts a pre-eclampsic woman giving birth to a blue, still baby. Um, hello...? I couldn't believe they showed this. Now miraculously the baby starts breathing once it's been "put aside" and it all ends well...but good lord. I don't think I'll ever scrape the image of that tiny still face out of my brain. I have to keep telling myself, "the baby lived, remember? It was a happy story!" Then another episode has yet ANOTHER pre-eclampsic woman who delivers a tiny preemie after having a seizure, and then they both die. Good times, huh? Jeez.
It's funny how I had never in my life heard of this condition before I had it and suddenly it's very common and a major cause of maternal and/or fetal death and seems to be on every show about pregnant women. Suffice it to say I'm thoroughly freaked out.
I also did a bit more googling and found one unfortunate article after another stating that change in diet has NOT been proven to protect against pre-eclampsia and in fact loading up on protein can be very damaging to a pregnant woman's already over-taxed system. Also that tests have shown even loading up on liver and kidney supporting herbs and teas have had little to no effect. So, the crunchy granola websites say these methods work; the hardcore scientific and medical websites say they don't. Which would you believe?
I feel pretty deflated, but mostly just downright scared. Even with the depictions on the show of normal women in labor - the horrid "transition" phase, the gut-busting pushing, the hour upon hour of hideous pain. Don't think I forgot about any of this, because I certainly didn't. But seeing it so honestly portrayed just took me aback. Yes, that's what it's really like. It's pretty fucking awful.
I'm not saying I've made any decisions here, let's just say some days my mantra is "come on, you can do this!" and then others it's "don't do this!". Ah, if only for a crystal ball, huh? If only I could know for sure I'd have a healthy pregnancy; but there's no way to know that. My hope is I could turn it all around and have the healthy pregnancy and birth I dreamed of, but I have to accept the risk that it could be worse...much worse. Like putting my life at risk worse...or having a baby that doesn't survive worse. I would imagine most healthcare professionals who saw my labs and knew how my last pregnancy went would tell me to count my blessings and not be foolish enough to attempt this again, not in my 40s. Once again I ask myself, "do you feel lucky today, punk?"