Archive for the ‘Pregnancy’ Category


September 19th, 2017

Reading the mommy blogs and the Facebook posts from pregnant women, you can get the impression that there’s a certain universality of experience for all mothers. Sure, there are often-bitter differences: medicated or unmedicated childbirth, vaginal or cesarean, breastfeeding or formula feeding, cloth diapers or disposable, cosleeping or cry-it-out. The list goes on and on. But all mothers can agree: the time will come when you feel SO PREGNANT you just CAN’T WAIT for this baby to be BORN ALREADY!

And surely this is a common experience for many mothers. Pregnancy can be uncomfortable, as can other people’s comments on your pregnancy. The restrictions (warranted or unwarranted) on pregnant women can feel stifling. Many women are eager to sleep on their stomachs, to reach their toes, to eat yummy soft cheeses, and to experience relief from the ubiquitous lower-back-ache.

But some of us, we mothers of preemies who persist in getting pregnant, have a different experience.

I think I can understand how normal women feel, how impatient they become with the waiting, the comments, the ungainliness of a heavily pregnant frame. But I can’t imagine ever feeling so pregnant, so eager for my pregnancy to end.

Instead, I tease about inducing at 44 weeks, about making up for lost womb-time.

I have two countdowns on my telephone: the one, a preset in the “pregnancy mode” for my period tracker, tells me how many days there are until my EDD (expected due date); the other, of my own creation, tells me how many days I have until I’m more pregnant than I’ve ever been before.

34 weeks and 3 days.

That’s the most of pregnancy I’ve experienced. And I’ve always spent the last few weeks of pregnancy in bed or severely limited, willing just one more week, one more day, sometimes even one more hour before the doctor comes in to tell me that it’s time.

It’s not time, my heart screams, even as my head nods and my voice tells him I’m ready to start the induction (or, in Louis’s case, to try to turn him so we can start an induction instead of another section).

As my due date tells me I’m nearing the last third of my pregnancy, my personal countdown reminds me that any day now my blood pressure could start rising, I could start putting on water weight in earnest, I could start spilling protein in my urine. Any day now, I could go on bed rest.

The road map is impressed on my mind: If things progressed like they did with Tirzah Mae… If things progressed like they did with Louis… But the differences between my pregnancies with Tirzah Mae and Louis also remind me that progressing differently doesn’t mean IT isn’t going to happen. I still could be preeclamptic.

Now, as the numbers on my countdowns slip lower and lower, I whisper my wishes to the Father who knows all things and who ordains all things for his glory: Lord, if it’s your will… let this pregnancy go to term.

-7 days

-14 days

-21 days

-28 days

-35 days

-40 days

I don’t want this pregnancy to end.

Only one patient

May 16th, 2017

Childbirth stories never fail to pique my interest. Birth has been a passion of mine since I was young, reading my mom’s copy of Rahimah Baldwin’s Special Delivery. But since I’ve become a mother, my interest in childbirth stories has only increased.

So when the headline “Focus On Infants During Childbirth Leaves U.S. Moms In Danger” showed up in my newsreader, I clicked through to NPR’s report. And when I finally got the time to read the whole thing (it took several sittings because, hello, newly pregnant mother of a toddler and an infant), the story hit home in a way I wish it hadn’t.

The statistics are nothing new for me. The United States does a terrible job of keeping pregnant and postpartum women alive when compared to the rest of the developed world. I knew that. But this is a story with a face. The face of a woman with preeclampsia, with HELLP syndrome – a woman with what I had. A woman who died, leaving her baby behind.

There were warning signs. Signs that weren’t heeded. There were lots of opportunities to save her life. But when she or her husband suggested that preeclampsia might be the problem, they were pooh-poohed. And she died.

The text of the article hinted at rather than driving home the point the headline made: “Focus on Infants during Childbirth Leaves U.S. Moms in Danger” – but I couldn’t help but relive my own experiences.

When I think back to my hospitalizations with Tirzah Mae and Louis, one of the hardest things for me to deal with was how the focus shifted from me to the babies the moment they were born. Before they were born, I was the patient. The nurses checked on me hourly. Every care was taken to keep my blood pressure low and to keep the baby inside me healthy.

But once they were born, it was as if a switch was flipped. Never mind that I had the exact same (life-threatening) condition I’d had before the babies were born (now with major abdominal surgery added on top of it). I was no longer carrying a baby, so I would be just fine. My baby was the important one. It was as if only one of us could be the patient. My turn was over and it was the baby’s turn.

Thankfully, with Tirzah Mae, I started improving after her birth and continued to improve.

With Louis, a medical error – a resident forgetting to prescribe me my blood pressure meds when he discharged me on a Friday afternoon four days postpartum – could have meant my death. By the grace of God, I took my blood pressure that Saturday afternoon just as I had every day of my pregnancy since my morning blood pressures had started to rise near the beginning of the third trimester. My blood pressure was at critical levels.

Rather than going to the hospital to hold and feed my baby on his fifth day on the outside, I traveled to the hospital for another purpose – to live to hold and feed my baby again. I spent hours in the ER getting one dose after another after another of IV labatelol. It took five doses to get my blood pressure back down.

I’m not angry with the nurses, with the doctors, not even with the resident who failed to prescribe me a blood pressure med on discharge. But I am angry with a system that only considers a woman’s health important inasmuch as the baby is kept healthy. Why can there only be one patient?

Is it not just as important that these babies we rightly fight to keep alive and well in our NICUs have mothers who are alive to care for and love them?

Why must there only be one patient?

Snapshot: A Splendid Surprise

April 9th, 2017

Positive Pregnancy Test

Coming December 2017, Lord willing.

The Difference a Robe Makes

August 10th, 2016

The section was scheduled for 3:30 pm. Preparations began.

But first, I needed to get into a hospital gown.

So far, I had refused a hospital gown every time, opting to wear my own robe (for admission and overnights) or my own honest-to-goodness clothes (for days). Wearing my own clothes made me feel human, made me feel autonomous, made me feel myself.

Now, though, I was preparing for what was, for me, the least human, least autonomous, least ME procedure.

I was preparing for a repeat c-section.

And the nurse was waiting for me to change into a hospital gown.

Meeting Louis after recovery

I briefly considered whether it was worth it to fight.

My carefully crafted birth plan, intended for my VBAC attempt, was worthless at this point.

I had worked so hard to be reasonable in my birth plan. I gave my wishes, yes, accepting that there were circumstances under which those wouldn’t be possible or reasonable. Even as I wrote of the interventions I didn’t want, I could think of at least one scenario in which I would accept each one. My biggest request was that I be involved in every step of the process. I wasn’t going to give blanket consent to anything. I wanted to give my own consent every time a line was placed, a medication given, a monitor hooked on.

And now I’d just given consent to the one thing I’d worked so hard to avoid. A repeat c-section. With that, I’d given consent to be hooked to a machine, to be laid flat on my back, to be anesthetized. All those things I’d hoped to avoid this time around? I’d just given consent to go ahead with them.

They were necessary.

The hospital gown was not.

I decided to hold my ground.

I was going to wear my own robe.

My nurse pushed back. “I don’t want to ruin your beautiful robe,” she said. “It’s not going to make it out of the c-section in any condition to wear it again.”

“That’s fine.” I insisted. “I bought this robe for 99 cents at a used store ten years ago. It’s served me well. I don’t care if it’s ruined.”

After a couple more almost identical back and forths, she relented. I would keep my robe on.

They wheeled me into the operating room and the first thing I heard was another nurse calling out, “Somebody get this woman a gown.”

She was peeved, it seemed, that no one had bothered to properly prepare me for surgery.

But my nurse stood firm. “She doesn’t want to wear a gown. She’s quite adamant on that point.”

The anesthetist gave a sigh. “I need to access her back,” she told my nurse. “I need a sterile field to place the spinal.”

I chose to ignore how the anesthetist had been acting as if I weren’t there, weren’t my own person.

I was my own person. That was exactly what the robe represented to me at that point.

I spoke directly to the anesthetist. “Cut it.”

“But, but, your beautiful robe.”

“CUT IT.” I didn’t shout, but I was firm.

I was wearing this robe to surgery, one way or another. The robe was of no import – being able to wear it was of the highest import.

Snuggling with Tirzah Mae after Louis was born

My nurse found some scissors, lifted the back of my robe. “I’m trying to cut as straight and as careful as I can. Maybe you can sew it back up after you’re done.”

I appreciated the effort, but it really wasn’t important. I’d already said that I didn’t care whether the robe was ruined. I really didn’t. The important thing was that somehow, in this birth that was so far from what I wanted, I remain me. The robe let me do that.

I’m sure it’s difficult, on the other side of the operating table, to understand why patients make what seem like such unreasonable demands.

How difficult is it to put on a hospital gown? Not at all. Why can’t she just do as she’s told, follow procedures? Doesn’t she understand how difficult it is to work around a robe that doesn’t have access to the back?

No, I didn’t understand, until you told my nurse, how valuable access to my back is for you.

But please, try to understand my side.

For you, this is just another day at work, albeit one in which you’re dealing with a difficult patient. For me, this is a day when something I’ve been working for for the past 20 months slips from my hands. This is a day when my life is in danger, my baby’s life in danger. When I’m forced to deliver my baby six weeks early via surgery.

For you, the robe is a nuisance. For me, the robe is the last thing that keeps me myself.

I’m so thankful for my nurse. Even though she didn’t understand why it was important, once she understood THAT it was important, she advocated for me.

She may never know (but I do) what a difference a robe makes.

Skydiving, C-sections, and Control

August 5th, 2016

A little over five years ago, I jumped out of an airplane.

It’s never been something I particularly wanted to do – adrenaline is not my thing. But a couple of friends (who didn’t know each other but both knew me) wanted to go – and one of them had scheduled a dive. So I signed up too – and brought my other friend along.

Preparing to jump

I was nervous leading up to it, but I wasn’t scared. We’d be diving tandem – hooked to an instructor who would do all the hard work. We could just relax and enjoy the ride. Which is exactly what I did.

A little over a month ago, I had a repeat c-section.

It’s never been something I particularly wanted to do – in fact, I did everything in my power to avoid it. I exercised faithfully, I ate like an angel, I took a baby aspirin. When Louis wasn’t in position, I contorted myself into funny positions in an effort to get him head down. When that didn’t work, I had our maternal-fetal specialist do an external version – trying to manually reposition Louis using his hands on the outside of my belly. When that didn’t work, I had no choice.

We scheduled a c-section for 3:30.

I wasn’t particularly nervous, or particularly scared. I’d done this before and made it already.

But then the spinal anesthesia took effect and the anesthesiologist asked me to wiggle my toes and lift my legs.

I couldn’t.

It was exactly what was supposed to happen. I wasn’t supposed to be in control of my lower body. If I were, I would be able to feel as they cut into my abdomen and lifted my baby out. I knew that.

But that didn’t keep me from freaking out.

I had lost control.

As I told my skydiving story, I wrote of the one fearful moment – the moment when my instructor loosened the straps between us so I wasn’t in direct contact with his body.

“He told me he would be loosening the connections that held us. I’d drop a bit lower, so inches would separate our bodies.

Now, here, I felt a glimmer of fear. I knew it would be safe, I knew I’d still be attached. But it wouldn’t be the same. Once he’d lowered me, I wouldn’t be able to feel his presence. Would I be able to make it without that sure sensory feedback reminding me that I was safe?

I would choose to trust, I told myself–and so I did.”

I had the same choice to make when my legs no longer followed my commands.

I wasn’t in control, didn’t have the sensory feedback telling me that my body was there, that my baby was there. I had to choose to trust that God was there and that my body still obeyed His commands.

I repeated the affirmation over and over in my head as I willfully relaxed the muscles I could feel:

“I and my baby are fearfully and wonderfully made.
God sees us and knows us.”

I’d chosen my relaxation phrases carefully, wanting to fix my mind on unchanging truth rather than fickle probabilities.

No “I trust my body” or “My body knows how to birth” for me. I knew that my body could fail. I knew that, while most bodies know how to birth, not all do.

I had determined beforehand to fix my trust in God instead of in my body.

But when I couldn’t control my legs?

I had to determine it all again.

My first glimpse of Louis

My relaxation music, playing from the phone beside my ear, reminded me of the truth:

“Be still my soul, the Lord is at thy side
With patience bear the cross of grief or pain
Leave to thy God to order and provide
Through every change He faithful will remain
Be still my soul, thy best, thy heav’nly Friend
Through thorny ways, leads to a joyful end.”

I chose to trust when I lost control – and God was more than capable to guide and sustain.

I know y’all are just dying to revisit my skydiving story now – so I’ll make it easy for you. Part 1: Geared Up, Part 2: Missed Opportunities, or I’ve always wanted to fly, Part 3: The Jump, and Part 4: Safely Falling.

It’s a Boy!

August 3rd, 2016

Even though I’m not into routine ultrasounds in pregnancy, we’ve ended up with plenty of ultrasounds for both our children (let’s just say that there hasn’t been anything routine about how my pregnancies have progressed!)

With each of the ultrasounds, I’ve been careful to inform the ultrasound tech that we aren’t interested in knowing baby’s sex, so could they please keep it to themselves.

I didn’t think to tell our maternal-fetal specialist when he rolled in the ultrasound to check where baby was lying to determine our course of action the day my condition declined such that delivery was indicated.

Our little boy

Doctor W moved the wand across my belly, confirming that baby was still lying in the transverse position he’d so favored all throughout the pregnancy.

Doctor W explained what I already knew. We couldn’t deliver a transverse baby vaginally. I listened patiently as he explained the different ways a baby might be lying and the relative risks of vaginal delivery with frank breech, footling breech, transverse (the most dangerous is transverse with belly down, since the umbilical cord would almost certainly be delivered first and then be compressed as the rest of baby tried to make his way out.)

And once Doctor W was done explaining, I said my piece. I still wanted that VBAC. I wanted to try everything we could. Yes, I wanted the external version we’d discussed.

Doctor W’s hands moved across my abdomen. He pushed and prodded. He pulled out the wand to see what he’d done. He pushed a little more. He grabbed the wand again.

He’d succeeded at getting baby head down.

He narrated what we were seeing on the ultrasound screen – “There’s the head”. Down in my pelvis.

Just a bit above the head. “And there are his little boy parts. And there are his feet down with his head.”

Such a LONG little boy

I looked at Daniel as we acknowledged what we’d just learned.

“Louis,” I said his name in my head, acknowledging our son.

A while later, my nurse was working on her charting and Daniel was off doing something, collecting Tirzah Mae perhaps.

“Do you have any sense of whether the baby’s a boy or a girl?” the nurse asked.

“Well, it doesn’t really matter whether I had a sense or not – Doctor W told us,” I replied.

“Ah shoot,” she said. “I’d hoped you hadn’t noticed.”

I assured her that it was fine, really

And it was.

But now I know, if I really want to wait until delivery to find out, best to let my doctor know in advance too!

Preeclampsia, take 2

June 17th, 2016

I was prepared with all sorts of questions for my midwife – questions about preparing my home for our planned home birth. I’ve never gotten this far in pregnancy before.

But the first step at the midwife’s office, before I even talk to the midwife, is to take my blood pressure and weight and temperature in the bathroom – and to pee in a cup. I dipped my urine, counted to sixty, and checked the dipstick.

A bright green strip at the bottom of the stick told me what I hadn’t at all expected to see. I was spilling protein again, majorly.

I had preeclampsia, again.

My questions about home birth went out the window. I knew that was no longer an option.

We had our visit. The midwife confirmed high blood pressure and protein in the urine. She called our OB and we arranged for another hospitalization.

We went home to pack our bags and then on to the hospital.

With Tirzah Mae, we entered the hospital at 30 weeks, 6 days, already with severe preeclampsia (defined by very high blood pressures and/or a range of other abnormal lab values.) We didn’t even fill out paperwork before I was receiving IV magnesium to prevent seizures. I had a shot of steroids to help mature Tirzah Mae’s lungs. The first 24 hours of our hospitalization was intense, with monitors going off all over, with lines into my veins and around my belly and all over everywhere. Tirzah Mae was born eight days later, at 32 weeks, 1 day.

With this baby, we entered the hospital yesterday, at 33 weeks, 4 days. I had preeclampsia – have preeclampsia – but without severe features at this point. I’ve gotten a shot of steroids, but no magnesium. I’ve been on monitors here and there – but have also spent hours on end just lying in bed or sitting typing or reading.

We just finished talking with the maternal-fetal specialist after lunch.

We are on hospitalized bed rest until this baby is born. At the very latest, we will go to 37 weeks (considered full term) – July 10. More likely, I will develop severe features that necessitate immediate delivery. Until then, we wait.

As we wait, we pray. If you will, please pray with us:

  • …that God would be glorified through the events of this pregnancy, as well as through our thoughts, words, and attitudes
  • …that God would grant us patience and trust with the process of bedrest, especially with a toddler around
  • …that God would grant the doctors wisdom to advise us well and us the wisdom to weigh their advice carefully and make clear-headed decisions
  • …that we would have the help we need (and be able to coordinate the help we need) to care for Tirzah Mae throughout my and/or baby’s hospitalization
  • …that we could have conversation that is full of grace and seasoned with salt as we interact with the dozens of medical staff we encounter daily
  • …that this baby could stay in the womb as long as possible
  • …that baby would flip to a head-down position and stay there in time for a vaginal delivery

But most of all, pray that God would be seen as glorious. For He truly is glorious and worthy of praise.

Compare and Contrast: Pregnancy Edition

May 30th, 2016

There are many parts of this pregnancy that have been similar to the last pregnancy.

…with both pregnancies, I’ve been told I look small
This never ceases to surprise me, since I feel anything but small – and since I’m now topping 200 lbs (up a little over 30 lbs this time vs. 60 lbs at this same point last time, but still around the same end weight.) This time though, there might be a little something to what people are saying, since both my OB and my midwife have consistently noted that my uterus is “measuring small”. An ultrasound to check that everything was okay put baby exactly where he should be for my calculated due date.

…with both pregnancies, I’ve never had a worry about baby’s health
Tirzah Mae was active in the womb from about 20 weeks until the day she was born, poking and jabbing and prodding. This little one is active at all times as well – but his movement is so different than hers it’s like experiencing pregnancy again for the first time. This little one specializes in stretching – pushing a limb into my abdominal wall and just…dragging it along. It is this, I think, that makes me feel like this baby is so much bigger and farther along than Tirzah Mae ever was (no, we haven’t reached that point yet.)

…with both pregnancies, I’ve gained a lot of fluid weight
I started retaining fluid in my feet and ankles around 22 weeks with Tirzah Mae. With this pregnancy, it wasn’t until our trip to Lincoln for my sister’s wedding last weekend that I could tell for sure that my legs were full of fluid – but the fluid came on suddenly and has stuck around, with pitting edema at least to my calves for the past week. Even so, my fluid gain has been 1-3 lbs per day (versus the whopping 7 lb weight gain in one day that convinced me that something was going seriously wrong with my pregnancy with Tirzah Mae.) And I generally lose about the same amount of fluid overnight, for a much less drastic overall weight gain :-)

…with both pregnancies, my blood pressure has risen
Years ago, a heart specialist diagnosed my dizziness problem as orthostatic hypotension – a fancy term to signify that my blood pressure dropped too low when I changed positions. He told me pregnancy was the best cure. Little could he have known how much pregnancy would turn out to affect my blood pressure. With Tirzah Mae, I experienced hypertensive crisis – my bottom number was 160, a value that’s bad if it’s the TOP number. With this pregnancy, my blood pressure has risen such that I have been in the pre-hypertensive range on about half of my twice-daily checks over the past week.

But even as I list out the similarities, one glaring difference stands out.

…with this pregnancy, I have an acute sense of what could go wrong – and a peace that supersedes it all
I had plenty of fears while I was pregnant with Tirzah Mae. I feared pre-eclampsia, a hospital birth, a c-section, interventions, loss of control. I barely knew what any of those might be like – and I feared them. Then I experienced them – and, you know, I’d do anything I could to avoid them this second time around. But with the intimate knowledge of what severe pre-eclampsia and hospital birth, c-section and loss of control look like, I’ve also gained an intimate knowledge of what God’s grace looks like amidst my worst fears. And that’s why, while I’ve occasionally been afraid I’d become afraid, I haven’t. My mind and heart are aware of the possibilities, want to avoid the worst scenarios, but I don’t fear them. I have walked through the waters and He has been there – will He not be there if I am called to walk through the fire?

A week ago, I was in Lincoln, Nebraska, standing as a bridesmaid for my little sister on her wedding day. At that same point in my pregnancy with Tirzah Mae, I was being wheeled around Virginia in a wheelchair – knowing that something was already seriously wrong with my pregnancy.

This weekend, I was at home in Wichita, walking along the Arkansas River. At that same point in my pregnancy with Tirzah Mae, I was being admitted to the hospital – my OB expected we’d have a baby within 24 hours (we didn’t, but that’s another story).

Saturday afternoon, reflecting on the momentousness of reaching the point where I’d been hospitalized with Tirzah Mae, I wrote the following on Facebook:

At this point in my last pregnancy, I was vomiting into a bedpan while hooked to a million machines. Today, I took a walk along the swollen Arkansas river, sat on a rock with my husband at the Keeper of the Plains and talked about life and our goals for our family, pushed our daughter on a swing, visited the library, and came home to relax and read.

Both days are miracles, small and big evidences of God’s grace.

Lots of people asked me about my health, about this pregnancy while we were in Lincoln for my sister’s wedding last weekend. I shared, honestly, that this pregnancy is going much better than the last one. Which is not to say that this pregnancy is going perfectly or that we are out of the woods – but I didn’t bring that up then, not wanting to put a cloud of uncertainty over my sister’s special day.

Almost to a person, friends responded to my cheerful report with “Praise God” or another similar expression of worship.

And I agree. Praise God that I am walking when the last time I was in a wheelchair. Praise God that I am at home today when the last time I was hospitalized by now.

But please, praise God if I am hospitalized this time around. Praise God if our baby enters the world through my cut abdomen instead of the normal route we so desire. Praise God if this baby is early and suffers some of the debilitating consequences Tirzah Mae escaped. Praise God if this baby dies. Praise God if I should die.

Please, praise God with me for this pregnancy and the last – because in everything that has happened and in everything that will happen, He is absolutely good, absolutely sovereign, and absolutely worthy of praise.

Please, join me in rejoicing as I experience this part of pregnancy I’ve never experienced before: a third trimester at home instead of in the hospital. And please, join in me in trusting that however long or short this third trimester will be, God is sovereign and God is good.

And whether the Lord gives or the Lord takes away, may our cry forever be: Blessed be the name of the Lord.

When the Rubber Hits the Road

May 9th, 2016

Compared to what many women experience in the first trimesters of pregnancy, my pregnancy with Tirzah Mae was easy. No signs of danger until we started rounding the corner from trimester two to three, when I started retaining excess fluid and my blood pressure started rising.

So when people have asked me how the pregnancy is going, my response has been cautious.

This has been a very easy pregnancy. Easier than Tirzah Mae’s. I’ve had virtually no nausea, have had mostly manageable energy levels, have felt baby move from impossibly early weeks.

But early pregnancy is not necessarily a predictor of pregnancy outcome. I know that.

The odds of having preeclampsia as severely as I had the first time? They’re low.

But they were very low the first time too.

I’ve been cautiously optimistic, knowing that the real struggle would come in trimester 3.

And now, as I begin to turn the corner from trimester 2 to trimester 3, the rubber hits the road.

Do I trust God like I say I do, that whatever comes is in His control and is for both my good and His glory? Have I learned the lesson He was teaching last time around, that His grace is sufficient for what He brings, not for the anxieties I’ve been told to cast on Him? Do I really believe that whatever happens, Christ is enough?

This is when the rubber hits the road.

So far, my body is doing well. Weight gain is appropriate; blood pressure remains low; baby is active all.the.time.

My mental state? It varies. Sometimes I’m bawling with terror, other times confident that God has it all in hand. You’d think the terror would be connected to my physical state, but it doesn’t really seem to be. The day it was super hot and I gained a few pounds of water over the course of the day? I was good. It was three days later, after the weather had cooled off and my weight was stable from morning to evening, that I fell apart and spent the morning crying.

It’s an exercise in trust, here in trimester 3 as the rubber hits the road.

But while my mental state goes up and down, one thing is certain these days – I’ve got tennis shoes on my feet.

The combination of weight gain and pregnancy-induced relaxin production means my feet ache from the time I step out of bed in the morning until I fall into bed in the evening – which means I had to run out and grab a new pair of tennies to make it through trimester 3 (My previous tennies were pretty much destroyed by constant use and massive swelling during Tirzah Mae’s super-short third trimester – and I don’t wear tennis shoes unless I absolutely have to, so I didn’t bother to replace them once she was born.)

Pregnancy tennis shoes

I got these pretty white and pink jobbers at the Sports Authority store that’s going out of business – at $30, they mark my most expensive pregnancy clothing purchase thus far.

Book Review: Your Pregnancy Week by Week by Glade B. Curtis and Judith Schuler

April 12th, 2016

The front cover of Your Pregnancy Week by Week proudly announces that it is “The only best-selling guide written by a doctor.” The spine contains a medallion announcing “The only best-selling guide written by a doctor.” The back cover proclaims the book to be “The expanded, fully updated edition of the best-selling pregnancy guide written by a doctor.”

So the major selling point of this book is that it is written by a doctor. Glade Curtis is a board certified OB-GYN, which means he’s the perfect guy to walk a woman through every week of her normal pregnancy, right?

Well, that depends a lot on your view of what pregnancy is. Is pregnancy a medical condition to be monitored and controlled (as you would diabetes or heart disease?) or is it a life event to be cherished and enjoyed (as you would an engagement and preparation for a wedding?)

Curtis (and the obstetric community as a whole) tends to think that pregnancy is a medical condition to be monitored and controlled. As such, Your Pregnancy Week by Week consists of telling a woman all the things that might go wrong with her at any given point during her pregnancy, all the tests which might be necessary to make sure that nothing is going wrong, and why she should trust her doctor implicitly and herself not at all during pregnancy.

Okay, someone not quite as passionate about pregnancy and birth as I am might feel that I’m overreacting to this book. Things can go wrong during pregnancy, they might say. Tests are sometimes necessary. You should be able to trust your doctor. Your own instincts aren’t always right when it comes to pregnancy. And, for that matter – pregnancy isn’t simply a life event like an engagement. Things are happening in your body!

And I agree completely, dear not-so-passionate-about-birth-as-I. Things do go wrong during pregnancy – I, of all people should know. I could have died during my pregnancy with Tirzah Mae. Tests are sometimes necessary – the ultrasounds to make sure Tirzah Mae was still growing when my body was no longer functioning as designed, the blood tests that finally told us that my kidneys and liver had stopped doing their jobs – those were necessary (and without the blood tests indicating the need for delivery both Tirzah Mae and I would have died.) It is incredibly valuable to have a caregiver you can trust – which is why I am SO grateful for my midwife, who was alert to normal pregnancy and knew when to refer when my pregnancy became anything but normal. That’s why I’m SO grateful for my OB, who values women and who works with them to help them have as normal a delivery as possible.

Pregnancy isn’t SIMPLY a life event like an engagement. Your body is changing, your hormones are changing. You’ve got extra blood pumping through your veins, an extra body inside your own. Things are happening to your body that you want to understand. You want to know if those changes are normal or if they’re something to be worried about. In some cases, you NEED to know if they’re normal or if you should be worried about them (ten pounds weight gain in one day – that’s not normal. It’s definitely something to be worried about.)

But Curtis and his co-author aren’t simply helping women understand what is normal and what isn’t. They are detailing, every week, another horrible thing that can go wrong during pregnancy (tacking a line at the end about how really only two in a thousand women are going to have this problem, so don’t worry.)

Curtis explains (week after week) why a woman shouldn’t ever be afraid to get a test or a procedure because they only ever help your doctor and you and your baby (and have never been PROVEN to be harmful – the anti-precautionary principle). And he explains (week after week) why a woman should be afraid to drink caffeine, eat sugar, eat artificial sweeteners, take an over-the-counter drug, etc (because it has never been PROVEN to be safe – the precautionary principle.) The doctor is always right and can do no harm. The woman is always to be doubted and will kill her baby if left to her own devices. (Okay, I’m exagerating a little.)

Oh, and don’t even get me started on the unscientific suggestions Curtis has for labor. He encourages enemas (for the patient’s safety and comfort, of course!), fasting during labor, lying down during labor, and episiotomies. Continuous fetal monitoring is necessary for baby’s safety. And if you aren’t sure you want a natural labor? A doula is a bad idea (well, actually, are you SURE you want a natural labor? If I give you this epidural, then you’ll be so much more comfortable and will be so much easier to monitor and won’t try to move around or anything… big plus? you won’t have to hire a doula!)

Yeah. No.

Choose to have a pregnancy and childbirth not defined by fear. Choose to trust that your body is fearfully and wonderfully made. Choose NOT to read Glade Curtis and Judith Schuler’s Your Pregnancy Week by Week.

Rating: 0 stars
Category: Pregnancy
Synopsis: An overmedicalized, fear-based, doctor-is-always-right tome on pregnancy
Recommendation:If you want to be scared out of your mind by all the things that could go wrong in pregnancy and to be convinced that every intervention your doctor might suggest is absolutely the right decision, you’ll want to read this book. If you prefer to learn what a normal pregnancy looks like, how to deal with the normal problems of pregnancy, and to make evidence-based (versus fear-based) decisions for your pregnancy and childbirth – this is not at all the book for you.

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