Monday, May 11, 2009

"My Story..." Monday: The 'Why I Think I Went Into Premature Labor' Edition

I'm settling back into my normal routine now that we've returned from our last-minute trip out East. Some people may think I was crazy for deciding to travel almost thirty hours in a car during my third trimester... especially given my history. But you know what? It all went very smoothly, as I had anticipated, and I'm feeling pretty confident that this pregnancy will carry on right up until my scheduled c-section (on June 17th).

The thing is... I really have no reason to suspect anything different. Really. Does that surprise anyone? I mean, I DID give birth at 24 weeks last time around. And it was the scariest, most challenging, and most amazing thing I've ever had to deal with. I certainly would be the last to deny that the whole experience made this pregnancy a lot more nerve-wracking and frightening for me. I spent a good many weeks (okay, months) feeling like I was waiting for the other shoe to drop. I had so many "mini-milestones" to hit in order to feel more confident. But the truth is... everything has gone smoothly. Just as the doctors told me it likely would after my daughter's premature birth.

As I wrote about here, the thing about "preterm labor/unknown causes" is that, while it gives you nothing to blame, it also leaves you with nothing concrete to fear. It really shouldn't be a shock that my blood pressure has been great. That my health has been superb. That I've suffered no swelling or edema. That I've had no nerve pain. That I've had no bleeding or cramping. I'm not trying to jinx myself here, but I'm starting to have a better idea of what my post-partum doctors were trying to tell me-- there was no discernible reason to suspect that I would face preterm labor in a subsequent pregnancy. They said it was a fluke.

A fluke? Well, let me tell you this... I didn't (and don't) like that explanation. I'm one of those people who really WANTS a reason. I want an explanation. The doctors couldn't give me one, but I'm going to share with you what I think...

These are the three things that I think factored in to why my daughter was born almost four months early:

I got pregnant really, really soon after having given birth the first time. Don't get me wrong here- plenty of women have closely-spaced children (and, for the record, I LOVE having mine so close) without any pregnancy issues whatsoever. I would never advise against having babies in quick succession! That being said, there are some studies out there that indicate that your body may not have enough time to fully recover from one birth before the next if your children are super close together. I don't regret getting pregnant when my first was still tiny, but I do sometimes wonder if it didn't make things a bit tougher on my body...

I didn't take "ideal" care of myself. Oh, no, I didn't do anything reckless or irresponsible during my second pregnancy, but I also didn't pay as much attention to my own needs as I did the first time around (or even this time around, if it comes down to it...) I was so busy taking care of an infant that I probably failed to eat enough and rest enough. I also disobeyed my "nothing over 25 pounds" lifting restriction because, well, my baby son was HUGE and weighed that at six months! He certainly wasn't walking yet and I could see no way around lifting him.

I went through incredible stress and major life events. Here is a brief rundown of what those months just before and during my second pregnancy looked like... We found out my father-in-law had stage three lung cancer. We decided to move from Virginia Beach to the middle of Indiana to be near his family. We sold a home. Bought a home. Moved with a four-month old. My husband quit his job. Then couldn't find a new one in our new location. Our "new" house was very old and required tons of labor and money to make it work. We went on vacation (a bright spot!) and returned to find my father-in-law even sicker. We found out I was pregnant. My father-in-law had a stroke. I started cramping and bleeding (while my father-in-law lay in the ICU) and had to go to the ER. We lost my father-in-law the next day. I attended his funeral just after being told I was likely miscarrying. I did not miscarry. My mother-in-law, not surprisingly, went through a very hard time after losing her husband and stayed with us many nights. I couldn't seem to gain weight and suffered severe "all-day" sickness. I had no friends in this new town. I was even afraid to drive because I didn't know the area. I stayed home all the time and had little outside contact. My husband found a job (hooray!) with a two-hour commute each way, no health insurance, and a significant pay cut. At 22-weeks pregnant, I woke up with blood streaked all down my thighs. My daughter was born less than two weeks later. So there you go. It was not a time of "smooth-sailing". While not much has been done on the subject here in the States, there are several European studies that seem to indicate that "unreasonable stress" can really up the risks of preterm labor. I truly believe that it did in my case.

This time around? I have normal "mommy-stress". I am taking care of a 3- and 4-year old after all. I have typical "family issues" that come up. I'm even dealing with job loss again as my husband's position was eliminated in February. But even with all that, it doesn't even compare to last time around. My body had had almost three years to recuperate since my last pregnancy and I've strived to take excellent care of myself and follow doctor's orders as closely as I can.

I'm looking forward to about five more weeks of being pregnant. The third trimester is a blessing indeed!


Amy @ Finer Things said...

Glad you're back! Can't wait to hear more about your trip home.

Heather Benza said...

Welcome back! My OB wants me to wait until 38 weeks so we are scheduled for June 26. My BP is up and down but my protein is WAY up so I am on BP meds now, but otherwise I am also kind of surprised at how smoothly things have been going this time around. I may be getting a typically sized new born that leaves the hospital WITH me this time around!!