Week 28: The scary zone

Note: I started this blog with a few-week lag to my actual pregnancy, but that lag has turned into 10 weeks – thus the closely spaced weeks here. I’m trying to catch up…

Week 28 of pregnancy is a very scary zone for me. Before about 26-27 weeks, if I went into labor, god forbid, it would be very sad but would amount to a miscarriage or a stillbirth. Because a newborn cannot survive at those early gestations, there would be no hard decisions to make regarding medical care, as long as I was doing ok.

The scary zone is the time period when the newborn would be viable but would need immediate medical attention. Terrified as I am of hospitals, I could not stay away from the hospital knowing it could probably save the baby. It’s a pretty black and white situation, unlike, for example, birth between 35-37 weeks of gestation. That’s a gray area that would be tough for other reasons including not knowing whether my newborn would be one of the few needing real hospital help.

I pray for my anxiety to abate, and I am meditating. Thank god I have a hospital backup plan that seems ok and is developing.

Still I am getting something like flashbacks – I wouldn’t call them full on flashbacks but something more subtle. Intrusive thoughts maybe? Imagining myself walking in there, leaning against the wall for a contraction, nurses staring at me like I have three heads, masses of people in the room with me. I refuse to get on the bed. They can monitor me but I refuse an IV. Are they telling me I’m going to kill my baby? I want to point my butt toward the wall and protect myself in a defensive crouch.

My mind relives the scene of my first birth, like a rape scene, and fantasizes about what I would do if it happened again. If anyone came near me with an intent to force or penetrate, could I or would I actually fight them off? Would my husband or midwife be able or willing to prevent it? What if a well meaning nurse touched my shoulder with kindness – would I feel it as a slap? Would they chop the umbilical cord, leave me bleeding and deprive my baby of oxygen and her own blood volume, and then take her away from me for days and days?

Or what if I managed to fend them all off and they all stood staring at me, lined up against the walls of the tiny room, while I breathed my baby out? And then would I spend days in the hospital without my baby, or weeks going back and forth to the NICU, under their thumbs yet again, never knowing whether the invasions, drugs, needles, and prolonged separation were actually necessary?

These are nightmares, but the strangest thing is they only intrude sporadically. The rest of the time, I feel amazing, enjoying my growing belly and the happy hormones coursing through my body. The fetus is moving around and I’m starting to be able to distinguish specific movements and perhaps a limb here and there. It’s a strange mix of feelings.


About investigatingbirth

My investigations of birth began in 2009 when I was trained as a doula. I helped women consider the evidence on common interventions, and helped them prepare for the physical and emotional challenge of giving birth. After some time it became clear to me that there was another type of challenge that I was unable to adequately prepare them for, the challenge of the maternity system. But it was only after my own traumatic birth in 2013 that I realized how little I had understood. I began to ask questions that few around me - doulas, nurses, midwives, doctors - were comfortable hearing. Questions like: Under what circumstances, and for what reasons, do doctors not practice informed consent? How do hospitals deal with other patient populations vulnerable to abuse? How does loss of professional autonomy, for obstetricians, and professional authority, for midwives, impact the quality of care they are capable of providing - regardless of their training? This blog will collect noteworthy information that attempts to answer these and other questions. Most of what you see here will be aggregated from other sources and analyzed. You will also see original interviews, and the occasional opinion piece or personal story, as I try to piece together a clear picture of the system in which American women give birth.
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