Well the pregnancy itself was planned, but the course of the pregnancy most certainly was not. From the moment the home pregnancy test read positive, I began making plans for my pregnancy. I began to dream of the wonderful moments I would experience over the next forty weeks: the ultrasound, hearing the heartbeat, the first kick, the first time my husband would feel the baby move, the joy of finding out if it was a boy or girl, endless hours poring over baby name books, my last day of work before my maternity leave, the baby shower, the anticipation of those last few weeks before giving birth, the excitement of finally going into labour and knowing that soon I would meet my precious baby.
Being the type of person who loves to be prepared, I spent my spare time reading books about pregnancy, labour and delivery, breastfeeding, and parenthood. I was going to be ready for what lay ahead of me. I carefully considered my options and finely tuned my birth plan so that everyone involved would know my wishes. My expectations began to develop; I had clear ideas of what my pregnancy and delivery would be like.
My pregnancy proceeded problem-free (once I overcame the awe-inspiring morning sickness in the first trimester). At eighteen weeks, I saw my baby for the first time with the ultrasound and found out we were having a boy. More fodder for my planning. I was now able to concentrate on names for boys and focus my shopping on boys’ clothing. The nursery plans also abandoned any hope of pink or frilly and took on a decidedly masculine flavour. The anticipation continued to build.
The monthly doctor’s visits were really rather uneventful: weight gain good, fundal height right on target, blood pressure normal. Finally at around twenty-eight weeks, my family doctor referred me to an obstetrician. The first visit with the obstetrician was as uneventful as my family doctor visits had been, and it was decided that I would continue to see my family doctor in between visits to the obstetrician. It was my first pregnancy and not knowing what to expect, I enjoyed each day as it came.
So at thirty weeks along in my pregnancy, with everything going exceptionally well, off I went to a regular appointment with my family doctor. From past visits, I knew his scale was a couple of pounds over what my home scale measured, but when I weighed eight pounds more than I had the previous day at home, I began to wonder. He also noted that my blood pressure was a little higher than usual, but still within normal range. I continued to wonder. Then two days later, when my ankles disappeared and tree trunks took their place, I rushed to the local pharmacy to take my blood pressure—165/93! The next morning I was in my doctor’s office.
Within three hours of my visit to my doctor, I was being admitted to the hospital with severe preeclampsia. And within three days of being admitted into the hospital, I was being induced. Suddenly, I was thrust into an early end to my pregnancy and a labour for which I was not prepared, one that did not follow my expectations, and one that went beyond anything I had even considered. While I had planned for a labour with as few interventions as possible, here I was have everything I had been sure I did not want now being forced upon me: IV, pitocin, constant monitoring, bed confinement, membranes ruptured. No longer did it seem like I had a choice. Instead, everything was focused on ensuring my baby was delivered safely.
Of course this too was my primary goal, especially when facing the long road that must be traveled when your baby is born prematurely. At thirty-one weeks, there were still many possible complications and our focus was on reducing any possible risks and having a healthy baby. And after a very short labour and quick delivery, our son was born weighing three pounds two ounces and breathing on his own. We were blessed.
It was after the delivery and once I was taken to the mother-baby unit, without my baby, that I started to feel the loss of my pregnancy—the pregnancy I had expected. I began to mourn the loss of my last two months of pregnancy. This was to be the time I was to revel in the anticipation of meeting my son. The time when I would be given a baby shower. The time when I would be doted on as the expectant mother. But all of these expectations were lost.
Once my baby boy arrived, he remained in the NICU for five weeks and the expectations continued to dissolve. Leaving the hospital a few days after delivery without my baby was extremely difficult. Having to return to the hospital every day to visit my baby was a cycle of exhaustion and worry. Breastfeeding suddenly became far more of a challenge than I had ever anticipated, and unexpectedly, I was attached to a breast pump for what seemed like the majority of the day, pumping every two hours. Nothing went as I had planned.
Looking back on that experience from the distance of time, I recognize the strength, knowledge, and lessons my “unexpected” pregnancy and labour brought me. It seems like such a cliché to say the only thing that matters is a healthy baby—but this is the truth! Perhaps living in the moment brings us far greater strength than we could ever anticipate. Expending energy on how we would like things to happen removes us from the opportunity to simply be there when it does.
The birth of a baby, especially your own, is the greatest time of joy you will ever experience in life. It is the time when all your hopes and dreams take form and are shared with the world. The time when expectations matter very little and reality is present in its simplest, truest form. The moment when a new life ventures into this world for the first time and seeks out your face because you are its mother.