I’m seeing a lot of BS anti-choice stuff on my dash lately (all at the rebuttal stage, thank god), so I figured I would just say a little bit, seeing as how no experience in my entire life has made me feel as strongly about reproductive choice as actually being pregnant.
Note: Although mostly beyond the scope of this post, “reproductive choice” includes the choice to reproduce. For anyone. I don’t care who. Teenagers. Poor people. People who are sick, or have disabilities. People who have 20 kids already. There is no “right person” to have a baby; there really is no “right time” to have one, either. I may talk more about this later from my perspective as a high-risk pregnant person who is still privileged on various axes that make it more likely that I will be seen as “appropriately pregnant.” But that’s not what I want to talk about here.
This sonogram was taken at 28 weeks. (She covered her face with both hands like a boxer for pretty much the entire time, except for when she opened one of her fists and we got this shot.) Because 98% of preterm infants born at 28 weeks survive, I will refer to my future child as a baby, but I’m not hyperbolizing when I say that up until about 25-26 weeks, I called her either “the fetus” or “the Grub.” Prior to 25 weeks gestation, most preterm infants do not survive; at 25 weeks, you get ~50% survival, which climbs to 80% survival at 26 weeks. This is survival with, frequently, extreme and long-lasting complications, and it is only possible with heavy medical intervention. So prior to 25 weeks, we are definitely talking about a parasitic relationship in which the fetus is dependent on the owner of the uterus.
In my case, it is a relationship that I pursued, understanding that it would be parasitic and considering that to be worth it. I cannot imagine how horrific it would be to be in this relationship if I DIDN’T want it. Recently I reblogged a list of common, likely, and possible effects of pregnancy. Here is what I, personally, have experienced since the positive home pregnancy test (HPT) in May:
- Extreme breast tenderness
- Horrible cramps after every single orgasm up to 7-8 weeks—for some people, these never go away (not everyone has them, either)
- Breast growth
- …to the point that I have had two separate episodes of inflamed cartilage in my chest, because of the added weight
- …which cannot be treated with the most effective course, NSAIDs, because they are not safe for fetal development (and have recently been associated with an increase in miscarriage in the first trimester, apparently)
- …and which will probably recur, because if you think they’re big NOW, wait until the end of the third trimester/when my milk comes in after birth
- …and which has ALREADY cost me about $300 in new bras, and will cost god knows how much more by the time I’ve bought nursing bras
- Additionally, my upper back, neck, and shoulders, which have always been prone to problems, are a complete mess with the added breast weight
- …this is somewhat mitigated by weekly massage and chiropractor visits (neither of which are covered by my insurance, and we drained our medical flex spending account last month, with 4-5 months of pregnancy left to go)
- …but I’m basically in constant pain/discomfort even with those measures
- A major increase in the frequency and severity of my migraines, a common experience among pregnant migraine sufferers
- …which cannot be treated with any of the established migraine drugs, because NONE of them are safe for pregnancy
- …and which, although it can be controlled fairly adequately with minor narcotics such as hydrocodone, which IS safe for pregnancy, has not always been easy to do so, because of completely baseless fear of narcotics/drug use even on the part of people who should know better, like the obstetrician I had to see when mine was unavailable (narcotics in pregnancy are well-understood and unlikely to cause any harmful effects, except at high, constant doses)
- Hypermesis gravidarum, “unrelenting, excessive pregnancy-related nausea and/or vomiting that prevents adequate intake of food and fluids”
- …the vomiting aspect of which was adequately controlled with Zofran (which fortunately has become available as a generic in the last few years, or my insurance probably wouldn’t have covered it)
- …but the nausea aspect of which really wasn’t, so that I was basically non-functional for the entire first trimester
- …and which I continue to take Zofran for at the beginning of the third trimester because of some incidents where I tried to stop the meds and felt fine right until I started uncontrollably vomiting
- …although Zofran is really aggravating my constipation, which is getting worse to the point that I am about to try going off it again, hoping that I really don’t need it at this point
- Did I mention the constipation? Severe constipation is incredibly painful, and I had it through most of the first trimester (aggravated by high Zofran dosage), and as is common in the third trimester, it seems to be getting worse again
- …which aggravates my periodic hemorrhoids
- As my uterus expands, my abdominal muscles have ceased to function in a meaningful way, so in addition to my upper back, in the last 2-3 weeks I’ve started experiencing major problems with my lower back, hips, and thighs
- …which has so far once completely wrecked one of my knees (the thigh muscles pull on them), requiring me to take two days off work to stay off it
- …and which is exacerbated by sitting for long periods of time, which is a problem, since I’m a graduate student trying to write a dissertation
- Since around 16 weeks, I have required a giant body pillow to attain a sleeping position that is even kind of comfortable
- …and it really isn’t that comfortable; it takes me a very long time to get to sleep
- …and then I wake up in the middle of the night to pee, sometimes 2-3 times
- Twice a day, I have to give myself a shot of low-weight molecular heparin to prevent potentially lethal blood clots, the likelihood of which is increased by pregnancy—I’ve actually been doing this since three months BEFORE I got pregnant, because the standard anticoagulant causes birth defects very early in the first trimester
- …for dosage management, I have to make monthly visits to a hematologist whom I loathe, because I have no other alternatives for management
- I also spent several months interviewing OBs who raised my blood pressure to varying degrees before finding one who seemed to work, but who was also a 90-minute bus ride from my apartment and turned out to be only half-time, resulting in the most traumatic medical office visit of my life when I had to see one of the other OBs in the clinic
- Although I finally was able to work out a deal with my PCP to see him for all my visits (with the understanding that he would consult with an OB if necessary), this still requires about a 60-75 minute bus ride each way, with a transfer
- I also have to have sonograms every four weeks to monitor the fetus for signs of growth restriction, for which my clotting condition increases risk; this takes 2-3 hours out of my day in travel, waiting, and procedure time
- I am even more likely to die than your average pregnant woman, because I am on anticoagulants, which could turn a serious injury into a deadly one, and which make any form of surgery during the birth extra risky
- I am frequently stressed out about having decisions made that I would not agree to be the best decisions, because of my particular medical issues and because of the entire culture of medical care and the medicalization of pregnancy in the United States
I’m probably forgetting some details, but I’d say those are the big issues. Given that this is the first week of the third trimester, we can be sure that I will be in way more pain before it’s over.
It fills me with rage that anyone thinks they have the moral authority to tell anyone else that they HAVE to go through this—and make no mistake, there is no way to know what will happen to a person during any particular pregnancy, even if they have been pregnant before. Many if not most clotting disorders are actually discovered DURING pregnancy, because pregnancy so dramatically raises the risk of a thrombosis (which can be lethal).
We really don’t understand what even causes “morning sickness,” and while I didn’t have any trouble getting Zofran, I know people whose healthcare providers have tried to insist that they don’t need it unless they are literally vomiting all fluids, when constipation is the ONLY MAJOR SIDE EFFECT OF THE DRUG. It is totally safe for pregnancy, but again, there’s that whole “let’s panic about babies!” attitude that guides so much prenatal care rather than actual scientific evidence.
I really want this baby! There is no way I would go through all this bullshit if I didn’t.