Friday, August 29, 2014

Part IX: Pregnancy after Trauma, 1st Trimester

I haven't blogged much about my pregnancy this time around. Part of that was because I wasn't consistently blogging, about anything. Reciprocally, one of the big reasons I wasn't blogging was because I was pregnant. The ironies of life.

The bigger truth of the matter, though, was the effects my past traumas had on being pregnant again. My first and second trimesters in particular were riddled with panic attacks and breakdowns as I dealt with all the events and feelings that triggered moments from my previous birth experiences and all the fears and negativity attached. My intention now is to give a brief glimpse into what those effects were and how I dealt with them along the way, breaking it up between the three trimesters. I want to show my own emotional progression through the pregnancy that ultimately culminated in the birth experience I have worked so hard for--and yet been so afraid of--for the last three years.

And so, I give you the first trimester.

This was the first pregnancy when I tested purely based on timing. I have always had the inkling that I was pregnant long before a test would have shown anything, and I recognized and added up all the signs and symptoms enough that by the time I actually tested, it was a mere formality just to confirm what I already knew for sure. This time, however, I had no idea. I really thought I wasn't pregnant because none of my usual early signs were present. Once I realized I was six days late, though, I figured I ought to test.

It's hard to say what my first reaction was--there was a definite mix of excitement and sheer terror.

The first few weeks were singularly dominated by doubts over whether the pregnancy would last. Between Ben's birth and this pregnancy, I had experienced three miscarriages in July, November and December of 2012 (you can read more about that here). Every day, every time I went to the bathroom, I expected that this pregnancy would be over, too. It was extremely difficult to attach to the idea of a baby with so much negative anticipation floating around.

I did my best to move forward as if everything would be fine. I did some research online and found what seemed like a decent OB/GYN and made an appointment. I had a few qualifications in mind when choosing a doctor. I wanted someone with whom I felt completely comfortable and cared for as a person, not just as a vessel for a baby or just another day on the job. I wanted to feel as thought I was respected and acknowledged as an individual and as a pregnant mother. My second major requirement was finding someone who would support me in my goal of having a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean section).

My first appointment was on January 6, and I was 8 weeks along to the day. It didn't take me long to decide, though, that I would not be returning to this particular doctor. She was nice enough, but there were a lot of little things that bothered me about the visit, like the fact that they wouldn't let Chris come into the room with me. I had brought him along because I wanted his support but they made him stay in the waiting room until we did an ultrasound at the very end. That was dumb. I also never got an overwhelming sense that this doctor was actually any good at what she did. Not that I thought she was a bad doctor, she just didn't inspire great confidence as to her competence.

The upside to this appointment was the ultrasound. It was the first time I actually, genuinely believed that we just might have a baby. It became a real possibility where before it was just a cute idea and a "wouldn't it be nice if" conversation starter. I can't say that I totally stopped worrying about having a miscarriage at that point (that didn't stop until he was born), but I was comforted.

Two hurdles crossed, then. We had passed over the worst of the miscarriage fears (seeing a heartbeat on an ultrasound brings miscarriage statistics down to less than 2%) and I had successfully visited a doctor without any panic attacks. Applause for milestones!

The next big hurdle was finding a different doctor. I had gone in blind the first time, having not asked friends for recommendations because I wasn't ready to announce my pregnancy. Once I had the ultrasound, though, I made the news public and then asked several people at church for names of their favorite OBs.

One doctor came highly, highly recommended. It was the first person who gave a name and had real stories and experiences to back it up, so I made the appointment. I went in and at first was very impressed. He was very professional and right from the start I felt like he was extremely competent and capable at this job. That was a relief, and quite a contrast over the previous doctor I saw. We had a good conversation in his office, which I appreciated (rather than me sitting on a table and him talking down to me).

Despite the good start, there came a moment when I absolutely knew without question that I would not be coming back. We had been going over my medical history and previous pregnancies and births. I said that I had a c-section with my third and his immediate response was "Great, so we'll do a c-section this time, too." I did not at all appreciate how quickly he jumped to a repeat c-section, and that without even asking if that's what I had in mind. The appointment went downhill from there, and ended on a particularly ugly note when I refused to let him examine me after he couldn't give any solid reason why he wanted to run a certain test. I still think he is a good doctor and many people would be very comfortable with him, but he wasn't the right fit for me.

It would take me another month to find a doctor that I really connected and felt comfortable with, but I finally did. My first appointment with him came at 16 weeks, well into my second trimester. It was stressful going to so many different doctors, but it was well worth it in the end to have the right doctor for me and my situation.

Coming soon: The Second Trimester


Liz, Karl, Madison, Brooklyn and Aubrey said...

So I know our reasons for anxiety were totally different, but this part of your story sounds a lot like my story when I got pregnant with Zack. I too went through multiple doctors before I finally found THE ONE doctor that met all of my qualifications. It's hard when you have such specific concerns that are very serious to you. I was so excited the day I discovered our family practice doctor (who knew everything about our history and concerns) also delivered babies. I dropped my other "I guess he'll do" doctor so fast!

Tannie Datwyler said...

I didn't realize you saw so many doctors!! NUTS. But, it makes complete sense given your history. You are amazing to work so hard to find the right person.

That would make me REALLY mad if my doctor didn't let Richard come in with me. I can't even believe that.