Third Trimester Invisibility Syndrome

Is this a thing that someone’s already come up with? I feel like it should be. Maybe it’s better to call it Parent Invisibility Syndrome. Or in our pityingly sexist culture, Mother Invisibility Syndrome.

It’s the whole idea that the “mom,” “parent,” “pregnant woman” is less important than her kid. A lot of women talk about how difficult it can be to retain a sense of self after having a kid—your time and attention and energy is suddenly absorbed by someone a hell of a lot more needy than your husband or pets. Some women feel like their individuality just gets tossed out the window, and that society encourages it. You must be a bad mom if you take time for yourself. You don’t really love your children if you don’t put them first in every situation.

A lot of women are calling bullshit on this, which is beautiful and refreshing. I’m reminded of a video clip I saw where Jada Pinkett-Smith is explaining how important it is to take care of herself, in order to be a better mom and wife and family member. Mostly, it just sucks that it’s taken us so long to start talking about all this and trying to shift the perspective.

A little background on me: I’m not the type of woman who has wanted to be a mom for her whole life. It’s always kind of been one of those marginal life goals, like, yeah, if the timing was good and I had a good partner and he really wanted a kid… My opinion on the subject has kind of swayed back and forth depending on who I was with at the time, and where I was in my personal recovery process of therapy and self-discovery. Fast-forward to marrying a guy who is so uniquely suited to me in every important way, who has always really wanted a kid of his own…and here we are, 35 weeks pregnant. Which isn’t to say it was 100% his decision. There’s a lot in this for me, as well. I haven’t met my kid yet, but I’m guessing I’ll be pretty damn fond of them. And really it’s all going to be worth it to watch the joy that it brings to my husband. I can picture him talking to his kid. Playing with them. Joking with them. Loving them and being frustrated by them. It’s a new adventure, and one that we really wanted to go on together.

I’ve talked about it a lot already in my posts on HG, how having SUCH a difficult pregnancy really changes the way that you think, talk, and feel about pregnancy and your unborn kid. What it really comes down to is, when your body is shutting down and giving up, and your little fetus is still at least ten weeks too young to have any chance in hell of surviving outside your body…you learn that focusing on your OWN survival is the only way to go. It took every ounce of energy, willpower, and determination I had to just stay alive during the first half of this pregnancy. This kind of directly benefits the baby, since it needed me to be alive in order to continue gestating. But why drive yourself even more crazy worrying about the baby, when the best thing you can do for it is to worry about yourself? In a lot of ways, the best coping mechanism is actually to convince yourself that the baby is perfectly healthy. With HG, that’s typically the case. The baby is absolutely thriving, taking first dibs on every nutrient possible, while you are wasting away. Even if we WANTED to worry about the baby, it would be wasted effort. And when you hardly have the energy to make it to the next hour, let alone the next day, you don’t waste it on anything but staying alive.

So, progressing into the third trimester, we’ve pretty much maintained that attitude, that baby is perfectly fine but I’m still sick as anything. The HG still hovers like an invisible wall, stopping me from “getting better” with nausea, headaches, aversions to foods, etc. The gestational diabetes adds to that, creating its own nausea, lack of appetite, malaise after eating and every other symptom that comes along with high blood sugars (because my GD has been hell to manage, and we can’t quite seem to get it under control…most likely because my body is WORN OUT, depleted of any reserves or well being, and unable to build itself back to a state of health just yet).

This week, I’ve also got these lovely additions to the shit list:

-Headache for over a week now (Tylenol doesn’t touch it, and it often keeps me from sleeping)

-Borderline high blood pressure (along with borderline high levels of uric acid in my blood, which probably means pre-eclampsia is right around the corner)

-Lower back pain that gets up to an 8 or 9 sometimes

-Frequent contractions, half of which are a blessed relief because the nausea miraculously disappears during them, the other half of which are hell because they HURT

-Pretty constant pressure and pain in my pelvic region because the baby dropped last week (and seriously, feeling its little hands squirming around (because baby likes to have its hands up by its face) in that particular part of my body is pretty darn weird)

So, today, I went to my weekly endocrinologist appointment, still trying to get control over this gestational diabetes. The nurse practitioner who is guiding me in this is fabulous. Truly. She is sweet and kind and well-informed and attentive. With the high blood pressure readings we were getting at the beginning of the appointment, and the fact that I’ve been spilling large amounts of ketones no matter how much water and how many carbs I space out throughout the day, she’s worried. She even gave me instructions for if the baby is born in the next week! To have that kind of encouragement from a health care professional at this stage is totally priceless. She sees the toll that this is taking on my body. She sympathizes with the misery, and wants to see me get some relief from it.

So, I called my very-busy OB office, finally got them to respond, and off I went to the hospital for a blood pressure check and additional NST. I was having contractions every minute or two already, probably from having to drive myself to appointments and hospitals 40 minutes away, and having to walk from far parking spots and sit in uncomfortable chairs waiting for admitting to have me sign paperwork…the contractions even got painful enough while I was waiting that I called up to L&D myself and just asked to bypass the downstairs admitting process.

These NSTs are vastly frustrating for us. I know a lot of moms feel reassured, because they get to sit around and listen to the baby’s heartbeat that clearly says, 140ish times a minute, that it’s still alive. The problem with mine is that they take longer every time. The first one was a good hour. The second an hour and a half. The third two hours. And so on. They haven’t seen the heart rate accelerations they wanted twice now, and have had to do biophysical profile ultrasounds. That last BPP we only passed in the very last possible minute (the baby didn’t want to move at all during the ultrasound, but was practicing its breathing the whole time. Contrary child.)

With the HG and GD and all the new complications (especially the headache that keeps me from sleeping because of the pain!!) I am worn out. And every NST just completely saps all my energy. I feel awful after them. I was spacey and contracting and just flat-out in pain on my way home from the one today. I honestly don’t think it’s the wisest decision for me to even be driving right now, what with how EVERY time I do I have contractions that are just a minute or so apart.

BUT, apparently, even considering all this, I’m supposed to just be GLAD that the baby is okay. Glad that every time they monitor it, it seems less and less okay…but still manages to barely pass their criteria so that they send me home. Is that really supposed to be reassuring? Seriously? The nurse today took this awful tone with me, basically berating me for having so much going on and being so miserable. Like I’m supposed to ignore everything I’m going through, all the pain, all the discomfort and misery and hell, because the only thing that matters in the world is whether that baby’s heart is still beating. She implied that I was trying to get them to induce me early just because I’m uncomfortable. RIGHT. As if I’m not worried about the harm to the baby from pre-eclampsia and polyhydramnios and macrosomia. Here’s the thing. The bottom fucking line of all of this. I did NOT go through these nine months of hell just to have a fucking stillborn child. No way. I want all of this to MEAN something. I have been through absolute hell to get this child, and I fucking deserve to have it be born healthy and happy and ALIVE.

So, the baby failed the kick counts last night. You pay attention for two hours, and if you don’t feel ten flutters/kicks/rolls/whatever, it fails. It isn’t moving as much as it should, and we’re all concerned. But when I tell the nurse this, I get conflicting messages. On the one hand, she’s like “you need to come in immediately when that happens. Just to be safe, we can check baby out and make sure everything’s okay and then send you home again.” On the other, she’s repeating the instructions for the kick counts, telling me to really pay attention and lie on my left side and all the stuff that I already know and already do. Because apparently it’s MY fault, I must be doing something wrong, if the baby fails the kick counts one day and then shows up kind of okay on the next day’s NST?

So not only does anything that me and my body are going through cease to matter at all, but it’s also MY FAULT if anything goes wrong with the baby. Like I’m not doing it right, I’m messing something up, I’m to blame. She’s saying I’m wasting their time coming in with signs of pre-eclampsia, but I should have come in right away for the stupid failed kick counts. I get the distinct feeling that none of these people would care if I died due to pregnancy or birth complications, as long as the baby survived.

So, is that right? Do we have an attitude in this society of valuing the baby above the mother? Why can’t there be equal regard for both? Personally, I think it’s pretty alarming, the deteriorating state of my body. I mean, labor is supposed to be the most difficult thing many women ever experience. My sister was walking four miles a day up until the day before she delivered, and she still talks about labor as being incredibly difficult. So you take a body that has been near death, depleted, run down, and generally abused for nine months…and you ask it to go through labor. A process where, if I’m unable to rally the strength to push this baby out, I can be endangering both mine and the baby’s life. Emergency c-sections exist, and thank the gods for that. But how often do they fail? How often does the stress on the baby from delivery complications result in a seriously ill, or DEAD baby?

You try not to worry, because you don’t have the energy to spare for it. Sure, I was having regular (and big!) contractions during the NST today, and the baby’s heart rate did NOT accelerate after them the way a perfectly healthy baby’s would. I mean, it didn’t decelerate, so that’s something. But this baby’s heart rate doesn’t like to accelerate when it moves around, either. Or when they try to wake it up with the buzzer. Or when my blood sugar is high. I feel like my little one is doing exactly what I’m doing. Just holding on, trying to survive by putting every ounce of energy into maintaining. Waiting for someone to look at us and realize that it’s not healthy for either of us to still be joined like this.

So, in the future, if anything I say about my kid seems shocking, take a second to examine whether you’re operating from society’s viewpoint that the parent ceases to matter as an individual once the kid is born (or conceived, wherever you think the life process starts). I am NOT going to be someone who loses her self because the role of mother completely consumes me. Fuck that. And while the medical professionals look at me as selfish, or self-absorbed, or whatever, I will keep on fighting to survive. I know my body, and I know my baby. I know that something is wrong, that we’re on a downward trend and no one will listen to us until we’re on the brink of serious injury or death. And I just have to deal with that. Keep going like nothing is wrong. And hope that their last-minute intervention is enough to save us both.

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