Monday, July 28, 2014

Pre-Term Labor

Ever since my first pregnancy, I have pined for an early delivery. Like, maybe even earlier than 37 weeks? Just a smudge? This is for several reasons, some of which are good and some of which are considerably less-than-good. Actually, most of which are not good. Here's something like how it went in my mind:

In the first place, the end of pregnancy is extremely uncomfortable. Avoidance of pain is not necessarily a good reason to deliver a baby, though, especially if he's not quite ready. Besides, bearing the pain of pregnancy placidly is good practice in bearing all the other pains (physical and psychological) of parenthood in a similar way. Easier said than done, but a worthy goal...!

In the second place, I kept thinking that if I could just stay skinny during one of these pregnancies, I would deliver my baby between 37 and 39 weeks like all my other skinny friends. Then, my doctor would love me because I'm skinny AND because I delivered my baby right when he wanted me to! But alas, I gained less weight with the last two pregnancies than with the first two (30-35 pounds each), and I still went nearly the full 40 weeks with both. I don't know how it would be possible for me to eat less or gain less weight without lying around the house moaning with hunger. (And if you've been keeping track, please don't worry about the baby: both of my skinny-pregnancies resulted in healthy eight pound babies at birth!).

In the third place, I kept thinking that little babies would be easier to deliver. A baby delivered at 36 weeks is bound to be smaller than a baby delivered at 40. But my 9.5 pound second son took all of 20 minutes to push out, so I no longer think that's necessarily the case. At least, not for my pelvic dimensions. Apparently there's plenty of room!

Even in spite of having some of these myths busted, I still kept thinking there would be some benefit to having a baby slightly before term. At least I could avoid the haggling over induction date with my doctor, right?

Well finally, two things happened at the end of this pregnancy that firmly convinced me it's better to still be pregnant at 39 weeks than have a baby that's not ready to be born on the outside of the womb at 35 or 36.

One day, I was walking around our neighborhood, hugely pregnant, with my three boys in tow. A NICU nurse who lives nearby was walking her dog. We casually struck up a conversation about when I would deliver (I was 35 weeks at the time), and she said, "Oh no, you want to wait a few more weeks. Even babies born at 35 weeks have it rough. They especially have a hard time nursing." I love nursing my babies, and the thought of a baby really struggling to latch and be nourished by the milk that was made just for him made me very, very sad. I decided that I would wait as long as I had to, if it only meant he was ready to be nourished on the outside!

Secondly, I did almost give birth at 36 weeks this time around. I was completely unprepared! I suppose there might be a few things I could do to get ready before 36 weeks next time, just in case. But it was shocking to me that even though I had already done this three times before, I somehow wouldn't be even mentally prepared to have a baby when I was only a month away from my due date.

Thirdly, a woman with whom I am very close had a medically-indicated c-section at 34.5 weeks. Thirty-four-and-a-half-weeks! Wouldn't that be great! Skip those last 6, painful weeks of pregnancy! I've heard that 34-week-old babies almost always do well outside the womb, because they are usually able to breathe well enough on their own by then...

Well, this family I know had a terrible time of it. Their little boy was not, in fact, ready to breathe on his own at birth. He was in the NICU for 17 days. Almost as soon as he came home, he became sick and was back in the hospital for 48 hours with a spinal tap. I looked at myself, 39 weeks pregnant, on the day that this little boy came home from the hospital for the second time, and decided that I would rather be 39 weeks pregnant than go through all that!

So I know that there's a difference between 34 or 35 weeks pregnant and 40, and that a lot changes in those last few weeks. It is, of course, right about 37 weeks that it becomes less clear whether it would really be so terrible to have baby on the outside, even at the cost of an induction. I'll have more thoughts on that in another post. But suffice it to say, I am now resolved never to wish to go into labor earlier than 37 weeks, even if I might have been tempted to wish it so before!