I’m really not sure how to begin this post. I’ve started and stopped writing it so many times, and at this point that I’m not even sure it will make sense. But I don’t care. Writing has become a form of release for me during this pregnancy; it seems to help me process everything – from what’s going on with my actual body to what’s going on in my mind as it’s happening, in it’s most pure, unadulterated form.
The truth is, I’ve been struggling this week; I’ve been in a very strange place both mentally and physically. In fact, I might go as far as saying I’ve been in one of the strangest places I’ve ever been in. Unfamiliar territory. Highly volatile emotions. Stress. Anxiety. Sadness. Disbelief. And frustration. Serious frustration.
And to top it all off, my go to stress coping mechanisms – running, sweating, and challenging my body – are off the table. Just like that, ripped away from me (and of course all happening right when I was starting to feel like moving again – when running and sweating were actually sounding desirable – while officially well within my second trimester, and starting to experience that “second trimester bliss”).
My doctor speaks in code.
On Monday, I woke up with that ready to tackle the world energy. I was feeling productive with work, and best of all, my legs felt like moving. Like I was actually craving a run. After a productive morning, I decided to go for a little afternoon sweat. I did a 4 mile treadmill workout, followed by some weights and went home in good spirits.
And then just before teaching class that evening, I received some shitty news from my doctor: I have complete placenta previa.
At first, I didn’t totally understand what that meant. I kept re-reading the email. I kept searching for some sort of clue as to what this meant for the baby, and for me. I kept going back over the part that said, no running, no lifting anything above 20 lbs, no travel, and no strenuous activity.
I started to feel a little panicky as the words no running, no travel, and no strenuous activity kept replaying in my mind. I taught my Monday night class in a total fog and then went home and cried. My husband did his best to comfort me; he advised me not to jump to any conclusions before we talked to the doctor. I went to bed feeling like he was probably right. This couldn’t be as bad as it sounded.
Denial is bliss.
No travel? Surely they just meant big trips – like cross country or international trips. Surely they didn’t mean a quick hour and a half flight home for the holidays or a short two hour flight to Phoenix in January to visit Casey’s family. None of that could truly be off the table, could it? And no running? Surely that’s intended for people who didn’t run pre-pregnancy. I’m healthy and fit. I eat well and take care of myself. And I was feeling pretty darn good. Why would I need to be under such close supervision or restriction? It just couldn’t be.
Who the fuck is this previa character and what does she want with my placenta, anyway?
The next morning, I taught my early morning 6 am class in a familiar state of fog and worry, and then went home, forgoing my usual 7:30 am yoga practice so that I could get on the phone with someone at Kaiser as soon as the lines were open. When I made it through to the advice nurse, she said, “so you’re calling because you have questions about an email that was sent?” I said “yes.” And she paused, and then said, “so what questions did you have?” I felt like a moron for not knowing what my specific questions were but also frustrated that she wasn’t just prepared with answers. I wanted to scream, “I don’t know. I received an email that was basically written in code and I want to better understand it. JUST FUCKING TELL ME WHAT YOU KNOW.”
Instead, I asked politely what exactly placenta previa was and what that meant for the baby and me. She explained that placenta previa describes the position of the placenta in relation to the cervix. In normal pregnancies, the placenta clings to the upper part of the uterus; when instead it implants lower, closer to the cervix, you’ve got yourself a placenta previa. There are three types: marginal, in which the placenta is located near the cervical opening; partial, in which the placenta partially covers the cervix; and total or complete, in which the cervix is entirely covered (which is what I have).
Basic translation: I get to freak the fuck out.
Instead of enjoying the rumored to-be blissful second trimester, instead I feel nothing but stress, anxiety, and total frustration. And while the actual danger to me is minimal, other than the potential for hemorrhage (which I’m told can be treated with transfusions and fluid replacements as needed – oh joy!), the baby is at a greater risk. Previa babies are often premature, delivered by c-section and have a much higher mortality rate overall. Sounding fun yet?
And what’s worse, there’s really nothing I can do about it, other than practice “pelvic rest” and pray that it moves.
The instructions on how to deal with having placenta previa during your pregnancy are so entirely vague, that with every movement, every action I take, I just feel more and more stressed and anxious. How about now?
Is this considered a strenuous activity?
I asked the advice nurse what else was considered a strenuous, off the table activity (the running and lifting portion were very clear) – was yoga considered strenuous? And if not, were their particular poses I needed to avoid. Her answer, yoga is probably OK, I’d say continue doing that. And go on walks (she said this very chirpily, ughhhhh). Then I asked about specific types of poses and she said, maybe try not to do anything that has your butt over your uterus…unless it’s part of your flow and you do it for a moment, that shouldn’t be a problem.
What? So does that mean that downward facing dog is an issue? Butt above uterus…..she responded, just use good judgement.
Next up, I asked about the specifics of travel. I told her that the holidays were a few short weeks away and let her know that we had travel plans. Would we really not be able to fly an hour and a half to see my family? Or two hours to see Casey’s? What are the real chances I’d bleed out on a plane. She said, “oh, you might be able to travel. I’ll put a note in with the doctor to see how they feel about it.”
After asking about travel, I asked about the potential for the placenta to move up and for this whole damn issue to just resolve itself. And she said, “it could happen. We’ll check at your next ultrasound.”
And that was that. I hung up the phone and felt a mixture of relief, confusion, and more frustration. Maybe I couldn’t run for a few weeks or lift weights. Ok, I’d walk, swim, and do yoga instead. But surely, I’d still be able to travel.
Doctor, doctor, give me the news.
The next day, while still feeling slightly optimistic, the doctor called. I was glad it wasn’t yet another advice nurse – it was my actual MD. I was prepared with my questions about the confusing code words and acronyms she had used in her emails, alongside the words “downs” and “muscular dystrophy” to tell me that I was probably not at risk and that the radiologist had just flagged something on my chart that led her to call a Genetic Counselor. I wanted to scream, COULD YOU HAVE WRITTEN THAT DIFFERENTLY MAYBE? WRITING A BUNCH OF ACRONYMS AND JARGON NEXT TO WORDS I UNDERSTAND LIKE DOWNS AND MUSCULAR DYSTROPHY IS A TERRIFYING THING TO SEND TO A PERSON WHO DID NOT GO TO MEDICAL SCHOOL. JESUS. ARE YOU SERIOUS???
Instead, I responded politely and said, well that’s good news then, right? And then I reiterated what I had discussed with the advice nurse the day before and she basically said again, no running, no lifting anything over 20 lbs, no strenuous activity, no sex, nothing in your vagina, and no travel.
I repeated what I had said to the advice nurse – that everything she was saying was so vague and arbitrary – what was considered strenuous? Would this mean I won’t get to run again throughout this entire pregnancy? Is there a high risk I’ll be put on bed rest?
She assured me that I don’t have to be bubble girl (her words, not mine) but that I need to be careful with my activity. And that walks and yoga were ok. And then went on to say that unless the placenta moved up, I was not to travel. I asked about the chances of bleeding out on an hour and a half flight and she put it back to me, why would you want to find out those chances?
She offered that I might feel better if I got a second opinion, and while I agree, in the pit of my stomach, I already know that they’re most likely going to tell me the very same thing. No running, no lifting anything over 20 lbs, no sex, nothing in the vagina, no travel, and no strenuous activity.
BOO FUCKING HOO.
I’m a selfish asshole.
I certainly don’t want to do anything that would harm the baby, but I feel like all of these new restrictions are going to legitimately make me crazy. Movement is a huge part of my life, hell it’s a huge part of my identity. I almost feel like I don’t entirely know who I am right now.
I’ve had this news for less than a week and already I’m feeling trapped by my own body. It’s not like I feel like I can’t move, it’s more that I feel guilty if I move in a way that might be causing any pelvic strain. And each day, trying to decipher what is considered strenuous and off limits and what is not, is anxiety inducing all on its own.
I’ve still managed to practice yoga every single day, but in just one short week, it’s become a very different practice. An almost foreign practice in a body that no longer feels like my own. In a body that is betraying me, and not honoring all of the hardwork I’ve put in to make sure it’s healthy, fit, and happy. Like it’s revolting against me.
Some days I’ve managed to find some positivity in the whole thing, I’ve managed to be grateful to just be able to move. To be grateful that I’m not on actual bedrest (heaven help me if that becomes a next step). But other days, it just feels like a frustrating practice, as if I’m babying some injury that doesn’t actually exist. And today was one of those days.
I had a full meltdown in an afternoon yoga class. I started crying and couldn’t stop. I went down in child’s pose in hopes to mask the tears and allow the moment to pass, but the feelings persisted. I tried to stay in savasana awhile while people were getting up and chatting so I could avoid any eye contact or chatter, but people were worried and wanted to check in on me as kind, compassionate people generally do. But the more people tried to comfort me, the more the tears streamed down my face, and the worse it got. Crying in public, especially at my place of business, is legit my worst nightmare realized. I wanted nothing more than to hide my face and make a mad dash out of the room; while instead I was left with tears streaming down my face, and snot hanging from my nose.
Smooth moves by me.
Of course I texted an apology and explanation to anyone who had tried to talk to me, to comfort me. Hey, sorry my placenta is being an asshole and making me an asshole.
Statistics were never my strong suit.
I’ve cried every single day this week, some days more than others, and today was extreme. I have 18 more days till my next ultrasound. 18 more days where I will likely shed tears at least 6 more times (I’m guessing that I’ll average around three episodes per week).
Aside from drawing my own conclusions about my mental state of being, here are some real statistics (from the internets)….
- I should play the lottery: Complete (or true placenta previa) persists in 1 out of 1,500 first-time mothers. 1 out of 1,500? Lucky me!
- Bloody hell. Only 1 in 10 women will reach full term without bleeding when a placental previa is present in any form. Oh, goodie! Even more reason to freak the fuck out.
- 40 weeks, my ass. 67% of pregnancies that involve placenta previa will result in a premature delivery.
Pregnancy is kicking my ass. Second trimester has not been some blissed out joyride. And, I still don’t have an actual baby bump, just a protruding, funny looking beer belly.
If you made it this far, I’m sorry, but thanks for listening. I swear blogging about this is better than therapy.
Stay sweaty (and sane!),