(An excerpt)by Diana M. Raab, RN with Errol Norwitz, MDHunter House Publications, November 2009
The first edition of my book Your High Risk Pregnancy: A Practical and Supportive Guide was born on a typewriter perched on a table built by my husband. That table was suspended above my expanding belly during my first pregnancy in 1983. It began as a written journey of my bed- rest experience. Over the course of a few years, my notes evolved to include information and anecdotes from other women also experiencing difficult pregnancies. Now, twenty-five years later, the book is an updated guide for women and their partners to help them navigate through their own high-risk pregnancy.
Even though I was a practicing nurse when I wrote the first edition, I was hungry for additional information. Friends and colleagues brought me books focusing on “normal” pregnancies, and I felt as if I did not fit into any of the categories described. I was not having a normal pregnancy. That was my impetus to write this book. My hope is that if women understand what is happening inside of them they will gain confidence in themselves, what they are going through, and the decisions they make. Many of the women interviewed for the anecdotes told me that my book had taken the mystery out of their problems. Often, our imagination is much worse than reality.
High-risk pregnancies are not fun. They seem to drag on forever. By sharing my story with you, I hope to help you see the light at the end of your tunnel. Today, my husband and I have three healthy children, two daughters and a son—the happy ending to our story. But reaching this point was far from easy.
My husband and I are both career professionals and worked for five years after we got married before deciding to start a family. Pregnancy was not an easy task for us. It took me over a year to become pregnant. When I found out I was pregnant I was ecstatic, and just like many inexperienced mothers-to-be, I saw no harm in spreading the good news. Within the first two months I was dressing in maternity clothes. Unfortunately, my enthusiasm was shattered by a miscarriage at only twelve weeks.
My obstetrician was away the weekend I miscarried and was very surprised the following Monday morning when I told him the news. It was all the more shocking for us because on the previous Friday, we had heard the baby’s heartbeat during my routine prenatal visit and everything seemed perfect.
It took me a very long time to accept our loss, and I found it particularly difficult when I saw other women with their children. It seemed like a constant reminder of my failure. Over the next few months, the cause of my miscarriage was investigated. My first test, a hysterosalpingogram, showed I had a congenital uterine abnormality and a cervical condition, which meant that without proper intervention, I would be unable to carry a baby to term.
I learned that because of these congenital problems, the only way I would be able to carry a baby to term was to have major surgery. Perhaps because I was a nurse, I was afraid to have the surgery. I was aware of all the things that could possibly go wrong. I urged my obstetrician to take the most conservative approach. He told me that surgery was the only solution, and that if I were his wife, he would make the same recommendation.
We sought a second opinion from an obstetrician specializing in this type of surgery. He also recommended surgery. I was still uncomfortable with the idea, and so we sought yet another opinion. The third obstetrician had a different philosophy, one closer to mine. He claimed that with each pregnancy my double uterus would become stretched and I would be able to carry a fetus longer each time until I eventually carried to term. I already knew that I would have to have a cervical suture early in my pregnancy to solve the problem of my inadequate or “cervical insufficiency.”
Nine months later I received a positive pregnancy test, but I had problems right from the beginning. Around my sixth week I began spotting. Because it was the weekend (somehow all my problems occurred on holidays or weekends), we went to my hospital’s emergency room and were told that there are two possible reasons for spotting early in pregnancy—impending miscarriage or low progesterone levels.
Because of my history of hormonal imbalances, it was decided that I needed two progesterone injections spaced two weeks apart. My obstetrician said that if the spotting were as indeed due to a defective egg, I would abort during that two-week period. Luckily, that did not happen.
At twelve weeks, I was given a cervical suture to ensure that I would be able to carry my baby. I remained in the hospital for three days and was sent home on a medication to prevent premature contractions, which could have put the suture under stress. I took these pills for the remainder of my pregnancy.
Unfortunately, because the sutures were inserted after my cervix had begun dilating, I had to stay in bed for five months. I was tempted to write to Sophia Loren, who underwent the same ordeal. Because I really wanted that baby, I did everything my obstetrician recommended. I was advised not to climb stairs, and as a result, I had to stay on the upper level of our two-story home.
Each day was full of surprises. I had mild contractions a few times daily and visited the emergency room, as it turned out, once a month for the next five months. I spotted throughout the pregnancy and was told that my suture was being stressed and to take it easy. I never knew how long I would carry my baby. In my husband’s words, “Every day was another blessing.” It is impossible to describe the paradoxical passage of time—those days in bed that passed so quickly, yet also seemed to drag on for an eternity. I cannot begin to catalog my emotions, which seemed to ricochet off the bedroom walls for those five long months.
Finally, at thirty-two weeks, approximately four weeks short of what is known as the term of pregnancy, I gave birth by cesarean to a beautiful 4½- pound baby girl. Although she did not cry at birth and was completely blue, it was the happiest moment of my life. Her first few moments of oxygen support were enough to give her the strength to carry on a life of her own.
The next happiest day of my life was two years later to the day, when I gave birth again, this time to a perfect 8-pound girl, Regine. She nursed right away and unlike my first, Rachel, who was a preemie, she did everything the books said she would do. This second pregnancy was much easier, partly because I knew what to expect. My husband and I breathed a sigh of relief, knowing that this baby was not premature—she was born both healthy and strong.
And at last, three years later, I gave birth to my son, Joshua. His was an easier pregnancy. I was much more active and confident that all would go well—and it did, as Joshua also did everything the books said he would do. I was now a proud parent of three children under the age of six and I vowed to look at the beauty and magic of bringing babies into the world and watching them grow into fine little people.
A huge thank you to Diana for sharing an excerpt of her book with us! You can visit Diana at her website Dianaraab.com