Week 16 ~ October 24, 2003
~ Fears and a New Source of Comfort
Since I'm beginning this journal rather late in my pregnancy, I thought I would begin by summing up my first trimester. However, looking back, I only remember it as a blurry haze of nausea, fatigue and fear. After miscarrying earlier this year, I found it very hard to stay positive during those first few weeks. I tried to keep the fear away through positive imagery, imagining the baby growing inside me healthy and strong. Sometimes that worked. I tried distracting myself with trashy novels and bad television, which worked a little better. I tried to concentrate on how different this pregnancy felt than my lost pregnancy. I never felt pregnant before my miscarriage. I had very realistic nightmares of losing the baby, one of which turned out to be surprisingly close to how it eventually happened. With this pregnancy, I had no nightmares and very strong symptoms from about five to six weeks on. I was much sicker than with either of my other pregnancies and much more tired (although perhaps that can be attributed to having a very active three year old to care for.) So I looked at my 24 hour a day nausea as a blessing, and felt fortunate to be exhausted. Every day with strong symptoms was another day closer to that magic end of the first trimester, when your chances of miscarrying are sharply reduced.
I still have moments of panic, even now that I've left the first trimester behind. My miscarriage began with a crashing migraine. I've had near-daily headaches for the last month or so, and each time one becomes severe I worry that it's the beginning of the end. Fortunately most of the headaches have been only mild to moderate, so there have only been a few times when I really became concerned that I was about to miscarry. Does the fear of loss ever go away completely? Probably not, but it has definitely receded.
This past week it has become much easier to feel secure, as I've started feeling the baby move! It has been such a wonderful, relieving sensation. I don't feel it often yet, but at least once a day, if I'm paying attention, I'll realize that my little one is moving around in there. Because I have decided not to use any form of ultrasound during my pregnancy unless there is reason to suspect a problem, this has been my first definitive sign that everything is going to be ok. I haven't heard the heartbeat or seen the baby, but I can feel it growing inside me and making its presence known. What a wonderful, blessed feeling it is.
And now you're probably wondering why anyone in their right mind would refuse to use the doppler and ultrasound to reassure them that their baby is growing normally. This is something I gave a lot of thought to. I researched the possible effects of ultrasound on a growing fetus and was surprised to learn that many major medical groups actually recommend against routine ultrasound and/or doptone use during low-risk pregnancies. There has been no evidence that it improves maternal or fetal outcome to monitor normal pregnancies through ultrasound, and there are at least theoretical risks to doing so. I'm also surprised at just how common it has become to do three, four or even more ultrasounds during a low-risk, perfectly normal pregnancy. Doppler machines are available for home use, and women are able to listen to the heartbeat as often as they like for as long as they like, with no warnings that no one is certain it is safe to expose a fetus to ultrasound on a daily basis. New, highly powerful 3-D ultrasounds are available in the US to anyone who wishes to pay for one. You can do it as often as you like, provided you can afford it. I find this reliance on technology both strange and alarming.
But the lure of technology is strong. It is so very tempting to see your baby in utero, hear the heartbeat and have reassurance that, at least at that moment, all is well with your baby. It took a lot of thought and discussion with my husband before I came to the decision that I would take this leap of faith. And now I find that I'm enjoying my old-fashioned pregnancy. I won't be peeking in on my baby, but I am going to discover his or her personality from inside. I learned a lot about my daughter, and felt far more bonded with her, by feeling her daily movements and rhythms than I did by seeing her ultrasound. Pictures on the ultrasound screen seemed so foreign and external compared to the wonderful sensations I was feeling. I look forward to discovering this baby in the same way.