Dealing with the Unexpected When You’re Expecting
Most of us have certain books that we refer to as the ‘Bible’ in different life stages and one such book is Heidi Murkoff’s ‘What to Expect When You’re Expecting’ that has sold over 20 million copies the world over, won several awards, been made into a movie and given millions of expecting mothers an informal degree in pregnancy and its appendages. Besides this, nowadays, most hospitals provide brochures and reams of literature on pregnancy, child care, pre-natal classes, couple bonding and a multitude of other things that are meant to make the nine month journey delightful. Naturally all these aids have pictures of women with perfect baby bumps, surreal facial expressions of calm and delight, shiny long manes akin to mirrors and lots of white accessories!
However, the truth, more often than not, is unlike these photo-shopped images. Not all our pregnancies are a portrayal of everything that the books outline. Not all of us have the opportunity to go on ‘baby moon’s and get dreamy photo-shoots done and not all of us end up having a smooth sailing nine months. But, we all survive and emerge as super-heroes at the end of the journey. We all find our world in that tiny bundle of joy that gets handed to us in the delivery room!
This blog is an attempt to capture a non-conventional pregnancy that was eventually made a truly memorable journey by family, friends and people at the workplace. The protagonist of this story is, yours truly. My pregnancy began as most do, with a good mix of hope, fear, skepticism and much excitement. A work trip to the United States at the onset of my second trimester had me shopping for things I never knew existed, maternity belts, pillows, socks, soaps, face spritzers and the like. I seemed to be moving lockstep with everything that Heidi outlines in the book until the one eventful day in my 26th week. I was at an external meeting on a Friday evening with my boss and managing director and felt a bit uncomfortable. I attributed this to the long day I was having and my ever growing size etc., however a nagging feeling at the back of mind told me that something was not right. Things took a different turn over the weekend and I started bleeding and had to be rushed to the hospital. An emergency ultrasound confirmed that my low lying placenta had manifested into a complete Placenta Previa. The doctors feared an emergency C-section if the bleeding didn’t stop and this sent me into a panic attack because at that point the minimum age for premature babies that Indian NICUs could support with a healthy success rate was 28 weeks. And so, I was admitted and sedated, injected with a variety of concoctions to prolong the pregnancy and mature the baby’s lungs and made to lie down in an upside down position to defy gravity and keep the pea in the pod! Two weeks went by and by god’s grace (and medical miracles) my bleeding stopped but the doctor made it amply clear that I had to be on complete bed rest for the remainder of my pregnancy.
A series of meltdowns, ‘why me, God’ moments and lots of tears later, I was convinced that not all pregnancies can be the same and I have to make the most of mine. It was important for me to be happy and healthy for the remaining weeks to deliver a healthy baby. I was discharged from the hospital in my 29th week and taken home in an ambulance on a stretcher and round the clock nursing attendants were hired to take care of me. The famous African proverb says ‘It takes a village’ and this couldn’t be any truer than in my case.
I know this all sounds like doom and gloom, but to be honest, once I was back home I had the best time of my life. I read a lot of books, I watched tons of movies and caught up with all my friends and slept a lot. All this was made possible by the undying support of my husband who dropped everything else to ensure that my pregnancy, despite all its odds, was memorable for us. My parents and grandmother came down from Pune to provide the much needed family support and my nursing attendant was a godsend who pampered me and kept me in top shape despite being on the bed for 24 hours. On the work front, my boss and colleagues were super supportive and took over my work seamlessly without letting the ball drop. They gave me the luxury of taking time off from work to focus on my health and my baby. I was also very lucky to be in the care of an experienced and caring doctor who had a great team of assistants who’d look up on me every week to track my progress. I also found solace on some online help groups of women who’d been through similar experiences.
At the end of a 12-week bed rest period, we opted for a date for my C-section, since natural delivery was not an option in my case. The day before my surgery was one of utmost relief and excitement for the entire family. We were happy that my bed rest was coming to an end and we were thrilled to welcome our new bundle of joy. Everything after my baby’s delivery seems to be a haze and all I can remember is an overwhelming sense of relief and love that overcame me. I was able to bounce back on my feet and get back to work after three months of delivering my baby. My workplace, is one of the best for working mothers and ensured that the atmosphere was conducive for me to get back to work.
For those of you who’re going through an unconventional journey, here are my top 5 tips to emerge a super-hero at the end of the nine months.
- Remember it takes two to tango- Most of us tend to alienate our husbands/partners the moment we become pregnant. Suddenly everything is about the expecting mother and the baby, right from food to conversations. This is a big no-no! Involve your partner in the journey and let this be about the two of you, there’ll be enough time for you and baby later. Spend quality time together as a couple and find time to do thing that both you like doing together. Give your partner a break once in a while for a night out without you. Everyone needs their ‘me-time’.
- Find a good doctor- This is pretty much the cornerstone of a successful nine month journey. You need to have the comfort of discussing anything and everything with your doctor. If yours is a high risk pregnancy, then it’s even more critical. If you’re not comfortable with your existing doctor, change your doctor. There’s no shame in that.
- Don’t rely on pregnancy bibles- I’m not saying don’t read pregnancy books, by all means go ahead. I had a library at home ☺ but don’t expect everything to go as per the book. Every pregnancy is unique so trust your doctor and go by what he/she is telling you.
- Create your support system- This is true in the case of your personal and professional lives. At work ensure that you start a dialogue about your absence from work with your manager and HR teams well in advance. Keep them updated on your progress, alert them early on if yours is a high risk pregnancy to help them plan your back-fill and support you through your journey. Entrust your team and colleagues with your work and know-how, remember always that whole is always greater than the sum of its parts. On the personal front, find reliable help at home, ask your parents if they can help you for the initial few years of your baby’s life or find good quality day care options that you’re comfortable with. It really does take a village, trust me!
- Level set your own expectations- Ambition is a great accessory but realism is an even better one. Some women can have it all, have a great year at work and get promoted soon after they return from their maternity break but some women can’t. Gauge your own set-up and performance at work and be realistic about what you can and more importantly cannot achieve during your pregnancy year. Have the conversation with your manager and make peace with it.
Pregnancy is the single largest change that a woman experiences in her life and therefore it is imperative that is treated as such. However I’ll reiterate what I’d said earlier, every pregnancy is unique and follows its own course. The most important thing is to enjoy these nine months and find avenues even in the toughest time these nine months happy and hearty! After all, there’s always light at the end of the tunnel and a baby at the end of the baby bump!
Eashwari Deshpande is a multi-tasking working mom based in New Delhi. A marketing and communications professional with a penchant for people and good food, Eashwari can be found having hearty conversations with family, friends and colleagues when she’s not working or minding her six year old!