Not too long ago, as I was sitting down to take a late night Yin Yoga class, a pregnant woman rolled out her mat and sat down right next to me.
At first I was thinking how wonderful it was that she was taking this time to relax and enjoy the beautiful shape of her pregnant body ― but this changed when she began to speak.
The yoga Instructor asked her how far along she was. She smiled and said “I’m 19 weeks today” and then she said this:
“My f*****g doctor put me on bed rest and it’s bulls**t, so I came here to get out of the house!”
I felt myself start to hyperventilate.
She then said:
“He told me that I could go into labor at any minute and I should sit in my bed for as many hours of the day as possible and always have someone available to drive me to the hospital, but I refuse to do that.”
I now felt myself tense up and start to sweat.
You see ― I hemorrhaged and almost died at 17 weeks (and again at 19 and 21 weeks) pregnant because of placenta percreta and I was on strict bed rest from 17 weeks on.
I could have died and left behind my three beautiful little boys, as well as lost my tiny daughter growing in my womb at the time, and the order to remain in my bed was the only thing that prevented any of things from happening.
Every time I rolled over I would feel the blood gushing out of me, along with the hope of surviving and carrying my pregnancy to term.
This is how I lived ― constantly having IVs deliver me transfused blood in a hospital bed, from 17 weeks until I reached 23 weeks gestation and until I experienced my final hemorrhage, one that required an emergency caesarian ― accompanied by the surgeon separating my placenta from both my bowels and bladder because it attached to them after it grew through my uterus.
And to top if off, I also required a hysterectomy and over 30 units of blood to remain alive.
This was nothing compared to what my daughter had to go through.
She was born at 23 weeks gestation ― at just one pound and four ounces (575 grams) and was not even as long as a ruler.
My daughter fought to say alive while enduring countless intravenous lines in her veins and near her heart, X-rays, infections, medications, procedures, pain and more. Because of her extremely premature birth, she needed to remain in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) for 121 days.
While I had experienced a terrible and life threatening ordeal, it was not even comparable to what my precious baby has to endure, so I take pregnancy-induced bed rest very seriously!
I want to be the first person to acknowledge that my experience forever changed the way I view many things and that most other people (thankfully!) will not have to experience what I did, so they simply cannot comprehend that magnitude and dangers of a premature birth.
I will also acknowledge that many women are pushed into a state of disbelief and denial when they are prescribed pregnancy-induced bed rest. I fell victim to this as well. I did not want to believe that anything bad could happen to me or my growing baby. I already had three successful and full-term pregnancies prior to my fourth and last and everything always turned out well.
Could it be that this woman was in denial?
Maybe she just did not know anyone who had an extremely premature baby and watched it suffer or gain angel wings?
Maybe she was not properly educated on the dangers both her and her baby may face if she in fact went into labor “at any minute” as her doctor warned her could happen?
Maybe she didn’t use Google to research the plethora of things that could happen to her baby if she delivered him/her early?
That is what I would like to think, at least.
I also want to admit that women who experiences a life-threatening pregnancy and/or a premature birth are known to suffer from a type Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) that is just now being studied and understood.
I suffered from this.
While it took me over a year to realize why certain sights and smells would put me into a bad mood or how certain songs popular at the time of my pregnancy and delivery would play on the radio and I would start to sweat or breathe fast- I eventually realized that I had a mild version of PTSD ― although it didn’t always seem mild.
This is why I started going to Yin Yoga two years ago. I wanted and needed a way and a place that did not remind me of the high-risk pregnancy unit or the NICU. I wanted and needed a place where I could just be calm and listen to my body and myself.
For two years this Yin Yoga class helped me more than I can explain.
Having four children does not leave a lot of time to exercise and reflect.
I needed to do much of my healing on my own time and on my own terms, and my Yin class was my safe place- until this night.
So what I wanted to say to this woman was:
· You should listen to your doctor’s orders and stay in your bed as much as humanly possible because each day your baby can stay inside your womb gives him/her a better chance at survival.
· 19 weeks is too early to deliver and there is no chance that your baby will survive before 22/23 weeks gestation.
· “In babies born preterm, the chance of survival at less than 23 weeks is close to zero, while at 23 weeks it is 15%, at 24 weeks 55% and at 25 weeks about 80%.” (latest statistic from tommys.org)
· Babies born as micro preemies (before 26 weeks gestation like my daughter) are at an extremely high risk for Anemia, Apnea, Chronic Lung Disease, Septic Infections, Intraventricular hemorrhage (IVH), Jaundice, Necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC- a deadly disease in only premature babies where the intestines die off), Patent ductus arteriosus (PDA- a hole near the heart that hasn’t closed yet), Respiratory Distress Syndrome (RDS- inability to breath unassisted for a long time requiring ventilation), Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP- a disease that affects the baby’s eyesight) and many other diseases that are unique to premature babies.
· My daughter was born at 23 weeks gestation after six weeks of bed rest and I can honestly say that she would not be alive if she were born any earlier.
· Pregnancy-induced bed rest is TEMPORARY.
· The most it can last is 41 weeks, if you’re lucky.
· You want your bed rest to last at least 37 weeks.
· I understand that it’s frustrating being forced to sit in a bed while everyone lives their lives around you, but you must understand that it is for the good of your baby and it will end with a precious reward.
Actually there are a lot of other things I wanted to say to her that I simply cannot write about here ― but you get the point!
Although I wanted to say all of those things, I said nothing.
I was dealing with all of the emotions I once felt as they all came flooding back into my memory and it took a lot of breathing to just focus on remaining calm.
I did not know this woman and I did not want to give her advice that she did not ask for, although she may have needed. If I were prepared to hear what she said, then I may have been in a better state of mind to offer advice.
She stopped discussing her pregnancy as soon as we said our three “Oms” and I was able to complete my Yin class. Once it was over, I ran out the door to my car and sat there for a while trying to process what I heard and how I reacted.
You see- although my daughter is now doing well despite her extremely premature birth and the Chronic Lung Disease it left her with- I still feel like I could have done more to remain pregnant longer.
That is my issue.
I still wish I were more educated about the dangers of placenta precreta caused by my three previous caesarian sections, before I agreed to have them.
That is my issue.
What I came to realize, and must remind myself often, is that we each have fears and regrets that we carry with us everywhere, including yoga classes.
We just need to live our lives and treat others and ourselves as best as we can and we should think about our words before they leave our bodies.
I decided that if I see her at another Yin class, I will gently approach her at the end and introduce myself as someone who has been in her shoes and see if she opens up.
In hindsight, where everything seems to come to light but is usually too late, I believe that she may have been angrily announcing her bed rest to the group because she had not had time to accept it yet and she may have even been looking for someone to listen.
She might have been scared.
I wish I was in the place to listen the first time but I was not.
If I see her again, I will be.
For more information on pregnancy induced bed rest, premature births and to purchase my book “From Hope to Joy: A Memoir of a Mother’s Determination and Her Micro Preemie’s Struggle to Beat the Odds” about my journey with prematurity and my daughter’s success, please visit my website at www.micropreemie.net.