“How do you want to deliver your baby?”
Missing from this inquiry was “How do you (lupus patient) want to deliver your baby (since it is a high risk pregnancy)“?
During my pregnancy, I got close to friends who are pregnant and became friends with pregnant women. What I didn’t do was talk with women with lupus or other chronic illnesses that went through pregnancy. In hindsight, this was a fatal mistake. Experiencing lupus and pregnancy for the first time, I had no idea what to expect. So I walked the path with women whose pregnancies were not complicated by an illness. But mine was a high-risk pregnancy and I was not normal. I should have prepared differently.
By my sixth month, I had announced my pregnancy to everyone I knew. I was also visibly pregnant. What was not visible, however, was my illness. No one could tell I was sick, and I did not know better being that I was recently diagnosed. So I concerned myself with buying strollers, baby carriers, diaper bags, and breast pumps. I fretted over what kind of food I should avoid. I continued to work and planned on how I would be returning to work after my maternity leave. I decided that while home birth is not possible, I was going to try doing a natural birth without an epidural. I attended birthing classes focused on pain management. I looked for a doula. I was doing everything that other “normal” pregnant moms-to-be were doing.
This is what I SHOULD have been doing. I should have lined up a clear communication channel between my gynecologist and my rheumatologist so cooperatively, they are able to monitor my symptoms. I should have fretted over what types of medicine I could take and when I might need them. Even though I could hope for a natural birth, I should have prepared for a c-section since most lupus pregnancy end in preterm birth. I should have learned of complications such as preeclampsia, since 1 out of 3 lupus births end in preeclampsia. I should have researched NICUs. I should not have been so tied to the idea of breastfeeding. I should have prepared myself for the fact that I might be unable to care for my baby and lined up help, lots of help. I should have learned to pace myself.
While nothing can really prepare you for the birth of your baby, I certainly feel that if my focus had been better aligned, the outcome of my first year of motherhood would have been very different. And, I would not have suffered such a life threatening lupus flare. I don’t have many regrets in my life, but I do regret not be better prepared for this pregnancy.