I have spent the majority of my life not being pregnant. I’m pretty familiar with non-pregnancy. It’s just been the past four months or so of my life that I have dealt with whiplash moods, ambivalent feelings about food, and wondering just how big my belly is going to get. Bigger than a basketball. Bigger than a beach ball. Bigger than a hot air balloon, probably. I’m going to have to live outside with a chain tethered to my ankle so I don’t blow away.
My sister is also pregnant, and she is due at the end of April. I have followed along as she went to various doctor appointments, had ultrasounds, and got nutrition and diet advice. It seemed like she had been to the doctor two or three times and had an ultrasound before she was even six weeks, when she told our parents that she was having a baby.
So when we learned that I was pregnant, I called the local maternity center to make an initial appointment. Usually, they take a blood test, confirm that you are pregnant, answer your questions, and send you on your way. I figured that is what would happen when I made my call.
“Okay, we’ll see you in ten weeks,” the lady on the phone said.
“Huh…wha?” I sputtered. “Ten weeks, really?”
“Well, there’s really not to much to do, so early in the pregnancy,” she said. “And I hate to say it, but many women don’t make it through the first ten weeks.”
I was stunned. I mean, I had heard that some doctors and practices don’t want to see you until later. And yes, I knew that the risk of miscarriage is very high in the first ten weeks. But it just seemed so starkly uninvested to not bother seeing a pregnant woman because “she would probably lose the baby anyway.”
“Well, I have questions about nutrition and stuff like that. They really don’t want to see me for ten weeks?”
“I can put you in touch with the nurse on-call and you can talk to her.”
I declined. I was just so stunned. And I had a LOT of questions. Like, I wanted to sit and talk to someone. My sister’s doctor told her to not eat any fish during her pregnancy. NO FISH. Nothing that comes from the water. I wanted to ask about that. Surely the advice would be different up here. But why? And who would be right?
And also, I really just wanted an actual doctor or medical professional to actually tell me I was actually, really pregnant. Really. I mean, the pee test was positive, and my boobs felt like throbbing nuclear warheads. So I figured I was pregnant. But it was almost like we didn’t want to dare hope until we had some authority look at me and say “Yep, you’re knocked up.”
I was already reading pregnancy boards and getting terrible advice online. Let me tell you something: Those women are fucking crazy. If you ever want to transition yourself from a state of calm, happy bliss to one of raging anxiety and hysteria, go read pregnancy advice online.
And that was, basically, what the local maternity center told me to do. They didn’t want to see me until after ten weeks. I was on my own until then. No confirmation of the pregnancy, no diet or nutrition advice, no medical guidance.
The more I learned about everything going on in the first trimester, the more frothy and pissed off I became. First trimester is really the most delicate time, and when nutrition is really fricken important. I wondered how many pregnant women were out there aimlessly wondering whether or not they should eat any fish. Fish is really important! It’s brain food! But how would anyone know?
I also got more and more pissed off at the casual, fatalistic cynicism that it wasn’t worth going in to see a doctor before ten weeks because the likelihood of miscarriage is so high. Ah yes, it saves so much time not to bother with all those pregnant ladies before we know they are “really” pregnant. It was like being told not to get our hopes up, because, well, the pregnancy was probably not going to “stick.”
I know it happens, no matter how much you may hope it won’t. And when you have a miscarriage that early, it’s not from the mother “doing something wrong.” It’s almost always chromosomal or biological. But even if the risk is high, isn’t it worth starting out every pregnancy informed and educated? Wouldn’t it be nice to have a doctor sit in a quiet room and explain those risks, instead of having the receptionist run interference over the phone?
You know, all I wanted was a goddamned pamphlet telling me what was okay to eat and what is not okay to eat. Really. I’m not a dummy, and I know that information is “out there,” but I wanted to hear it from them, and I wanted to question why there is such a wide range of conflicting advice.
I wanted to know why my sister was told not to eat any fish, but other doctors say something different. What vitamins should I take? The standard is 400mg of Vitamin D a day, but lately, they are saying up to 4000mg of Vitamin D may be good. I’m taking more calcium, but should I also take more iron than what is in the prenatal? How about if I’ve always been a little anemic? Are fish oil pills okay? They say no mercury on them, but they also say to consult a goddamned doctor if pregnant or nursing. You assholes.