Here is my story, which begins with a story about my sister.
My sister Lisa and her husband Chase were married in September of 2008. Before taking steps to try to conceive, it was recommended Lisa be checked out by a gynecologist. It was then she received a diagnosis that changed the course of her life.
After receiving this news, she continuously told me I should see a doctor. She would periodically ask me if I had made an appointment, to which I would always say ''I know, I know, I will do it!'' I had no plans to have children anytime soon, so I felt like I had time.
The problem is, I had signs that something was wrong, but ignored them. Nothing big, just very bad cramps, heavy periods. In 2011 the company I worked for offered a physical which included a blood draw. I received a call that everything was normal, but I had low iron levels. It was not severe, but I should see my family doctor and begin iron supplements. I had recently been on a diet in which I ate no meat and because of my lack of knowledge about nutrition at the time I assumed this was the reason. I tried eating foods with a higher iron content, and went on with my life.
I then went to a mission school in Mozambique, Africa. While I was in Mozambique I had one menstrual cycle that made me so weak I was in bed for two days with what seemed like a much worse sickness. In the back of my mind I knew it was the iron deficiency, but wasn't sure what to do about it. Upon returning to the states, I still had the symptoms, but back on my American diet, it was never that bad again.
Fast forward a year, I had gotten married and was working in a preschool. Periodically I would have pains so bad I could not walk. I had to call in a few times because of this. I thought it was possibly bad gas or constipation, but still did not get it checked.
A few months later I became pregnant. I was so overjoyed with the news, but was heartbroken at around 6 weeks when I began bleeding and was told I had what was called a fibroid tumor. The doctors believed I was miscarrying and sent me home. To my delight I found out one week and two days later that it was a misdiagnosis. The fibroid however was growing at such a rate that it had caused a subchorionic hematoma (a large pocket of blood). Every symptom I had shown was a symptom of uterine fibroid.
This fibroid was also weakening my uterus and causing me to be severely anemic. I was followed as a high risk patient. My hopes of a birthing center birth were all but gone.
Then, at twenty weeks and one day, about one week after I was cleared to do regular activity again, my water broke.
To this day they have no real clear reason my water broke. It could have been the fibroid or the hematoma.
I found quite a few articles about anemia causing weakening of the amniotic sac.
I spent 6 weeks on bed rest and at twenty six weeks and one day Olive Elizabeth was born. Two pounds, two ounces. Fighting to breath because of the lack of lung development. She spent five months in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. She was on oxygen support of some sort for seven months because of her lungs. Recently a simple cough put her in the hospital for six days.
|Olive at 6 days old, the first time I was allowed to hold her.|
I have let go of any guilt. I don't blame myself because there is no real evidence that I could have changed anything. I just look at my beautiful, healthy daughter and feel incredibly accomplished and overwhelmed with love.
But there is always that ''what if'' in the back of my mind, though.
What if I had gone to the doctor? What if I had dealt with the anemia before becoming pregnant? What if I would have had the tumor removed before trying to conceive?
The March of Dimes recommends that women who have had difficult pregnancies or who have delivered prematurely speak with their doctors before trying to conceive again to try to lower the risk of a second premature birth.
Like my sister, I recommend any woman get checked out whether you plan to have children or not. If you are planning to have children, get yourself checked out before trying to conceive. While I realize some problems are unforeseen and some things just happen, I can tell you from experience that if you don't get checked, you will wonder.
I also would ask that those of you who know someone who is trying to conceive please encourage them to be seen. A friend, spouse, daughter, sister, cousin. It doesn't matter.For me, if one woman reads this and decides to get checked out, I will feel incredibly accomplished. Please share my story.
For those who were wondering about my sister's diagnosis and story, you can find it here: