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10/08/2004

Why I look

Some of you have wisely suggested that I put down the crack pipe stop reading medical information on the Internet. A few of you have pointed out that it's the more alarming stories that turn up there, that the women who had perfectly uneventful outcomes don't feel the need to share their experiences.

And this is true. Sort of.

The fact is, I don't spend much time perusing personal stories. They are too often misspelled, maudlin, or accompanied by annoying MIDI music that I can't turn off. (Hat trick: "Pregnate," "angel babies," "Butterfly Kisses.") No, instead I look to the hardcore, not only the published studies but the lecture notes for student doctors and nurses, the Technicolor photos of what looks like raw meat, the mailing lists for professionals who deal with such cases every day — information that hasn't been processed for deeply neurotic pregnant women who are already scared out of their motherfucking minds the general public.

So the picture I get is unvarnished, but perhaps weighted toward the sensationalistic. And that's okay with me. I am reassured by funny things. Some people derive comfort from believing everything's going to turn out fine. I'm more soothed by knowing that it might not be — or rather by understanding some of what could go wrong.

I can't really explain why this should be. I can't change what's going to happen; I don't see knowledge as some sort of reverse-jinx talisman. And I can't claim that being prepared to hear bad news makes it easier to accept the outcome. It does, however, make it easier for me to meet it with some semblance of grace and calm. The times I've felt most shaken were the times I've been surprised. I've been grateful when I knew what could be coming.

Now for anyone who got here by searching for "placenta previa," hoping for reassurance, I will tell you the other thing I learned in my research: You and your baby will probably be just fine. We will probably be just fine. The majority of babies are born early or small but healthy and well. At this stage in my reproductive life, when so much has gone wrong despite favorable odds, it is hard for me to take comfort in this simple and heartening fact — but I honestly hope the rest of you can, and I certainly think you should.

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