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Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Fetal Survival Rates Week to Week

When I was 16 weeks pregnant, I suffered a massive hemorrhage and was diagnosed with placental abruption. My gyno, being the chronically negative fatalist (and therefore also attributing the issue to my obesity and/or other myriad issues which had convenient diagnosis codes) told me "not to sneeze" in order to keep my half-baked little guy alive. How, oh how, did I pass the time? By obsessing over fetal survival rates, what else? I scoured the internet for any and all scientific and statistical data to keep myself from rocking back and forth in the corner of a cryogenic freezer with a cork between my legs. Turns out, my gyno's scare tactics were completely rash, and actually did more in the way of frazzling my already frayed nerves. Doctors don't know it all––and can be total assholes by not knowing it all––while pretending to know it all, and being assholes while pretending to know it all.

While this might seem morbid and a bit alarmist, I found this fetal survival rate chart and kept it open on my computer screen at all times––I was so glued to my couch I think it started to merge with the epidermal layer of my ass skin––so it wasn't too much trouble to scrutinize it at all hours of the day and night.

Actually, it brought me a sick level of comfort. I pressed my face up against my computer screen sometimes like it was the glass case around Zoltar, hoping I could change my fortune. I bore my eyes into the tiny little percentages, squinting until the zeros looked like eights and the fives looked like sixes (you get the idea); I was a like a jilted waitress half considering getting my pen out to draw in some barely perceptible lines to boost the numbers on a bad tip.

And then when I tired of looking at the numbers (said no high-risk pregnant woman, ever) I imagined his emaciated, raw chicken-looking arm dangling from some beeping and hissing high-tech contraption in the shape of an oversize hot-dog bun––something like those iron lung machines where only the person's head is sticking out of the other end. I couldn't help but think, Please God, if I can only get him to this point, that'll be just fine.

But then there was an even darker side: devoid of photos of babies at this gestational age, I became obsessed with Google images. I trolled the images for a glimpse of what my 17, 20, 23.5, 24-week fetus looked like––even if those images were of miscarried babies or scientific studies. In a way, I was mentally preparing myself for the worst––the, At least I'll know what to expect in the worst-case-scenario so I can think I have control over my experience, kind of reasoning––the same way I looked at images of brain tumors before my brother went in for brain surgery.

Amellia Taylor was born two weeks before the legal abortion limit weighing only 10 oz!
At the just the length of a pen, Baby Amellia gave me hope.
As soon as I hit 21w5.5 days, I was shivering with hope that I had at least a 0-10% chance of having a baby that could, by some miracle, be kept alive by a NASA-type concoction. I scoured the internet for examples of babies who had survived before 24 weeks––even though there were very few cases, I found that Baby Amellia Taylor was born two weeks before the legal abortion limit and survived! After being told my chances for conceiving would be "like winning the lottery," I was more comfortable than most with believing in miracles.

I also found this great website, which details what your baby would look like/weigh/act like at each respective week (if born prematurely).

Here are some milestones to aim for:

24 weeks: Official age of viability––doctors will resuscitate micro-preemies born after this point. Babies at this stage are about a pound and will need extensive respiratory support, but survival rates tip the scales at over 50 percent.

27-28 weeks: Babies at this stage have an amazing chance of survival, especially if the mama happens to get a steroid shot to develop the lungs. This was a biggie for me because one of my best friends was born at 28 weeks. Even though she jokes that her first baby pics were less than desirable, she is fabulous in every way and doesn't have any long term effects.

30 weeks: HELLO 30 weeks! Getting out of the 20s is brutal as hell. Babies at this stage start to get brain grooves.

34 weeks: My gyno told me that they wouldn't stop spontaneous labor at this point. Hell yeah! Since I had been told that I would likely deliver early, I even cut the tags off and washed every little baby outfit/washcloth/blanket, only to re-wash them again because I ended up sitting on my ass until 40w3d.