I’ve always viewed the events of my life too closely. It’s as if the things that happen to me occur inside a shop window, and I’m watching them with my nose pressed up against the glass. When you do that, you lose depth, context. You think when someone is rude on the subway, it must be because you suck and not because they’ve had a bad day or were just told they have cancer. I take photographs the same way. I like face shots, filling the lens with my subject rather than shooting them in their surroundings. So it shouldn’t have surprised me to hear my baby and its placenta have implanted themselves too close to my cervix, the narrow passageway through which the baby exits the womb. The placenta is actually pressing up against my cervix, a condition known as “placenta previa” — or as my husband, Bruce, calls it, “Pasta Primavera.”
Google Health describes “Placenta previa” as a complication of pregnancy in which the placenta grows in the lowest part of the womb (uterus) and covers all or part of the opening to the cervix. I take issue with the word “complication.” It conjures up images of sirens, a heart machine flat-lining and a doctor using a defibrillator.
The Mayo Clinic’s web site is even more dire: Placenta previa is an uncommon pregnancy complication that can cause excessive bleeding before or during delivery. The Mayo folks don’t even bother with a definition. They just skip to the messy consequences.
My doctor said way back when he was a resident, women with this condition were actually hospitalized. For now, he suggested I just take it easy, cut out the three-mile brisk walks, refrain from having sex, and try not to lift anything larger than my cat. He also said in most cases, the placenta moves away from the cervix as the uterus expands, and that he was hopeful that would happen in my case. Yet in my follow-up ultrasound about six weeks after the initial diagnosis, the doctor initially thought the placenta had moved. But then after reviewing my original ultrasound images, he came back a few minutes later and said it actually hadn’t moved much at all. Its nose was still pressing against the edge of my cervix, as if it were trying to look outside.
“Have you had any bleeding,” the doctor asked.
“Nope. None, “ I said. It felt like an achievement.
“If you have any bleeding at all, get yourself to an emergency room. You don’t want to play around with this,” he said.
“Well, how much bleeding do you mean? I don’t want to run to an emergency room for a little spotting, and then have them poke around and do more damage than good,” I said.
“Significant bleeding,” he said.
I hate when I have to use my discretion. I don’t trust my discretion. It’s like hanging out with someone whose judgment you question. I get weak-kneed at the sight of blood so significant to me might be average to someone else. And then sometimes I fear I’m being overly dramatic about a health issue so I’ll underplay it, calling something a flesh wound when I’m dealing with a severed a limb.
I think I’ve actually felt the placenta bulging through my cervix, like a water balloon or a bubble that’s emerging from between my legs. I imagine it starts to fall out of my womb, and I’m dragging around this sack until it falls on the ground and ruptures and everything pours out onto the floor – though at least then I’d know to get myself to a hospital. Worse would be to walk around with a slow leak, like when Bruce once carried home leftovers from an Italian dinner, stopped at a grocery store on his way home, and drunk, didn’t realize he was holding the leftovers sideways. As he walked up and down the grocery aisles, he left a trail of greasy tomato sauce that betrayed everywhere he’d been. I’d hate to be the last one to know my placenta was compromised, like stepping on toilet paper and carrying it around on the bottom of your shoe.
My acupuncturist is convinced he can move my placenta by placing his needles on certain acupuncture points. He puts three needles on the outside of each ear, a needle at the top of my head and several on my wrists and feet. It’s hard to imagine how this could shift a placenta the two centimeters it needs to move, but he says he’s done it for other patients. But then I also thought he could get me pregnant without assisted reproductive technology, and that never happened.
It’s funny that of all my traits, my unborn child would have inherited my habit of viewing life events from too close a vantage point. But then I’m glad he’s got one of my traits at all. By using a younger woman’s eggs to conceive, a woman my age is able to get pregnant, but I’ve had to reconcile the idea that my child will have none of my DNA. And yet this child has somehow picked up my need to park myself front and center, up close and personal, right where the action is, like dogs that always situate themselves in doorways or a student who always sits in the front row. I just hope he doesn’t pay dearly for it.