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You know that desire you get to tell your worst medical story when someone else has gotten hurt? You just can't help it—my best is getting bit by a dog in Jamaica as a college student and then having to get rabies shots for a month. Classic. I also had meningitis as a kid — I'm the Girl Who Lived! But many adults don't have a terrifying medical story until they get pregnant and give birth. Childbirth is often the worst (and arguably the best, I suppose) thing, medically speaking, that happens to adult women and some of their partners if they are experiencing a sympathetic pregnancy.
It's totally natural for other women to want to give advice and tell me horrible things that happened to them during pregnancy—just as it's natural for me to click on things online that I think might be helpful only to find them horrifying. My best friend told me under no circumstances during early pregnancy to read any birth chapters in pregnancy books: "You don't need to know that right now. Seriously." So I heeded that advice but sadly, I ended up miscarrying my first pregnancy. Now I am 27 weeks along and feel more and more each day that this baby is doing well, so maybe it's time I explore more about pregnancy. Oh, how I long for the olden days where you might have died during childbirth but at least you didn't have to live with hearing things like:
"Oh your abs can totally split in half and you can just look pregnant for the rest of your life. Happened to my friend. I mean they can stitch them up eventually when you're done having kids so don't worry about it!" Great, but in the meantime you just walk around looking permanently pregnant? WTF?
"Yeah ... I got gestational diabetes and it usually goes away after pregnancy, but mine stuck around. Now I have diabetes." I live in fear that I will get gestational diabetes because I'm half black and overweight, nevermind that the person who told me this is white and slim as a rail and a yoga teacher.
The Internet is marvelous and dangerous when it comes to medical information particularly around pregnancy and childbirth.
"My daughter was in labor for over 60 hours!" Not six, not sixteen — SIXTY.
"I had an emergency C-section and it was horrible. Everything was messed up for a long time down there." I thought having a C-section spared your lady bits. Not so.
"My hair fell out after the baby was born. I was bald and patchy all along my hairline." Oh. My. God.
"My teeth were ruined." Not my perfect pearly whites!
"I got preeclampsia and I just swelled and swelled and swelled. It was awful." I thought preeclampsia was just an old timey "Downton Abbey" thing but, nope, it happens in modern times.
"I wanted to have natural labor but I had a placental abruption and had to have an emergency C-section." The words 'placenta' and 'abruption' sound really really awful together, don't they?
"I was able to give birth vaginally but I got ripped apart. Torn up." No one wants to hear that. No one.
On one hand, I want to be armed with knowledge but on the other hand, horrors. These are not things that this expectant mother wants to hear. So that's fine, I've stopped asking people questions because I obviously can't handle the answers. Now I just have to stop clicking on things on the interwebs. A writer I normally find highly amusing and touching penned a piece on post-delivery and I found my eyes welling with tears and fears. Is that what awaits me? What have I gotten myself into? The Internet is marvelous and dangerous when it comes to medical information particularly around pregnancy and childbirth. But it's not just medical information from professionals, it's anecdotal, which is far more terrifying.
As I'm writing this, I realize I've become the thing that I hate. I have just shared the worst things I've heard and I couldn't help myself. So perhaps that's the reason women feel compelled to share their nightmare pregnancy stories; they want you to know the worst that happened to them and think that somehow it might make you feel better.
I want to share my experience because I am sure there are plenty of other pregnant ladies out there listening politely to horror stories, while thinking, "For the love of God, please stop talking right now!" But we don't have to just think it, it is OK to tell people you don't want to hear any more of their terrifying tale. I had a friend start telling me about her horrible C-section at a wedding after hearing I will most likely be having a C-section. I almost had to physically restrain her to keep her from continuing the story. So I leave you with that, dear reader: If someone is assaulting you with something you would rather not hear, you have the right to tell them to remain silent.
Do you like to hear these kinds of stories? Are you a pregnancy terror tale-teller? Let me know in the comments below!