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Normal...Is There Such A Thing?

I’m feeling much better after last week’s scare—thanks to everyone for the support and kind words. After a visit to the doctor today and hearing #2’s strong, steady heartbeat, I’m reassured that things are going as planned. And, as with everything, there’s a silver lining: I’m trying to take things easier and respect this pregnancy more. I also learned a valuable lesson about trying to do everything on my own—not such a great idea. There’s nothing wrong with asking for help when I need it, and I’ve promised myself (and E, and #2) I’m going to do just that next time around.

What exactly happened? I’m still not sure, and my doctor wasn’t able to offer much insight. “It’s normal,” he said, patting my shoulder reassuringly. “Try not to worry.” But what IS normal when it comes to pregnancy? Is there such a thing? Part of my reluctance to call for help last week was that somewhere beyond the pain and the fear, I secretly suspected that what I was experiencing wasn’t anything out of the ordinary—and that there was nothing anyone could do about it.

Pregnancy is supposed to be hard. It prepares us for motherhood, right? Ultimately, I was correct—there was no immediate cause for concern. But how are pregnant women—brain-addled by hormones as we inevitably are—supposed to tell the difference between what’s “normal” and what really is a sign that something’s wrong?

My grandmother confided that she experienced an episode similar to mine when she was pregnant with her second son (my uncle, and now very much alive and well.)

 “We were in Lake Arrowhead, nowhere near any doctors or hospitals,” she recalled. “I was so scared, but I didn’t tell a soul. I just curled up in bed for two days and kept my legs crossed as tight as I could.” (Note: Genetics might have something to do with my stubborn, independent streak…)

“What was wrong?” I asked her.

She shrugged. “Nothing, I guess. I never asked. Once it was over, it was over.”

A quick poll of my friends turned up more evidence that all kinds of nasty symptoms are considered “normal” during pregnancy. More often than not, our panicked calls to the doctor result in some arm-patting and some “there-theres,” but not much else.  It reminds me of those long lists of potential side effects on television commercials: “May cause dizziness, nausea, vomiting, headache, back pain, diarrhea, partial blindness or temporary insanity.” Kind of makes you forget the problem you were going to take the medicine for in the first place. Pregnancy is like that: there are so many side effects you can almost forget what’s really going on in there: a brand new baby is taking shape. Which really isn’t supposed to be comfortable.

Still, it would be nice to know what exactly makes up the spectrum of a “normal” pregnancy. In this internet-dependent world, it’s easy to go online and scare yourself to death by plugging symptoms into search engines and coming up with every dire diagnosis possible. (Though to be fair, reading What to Expect is a very similar experience…) Wouldn’t it be nice if there was website called You’  that listed statistics on women having symptoms just like yours going on to deliver normal, healthy babies? Or how about one called that told you whether your concerns were valid, or if you were just tired, over-doing it, or being unnecessarily neurotic?

Even if it’s not the wisest choice, sometimes when we’re scared and overwhelmed, we don’t want to call the doctor just to be told what we’re feeling is “normal.” Because what does that mean anyway? Easier said than believed in the heat of the moment. When what we really want is to curl up in a ball, close our eyes, and wait for it all to be over. Or to call a girlfriend and hear “Hey, don’t worry. That happened to me, too. It’s….”

Yeah, OK. I get it. It’s normal.