There are various studies that have suggested a link between autism and pregnancy complications, though they’re not particularly strong (this meta-analysis sums it up reasonably well). I had complications with my pregnancy, which I’m going to share in this post, but I don’t want people thinking this means I believe in a causal link; this post is part of the story of my autistic son’s life, which was difficult before it even began. I’ve shared parts of his birth story before, in this post about his neonatal jaundice, and this post about the after-birth. I appear to be writing this in chronologically reverse order! So here’s the story of what came before…
I got pregnant in my final year of law school. It was planned that way – I desperately wanted a child with my husband, but had timed the birth for after the completion of my degree. I sat my final exams at about seven months pregnant. I was working a couple of part-time jobs at law school during my pregnancy, as well as doing full-time study. I was a busy mummy-to-be, but I thought that with enough planning I could make it all work.
From the start, there were problems. I’d had a positive pregnancy test but I was regularly bleeding. The doctor warned me that I’d probably had a miscarriage. When it turned out I was still pregnant, and the bleeding continued on a daily basis, I was sent to have a blood test to see what was going on with my hormone levels (to see if the baby was likely to “stick around”). They weren’t going up as expected and I was warned that I might have an ectopic pregnancy, which is to say, not only was I going to lose the baby, but my own life was in danger.
Needless to say, they were wrong. But there was still the problem of the bleeding – what was causing it? Later a scan would confirm that I had placenta previa – my placenta was partially over my cervix. In fact, my placenta was also in about three parts, so all round it was being unhelpfully funky. Placenta previa can be life threatening to both baby and mother – as was true in my case. So through-out my pregnancy I had to be careful about what movement I made, and generally “take it easy”. Every so often I’d have more extensive bleeding and I’d have to wait to hear the baby’s heart-beat before everyone was reassured again that the baby was still OK (I got to hear the baby’s heartbeat a lot throughout the pregnancy, and I got many more scans than an average pregnancy too).
Placenta previa usually corrects itself as the pregnancy progresses – the placenta shifts further up the uterus wall. But mine was stubborn and refusing to shift as the final months arrived, so my midwife booked me in for a c-section. I’d be warned from early on in the pregnancy that I should expect to have a c-section, and had focused on reading about and mentally preparing for it. I often spoke to my unborn baby and told him to just hang on; we just had to make it to the c-section date without bleeding out, and then we could be together.
Close to the date of the surgery, they did another scan, that this time revealed the placenta had shifted enough away from the opening of my cervix that it would be safe for me to attempt a normal birth. (Even though the surgery was cancelled, someone forgot to tell the medical team: On the day I was meant to be having the c-section I got a call from them asking where I was, that the team was ready to proceed and waiting on me!)
A couple of weeks after that, my waters broke. What happened after that (leading up to, and the birth itself) is also a bit of a disaster story, and I’ll leave it for a future fourth installment.
Suffice to say, nothing went as planned for me – not the pregnancy, not the birth, not the afterbirth, not the weeks that followed. And obviously, not the years after that either. Even when I planned for the changes to my plans (such as the c-section instead of the natural delivery), those new plans would also go out the window. I’ll always be the type of person who plans out her life – sometimes to the minute – but life doesn’t always pay attention to my efforts: Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.