In Nadine Bubeck’s debut book, “Expecting Perfect: My Bumpy Journey to Mommyhood,” the West Coast newscaster-turned-mompreneur describes her first pregnancy from its conception until she is finally at home with her child. Bubeck and her husband are both admitted “perfectionists” who want everything to be smooth sailing through her pregnancy. But while striving for a flawless pregnancy, they, unfortunately, encounter many rough roads along the way.
Before Bubeck begins her novel, her obstetrician and gynecologist Dr. JulieAnn Heathcott writes in the forward that her patient develops the condition called placenta previa. So while the reader knows right away that Bubeck will develop this condition — in which the placenta partially or wholly blocks the neck of the uterus, thus interfering with normal delivery — the way she leads up to that moment in her pregnancy, and how she endures it, creates suspense as her story unfolds.
The placenta is a vital organ to the fetus during pregnancy. According to WebMD, “The placenta is the organ created during pregnancy to nourish the fetus, remove its waste, and produce hormones to sustain the pregnancy … The placenta supplies the fetus with oxygen and nutrition and removes waste from the fetus and transfer it to the mother. The fetus is attached to the placenta by the umbilical cord … and is usually attached to the upper part of the uterus, away from the cervix, the opening which the baby passes through the delivery.”
Placenta previa occurs when the placenta lies low in the uterus, partly or completely blocking the cervix. Dr. Heathcott describes the positioning of the previa into three different categories:
“A marginal previa occurs when the placenta comes close to the cervix but does not cover it; a partial previa has part of the cervix covered by the placenta; and a complete previa occurs when the entire cervix is covered by the thicker part of the placenta. A complete previa is the most worrisome for causing maternal hemorrhage and the most dangerous for risking the life of the mother and the unborn child.”
Placenta previa is usually first diagnosed in mothers during an ultrasound at 18 to 20 weeks. In most mothers, as the baby grows and the uterus stretches upward, the placenta migrates with the uterus and ends up clearing the cervix, creating a space for the child to be delivered.
Bubeck, however, was diagnosed with a complete previa, in which her placenta remained near her cervix until she was ready to conceive. This situation happens in about one in 200 pregnancies. Bubeck finds out about her placenta previa during her 20-week ultrasound. She is told not to engage in any strenuous exercise or stay on her feet for long periods of time. She is told that if she can deliver her baby at 34 weeks or later, she will have a chance at giving birth to a healthy child.
While the doctor’s forward indicates that Bubeck successfully delivers her child, the days leading up to the 34-week mark are chaotic. Like a news reporter, Bubeck delivers all the medical facts about what is happening to her body and adds to it an emotional roller coaster when she starts to hemorrhage at the end of her second trimester. She discloses absolutely everything that happens to her and her body during what seems to be a nightmarish pregnancy. As she dates each entry she recalls, the book reads like a diary, thanks to her candid writing style.
The book has pictures in the middle of it which show Bubeck, her husband, and newborn son happily leaving the hospital together, so I’m not giving away the ending to the story. I did, however, feel surprised by the amount of stress she endures when her baby is wheeled off to the neonatal intensive care unit after her caesarean birth.
Although she does deliver her son at a safe 34 weeks, her baby still struggles with some health issues. Her depiction of her baby’s condition in the neonatal intensive care unit really shows how emotionally debilitating it can be for parents when they deliver pre-term babies.
While on bed rest, Bubeck spends a lot of time discussing her relationship with her husband, how they met, and their love and respect for each other. She also discloses her difficult childhood when her parents divorced. She writes her story with the perspective of someone who has endured a painful experience, but has learned, like her other family members, that in the end anger and resentment give nobody relief.
By the time the book ends, you’re cheering for Bubeck and her family to have “a happily ever after” following a harrowing pregnancy that is assuaged by a very capable hospital staff, as well as a supporting and loving family.
Allison Plitt is a frequent contributor to NY Parenting and lives in Queens with her 10-year old daughter.
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