Being pregnant while living abroad is an eye-opening experience all on its own. Fears about health care quality, maternity leave policies, and child care options are overwhelming in one’s country of origin and often those fears double when you are in a less familiar setting, away from home, and unable to communicate easily with others. Jeneice Lusk shares the first part a deeply personal story of her high risk pregnancy while living in Japan.
(Warning: the following contains sensitive content on issues related to infertility, miscarriages, and infant loss.)
We found out we were pregnant in November 2015. Considering our infertility struggles and previous miscarriage in January 2015, our doctor was cautious and only gave us the green light to claim the pregnancy around seven or eight weeks. The pregnancy was mainly uneventful. I had severe preeclampsia with my daughter (I delivered at thirty-two weeks) so when I started having preeclampsia symptoms around the beginning of my second trimester I was admitted to the hospital for observation for a few days.
My blood pressure was controlled with rest and relaxation, and there wasn’t any proteinuria at that time so I begged to be released and went home to resume my pregnancy. From that point everything was fine: I was gaining weight, my belly was expanding exponentially, and each ultrasound showed a healthy little baby boy.
A Complicated Trip
Things started to get more complicated in March of this year. My mother passed on the 7th and I was faced with the decision to go to the US for her funeral service or stay in Japan and miss the funeral. We decided to let the doctor’s approval be the deciding factor. She said yes, gave some medical instruction and we booked the flights. From the beginning, however, my body was under too much strain. I was aching and swelling all over. It was early in my pregnancy (about twenty weeks) and I didn’t want to seem like I was over-overreacting but I knew the preeclampsia was amping up.
It took a lot to enlist help from family during my week in the US, which pushed me to try even harder to force myself into a regular, normal healthy pregnancy. This was a big mistake. Know your body, know your limits, and ignore people who obviously don’t know you. I made it through the week, but my return trip was excruciatingly painful and tiring. During the longest flight, thirteen hours from Chicago to Tokyo, the swelling, headache, and general feeling of malaise settled in. I was swollen from my toes to my bottom. I was having regular Braxton-Hicks contractions and baby Keegan was even doing extra tumbles to complain. I had my next prenatal appointment the day after I returned and I was nervous. My husband massaged the swollen areas, I continued to drink tons of water but I wasn’t bouncing back as usual. I knew something was wrong.