My Statistically Unlovable-Improbable 3rd Child

I am an O- mom entering the last ten weeks of pregnancy, so it is time for my beloved Rhogam shot. For those of you who are not Rh negative, you may not be familiar with the risk associated with delivering Rh+ babies. Essentially my body is full of antibodies developed to combat any baby born with Rh+ blood. Enter Rhogam. This miraculous drug, developed just 40 years ago, is injected into my large pregnant gluteus maximus before each new baby is delivered and then again within 72 hours post-birth with an Rh+ baby. It saves these babies. They would otherwise be susceptible to brain damage, organ failure or even death.

Receiving this shot prompted me to reflect on the blood types of our three children – the first is always safe because your body has not yet generated the dangerous antibodies, but our eldest emerged O+, so my body produced the antibodies then. Number 2 is O-, so he was safe. But Number 3! He is O+ and very well might not have been born healthily without Rhogam’s protection. If I were a woman in the developing world, or a woman without healthcare coverage, this little boy could have died. He is an articulate 2-year-old with massive brown eyes and silky hair who looks and acts like his father and holds my heart in the palm of his hand.. alive because of our blessed circumstances.

Then, I found precious free time to read a National Geographic article on Brazil’s shrinking family size. This article is part of a series that the magazine is running in “honor?”/ “terror” of the milestone of Earth’s population reaching 7 billion. The author maintained a fairly neutral position on small versus large family size, but she made it very clear that Brazil’s ability to lower its national birth rate from 4.2 to 1.9 (below replacement value — cheer!) in just 40 years is viewed as a success by demographers worldwide. 1.9, hmm, 1.9 I kept thinking..  that number also would have eliminated my precious clay-faced Number 3. If I were a statistically average woman in Brazil, I never would have birthed this little guy. The article profiled woman after woman who proudly touted her tubal ligation at age 24 as a real liberation from the difficulties associated with raising more than one or two children. It was explained that two is viewed as socially acceptable only if there is one of each gender. But us!? We had that desired couple. One girl, one boy, and we went for it. We received the most precocious, big-brother-loving toddler I have ever encountered. How dare these “promising statistics” dissuade any woman from meeting her amazing third child. OK, so maybe I was taking this a bit personally, but I am an emotional pregnant woman treasuring the final months of this little guy being the baby.

Really, as my husband and I have continued to live this exhiliratingly terrifying journey of being open to life I am grateful for the gift of each new soul under our roof. I am grateful for the sledgehammers over the head like Rhogam shots and self-centered Brazilian woman for refocusing me on what a precious gift from God each of our children is.

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  • Mary Alice

    My O- grandmother didn’t have those shots, she had my father and his sister and then four babies died. It would be a surprise to many of us that she worried about her children growing up in a small family, would they be spoiled or over parented? While i worry about my own children not getting enough from me, To her Irish Catholic notions, there were significant social benefits to being part of a large gang. nnShe tried experimental blood transfusions and other methods being developed, but the shot was still a generation away.

  • Anonymous

    Yes, thank you to medicine for developing Rhogam and protecting our dear little ones. I do feel like OBs need to do a better job educating women about it’s importance. I didn’t think much of it until several miscarriages prompted us to be concerned that I had developed the antibodies.u00a0nnThough, my rear is sore thinking of that enormous needle heading my way in not too long.u00a0

  • Kat

    Do OBs routinely check the mother’s blood type? I know my blood type, but I would venture to say that many women do not…Texas Mommy, as you said, I have never heard about the dangers of O- blood type except for when Red talks about it. Is this just because I am not O- and therefore do not need to worry about it, or is there a huge lack of education going on?

  • Anonymous

    Yes, Kat, they do test blood type when they draw for Hcg levels.u00a0All negative blood types are susceptible to this (not just O), which is b/w 10 and 15 % of women.u00a0nI knew my blood type b/c I used to donate blood and platelets routinely, but my OB never explained the risk, other than that I would need a shot before and after the baby was born so that there wouldn’t be a problem.u00a0I did not know that after early, spontaneous miscarriages I could develop antibodies that would affect future pregnancies, thus the fear that I had already developed them after not getting a Rhogam shot after an early miscarriage. I did not know that I needed this. It would be great if OBs fully explained the risks or negative blood types, esp. after miscarriage when you may not otherwise need to go in.u00a0

  • Kathy

    It is amazing the now relatively simple medical treatments that can save lives that otherwise could have been lost. To put an historical note to Mary Alice’s personal story – historians believe the RH factor situation was why Henry 8th’s wives would deliver a healthy first pregnancy but the others subsequently died. There are flaws to the theory in some things but it is interesting to ponder – if there were Rhogam shots in the 1500s – perhaps the Reformation in England might never have happened.nnWe are the parents of 3 childrenu00a0- all girls. When we had our third everyone asked if we were going for the boy. I replied, “No we want to have 3 children – having some of both genders would be nice but we want this child. Even if we had a boy and a girl we would have had the 3rd baby. nnHope all of the pregnant bloggers are feeling well.

  • AWOL Mommy

    Wow, I knew that Rhogam was a revolutionary drug, but who knew that it had the power to prevent the splintering of Christianity! Ha.

  • AWOL Mommy

    MA, is your grandmother still alive? I am uplifted today by her converse worries about small families. Thanks.

  • AWOL Mommy

    Tex, you are such a fluid donator! First blood and now breast milk.

  • Elenaculshaw

    Texas Mama, Do you actually test positive for the antibodies in your prenatal bloodwork?u00a0 After our second pregnancy (third baby, the first were twins) I have tested positive for every subsequent pregnancy.u00a0 In other words, my blood and baby no. 3’s blood intermixed at some point before the rhogam was given.u00a0 Consequently, I have monthly bloodwork during all my pregs to watch the antibody titre.u00a0 I am pregnant with the sixth and the titre has stayed low and disappeared by month 8 in the last two pregnancies.u00a0 Hopefully this will be the same for this baby.u00a0 When my results came back with a positive for the antibodies, my OB said that this was the first time that she had seen this in 13 years of pregnancy.u00a0 So, I guess I am proof that the babies can survive even when Rhogam doesn’t work:u00a0 by the grace of God.

  • Mary Alice

    Yes, my grandmother is still alive, in November we helped her celebrate her 89th birthday.u00a0 She did a great job of it with her children, and she has 5 grandchildren and 8 great grandchildren, of whom she is extremely proud.u00a0 She prays, a lot about what women suffer when they have difficulties in pregnancy.u00a0 nnShe has been known to say “the love of a good man will get you through anything.”

  • Elenaculshaw

    I meant to ask AWOL my question not Tex!

  • Sera

    Our first two were girls, and when I was pregnant with our third, people everywhere (it seemed) assumed we were “going for the boy”.u00a0 He was a boy, but he would have come our way whatever number child he was!u00a0 Now “they” don’t say things like that anymore, since #4 has arrived (and is another girl!).nnHope you are all well!

  • JMB

    I am also 0- and and my husband is 0+; all of our children are 0-, believe it or not.u00a0 We had a neighbor growing up who had one child, then four miscarriages and finally another child 10 years later.u00a0 She was 0-.u00a0 I am very grateful foru00a0 the advances in science, especially now that I have three daughters who are 0-, and hopefully will have children some day.