Numbers

I love data. I suppose it is a consequence of my chemistry education or it may be due to my struggle to make sense of things. Regardless, I especially like numbers. They are clean, precise, and definitive.

I used to find safety in numbers. In class, when discussing conclusions our professors would always say I’m 98 to 99 % certain. I understood that to mean they are certain… case closed. If I was ever anxious about anything, I would look at how small the odds were of the undesirable outcome. It was reassuring if the unsought outcome was the long shot. Numbers were a warm blanket that I could wrap myself up in. I found comfort in phrases such as “not likely” or “little chance”.

… and then my crutch failed me.

I’ve looked at the data and worked out the statistics. There was a less than .5% (notice the POINT before the five) chance that my pregnancy was going to conclude as it did. It was so unusual that my OB/GYN seemed to be in disbelief. Very soon after developing preeclampsia at twenty four weeks, I was given another list of odds. It was odds of my baby’s survival taken into account different variables such as weight and gestation. These were anything but comforting.

Exactly at 26 weeks (odds went up considerably on that day), my baby and my body decided that they had enough. The perinatalogist informed me that it was time to deliver.

A couple days later, I found myself in the NICU watching numbers again. How many grams is my baby? How many cm is her stomach girth? What is her O2 sat? How many mLs of milk did I pump? I was trying to find assurance in these numbers. I was foolishly trying to figure out our future in a world where everything is one day at a time. Sometimes, one minute to the next.

I’ve lost the ability to shelter myself in data. Sometimes things just happen. It does not matter how rare of an occurrence it is. If it is going to happen, its obscurity will not stop it.

Nevertheless, I have established a new relationship with numbers. For one, I’ve found victory in numbers. Each month my baby ages is a triumph. Each kg my baby gains is an achievement (she now weighs 7.5 times her birth weight). Additionally, I’ve discovered how to find hope in numbers. No matter how small the odds, things can happen as long as there is a chance… even good things.

After learning these things a rather harsh way, I look back and realize something. I guess my professors could have been wrong after all.

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About Rebecca Wood

In May 2012, my pregnancy ended three and a half months early due to severe early onset preeclampsia. This is my collection of thoughts and media. It is an attempt to document and discuss our experience of navigating the post NICU world. View all posts by Rebecca Wood

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