Sunday, June 27, 2010

What are the odds...?

Ah, Statistics. My old nemesis. How I hated the course that was you in University. You were so dull and dry and dare I say, boring. You were actually my worst course mark ever. I hated the way you dragged down my GPA. However, statistics, you influence all of our lives.

What brought this up was yesterday I was at the racetrack for my father-in-laws birthday. I had never been to the racetrack before. I have zero interest in gambling (except the gamble it takes to have a baby). I did enjoy watching the horse races though. I had a crush on horses from grades 5 to 7 so I totally loved watching them.

While watching the horses race, we were making guesses as to which ones would win based on their odds. I have no experience doing this and I generally picked wrong. But it was kind of fun, passing the statistic book back and forth arguing about what 'Where's the Bedroom's' chances were versus 'Bonchica Bonbonbon's' (real horse names, I'm not kidding). My husband and the rest of his family even wasted some money betting on them.

Then in the car on the way home I was thinking how "The Odds" apply our lives (and I'm not talking about the band with the same name). So I decided to use my life as an example. Here are some of my odds. Both good and bad.

I'm married. Approximately 75% of Canadians will marry, so I'm in the majority on this one. I'm also fortunate according to statistics that I consider my marriage "very important" to my happiness, as people who do are 3x less likely to divorce. Super.

However, we've just passed the 2 year mark on our marriage, and divorce rates peak at 4 years with 25.5/1000 marriages ending in the 4th year, so we've got a few years to go until we reach that milestone. Also, sadly 40% of marriages end by the 30th wedding anniversary (with average lengths of 14.2 years). So, even though I don't think divorce will happen to us, either way we'd have a lot of company.

So let's look at other tragedies that are less common to the average John or Jane Doe. Homelessness. According to my Internet research about 35,000 to 40,000 of Canadians are homeless. This puts any one Canadian at a risk just north of 0.1% of being homeless. Now, I'm sure there are lots of factors that influence this. One being mental illness (schizophrenia is a family tragedy in and of itself affecting 1% of Canadians). Another is finding yourself jobless, a problem for 9.6% of Canadians as of last July when joblessness was high due to the economy.

Hum. How interesting these tragedies have way higher incidence than that of which is supposed to have occurred to my placenta. The incidence of a Breus mole is 0.05%-0.08% of all placentas. Or, we could look at the other contender in the "what the hell happened to Aidan" race which is a very very (VERY) early premature preterm rupture of membranes (pPROM for all you acronym-ists out there). The incidence of pPROM occurring prior to viability (24 weeks) is 0.4%, probably even less at 13 weeks when I think mine occurred. Now, what if it turns out that I had BOTH?! A Breus mole AND pPROM! Wow that would make the incidence something like 0.05 x 0.4 = 0.02, or 1 in 5000. Discounting the fact that one may have caused the other (as is always the case in medical shit storms, ie: if you have one shitty thing like say, diabetes, you are more likely to have other shitty things happen too, such as heart disease) Still, 1/5000 is pretty damn rare.

But 1/5000 is nothing when you compare it to the other ultimate bad luck of my life. Being born with a congenital heart defect. The incidence of being born with my particular doozie of a malfunction is 1/22,000. Or 0.0045%. Survival at 1 year is apparently 65%, leaving 1/36,300 alive.

So the chances of someone like me existing AND having a baby die of what my baby died of is somewhere in the range of: 0.0029% x 0.05% x 0.4% = 0.000058%. That is equal to just about 1 in 1,750,000. Fuck. That's a lot of zeros anyway you look at it.

So I'm pretty sure you can safely say, I'm rare. Practically unheard of.

I'm the last god damn dodo bird.

How rare are you? Do you know anyone in real life whose babylost experience comes close to your own? Does the rarity of having lost child make you feel hopeful for the future if you plan on having more? Or does it just depress the hell out of you that it happened to you?


  1. Hmmm....

    I'm pretty average all the way around. Except when it comes to repeated miscarriage. Three in a row doesn't statistically look good. Especially when there is no known cause.

    Now that I'm pregnant again - the rarity of losing a baby means nothing to me. After all, I've been pregnant three times before, and every time it has ended in the same way. So miscarriage is what I expect to happen this time around too. I hate that I assume that will be the outcome. But I don't know how NOT to expect it to happen again.

    I hate statistics. They bring me no comfort.

  2. i know IRL (as far as i know!) only one person whose first child, like mine, was stillborn at 6 months. however, i don't know the circumstances under which this happened. i don't know whether she had had trouble getting pregnant in the first place.

    what i have not found on the babycenter boards so far is anyone whose water spontaneously broke with no warning, baby's cord prolapsed almost immediately, all after a completely normal and healthy pregnancy, making it to 25 weeks. that part makes me feel very alone.

    i guess statistically we could look at it in terms of how unlikely it would be to have the same thing happen twice, when looking for reassurance for our next pregnancies. however, we already beat the odds of having it happen the first time, so i don't know about you, but that doesn't make me feel any better.

  3. Unfortunately I think that what happened to me is all TOO common. And the statistics you mentioned make mine look even bigger. Losing a baby at 12wks after seeing a normal healthy heartbeat is somewhere around the "less than 3%" I think. There was a point when I thought that was too small to worry about. Boy did we all learn THAT lesson the hard way: there's ALWAYS a chance-no matter how small or seemingly insignificant. Effing fantastic.

    And apparently if you've had one your chances of having a second one are anywhere from 13-20%. So I don't think I feel hopeful. I think I feel scared shitless. :(

  4. Ah well. My masters degrees is in statistics and I can confirm your suspicions that it is indeed a dull and dry subject on the whole. With flashes of strange beauty though. Or perhaps that just reveals my true inner geekiness.

    I'm not as rare as I would like to be, certainly not as rare as you Emily. The chances of conceiving DCDA twins are about 1 in 80 and this appears to have been the ultimate cause of my own medical shit storm. I guess the odds of all the other crappy things that eventually happened shortened considerably after that initial mess up on the part of my body.

    For all my supposed study of statistics, it all seems to boil down to 50:50. You live or you die. It all goes well or it all goes horribly wrong. With a few percentage points to spare for those ambiguous situations where you can never be quite sure if what happened was a blessing or not.

    I guess it would still be 50:50 if I ever have another child but that seems to be becoming a vanishing possibility. But I would still take that chance if I could. x

  5. Statistics suck...I have always thought that. And my Dr. who delivered Bailey told us that her favorite saying is: "The statistics don't matter...until you become one of them". And at that moment in time, she was right.

    For me to deliver Bailey at 23 weeks due to IC happens to like 1 in 125 people. But, what I have been told, since this has happened to us before, we have a 40%-50% chance that this will happen again if we take no medical intervention. Of course we will be using medical intervention, so that drops our chances to 20%.

    I only know 1 other person in real life who experienced a loss at this stage, and her story is completely different from mine.

  6. What happened to my son is rare. And i mean RARE. My sweet baby was 8 months old when he died last July. He had Wolman's Disease. I cannot even tell you the odds but maybe someone can figure it out. There have only been 80 cases of it ever reported. Ever, anywhere. He was the 81st person to have this fatal disease. There are only 2 survivors in the world. He was the 6th baby to ever even be treated for it. He had a successful stem cell transplant, but died from an infection months later. I am so sorry for everyone's loss. Mary

  7. I have an ex boyfriend who had a stillbirth baby with his ex wife. They were the only people I knew of that went through this- until it happened to me, and a couple of other people I knew came forward and told me. It amazes me that its something that those people never talked about. I can't imagine not talking about it.

  8. Blood clots in the umbilical cord are the cause of 1 in 1,000 stillbirths (which happen 1 in every 200 pregnancies or something like that).

    My mother's first baby was stillborn because of hydrocephalous, which happens 1 in 4,000 births.

    Our two stillbirths are not related. I've yet to hear of another person who's mother lost her first daughter and her first granddaughter for completely unrelated reasons.

    I hate statistics. Of course we'll never be the 1 in X0000 to win the lottery, but we'll be the lucky 1 in X0000 to win a dead baby. Sweet.

  9. one thought that got me through some dark early days was that the odds of what was happening to me were so remote that it could not actually be happening :)

    so sorry you hit these odds emily

  10. my odds of losing my baby were less than 0.6%.

    my odds of having three miscarriages in a row are 1%.

    i can't see a successful pregnancy in my future.

    odds suck.