Friday, February 19, 2010
Embracing my inner invertebrae
There is some kind of larger message here.
I wish I could say that I am proud of the way I am handling all of this week. That I am facing adversity, sickness, hard work and selflessness effortlessly, but I simply cannot say that. When Beatrice refused to nap, and poked my face every time my eyes closed, I cried. I. Just. Want. To. Nap. That is all I could think. It reminded me of having a newborn all over again. That feeling of exhausted boredom. I love the newborn stage, don't get me wrong: unblocked and ceaseless kisses. No throwing toys at one's head. No child challenging my authority at every turn. But one of the things that surprised me the most about being a mother of a newborn was how exhausted I was, and how, well, bored I was. It was so easy to stay awake when she was kicking and being all cute, and making funny faces and stretching. That was easy. But it was like ten minutes here and there, surrounded by hours of breastfeeding combined with not really being able to sleep. It was like a kind of medieval torture. So exhausted. So mentally unstimulated. And yet here was this little person who needed mostly nothing but boob and for me to be awake. So everytime my eyes closed, it was like being proverbially poked in the cheek.
My father fought in Vietnam. He was a Navy radio man on the U.S.S. Warrington, which was sunk after being struck in the port of Danang in 1972. For two days straight, the crew fought against the flooding that two underwater explosions caused. I remember my father telling me about those days. When I was a girl and asked him if he was ever scared, he told me that he was scared when he got knocked out of his bunk that afternoon. And that for two days, they stayed up putting bunk mattresses against doors. He remembers frantically coding here and there. I remember him saying that he fell asleep standing. Out of the entire story, being towed to the Philippines, and subsequent stories of opium dens, and running from taxi drivers, coming home looking more like a hippie than the hippies, that is what stayed with me. It is possible to be so tired that you sleep standing up.
Yesterday, I was that tired. Emotionally. Physically. Mentally.
I am so massively pregnant at this point, I lumber for everyone's whims and demands whilst muttering under my breath. Having a toddler, an almost three-year old, means that nothing is right. EVER.
"Do you want a bagel for breakfast?"
"Here is your bagel."
(Blood curdling scream.) "Not that bagel." Cue hysterics.
I don't even really know how to handle it, except how I do handle it, which is to say, "You get what you get, and you don't get upset." Unsurprisingly, that does not calm her. The crying continues louder and sadder than before. Ten minutes later, I end up having these floating images of my emaciated child and Child Protective Services coming. "She is so underfed." My only defense would be--she got what she got and she got upset.
I make a damn piece of toast with butter and cheese, which ends up uneaten because it is the wrong shape, or something.
My 32-week growth scan was yesterday, and Thor looks good. It was very strange. Do you ever have the feeling that you walk into a doctor's office and there is so much chaos going on behind the scenes that you are somehow a sad casualty of that drama? That is how I felt. Computers weren't working. One of the ultrasound techs didn't show up for work. The charts weren't updated.
I have learned some things in the past three pregnancies and being ultrasounded countless times for my boobs is that you shouldn't really ask the tech anything specific. If you are looking for reassurance, don't look for it in the person with the wand. For example, if you're tempted to ask, "Is that the brain? Does it look normal?" Just save it. Because they inevitably answer something like, "I can't really tell you anything, you have to ask the doctor." Which means you spend those next fifteen minutes convinced there is something wrong, and it is a feeling you sometimes cannot shake even when the doctor says it is okay. So, I just skip it. This time, though, I could see the little growth measurements as she checked the skull and the abdomen, and the femur. He is consistently two-three weeks ahead.
That seems good, right?
And so, the doctor came in, flustered and short. He said, "The baby is measuring big. Did you get your glucose test?" I did. It was normal. Is it bad to be big? No, he answers. Then he asked me if I had my glucose test three more times. But never does he say the baby looks good. At least, he didn't say it out of his own volition. He starts talking about how I am coming in every week from now on for NSTs. He says something highly confusing about kick counts. And I ask about inducing at 37 weeks, and he proceeds to tell me that babies born at 37 weeks die at a higher rate in the first year than babies who are carried to full-term.
Do you ever feel like someone is just missing the fucking point?
How? How do they die? What do you mean? Beatrice was born naturally at 37 weeks and she was seven pounds, two ounces. Tell me exactly what you are talking about, please. But I lay back on the ultrasound table, and keep thinking, "What the fuck is going on here?"
"But the baby is okay, right? The baby looks fine, right?"
"Yes, the baby looks fine."
He then proceeds to tell me that since I suffered a fetal demise at 38 weeks and we don't know why, doctors recommend inducing at 37 weeks, because most people who lose a baby would rather have them in NICU than not. And I am thinking, but 37 weeks IS full-term, right? Just basically a huge what the fuck? I have started this pregnancy, hell, about two months after Lucy died before I could even consider getting pregnant again with this plan in place: inducing this baby at 37 weeks. And now, I feel like I am in this impossible choice--inducing at 37 weeks and risking my baby possibly dying within the first year from some unknown lung compromise, or leaving him in there to possibly die at 38 weeks in utero. I remember being told before I saw this particular MFM that he has a brusque bedside manner, and honestly, I have never seen it before yesterday, when I desperately needed it to be gentle and kind.
I left knowing and seeing that my baby is healthy and fine. I saw him. His beautiful face. Yet, I couldn't help thinking that something is wrong. I feel sort of resentful right now of having to deal with all of this alone, without my nurse of a husband grilling doctors, calming me right there and then by arguing with the doctor. Of figuring out how to calm myself before going into an ultrasound, of thinking of all the tough questions on my feet when someone who is having a bad day doesn't realize that saying death to a dead baby mama is like cutting her heart out again. I resent not being able to put my feet up without someone asking me for something, or the dog whining, of people not realizing that when I am up, I am up and when I sit, you are shit outta luck. Because I cannot honestly leave my crippled husband and toddler child without.
I came home knowing I had to make lunch, go food shopping, return library books, empty the dishwasher, deal with a nap striker...I broke. Well, a little. I broke a little bit. And I thought of the paramecium on the wall of the train station--strange and soft, vulnerable and bright. I can only wear the vulnerability of these days.