Scenes of A Difficult Pregnancy

The ultrasound last Friday was lovely--one of the loveliest. We saw her hands and arms, her profile, her cute nose, her brain, and the beating chambers of her heart. And the ultrasound tech showed us how confident she was that that the baby was a girl. A girl. A girl! I felt pretty and motherly, wearing a polka dot blouse and vintage skirt.

And then everything got very dramatic. The tech told me to wait there, that she needed to show something to the radiologist, that after that the midwife would probably want to speak with me. She asked if I'd had any cramping, and I remembered the evening we had spent at the MFA the night before, how I had clutched my stomach as we walked down corridors and through large, beautiful rooms, and I told her, "Yes, actually."

I waited, we waited, wondering what it could be, but not concerned yet, not really. And she came back, and invited me into an office where people were entering information into computers, talking about what they'd had for lunch, and I picked up the phone she handed me, stood in the middle of the room, and listened. A shortened cervix. Two centimeters and soft, instead of a hard 4-5 centimeter fist, as it should be at this point. This means imminent delivery, a life-threatening prospect at 20 weeks. And then we were walking up to labor and delivery, numb, disoriented. And we sat for too long alone in a room meant for women who were about to deliver live, healthy, real babies. There was a poster on the wall, advocating keeping your baby close in the first days of life, and there was a picture of a mother and baby, a brand-new baby that didn't look all that brand-new, and the caption said, "First hug," and I hated that poster, I hated it so much. I wanted to tear it from the wall. I hated the room and everything in it that assumed everything was fine, that every pregnancy led to a baby. I expected to miscarry at any moment.

A midwife came in, a nurse, and they examined me, hooked me up to a monitor to see if I was having contractions, propped me up on a covered bedpan so she could get her fingers good and deep. My motherly outfit, my polka dot blouse and vintage skirt, seemed silly then, presumptuous, awkward for examination.

And she sent me home, told me bed rest, a prospect that on certain mornings, trying to drag myself to work, had seemed rather romantic, but after about ten minutes wasn't romantic at all. All week I sat, trying to rest, but mostly anxious, calling again and again to try to get an appointment with the high risk doctors, the appointment I'd been promised, but which didn't materialize. Every time I got up to use the restroom, I worried I was putting the baby's life at risk. And sometimes I'd call the midwives to ask a question, mostly clarifying what was meant exactly by "bed rest," but I learned quickly that once you've become high risk, the midwives don't (and can't) have much to do with you. I was between things, between help, which meant I was without it.

In an afternoon, my identity seemed to vanish, or at least contract. Think of this: think of your life, without any of things that make up your life. You may not like all the details, but imagine if they vanished. Imagine it without work, without trips to the grocery store, without eating out, without church, without shopping at thrift stores, without taking walks on sunny days, without driving in your car, without meeting friends for dinner or lunch or chatting, without bringing by dinner for a friend with a new baby, without trips to plays or movies or beaches or parks or bookstores. Summer plans--trips home to Utah, to Quebec for your 30th birthday, and dozens of small excursions you'd been cooking up--now impossible. And smaller, in your house, but without access to usual orbits: no new recipes, no recipes at all really, no loads of laundry, no ability to sit at the sewing machine and finish a quilt, no love-making, no implementing visions of the baby's nursery, no real guarantee, for all the hours you sit, that there will be a baby in need of a nursery. Every time you straighten something, every time you can't help yourself and put away the crackers in the pantry, the act feels treacherous, life-threatening, dismissive of the little life you're trying to grow, a life which feels more and less real than yours at the same time.

Let's be clear: I would trade a thousand summers for this baby to make it. I'd rather mourn a summer and my small life orbit than a baby. And I'm grateful, deeply grateful, for the series of flukes that led to the discovery of my incompetent cervix (the medical term for it, I kid you not). But these days are difficult. And the frantic, tedious, harrowing days I spent in the hospital late this week even more difficult. There are sweet moments, sure. Afternoon naps with my cat at my feet. Hours next to husband on the couch, our conversations about her name turning sweet and exasperating and silly. Lovely meals he makes for me and delivers to my reclining throne on the couch. The chance to read and read and read, and write and write and write. Overwhelmingly kind visits and gifts and meals from friends. But often I'm sad, deeply deeply sad, so sad nothing seems sweet at all, and I feel no real choice but to go to bed and hope for a better tomorrow.

Four months of this, if we're lucky to keep her long enough. I'm working on a vision of a vibrant intellectual existence, a world I can build in my mind. But in the meantime, sometimes, I can't muster it, I can't even begin to smell it. And I put my head down on the couch and tell Sam, my voice breaking, "I'm very sad." And he says, "I know, Sweetheart. I know."      


meg said…
I have nothing profound to say, but I will keep you in my prayers, and I will hope and hope and hope for you and your sweet girl.
I'm so glad you have Sam.
Amalie said…
It truly pains me to see someone who is so vivacious in her own way so sad. I can't put anything I feel into words..the understanding the worry, the heartache, etc and how much I understand it. You are in my prayers and my thoughts.
Elise said…
Oh Deja. I am sorry. You need an equally brilliant bedrest buddy you can chat with on FB during the day.

Today I'd been wishing for bedrest. A legitimate excuse to sleep away the day. Until I woke up after an hour to sugar all over the floor. (I REALLY should stop napping.)

I love you. And we will pray for you. And even as you paint your sadness, I must say: it is a beautiful sadness I think. Everything you say is beautiful.
jes said…
making people is intense work. and beautiful. and sad. and small and large. and a million things. and normal. and completely abnormal, high risk or no.

my, so sage, advice: learn to piece by hand. then hand quilt. and then she'll be here. barfing on priceless heirlooms. and all of this will be a strange dream. with a beautiful punctuation mark at the end.
Lisa H. said…
you captured this experience so well. the unique and the universal. love you.
Annie said…
This sounds so rough, Deja. I bet at the end, though, you'll be even wiser and more eloquent than ever (if that's possible...).

I read a blog post recently about the non-sex aspect of bedrest that I thought was interesting:

If you haven't read this blog before, it's really great. It's all about finding happiness and love and peace in life written by a husband and wife in real-people language. You can start at the beginning and it will give you something to read in bed, and hopefully some uplifting insights.
belann said…
My heart is breaking for my baby daughter. So wish I weren't so far away. So wish I could do something to ease the pain.
Mike and Emily said…
Dej, Jude and I have been kneeling and Praying for you and Sam and baby and Jude stays he will take the car and go and make you happy. Love you!
Genevieve Beck said…
I really wish I could visit and talk and laugh with you all day right now. You will definitely be in my prayers too! Love you!
Bryson and Tara said…
Oh, Deja. I'm so sorry. I can't imagine the worry and sadness you must feel right now. When I was pregnant with Sophie, I had so many "warning sign" symptoms that I was mentally and emotionally trying to prepare myself for a miscarriage for several months...and that's miserable. I will keep you in my prayers and thoughts as well.
Amara said…
So sad. I'm so sorry. I wish I could drive you to the beautiful, fulfilling intellectual life you're shooting for. How hard to make such a transition! So hard to feel your normal activities might put this little person in peril. It boggles my mind. I wish I could take a month of it for you -trade and give you a little break.
Douglas said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Douglas said…
I am learning that in hospitals, you have to just rip the posters down.
Jana said…
You and your sweet baby have my prayers.
Giuli said…
You will feel so much better when you can meet with the high risk pregnancy doc. They have these incredible ultrasounds where they can actually see the blood flow to the baby's brain and measure every organ in the baby's body. You can ask him or her a gazillion questions and they will give it to you strait, and comfort you when needed. I'm so excited that you have a little girl growing inside of you. Your doctors will do everything that they can to keep that little baby cooking inside as long as possible. It could be worse, bed rest in the hospital is even more depressing. Love you lots.

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