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."