pregnancy stuff

the longer this pregnancy continues with merciful uneventfulness, the more amazed i am.  and the more nervous.  a new and different low-grade panic wells up in my gut these days…not miscarriage, not genetic disorders, not uber-prematurity and brain bleeds and oscillating ventilators. just…birth.

there’s clearly got to be a birthin’ around here sometime soon.

bon 29 weeks
(me and my pet Volkswagen and an – uneaten – magic mushroom, three weeks ago at 29 weeks…by the lovely and talented Kate)

everything’s dandy with the bambino, and the weeks of crisis delivery prognoses are creeping past, therefore…the more my razor-sharp neuroses get to hone in on me.

it’s not the fear of the unknown, but of a three-peat.  experience says i deliver fast, and early, and my babies have big heads for their gestational ages.  i have a scarred cervix that tends to resist dilation, then tear.  my placentas don’t detach properly, causing retention once, hemorrhage the second time ’round.  and my body – this time, as each time before – is weakened at its core from extended bedrest.

i feel silly about my fear…ashamed, even.  but it is real and grows bigger as i do.  birth has marked me in ways i do not like.  i do not want to dwell on those wounds, or give them power…i’d like to get beyond them.  but i am not sure i can until this baby is born and this third birth confronted and endured…and hopefully celebrated.  my fear is that the birth will add to the sum of baggage i need to unpack, rather than – perhaps? – being healing.  i’d like healing. i’m just afraid to ask for what seems like so much.

i had what was pretty much a post-traumatic stress reaction in labour with Oscar.  flashbacks, full-blown panic attack.  on top of that, i had complications that knocked out my pelvic floor: some clitoral tearing, a vaginal and bladder prolapse, an unwanted fourth-degree epiosiotomy that went straight through my perineum and then tore four inches up.  i was stitched three layers deep, stem to stern, and then had to be torn open again when they whisked me off to surgery to retrieve the hemorrhaging placenta.  barely a quick photo with my newborn before being rushed off for the d&c, then three hours alone and shaking, still panicked, in recovery…that, after having lost Finn only hours after his birth, was probably worst.

i had a birth plan for O’s delivery…written to try to remind myself that once we passed 35 weeks the birth needn’t be the powerless, frightening, emergency event that Finn’s had been.  it wasn’t a complicated plan…my only caveats were to avoid episiotomy and to be with baby after birth for at least an hour, for bonding and an attempt at breastfeeding.  neither worked out, though in the first case no one ever explained why, despite my shouts of “no!”.  the whole thing still turned out to be a powerless, frightening, emergency event.  had any of it been necessary to safely deliver Oscar, my sense of violation wouldn’t have mattered worth shit, to me…but he was fine through the whole blessed mess.  i felt like a piece of meat, ravaged and dismissed.

i do not have the powers of self-delusion to simply compose another birth plan and assume it’ll go better this time.

i see my OB Wednesday, for the first time since Halifax released me.  i want to talk about birth…about what options are reasonably open to me, about what factors are controllable and what odds i have of a different type of birth than the last two.  we haven’t talked about it yet because until last Friday there was an assumption i’d deliver in Halifax…though the Halifax team were hoping to get me past 32 weeks and so didn’t want to talk about it, either.  but now i’m set to deliver here.  with whoever’s on call, because that’s how the system works.  and i wake up at night sweating.

i know my own fear is my worst enemy.  i also know that i can’t think myself out of a post-traumatic stress reaction, especially if this labour comes as fast and strong as the last two.  i’ve played with the idea of just asking for a c-section, except i doubt the likelihood of me making it to 38 weeks without going into labour.

i plan to take Evening Primrose Oil from about 35 weeks – orally at first, to help break down scar tissue, then vaginally after 37 weeks.  the cerclage, according to Halifax, will come out at 36.

i’d also – if i have a vaginal birth – like to try delayed cord cutting in hopes of preventing placental retention and getting to actually hold this child and be with her for the period following her birth.  it’s the one thing i ever really invested in, in terms of having my babies come into the world…the skin-on-skin of that first hour or two, reprieve from the work of birth.  if the baby has any issues, obviously that dream flies out the window, but if we can get to 35 or 36 weeks it’s far more likely to be me and my complications that lessens that possibility.  and thus i’d like to do what i can to help the placenta separate cleanly.  but there’s resistance here towards delaying cutting the cord, particularly with an early-ish baby.  my OB might respect my wishes, but the other docs?  i haven’t been overwhelmed with some of their listening skills.  thus i wonder if an induction – so as to be sure i’m with my own OB – might be wise, despite my aversion to the idea?

i did perineal massage when i was pregnant with Oscar and am willing to do it again, but don’t know what impact the significant epiosotomy/tear scar has on its effectiveness, especially when it so clearly did sweet f#ck all last time?

i want to know what you know.  i’m going to end up making what decisions are open to me based on odds…odds of a joyful, peaceful, non-brutalizing delivery, however it comes about.  the more people’s experiences i become familiar with, the better sense i’ll be able to gather of what those odds really are.  Dr. Google isn’t really helping.  so please.  no holds barred.

have any of you ever had a fourth-degree tear or episiotomy that didn’t open or need to be opened again in a subsequent birth?  if it did, how did the healing go the second time around?

did any of you who’ve had a cerclage try Evening Primrose Oil (or something else?) to help minimize scar tissue on the cervix?  do you think it helped?

any experience with delayed cord cutting, or with retained placentas and other methods of trying to minimize the likelihood of that happening?

has anyone who’s had a prolapse not have it happen again in a subsequent delivery?  were you able to do anything to impact how that turned out, one way or the other?

anybody able to compare a prolonged transition-type labour (contractions a minute apart for an hour or more) with an induction?  i know the latter are supposed to be really hard to tolerate, but i’m wondering if my own labours aren’t perhaps already on that track already?  would pitocin intensify that?

any general advice regarding planned c-sections vs. induction vs. taking one’s chances with the on-call docs?

is it common in many places to be allowed to hold your newborn for the stitching period after a c-section?  (it is in Halifax, not here.  policy.  bah.)

does anyone know if ativan or some other anti-anxiety medication can be safely given during labour if panic and PTSD symptoms set in?  i know it’s safe (or at least given) during pregnancy, but i’m curious about whether it’s usable so close to delivery.

i know birth is not a controlled event.  i also know that nothing matters more than taking home a healthy baby.  but i am still hoping, nervously, that maybe i can come out of this birth able to focus on that baby and not on my own mental and physical damage.  i’d like to ask for a positive, empowering, affirming experience…but i’ll happily settle for less than wretched.  so…keeping in mind that i live in a province where midwives are not certified and where the doula i met with told me that with my history she might not be able to do much to mitigate the physical repeat of past complications…tell me what you think makes sense for me.  and tell me what you can about what’s been positive for you, in birth…please…no matter what the circumstances.

(just…pretty please…don’t tell me just to relax and it’ll all be fine.  i will personally chew your arms from your body so that you can never, never type again.  :) )

with the release from bedrest and my fledgling return to civil society come privileges.  i can walk…slowly.  i can dance…sorta.  i can march out at any time of day or night and procure my own Nibs cake (insert favourite heartburn-inducing poison here).

sure, the price is high.  anyone who’s ever been pregnant will attest that with the whole going out in public thing comes…well, the public.  other people.  who note one’s advanced maternal state, and feel obliged to comment upon it.  or to touch it…it, of course, being me.  i don’t mind the belly rubbing…though it makes me feel vaguely like a shi-tzu being cooed over, however pleasantly…but the boob-petting is perhaps just a touch too familiar for me.  i shit you not, a middle aged woman patted my left breast last weekend and said, oh honey, they fall down after this.  i gave her my best Maidenform smile and tried to claim mine’ve bounced back smashingly, thank you very much, but i mostly succeeded in drooling lemon water down the front of my offendingly obvious cleavage whilst trying NOT to look like a member of Junior Prudes of America.  shock tends to send my wits packing for awhile, but the desire to impress the weirdos with my cool?  alas, that never leaves me.

coming off four months of bedrest and relative seclusion has left me vulnerable and awkward in the interchange of niceties between people in public.  i am too honest, too eager.  i’m so astonished by my good fortune at actually being out and about and still pregnant to boot that i feel like a kid on a blind date, all aw-shucks awkward in my own stretched skin and yet horny as hell, bubbling over with Too Much Information the moment the subject of the pregnancy is broached.  far, far too many people who do not read this blog now know about my pesky cervical issues, friends.

two years and a bit ago, when i was first sprung from the hospital after seven weeks flat on my back gestating Oscar, i was shocked by the invasiveness being visibly pregnant seems to invite in others.  it hurt, then, the cheery throw-away barrage of is this your first? and what do you have at home? that i could not answer honestly without causing the faces behind the banal pleasantries to shrink away in mortification.  i didn’t enjoy their embarrassment, their discomfort.  on the other hand, i didn’t enjoy pretending i was some sort of first-time birth virgin, either, and thus subjecting myself to knowing lectures about how i couldn’t possibly imagine what was ahead…nor did i enjoy negating my firstborn’s existence just to make people feel better about having pried into my personal history innocently expecting to find only sunbeams.  i wasn’t sorry that i only spent two weeks negotiating the Big Wide World after bedrest that time around.

this time, i’ve already passed the two week mark of happy Out-and-Aboutness.  i’m not so raw, this time, nor so unprepared for strangers’ well-intentioned curiosity.  and since i have a living child, my short but honest answers to people’s questions don’t thud all conversation to a halt quite so brutally as they did two years ago…the crickets still chirp, but we all generally recover before the tumbleweeds blow in.

in other words, even the one thing i dreaded about assuming this belated mantle of A Normal, Blessed Pregnancy is going pretty well dandy…even if it does feel like a circus act.  i bumble and beam and accept the boob-groping with what i hope passes for grace…because awkward as i feel, waddling my way down the streets slower than the senior citizens, i am nonetheless aware, acutely, that this is a state of grace i’m in.  i look around me, wary, wondering who – infertile, babylost, recently miscarried – aches at the sight of my swollen belly.  i look into the eyes of the old ladies with their uninvited stories of labours and grandkids and see longing for a time forever gone, slipped past.  i look in the mirror and sigh at the size of my behind, and then give my head a shake and straighten up a bit and run my fingers over the old and new stretch marks and breathe deep and dare to grieve that this will – knock wood for safe arrivals – be the last time i do this, this crazy terrifying journey that i yet will miss and mourn the end of when the day comes and i have to face up to the reality that i will never again walk this particular tightrope of want and love and holding my breath.

out. Saturday morning in the zoo-like crush of the local farmer’s market. old ladies and old hippies sweep by me, children push past. all our bodies are just a little too close – and mine just a little too large to accommodate the dodging i attempt – but the thronging mass is cheerful, busily engaged with wax beans and homemade sausages and shawarma with tabouleh, please.

i am standing, Oscar in my arms, his hands snaking over my shoulder to swipe at the display of chocolate chip cookies behind us. i am balancing my market bag and the giant lettuce i’ve just purchased – from which i half expect a Cabbage Patch Kid to emerge, yellow yarn hair and all – when suddenly i realize that i am actually doing this, this perfectly normal, multi-task-oriented, socially and commercially engaged juggling act. that i am standing holding thirty pounds of squirming kid on one hip with thirty pounds of bedrest and more offspring spread across the general middle of me and juggling a wallet and organic lettuce and the cookie that i seem to have managed to buy and begin to nibble on without even noticing, and that i am carrying on three conversations at once, and that it is all, like an intricate act of magic, working. my legs are holding. my back has not collapsed. i have not dropped the child nor the lettuce nor – god forbid – the cookie. and despite having not been out in public for more than four months, despite having hardly made chitchat with anyone in the interim, i’m saying hi to an old acquaintance and babbling about tomatoes to a vendor and keeping Oscar from stuffing his entire half of the cookie in his mouth all at once, and it is easy. natural. sheer body memory.

until i pay attention. then my eyes grow wide and glazed and Oscar leaps from my arms and runs into the crowd whilst i trip over my own bags and lettuce tumbles around me. suddenly, mechanisms exposed, it is all too much, exhausting, this press of people, this exertion. this normalcy. and for a second i want to flee screaming from the market like a bat out of hell, and retreat to the safe predictability of ye olde couch, sanctuary.

i mentioned to somebody early this week about how coming off bedrest is both exhilarating and discombobulating at first, because simple acts that you’ve taken for granted most of your life have, in the duration, become curiosities, foreign and unaccustomed. how they play themselves out in living colour, almost assaultive, because your protective filters have been turned off for so long. the response?

i’m sure it’ll be just like riding a bike.

i laughed, which i think confused my friend. but this friend has not known me so long as to realize that twenty-three years ago this week, at thirteen, i managed to fling myself over the handlebars of my bike on my way to work the very last morning of my very first summer job, a three-week all-day babysitting gig. i landed on my face. smashed the left side of my jaw into smithereens. split my chin open, and re-graded the gravel road with the lower half of my visage. knocked out a tooth that my just-removed braces had been working hard to align for years. bent the frame of my bike enough that it was unridable. spent three months with my jaws wired shut, carrying little scissors in my pocket to unleash the steel facemask in case i for some reason needed to vomit and wanted to avoid choking to death. had my first taste of the relief that is morphine, and the nastiness that is withdrawal. started grade nine looking like Bride of Frankenstein.

i have been on a moving bicycle exactly twice in the twenty-three years since. and both times, it felt both utterly normal and terrifyingly bizarre, all the intangibles of that delicate balancing act wrought vividly visible by the fear and cloistering that had separated me from the act in the duration between. i ride a bike like most of us would walk a tightrope; in a state of acute awareness and surreality.

this morning, i dusted myself off, caught my errant child, retrieved my enormous, slightly bruised lettuce, wiped some cookie crumbs from the shelf that is my belly, and headed back into the crowd, smiling to myself. i was nodding, noting internally, with great interest, heck, it IS exactly like riding a bike. it’s fun, and probably doesn’t look strange from the outside. but dude, it’s also crazy as shit.

as of 4 pm yesterday afternoon, i’m free.  the bedrest is officially over.

not only that, but i’m done with the IWK…that strange, cloistered otherworld where i’ve spent more than ten weeks of my life, where my first child was born and died, where Oscar and i spent our long, still wait together in ye olde Craftmatic, where this pregnancy was saved by a stitch in time.  at last count i’ve had at least twenty-four ultrasounds on the seventh floor of that hospital; Dave and i have made an almost equal number of four-hour drives to their doors and back.

it is finished, now.   barring delivery sometime in the next couple of weeks – which Miss Cervix Universe is giving no signs whatsoever of succumbing to – i get to spend the remainder of this pregnancy as a regular ol’ pregnant lady, waddling to my local doctor for checkups, getting my own water and groceries, picking up my kid and panting after him.  i get to relearn to sit up for long periods of time, get to train my poor calf muscles and enlarged carcass to walk around the block again without getting winded.  i get to carry my own bags.  i get to stop being dependent, stop planning every moment of my day around economy of movement and the boundaries of how far to push myself.  i get to stop asking for help all the time.  and i am profoundly relieved.  last night, at a rest stop on the trip back home, i was able to haul Oscar from the car and bring him into the washroom with me, lift him to the changing table, prop him up to wash his hands.  simple things, but it has been four months since i could do them for my boy.  walking back to the car with O on my hip, his legs wrapped around my awkward middle, my chicken arm holding him up, i felt ten feet tall and a hundred pounds lighter.

amd yet…and yet.  i hadn’t expected full release from bedrest until 32 weeks, another eighteen days away.  i had them counted; i was eager.  but i’ve spent the last seventeen weeks in an imaginary birdcage cobbled together of proscriptions and fear and uncertainty, and having it opened early has left me startled.  pleased, about all i can suddenly do,  but shaky.   i stood on my doorstep this morning, foot hovering above the step, blinded by the wide open space.  i froze.  for weeks, i have been sneaking tiny sojourns into my days, little walks halfway up the block, a drive to the pharmacy around the corner.  i’d become adept at balancing tiny tastes of freedom with my restrictions…took pleasure in responsible stretching of the boundaries. but having them melt away entirely leaves me feeling anxious, exposed, lost.  i feel pressured suddenly to revert to the normal person i have learned how not to be, and finding my way back is not so simple a matter as flipping a switch.  the who am i? of all this taunts me, shames me.  i have a little Stockholm Syndrome, friends.

i mourn not the reality of captivity, but the safety i had to convince myself it offered in order to abide by it.  they have freed me, declared that this baby no longer needs the birdcage.  this is success, i know.  this was the goal, and i am grateful beyond measure to have brought us both safe thus far.   but the panic that rises in my throat as i perch on my doorstep with the whole world open and dizzying before me reminds me that coming out the other side will be as complex and strange as the shutdown of accommodating myself to bedrest.  i am free.  i can do.  now i have to remember how to slip the bonds i’ve bought into, and free myself.

the almost-in-laws are visiting this week, tackling long-moldering tasks like painting our living room and recycling Dave’s overgrown beer bottle collection and helping build a playhouse for Oscar in the backyard.

bless them…they are very welcome guests. no, i’m not sharing them. renting…? maybe.

yesterday’s tasks involved a long list of doctor’s visits. in the morning, Oscar and his grandmother and i trekked to the ear clinic for a three-minute viewing of O’s inner ears that culminated in the decision to get tubes put in. in the afternoon, he and i both had separate visits at the hospital – his at the pediatric clinic for a follow-up on the immunity deficiencies he’d been tested for six weeks ago, mine at Labour & Delivery so my doc here could actually use the existing u/s machine to check my cervix along with ye olde manual grope. the u/s was unofficial, of course…because our province won’t pay for an OB from here to take a four-week leave to train in Halifax under the perinatology experts, and though the perinatology team from there are willing to come here for short sessions to train our folks, neither province can agree on who will pay their flights. the joys.

anyhoo, the hospital is a sizable edifice, sprawling and vaguely Memories of Star Trek in its design. since i am generally restricted from walking further than thirty feet or so, and since i’d already trod triple that just getting in and out of the ear clinic in the morning, i asked Oscar’s grandmother to drop him and i off at the front door, where we’d appropriate one of the wheelchairs that are so thoughtfully made available. she’d park, and then the three of us would wheel down to the bowels of the building where the pediatric lair clinic lurks, then waaay back up to the opposite corner where L&D is located.

the hospital, it so happens, is under a major MRSA crackdown these days. neon-green bottles of anti-bacterial handwash everywhere, and only one visitor per patient, nobody under twelve. i’d already made arrangements for O and his Grandmaman to drop me at L&D after his appointment and then beetle on home without me, because the birth unit is currently closed to children already born.

so when Oscar and i strolled in the big front doors and up to the main desk to wash our paws, i wasn’t shocked when the candy-striper in charge of the Very Important Bottles of Handwash glanced in alarm at the two-year-old and inquired, with officious panic, where we planned on going. she didn’t seem quite as relieved as i would’ve expected when my answer of “pediatric clinic” thus saved her launching into her spiel about The Rules and No Small Visitors, but we went about our germ-killing business without further conversation. until i asked her about wipes for the wheelchair.

she looked at me. she had very large, watery blue eyes, ringed in a silvery liner. they reminded me of fish.


i explained that O and i were just about to grab a wheelchair. it happens that my mother works at the hospital, and had assured me that they keep industrial-strength wipes there behind the desk, so that the chairs can be wiped down between uses. having just seen a poor sickly soul deposited at the door in one, and having noted that neither candy striper nor commissionnaire had leapt up to clean the departed conveyance upon that person’s exit, i figured it was on me to wipe down my intended chariot myself. and were there any wipes, please?

is it for you? her eyes goggled at me, wetly.

the wipe?  no i came in clean, thank you very much, retorted the little voice in my head, but i told it to shut up. “the chair? yes it is, i’m on maternity bedrest, not supposed to walk…and i just want to wipe down the chair as the little guy’s likely to touch every inch of it and with the MRSA alert…” i trailed off. insert sweet motherly smile. show teeth.

Miss Fish Gaze suddenly morphed from Keeper of the Handwash to Guardian of the Entire Domain. she looked over the row of ten empty wheelchairs spaced out across from her, then back at me. but you walked in, she said, half-accusingly, half-stunned

my mother likes to lament that she tried to raise me with manners. i don’t think she has any idea to what level she succeeded, or how much i resent her for it sometimes. because i did not reach across the desk and beat that poor teenaged girl’s head into her little green bottles of anti-bacterial handwash until her fishy-eyes splattered all over the desk, no i did not. pity. nor did i grab my child, fling us both into the wheelchair and proceed to do loud papa wheelies all over the lobby of the hospital, which was clearly what Miss Fish’s tone insinuated that someone as hale and mobile as myself must have in mind. yeh, those maternity bedrest patients, you know what they’re like. yet i refrained. instead i cocked my head and looked her straight in the eye and said, “wipes?”

the surly teenage girl high on the power of her candy stripes caved. she handed them over, with the same misplaced self-righteousness that she’ll display forty years from now when she’s a bossy, squat matron shooing kids away from the plates of squares at some local church supper. i wiped down the wheelchair, settled myself and Oscar, and waited for Grandmaman to materialize. when we whisked past Miss Fish’s desk on our way to the elevator, i was tempted to reach out and steal a bottle of handwash from under her nose, just because.

the appointments turned out well. my cervix has its eyes on the prize once again, and my doctor is making noises now about not even taking the stitch out until 38 weeks. since i’ve never carried past 36 and am terrified about going into labour with the damn thing still in, i kind of hope we can come to some further accommodation on that matter. but the fact that she’s even talking about 38 weeks is pretty amazing. and Oscar’s chickenpox vax apparently didn’t take, but otherwise he shows no signs of an immuno-suppressed system and is as healthy as an asthmatic two-year-old with chronically infected ears can be. all dandy. praise be.

now i’m just going to stay peacefully in my house watching Dave and his parents spruce the place up and fantasizing about ways to inappropriately and flagrantly misuse hospital wheelchairs on my next visit.

so, um…yeh.  the hospital in Halifax sent me home.

i am free, and grateful, and confused, and a little sheepish.  do you think a cervix can have Munchausen’s syndrome? or a split personality?

my doc here sent me because she can only check me manually, and she’s feeling a lot of softening and related shortening so far as she can tell.  a strong cervix should – so rumour has it – feel rather like the tip of a nose, firmish and almost cartilaginous.  mine does not.  or does, and doesn’t, and back and forth…but on Wednesday when i went for my checkup she declared it “mush,” more like an earlobe than a nose tip, lacking any structure.

i can feel the softening, the subtle but sharp twinges that i noticed but assumed were normal before all hell broke loose in my first pregnancy, the same ones that hearkened shortening and hospital bedrest when i carried O, the same ones that i thought i must be fabricating in my own neurotic brain last March when the routine ultrasound revealed my cervix disappearing at the bizarrely early mark of twelve weeks, necessitating cerclage. i feel ’em.  they’re familiar…they don’t even cause panic.  i just mark them silently, note their frequency and severity.  they are not extreme.  and by Monday, i will have had five checkups in a span of two weeks, so it is not like they are going unmonitored.

but they are being dismissed by one half of my care team, as is the concern of the other half of the cross-provincial partnership.  because of ye olde stitch of steel up there millimetres from my bladder, all this softening doesn’t mean anything.  or so says Halifax.  they don’t even check the softening, so uninterested are they in texture, in whether i resemble a nose or an ear or a green alligator.  they are numbers people.  their magical dildo wand does not lie.

and according to the ultrasound evidence clearly provided by said dildo wand, my cervix was nearly a normal 4 cm long yesterday.

i try to imagine the look that must have crossed my face when this shocking (and fabulous) news was delivered.  i suspect i looked rather like some poor sot who’s just woken from a dream wherein he’d discovered himself onstage, naked, in a play he’d never learned the lines for, as part of an exam he’d never studied for, and unexpectedly eight months pregnant to boot.  the dreaming self feels trapped, helpless, afraid.  the waking man is befuddled and bewildered by the sudden change of states, but damn happy to give his head a shake and return to the status quo of mundane reality.

i am home.  i am relieved, beyond measure, to return to the relatively comfortable status of couch troll. but i am still a bit groggy from the dream, from all the drama.

i see my doc here again Monday.   i don’t know what to expect.  i have tried, so hard, to be patient and passive…to sit tight and trust my caregivers.  but i do not know if i can keep riding this emotional roller coaster of preparing to leave O behind, preparing myself for the terror of another micropreemie, preparing myself to weather the summer in a hospital that – all the other nights spent in there aside – is still and will forever be imprinted on me as the place where my child died.  i don’t know if i can handle this kind of mindfuck every week, not when each time i pack it gets harder, and not when it keeps being a bloody false alarm that one doc rings and the other dismisses.  living on orange alert is a wearying, exhausting thing.  i do not want to keep bouncing like a pingpong ball between dire prognoses and “oh, you’re fine.”  i want to be fine.  i want this baby to be fine.  but i am starting to wonder if perhaps we don’t all have a bad case of teh crazy, instead.

maybe this whole circus is some strange fabrication that my apparently-imaginative cervix has concocted to relieve the boredom of pelvic rest.  maybe my doc here is secretly pulling for some other contestant in the Miss Cervix Universe ’08 pageant and is trying to sabotage me.  maybe i’m dreaming.  these seem like rational explanations, from where i’m sitting lying…just as rational as my cervix gaining a gorgeous three entire centimetres in 24 hours, much as i don’t want to appear ungrateful for the apparent miracle of the latter.  but it’s weird, folks.

in any case, if i am a loon i’m a loon whose carcass is happily back on its own couch, and appreciative – if embarrassed – about all the kind messages of support and love that were utterly unnecessarily sent its way.  except, well, they did make me feel awfully nice.  really, very, awfully, nice.

as you were.  nothing to see here.

we leave for Halifax first thing tomorrow.

the wheel has turned again.  i can feel my cervix leaving the building, softening, losing interest in its task.  so we go for safe-keeping, for measurement and steroids, to be four floors from the best NICU east of Montreal rather than four hours.  if i were a gambling man, i’d bet on me staying for awhile.  my doctor mentioned i might want to bring my things.

i tried to be extra careful this past week, tried to look at the cool of this shuttered house and its green yard and the cat and the boy and the man i share it with as a playground of freedoms…a broad horizon, compared to the alternative.  i tried not to chafe, not to putter, not to allow myself just one more little privilege to do.  but i suspect the freedom to make those choices is about to be rescinded.  and i understand it is for the best, know better than anyone how far i would go if need be to try to ensure a safe arrival for this little one, this one my body shelters and threatens, all at the same time.  i want to do right by her, and i will go.

and still the light pours in yellow on the white French door in the long June twilight and i kiss Oscar good night and sorrow to leave…afraid that change and chance will somehow fail to deposit me back in this place, this summer’s night of now, ever again.

the Wheel of Fortune is a lucky card in a Tarot deck, so long as it is not reversed.  in some incarnations of the deck, the wheel bears a circling sphinx, representing the riddle of fortune; in others human figures ride the wheel, some rising with the tide of luck, others falling.  my favourite version, though, is the one with the asses and jesters clinging to the wheel as it turns, riding helplessly, almost rueful.  they make me smile, in recognition.  when i look in the mirror these days, i see a donkey in a three-belled hat, a fool spinning at the mercy of the fates.

the only trick is to tell which way the wheel is turning.

wheel of fortune

a week ago, i was told all was magically and surprisingly stable in the cervical department, and that i would be home – unexpectedly, gratefully home, eating cherries rather than hospital gruel – for the month of June.

on Monday, my hold on the Miss Cervix Universe ’08 crown got shakier, as did i.  my doc here reported shortening, softening…and we talked of steroid protocols and unplanned trips back to Halifax and stricter bedrest.  i looked around for evidence of sabotage from other, jealous contestants, but could see no one.  only bebe, head down and pushing.  and the harsh sounds and lights and the sheer fear of the NICU came flooding back to me, the team of yellow-gowned strangers rushing into your birthing room at the sound of an alarm, STAT, your tiny child whisked away in a trail of blood and fluid as you wait, helpless and unable to follow, and the clatter of the last-ditch oscillating ventilator as it tries to do what the child’s lungs cannot.  and i quaked and brayed my terror, remembering, projecting forward.

today, i went back to my doc here for one more check before packing for Halifax.  i knew baby had flipped, could tell by the respite of pressure, but had no sense whether that in itself would be enough to turn the wheel back, stabilize my fragile cervix back to the firm wunderkind that caused my perinatologist to brag about me to an entire waiting room.

for the moment…it has.

i have less cervix than a week ago, but enough that there is no real worry, no cause to flee to the region’s neonatal Mecca.  i have firmed up again.  and so i stay put for another week barring any further signs of pressure.  and i will eat cherries and jingle the bells on my hat, and though my card in the Tarot deck has always been the Queen of Swords, sharp and poised between insight and sorrow, i will hope instead to draw the World card of the major arcana…itself symbolic of a cervix, of a successful birth and conclusion to a journey, wherein patience pays off and the Queen at the centre of it all becomes a teacher and traveller, celebratory, complete.  i will hope that the wheel – and the baby – do not reverse again, and literally and figuratively head back downward, at least not too soon.

shuffle deck.  jingle hat.  stroke donkey ears.  wait.

i’m home.

made it just before bedtime…met our freshly-bathed, pajama and rubber-boot clad boy coming in the door from his Nannie’s house.  he didn’t even know we’d been gone…just thought he’d been on a dinner date.  we all beamed at each other.  i tucked him in and petted his unruly curls and whispered it’s okay, it’s okay, it’s okay…for my own ears, my still-shaken heart that had ached at the possibility of leaving him.

but i don’t have to.  i am home, tonight.

because while the Miss Cervix Universe 2008 pageant is, of course, not yet over…i think mine just got voted Miss Congeniality.  it’s trucking along cheerily, long and strong and with the blue fishing twine holding tight, every centimetre of it advocating world peace with a big sparkling smile.  it looks good, basically, and bebe looks good…still measuring on target, still a girl, still floating in a happy fluid pool.  i’m still on bedrest, but i’m home.  and i may – two or three more ultrasound trips aside – get to remain home until this baby is born if all continues status quo.  ten weeks ago, i was flat out told that was NOT going to happen.

so now, i’m going to have to adjust my expectations and self-image again, figure out how to be gracious if everything goes right.

if anyone has any experience with this, i have rather a lot of time and a rather large couch from which to contemplate your wisdom.  seriously.

there is this song of mothers and daughters, one i have been rehearsing my whole life. i have been trying to lay down its lyrics over the past few days, sounding out the verses, testing what is honest. it is hardly work, this writing…it lurches out of me in spurts and clots, memory and wish and history all webbed together, the fabric of identity.

i am playing Scheherezade, counting down the days to this baby’s viability with stories, hoping to lure us past the danger zone. it is a fiction, of course, this deliberate narrative convention: i know that stories do not knit tissue or keep blood flowing, seal vulnerable sacs of fluid, hold cervixes tight. i know that the 24-week threshhold of viability is itself a fiction: this baby had a brother born fifteen days past that point, and the odds failed him utterly. yet there is nothing else i have to give.

it is not that i will love her more, this girl child. she will be her own surprise, whatever she is, no more or less mythic than her brothers once she leaves my body. but i did not know there were mythologies of mothers and sons – i grew up the only daughter of an only daughter, no men left standing in the family – and so in this liminal before-time, the idea of a her signifies a continuity i have been immersed and engaged in since my earliest consciousness, a song i have anticipated singing since i was four years old. it has nothing to do with ribbons and bows, sugar and spice. its ties cut deeper, and cut sharp, sometimes.

the caul of my protective shell has been torn away, the one that held some part of me numb and disconnected and able to believe that none of this was real. this baby moves, kicks, somersaults inside me, a sudden presence, an Other demanding recognition. in acknowledging her, opening myself to the possibility of her, i am made all the more vulnerable. i feel the prickling of my skin, the terror that this may be all the time we have. but it is enough for stories. i like to believe she can hear my voice.

i come from a long line of women, i used to tell myself…as if the family tree from which i’d sprung were solely female, made up of vines extending across generations on the x chromosome, the men present only as pollinators. i imagined the mystery of my own murky fertility as a logical extension of the pattern: someday, under some suitably Bohemian circumstances, some fine, decent man-friend of mine would make it possible for me to bring forth a daughter and go on about my destiny. she, in her turn, might eventually manage to free herself entirely from the extraneous male half of the population and spontaneously self-fertilize.

this mythology was born, of course, of wounds, of an effort to turn absences and holes into strengths, into some special twist of fortune. it was also born of the pleasure i took, in my peevish, fraught adolescence, in shocking those women i came from, those unintentionally unconventional women who in spite of themselves had taught me that men were not needed in a family. they are not iconoclasts, these women we come from, daughter…not most of them. i once thought i was, and the memory makes me smile. +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

we all of us women are daughters, at least once over, at least for a time. perhaps that is why some of us hope and long for girls, because it is what we understand of parenting and childhood. perhaps that is why some want nothing to do with such a mess.

all these things i am scribbling these days, grafitti and narrative, a song i hope her voice will add its own verses to, someday…some time far from now when how it all ends in this verse is clear and inviolable.

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