bravery in living.

Another Monday. Geoff scurried off to work early, and I find myself exhausted but unable to sleep. I scheduled my next four prenatal visits and am waiting to have my fetal echo scheduled by a cardiology clinic. Things seem to be moving forward, and I am wide eyed with disbelief.

Geoff and I don’t have a lot of money. But I’m determined to redo our small two bedroom apartment into a nice home for Baby Z.

I found this fabric for curtains:

We bought a crib new, for safety reasons:

Previously, the house has been just shit we like. Old record players, broken down typewriters, a broken reel-to-reel, and several mid-century clocks — these were what we used to decorate. But we still have little nods to our collective experiences with punk rock:

I’m not moving very fast, but things are getting done. I want the whole place to be welcoming to a baby boy, not just his room.

And the whole time I am questioning the wisdom of getting excited. If things go south, we will then have reminders of our grief everywhere, and will have to sell shit while mourning. It’s a risk we’re taking. We’re diving in, head first.

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what will it be like now

Twenty-one weeks today. The more time passes, the greater the sense of disconnect from my acclimated reality of wretchedness. Which I must admit has been a reoccurring theme in my life as a woman recovering from uncontrolled bipolar and psychosis.

Sunlight dances on the cobwebs with cat hair stuck in them in the corners of the bedroom. The house needs a deep cleaning, and I need to snap myself out of the fog of grief and move forward. It’s odd to wake up each morning next to my husband and remember that things are going well. I am still nervous about not feeling much movement, about them maybe completely missing something on the ultrasound. My December due date feels like it’s aeons away, but I worry about having too little time to make proper preparations. Now that I’ve told my parents and had that actually go well, I feel lonely for family. Geoff is working a lot of overtime, and I miss spending lazy weekends with him.

I’m still scared. I know things can still go wrong. But that feeling of being damned to a plane of existence with no joy, a lifetime of being pitied, has dissipated. What will happen next? I wonder. I want time to stop right here.

fiction

Here is your protagonist, sitting in a rocking chair with a grey and white little cat. Long black hair, exotic features, a rounded belly she runs her hands over as she thinks. A moment of contemplation on the cruelly random universe that structures the narrative of this meandering story.

She is working out how the story ends. Too many paradigm shifts would be overkill, too much reflection on the ineffable would make for a boring tale. She rocks faster in the chair, then sits up straight, humming tunelessly.

and I end up conceiving a chromosomally normal baby a couple of months prior to my fortieth birthday, which upon reaching I was going to stop…

Too contrived. She likes messy endings, complexities that will keep her psychotherapist in business for years.

This is too perfect. I’m waiting for the plot twist, even if it takes years.

sunny days

I had an OB appointment today. Not with my regular doctor, but with the doctor that did my last D&C in January. When I was in the waiting room, it suddenly struck me that for all intents and purposes I looked like one of the normal pregnant ladies that I used to find so intimidating.

The doctor did a double take when she saw us. “You’re twenty weeks pregnant!” she exclaimed. I nodded, and she smiled. Fundal height is good, heartbeat is 142. Normal. Everything is fucking normal.

“Do you remember talking to me?” she asked me. She meant at my surgery. I’m sure I talked to her, but they always make me take my contact lenses out so I never have any idea who I’m talking to.

I had to give a urine sample. As I walked down the hall to the lab, I passed by my regular doctor’s medical assistant. “Look at your baby bump!” she said, smiling. I looked around. She was talking to me.

I’m resting now, my little cat leaning against my thigh as he carefully grooms himself. Geoff has been at work since before sunrise, and I wish he were here with me now to enjoy these feelings. Because they won’t last forever. Because he is part of me. Because these are the best days I’ve ever had.

tooth and claw

So I had my scan but don’t receive results for three days. Baby is measuring a day ahead, heartbeat of 144, very active — but that’s all I know and all I will know for three fucking days. I really feel like I can’t keep going. As far as reproduction goes, I am Prometheus getting his liver pecked out every fucking day, and it just sucks over and over until eternity.

No, I don’t actually know. I left the scan feeling hopeful and with a fist full of pictures. But we were so hopeful to tell our families this evening. I don’t care, and I’m going to keep shopping for baby things. Everything is bullshit anyway.

**********

I am sick with worry and hating the world. My OB never answered my frantic message. The stupid radiology place doesn’t send out the results for three days, and then my doctor will have to look at it and get around to getting back to me. I don’t see how I’ll make it through the next couple.

**********

I refuse to go to my OB appointment this Thursday. I can’t walk in there not knowing my test results, not knowing if I still have hope or if I need another tfmr — that place is the worst place to hear bad news. I feel self destructive and things are getting fuzzy. I’m like this when I’m mad, and when I’m mad it’s because I’m nervous.

**********

I am convinced there is something wrong with baby. I’m half asleep, half crying. Surely there must be a better way to get your results back from an anatomy scan. I hear Geoff lecturing me from the other side of the bed, but he’s not really here at home with me. Still, his presence is detectable, hung all over the house like holiday garlands.

Am I finally cracking under stress? I forget why I am crying. I’m not sure if maybe I’m having a reaction to my anxiety meds.

I have to check the mail, but it seems so far away.

They went out of their way for me. Crying now.

***********

last supper

I am bargaining with a God I don’t believe in, begging favors from a universe I’ve already dismissed as cold, random, and heartless. My own heart races and beads of sweat run down from my brow. I lie here, still in bed on my left side, and I pray to whatever deities may have been left on earth — curvy goddesses of fertility, may you take me in your arms and let me rest my head on your breast. I offer you a single flower, almost pornographic in its promise of fecundity and life.

I still fret over not feeling much movement. Perhaps baby is too small for me to feel. I dread IUGR, which afflicted my darling Molly. Perhaps there is something structurally wrong with him — Molly’s legs were locked together in a fixed position.

At my last ultrasound, there was some sort of cyst. They told me it was nothing, that it required no follow up. Was that true? Is a higher resolution ultrasound going to reveal trouble?

And the thousands of things to worry about are swirling in my gut, my head is spinning off into another plane and here I am, your story’s tragic heroine and I am sick, and I am tired, and all I want is to break free of all the loss and soulsickness and live again…

********

Scan is tomorrow at 8.45 PT. Everything has been building up to this. Please, please, please let him be okay. I am nauseated by panic, gagging on my Smartwater. Distraction is inevitable and I find it hard to maintain a train of thought as electricity burns down my neural pathways. I find myself singing tragic Jawbreaker songs to baby, wishing that my repertoire was full of happier music. Sigh. I am still very much a nihilist. Oh, well.

*******

And if the scan goes well, another landslide of worries will sweep over my rickety home. I’ll have to deal with the bureaucracy of social services, since I am on disability. We’ll need to look into WIC. I’ll need to *gulp* tell my mom, and Geoff’s parents, and so many others, like our landlord. Christmas plans will have to be adjusted since my EDD is December 29. I’ll have to acquire a hell of a lot more stuff, and we’ll have to fix our transportation issues (truck has no backseat so we need a new vehicle).

Thousands of worries. I am laying in a hole in the ground, being covered with fresh fertile soil, buried in anxiety, and still crying for my lost little ones…

**********

Geoff and I went to see friends yesterday. Our friend D is ninety-one years old and our other friend K takes care of him. Because D won’t be around forever, they are the only two people IRL we’ve notified of our latest pregnancy aside from my various health care professionals. Oh, and Geoff let slip to his twin brother.

K asked a few questions about how things were going. It was so strange to be voicing my fears out loud, to another person that was showing empathy and was genuinely curious. I can’t pass for just fat anymore. My belly, which got big quickly, is now rounding out and has become more shapely. I am definitely looking pregnant. Which is exactly what K told me. K has four kids, I think. She mentioned knowing someone that had had a miscarriage. She was sympathetic anyway. It was sort of nice.

I still hide out at home every day. I wonder if my scan goes well, how will I transition back into the world? Because all I want to do is remain hidden from the world.

**********

Ultrasounds are the WORST. I hate when the techs don’t say anything. I hate wondering what the fuck they’re looking at. Of course I have to go to an outside place to get it done. Anything to ramp up the terrifying prospect of having this stupid fucking scan.

scared in brief

I’ve been pregnant for twenty weeks as of yesterday, an unimaginable length of time for the likes of me. Ahead of my anatomy scan, I am miserable and sick with anxiety. Panic rolls over me, and as soon as I begin recovering the next wave hits. Sleep is elusive. I hate when I get like this. Please let him be okay.

I’m not sure how I’ll do this. I don’t want to go to my ultrasound, like usual. In fact, that is the last place I want to go. I try to picture myself getting dressed and ready, climbing into the car. It seems impossible.

burning inside of me

Sometimes when I get very anxious, I can’t do anything but force myself to lie completely still in bed and suck air into my lungs until I can get my breathing regulated. I try to keep my eyes shut but the urge to seek out potential hazards is overwhelming and I succumb to hypervigilance. I try to distract myself but my mind races and spins around each horrible possibility that may unfold in front of me.

I’ve had panic attacks since I was a kid riding thoroughbreds in the competitive show jumping circuit in New England. It was way too much for me. I was far too sensitive a child to be saddled (ha!) with a life that demanded perfectionism.

What am I nervous about today? Well, the UPS man should be here to deliver the crib I bought preemptively. What if he comes while I’m in the bathroom? What if I doze off and miss him? I focus on this triviality so as to distract myself from next week’s scan. What if all the happiness I’ve enjoyed these past weeks is taken away from me? What if it was never real to begin with?

I can’t stop waiting to hear the UPS truck. If that means I can’t get out of my bed near the front window, so be it. I run my fingers through the tangles in my hair and pull my little cat closer. I start to fret about his safety, here on the Westside of Olympia where there have been three cat murders. Some psychopath has been terrorizing animal lovers in my neighborhood, how can I not worry about that? Every window save the bedroom has been shut tight and locked despite the recent hot weather. I feel hotly protective of my Wendall, unwilling to leave him home alone. What if the guy starts killing and mutilating people? As soon as the UPS man comes, I will lock up the one open window, maybe get out of bed.

I contemplate taking half an Ativan, decide against it. Believe it or not, it gets way worse than this.

i want this so bad

I wake up in a sunny room and immediately smile. There is still light tapping inside me, still too subtle to give confidence but sweet nonetheless. I run my hands over my rounded belly and all of the sudden the panic is back because this happiness feels stolen or borrowed, not like the kind of thing that happens to me. Five days until my scan. Unreal.

I start with the worrying. The sonographer at The Baby Factory is out on medical leave, so I am being sent to an outside radiology place. I’m terrified that the tech there will be silent, that I will have to go through agony waiting for her to finish and then to have to wait to hear from my doctor about how things look. I can’t imagine that kind of waiting and it causes me as much fear as actually getting bad results.

So what if things go well? Do I go home, call my parents and resume baby shopping? Could it be that simple? The alternative is easier to visualize, at least.

*********

Have I fought as hard as I could? Have I suffered enough? The cold universe is spinning around me. How will my story end? Everything is so tentative and I feel so incredibly tired…

on the loose

It’s only Wednesday. My scan isn’t until next week, I try to tell myself. But I’m spinning, as I am wont to do. The oppressive summer heat leaves beads of sweat on my brow. And I keep feeling sharp jabbing pains in my cervix. Do I call the doctor? Is this like, a thing to worry about? I pull up Google, but decide not to research. I can barely move. I mean, I can’t stop shaking.

I swallow an emergency Ativan, which were prescribed for me just for this. Panic grips me by the upper arms. I can take about two pills a month, the obstetrician/ psychiatrist told me. Right-O. I am in full compliance.

My therapy session came and went. Everything I need to talk about has become redundant. Anxious about baby, sure I’ll have a devastating loss — I can’t talk about those things ad infinitum . I show her my last u/s pictures. We start talking about the cats that have been killed and mutilated here, the mystery psychopath that is loose in our town.

My own little cat is locked decisively indoors, windows only open if I am here to watch over things. I fret that he’ll escape, or that someone will break in and hurt him. He is so sweet and trusting. I owe him safety because he got me through five losses.

I get another sharp pain. Is my cervix insufficient? Maybe I’ll message the triage nurse. Always. A thousand things to worry about.