… of parenthood? Of breakdown? Of both?
I keep trying to figure out why it is that I’m having such a hard time writing about my pregnancy here. The posts flowed so much easier when I was under the influence of Gonal-F and endlessly waiting for the next laparoscopy, the next cycle, the next miscarriage. At first I thought it was the inevitable IF guilt. That deep-seated uneasiness with the fact that I was “moving along” while others were left to do the same things over and over again in the hopes of a different outcome. Or left to rightfully rail against the very concept of hope itself. And, yes, that guilt did factor in; but, I think, less than I initially thought. Ultimately, the primary issue is I don’t know how to live and write equally in the lands of fear and joy – a skill that pregnancy after IF requires. I’ve known what I felt, what I’ve wanted to say, what I’ve secreted away in my mind these past many months, but I just don’t know how to put it to paper. Or even if I can put it to paper. I’ve returned to the realm of the bogeyman, where it feels as if what I think, what I say, what I write will automatically land me in the bad graces of those unseen beings who decide my fate. The simple act of sporting this belly feels like a daily act of hubris, for which I’m constantly sure I’m in for a rude awakening.
In trying to decide why this all feels so, I’m struck by how similar the IF and PG-after-IF emotions I’m feeling are. Top of the list at the moment is the seesaw. With twice weekly non-stress tests at the perinatal center I feel like I’m, once again, living from appointment to appointment. Every three to four days my psyche is formed by the lines on the NST ribbon and the words of that day’s nurse practitioner or midwife. One day I’m told how grand I’m doing (“minimal weight gain, stellar 1-hour glucose screen, you’re a rockstar!”), and the next I’m discussing the possibility of a looming c-section (“he’s still breech and, since we’re taking you off of the Lovenox at 36 weeks anyway, we might as well just do a c around that time!”). A week ago one of my favorite midwifes poo-pooed the early c idea (“you’re still so early, and there are things we can try!”), only to have another preferred practitioner inform me this Monday that I had suddenly developed polyhdramnios (too much amniotic fluid) and we, “desperately need to get to the bottom of this!” In a few short hours I trek an hour north again for a full afternoon of ultrasounds, NSTs, blood tests, and consults.
I’m exhausted. Even at its best spending 5-6 hours each week in the car on the way to and from appointments is tiring. Another 3-4 hours each week in waiting rooms and on exam tables doesn’t help. Adding in the need to keep up with my full-time job during one of the busiest times of our semester brings me close to the edge. When you factor in the frequent Braxton Hicks chipping away at my physical and mental stability I’m pretty much done for.
But all those stressors are the easy ones. The ones that aren’t that hard to write. The ones I start my therapy sessions with. The ones that get me pity from most ffergiles and justifiable dagger-eyes from those still waiting to parent or finding peace in the decision not to.
Then there’s the much louder chorus of other concerns for which I have a private concert. Most days I wake up waiting for the first kick or rumble. As I pray for it to come, I run through what life post-still birth would look like. I watch it play out from outside my body; me, sitting in silent grief and despair in our darkened bedroom, the mister bringing me food and handling the obligations of daily life as he cries alone in the shower. Our families not knowing what to say and, likely, taking it even harder than we do. After all, we’ve walked these halls before. The failed cycles, the dashed dreams, the early losses go, if not unfelt by those in our inner circles, at least a lot less felt than for those of us with front row seats. Soon, these morbid morning thoughts are replaced with anger, nearly all of it directed solely at myself. What have I been doing for the past five years if not running and screaming from medical office to office demanding something was wrong? Insisting I was sick? How could I relentlessly pursue diagnoses in one breath, while doing everything in my power to become pregnant in the other? I often feel shamefully selfish, and that’s really hard to admit. For 4.5 years I’ve allowed the words “brave,” “determined,” and “driven” to shelter, protect, and uplift me. Now I often feel like a fraud and a failure. If we lose him, I am to blame. My body did it. And, most of all, I should have known better.
But, then he kicks. Or he hiccups. I catch a glance at the nursery. Or I sit down to work on my shower thank you’s. The mister gets misty in the eyes looking through the story books his parents gave us. Or I find myself subconsciously rubbing my belly. And it all melts away. I’m quite easily the happiest I have ever been in my life. I love my husband beyond words as he talks to our son and dreams of the future. I miss my mom desperately, but I’ve never felt as connected to her as I do in these on-the-verge-of-mothering moments. The contractions and kick counting are often overwhelming, but they always remind me that I’m living a moment in time I truly never thought I’d see. For all that I’ve dreaded showers over the past five years, my own were beautiful and surprisingly cathartic. And, not the least of all, I feel the healthiest I have in my adult life (no “unknown rheumatalogical condition” back pain or rashes, no endo constipation or crippling cramping, no Hashi’s fatigue or brain fog, no PCOS weight gain or hunger pangs). Life is really, truly, deeply wonderful.
And, at the same time, life keeps on moving and fear keeps on sneaking in. In the past week I registered for daycare, set up an appointment with our desired pediatrician, started really putting the nursery together, and continued planning for my maternity leave from work. Yet, each time I cross one of these items off my to-do list I can’t help but feel like I’m adding them to a “what we’re going to have to undo” list. I feel like I’m laughing at fate by planning for a child that may or may not arrive safely. I can’t help but see myself un-registering, appointment cancelling, un-prepping the nursery, spending the summer in my desk chair.
The seesaw keeps rocking at the peak of a mighty mountain and I know I’m destined to fall off. I’m just not sure which tranquil valley or cursed forest I’m perched above…