The p word

It seems that I have made it into the celebrated territory of the second trimester.  Unfortunately, nobody remembered to inform the welcoming committee.  Although the vomiting has begun to subside the past week or so, the nausea has not gotten the message to leave me in peace.  Nor have the headaches or other digestive ailments. I’m afraid that the much welcomed energy boost hasn’t been delivered either.  But, sadly, it’s the 2nd trimester gift that I covet more than anything that is by far the least likely to make it’s way to my doorstep: confidence.

In the vast majority of pregnancies, about 95%, the presence of a strong heartbeat after around 12 weeks pretty much guarantees a good outcome.  I am the 5%.  I am second and third trimester loss due to unexplained placental issues.  And for this reason I am seriously contemplating the idea of not telling my family about this pregnancy unless or until I deliver a live baby.

I am scheduled for an ultrasound in a couple of weeks that should give us some important information on growth and development as well as placental health.  In the meantime, I think that I am beginning to develop an abdominal protrusion/enlarging midsection/fat belly/kangaroo pocket/baby bump or whatever you want to call it. I continue to take it one day at a time with measured doses of caution and hope. There is no reassurance that things will be all right. But, so far at least, there is not concrete reason to believe that they won’t.

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Happy Thanksgiving

It was one of those mornings.  Just the simple act of stepping out of the front door and taking that first real breath of the day felt like nothing less than a triumph after an endless stream of failed negotiations, screams of defiance, tears of protest. But we made it and the reward was sweet.  The air at one of our favorite parks, often overtaken by strong gusts of bay winds, was unusually warm and peaceful.  I exhaled.

Within no time g had taken ownership of the playground and I set about to putting a snack together.  And just then the loud shriek of an unannounced train barreling along the tracks just feet from the perimeter of the play area gave us both a good startle.  I jumped and g ducked under a swing. That scared me, he said.  Me too. g reached out for me and I swooped him up.  I’m not afraid when I’m with you, mamma.  He nestled in as close as he could and then looked up at the tracks, seemingly willing the biggest baddest freight train in the world to pass at that moment.  And for a second, I felt like I was 10 feet tall.

Sometimes it can be overwhelming to acknowledge that this power, this ability to single-handedly chase away the demons and tame the tempests, is attached to an awesome responsibility.  Still I am dearly thankful for these moments. They might even trump the gratification of any promotion or raise, nurture the psyche in a way that nothing else can.

Today I am grateful to be needed.

Happy Thanksgiving!

A storybook pregnancy

I continue to cope with this pregnancy by exercising the everyday power of denial.  I marvel at friends who are the picture of happy, you might say normal, pregnant women.  I wonder where on earth they find the audacity to face all of the perils that lie ahead while I continue to plod along as if I’ve been plagued by a chronic stomach virus or perhaps a very generous desire to donate the contents of my meals to the local sewage system.

If only I were more susceptible to some of the magic that I encounter daily in g’s storybooks. We visit quaint little towns where cats write poetry and grasshoppers drive buses.  Why not a land where pregnant women make cheerful announcements upon reaching the second trimester?  How fun to browse colorful pages of bump pictures and sweet maternity outfits, baby names and nursery design and even, somewhere towards the end of the book, mythical happenings like baby showers and birth plans.  Of course, if you take the time to read the accompanying text, there might be some talk of bothersome symptoms and unpleasant twinges but no mention of the potential for fetal demise or the sometimes crippling fear produced by any honest examination of the world that our children will be forced to inherit.

It’s a sunlit, vibrant place that I’d like to visit a little more often. If only the book would never end and I would never be reminded that orthopterans are not really capable of operating buses after all.

Motherhood in the time of separation

g was excused from his first ever day care last week.  His provider and I agreed that he wasn’t making any progress toward adapting to being without me, for any amount of time, and it was clear to both of us that the provider wasn’t equipped to handle the situation.  He explained to me that he had never encountered anyone quite like g, who breaks down completely from the moment I leave to the moment that I return, refusing any sort of distraction, food or drink, a particular mix of terrified and stubborn.

Although I am undeniably concerned, I am not particularly surprised.  When g was just an infant and I still had what I believed were realistic aspirations of returning to my research, I would occasionally leave him with a nanny.  She came often to our house, even while I was there, so g knew her well.  Still, I would come back home to descriptions of a baby who never stopped screaming, refused a bottle, resisted sleep. As soon as I returned he would nurse for long periods of time and collapse.  At the time, I felt an intense need to be with him but it was clear that, as powerful as it might have been, it paled in comparison to his need for me.

I adored A, the day care provider that I had chosen for g.  He cared for just 6 children, all around the same age, out of his lovely home.  Although at first he might have given me the impression that he did bong hits for breakfast, based in part on his long dreadlocks and the old bus parked in front of his yard, it was clear from observing him that he was calm, patient and nurturing and that the kids in his care were very happy and surprisingly mature and independent. I hoped that it might be the right place for g.

I was wrong.  As I gathered the last of g’s belongings, I asked A if he had any suggestions.  He couldn’t seem to think of anything but then he paused. It’s not your faultI’ve seen parents who are the root of their children’s separation anxiety and you don’t act the way they do. He hugged me sympathetically. On one hand, I want to believe that he’s right. Nobody wants to be responsible for their child’s struggles. On the other hand, if my behavior isn’t behind this then how much power do I have to change it?

I knew that this stage would be difficult. Still, I looked forward to this chapter.  I am ready for the gradual process that will one day leave me mourning the little boy who once needed me so badly. I didn’t realize that an early failure would leave me feeling this way, gasping for air, watching in fear as the walls seem to move closer and closer.

Underneath it all lies the one question that I hesitate to speak out loud.  I keep it safely submerged beneath the surface not only because I fear the answer but also because I know that there will probably never be an answer. Just a question. Does he know?  Older children who fear separation have usually experienced a loss.  They have discovered far too soon that nobody is forever.  g lost the person who he would have been closest to in the entire world, his identical twin, a part of himself, in utero.  Maybe, just maybe, he has carried this trauma in his tiny consciousness for all of his short life.

I know that it probably violates every code of parenting to think this way but sometimes I think that maybe, just maybe, if this baby that I am carrying makes it, he/she could be there for g, make up in some way for the sibling that he lost.  Perhaps a living sibling would make him feel more secure, less terrified of being alone.

Maybe, just maybe.