Wednesday, April 27, 2011

So this is what the days are like:

The baby sleeps, and I worry. I poke its little bum and try to wake it up. It wakes up.
The baby rocks and rolls, and kicks and stretches, and I worry. Don't move too much! Is this panicky movement? Will it turn breech and get tangled up? Slow down!

I have never had such a wild baby, to be honest, and it's kind of freaking me out. It looks so cute on ultrasound but it's hard for them to measure anything because it won't stop moving.

It has scored well the last two BPPs. Thank goodness for that.

(and I'm sorry to repeatedly call my son or daughter it, but the he/she gets cumbersome)

There are exactly three days left in April, after today. Then we face May.

How am I supposed to feel about May this time?

Do I grieve? Hope? Fear?

(perhaps withdraw?)

For a few minutes yesterday, I allowed myself to remember that feeling that consumes me when I am home with a brand new baby, just settled on the couch, or in my sleigh bed, nestled in with the hustling and bustling of the other children around me, and my mum in the kitchen making me delicious food, and the phone ringing with excited voices. I could almost feel this strange emotion that just wraps itself around me, this cocoon of something that seemed almost recognizable but a little out of reach.

Was it joy? Delight? Passion? I imagined myself looking down at the sweet, swaddled bundle at my breast, and I could feel that something rush in again, and suddenly I recognized it:


Above everything else, there has been relief. The freedom from absolute constant, eternal, paralyzing fear. There is nothing like this feeling of being suddenly freed, like a young, energetic bird. The euphoria and bliss of a new life settle gently into this amazing quiet pudding of a time where the fear is so different, and where at least there is only the known.

I can see the baby, I can feel her breathe. I can rest my head on her chest and hear her little heart beat. I hold her against my chest and feel her little toes on the outside of my skin, and there is some element of control: I can protect her now.

This has happened three times, and I want it just one more time.


Tuesday, April 26, 2011

I've been missing, and there is a reason.

A few days after my last post, I went and had an ultrasound, and there was something that was of concern... mostly to me. It was concerning, slightly, to my practitioners, but not of enough concern to take any sort of action. Honestly, truly, I can't even speak the words to explain the story, because I can't add drama to the possibilities that might befall my life and this baby. Suffice it to say there was legitimate concern, and I went into a sort of self-insulating hibernation, a terror that affixed me in one spot and rendered me unable to even speak of my life at this juncture.
I moved decisively from the "when" mode, to the "if" mode, when thinking about everything in my future again. I had previously been priding myself on how strongly I had been standing in the "when" camp, perhaps not always with super-great confidence, but there for the most part, at least. But it was a quick decline back into feeling like this baby was a remote possibility at best. All this when I am a stone's throw from the range of delivery: at 35 weeks I was almost there, but not yet.
So I sat and wallowed in terror and resignation: perhaps, rather than some sort of atonement for what May has brought in the past, I was going to relive my past.

Today I had another ultrasound, and the "cause for concern" seems to not be a cause for concern anymore. Not that I am now definitively unconcerned, but I could see it for myself, so now at the very least I can explain to you that I chose not to post because I was sure it was all going down the tubes, but now I can post confidently that while I remain white-knuckled, clinging to hope with every shred of my existence, the technical, actual cause for concern seems to have miraculously disappeared.

I am due in 4 weeks, and I wish it were 4 days.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Real Today

Today had moments that were hard. I don't mean emotionally hard, which is what I usually write about. I'm going to step outside of the fairy land of the beauty and love of my amazing life with my four amazing living children (an amazing concept, but yes, there are four alive right now) and address the reality of sometimes.
Sometimes, days stretch on for weeks. The children don't really want to play with each other, or play by themselves, and each child wants an adult all to him/herself. Sometimes, each child cries or complains or whines until said adult attends to the want of the day. Sometimes, I wish we didn't have all these wonderful science kits and fancy art activities so that my children could each just sneak off into a corner and entertain themselves while I lie on the couch and read my book. Sometimes, I fantasize about hiring a mother's helper to follow around the most adorable 17 month old baby on the planet, so that I can have an hour off from the exhausting existence of keeping tabs on her every step and every word. If you don't respond to everything Fiona says, she keeps repeating herself, louder and louder each time. Sometimes, the din in the house, with the two older kids trying to tell competing stories, and Fiona vying for her own spot at the mike, is deafening.
I am low on energy right now, I know this, and this is why today this was my experience. I don't have the foresight or planning skills to think through how I can best integrate the needs of these three sweet, amazing children into a fun afternoon for everyone. I am ready for a rest, a real rest, but at the same time I want this rest to include my sweet babies because I love them so desperately.
It's a catch-22 I find myself in often, this need and desire and desperation for some space and time and breathing room, and my simultaneous hunger for having my children around me, on me, with me all the time. Right now I dream of us all lying quietly in a big bed, watching some old VHS tape from the 1980's, maybe eating cinnamon toast and drinking milky English Breakfast tea with sugar. I dream of lying on a chaise in the backyard while the two older children scamper around in the woods, lost in a fairy-fantasy game, and Fiona digs quietly in the sandbox, immersed in her bucket and shovel and the white sand pouring through her tiny fingers.
Mostly, I dream of my body in the prone position, where I'm not bending over, the bile rising in my throat as my ever-growing baby presses onto my stomach.

I'm living the dream, the dream of real life, right now. I love it, I do, even though I am writing about its challenges. The truth, the end story of the Catch-22, is that if somebody offered me 2 nights at the spa in the Berkshires, all expenses paid, and a car to drive me there in the morning, I would politely decline. I don't want to escape my life, I just need to be true to what it is sometimes.

That being said, if somebody offered to cook all the meals, keep the house picked up, fold and put away the laundry, and watch the kids while I ran to town for an hour for a massage, I would gladly accept.

Tomorrow, the sun is supposed to shine again. It should be warmer, and I may get some moments by the sandbox, even though I don't have a chaise to lie on. Right now the little baby in my belly is stretching and kicking and so vital, and I am so excited for its arrival. I am due in a few days over 5 weeks. This is so amazing.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Coming soon...

I chose my pediatrician carefully before Liam was born.

I had visions of myself, propped up on one elbow, my face close to the baby's to feel his breath on my skin.
I could see myself diagnosing every bump and bruise as a childhood cancer, every cry and gurgle as an ear infection or cold. I wondered if we would be daring enough to drive on the highway with him once he was born.

There were moments in Liam's early days where I was nervous, and maybe close to panicked, but for the most part, after his birth I mellowed considerably. The dozens of phone calls in the night that I had envisioned boiled down to one, perhaps two. Over time I began to trust his little body, and as he grew and thrived, that trust increased to the point that I almost felt mellow.

When Aoife was born, I was just in the thick of things. I had Liam, my survivor, and had somehow bonded deeply with his baby sister during my pregnancy. I had been nervous, yes, but was beyond relieved to be handing my not-an-only child a sibling who would stay with him. When she was born I was euphoric, amazed. I would walk down the hall with her in my arms and look from one to the other, stunned that I had now not one, but two small people in my charge, two living people who might just stay. The bliss settled, and stayed, and it was wonderful.

Fiona's birth was different. It had taken me 18 months to conceive her, and this long process had completely revamped my "body as damaged goods" perspective to the point that the pregnancy never seemed real to me, perhaps less so than even my pregnancy with Liam, where hope was my only focus other than despair. I detached and refocused on my cute little clan of two, cautiously hopeful in my conversations with them that "Peanut" would join us that November.

I remember vividly rocking on my hands and knees during my labor as I was seized by a particularly intense contraction, and bursting into nearly hysterical tears. I couldn't catch my breath, and the hot tears were pouring off my face onto the sheet below me. When the wave was over, our wonderful family friend and nurse who was with us took my hand.
What is it, she said, and I simply replied: I'm having a baby. It was like that moment was the first time I had dared to believe it, to reconcile the difficulty in conception and my fears that I wouldn't earn that "third" child. I had rubbed her sweet body through my skin and sang to her, I had spoken fondly of her and even talked of plans with the older two, but I had been play acting all along. Suddenly it became real, and I was overwhelmed by the waves of love and hope and anticipation that I had been afraid to connect with all along.

When she was born, it was like the biggest sigh ever, a fantastic, orgasmic moment of pure, clear amazement. My tiniest baby yet, born with her eyes wide open as I leapt over her umbilical cord and swept her up onto my chest. Suddenly it was so very clear to me that she, too, was my destiny, and I hadn't even known to expect her.

When I brought her home it was different. I was terrified for her. I woke in the night, my breathing sharp, sure she was still beside me. I would hold her under bright lights checking for changes in her skin tone, I even considered asking the pediatrician to run blood work just in case. Something about her made me sure I wouldn't keep her. Even Christmas seemed a long shot, and it was only six weeks away. Every time people talked about our future together I cringed, sagged, it was even worse than during my pregnancy.

During this time I could not bear to look at the photographs of myself holding Charlotte. I couldn't see that moment captured, of a mother's anguish and a dead child. I feared it too much to face it. It broke my heart to have to distance myself from her.

Lately I have wondered, did that fear come after the fact because I distanced myself from Fiona during the pregnancy? Did the attachment and fear during the pregnancy somehow allow for some kind of relief when this clearly-envisioned child arrived safely?

Of course I'll never know, but the reason I'm wondering might already be clear to you: I'm in my 34th week of pregnancy right now and still struggling to wrap my head around this miracle-to-be. My anxiety is mostly in check, I'm pleased to say, having developed a myriad of survival strategies over the past seven and a half years for coping with pregnancies. I am absolutely on top of this baby's movement and he/she is a lazy, lovely stretcher and wiggler, always subtle, but always palpable and there.

But I just can't believe I'm having another baby. I feel like we've just gotten to the point where Fiona is integrating herself into our family, and she's so diminutive and I baby her so intensely that it seems unfathomable that I'm getting close to another arrival.

I can hear it now, though, the gasp that will escape me when I scoop this new baby up, and destiny slaps me in the face again with the greatest beauty I have ever seen. I will wonder where I've been for the past eight months, rushing busily after my living three as this perfect being has grown and been loved by all of us in the midst of the fabulous chaos. I will wonder how I could ever survive without this one.

And I hope that I will this time escape the fear.