“You can sit quietly, and if what comes up in that 10 minutes is terrifying, gripping knowing, give yourself permission to do nothing about it for awhile. But don’t pretend you don’t know it. You owe yourself at least that: not to abandon truth, not to abandon yourself. That’s the first step: Tell yourself you don’t have to do anything about it now, but don’t pretend it’s not true.” -Glennon Doyle Melton
Earlier this week, I was about to do another check of the baby’s heart. Without feeling much movement, I have been increasingly relying on my daily checks to reassure myself. I had lathered myself up with coconut oil, then turned the knob. Nothing. The light of the device did not turn on. Out of batteries. I opened it up only to find that it takes 9-volt. I wiped off the oil and went to our battery stash, finding one 9-volt. I was a bit skeptical of its age but took it upstairs. With the new battery, the device turned on, but produced zero sound.
I waffled briefly. Could I skip my check for the day? Did I need to run out to buy more batteries? I settled that instead, I would lie quietly and try to focus on movement. It felt like a major accomplishment, to be comfortable in waiting until the next morning to get batteries.
Later that night, I felt a pang in the back of my leg and immediately thought “blood clot!” but then was able to calm myself and decide that it was likely a strain from the heels I wore to the wedding.
When I went to Target the next day to get the necessary 9-volt battery, I also took the infant car seat that Quentin used. Target is having a recycling program for old car seats right now, and the one we have is expired. In exchange, I was given a 20% off coupon toward the purchase of a new seat. I had to balance my desire not to purchase anything or prepare for this baby against my desire to save money. The coupon is good through May 31 and Target has a 90 day return policy. I have 104 days left until my due date. I figured I could wait just a bit, make the purchase, and still be able to return it if needed. In my head, nothing will be purchased in advance. I will place a large Amazon order or schedule a Target in-store pickup from the hospital, once I know things are ok. But even that thought requires planning.
Then I put a bit of body oil on my neck later that night, only to then find the warning “if pregnant, please consult a physician prior to use.” Of course. Because I cannot go even a few days without something new to worry about. So then I lay quietly in bed, waiting to feel a movement to reassure myself that the tiny bit of oil on my neck had not done harm. Of course, I felt nothing. Goddamn anterior placenta. I wrestled with trying to calm myself but finally had to drag out my heart rate monitor. If I could crawl inside a bubble, that’d be great.
Yesterday, only one day different, I felt movement at various points throughout the day, even sitting in a chair at my desk – something I hadn’t previously felt. And that night, lying in bed, I could see the movements, from the outside. I lay quietly, watching the bumps of elbows or knees, grateful for more assurance that will make me less dependent on the heart rate monitor.
I have to start acknowledging that it is increasingly easy to envision making it to 39 weeks, and increasingly hard to ignore outward signs and plans for pregnancy. Today was my monthly appointment with maternal fetal medicine. While showering this morning, I pictured the birth of our baby. And I started crying. I still cannot think of that moment, finally getting into the end, without my face pinching up and tears flowing freely. As I sat in my bathrobe and wet hair and attempted to get myself under control, the door flung open and Quentin’s face poked in, to say good morning. I did not want him to see me crying, so I quickly said “privacy please” so that he would leave the bathroom.
We had to take Quentin with us to the MFM appointment. Fever yesterday meant he was banned from day care today, and seemed to be still under the weather. Today was another growth check, plus a fetal echocardiogram – somewhat standard in this specialized practice. I saw quickly that all of the measurements that the ultrasound tech took were right on target, but then she spent a long, long time looking at the heart from all angles, and of course, saying nothing. The entire ultrasound was over 30 minutes. We then waited an additional 20 minutes for the doctor. As nervous as I was, I was not angry. In my head I thought “He’s running behind, because someone is probably getting bad news. Someone needs him more than I do right now.” Like at that 20-week appointment with Nelle and the unplanned amniocentesis that followed, making our appointment much longer.
He finally came in, and was more hurried than he normally is. He immediately sat down and started looking at the images. I thought “This is it – he’s going to tell us something is wrong with Baby’s heart.” He told us that the tech couldn’t get a few angles, but the baby had shifted and he could see them just fine. He looked some more, saying nothing. Finally, he revealed “I’m sorry; I was concentrating on getting one last angle and just realized I haven’t said anything. Everything looks fine. I can’t get this one last shot, but I’m not worried. We’ll look for it at a subsequent scan.” He told us that weight was in the 37th percentile; likely right on target for the size of my children. He handed us a grainy ultrasound photo. Baby was all curled up and facing away from the monitor, so Quentin took one look at the picture and said “What IS that?”
We left, one more box checked off, feeling pretty good. Took our sick 5-year-old out to lunch and talked about the baby’s name.