My second pregnancy is kind of drama.  I’m over 35 this time, and thus automatically labeled high-risk due to advanced maternal age (fuck you very much).  With a high-risk pregnancy comes a lot more information, a lot more attention, and the sense that even though it all feels the same, something terrible is always about to happen.

We don’t have any reason to think anything will be wrong. I had a scary birth experience the first time, but I found out later that even as scary as it was, it was all pretty normal, pretty common.  We have no risk factors other than my geriatric uterus, and given that we live in an area where basically no one has a baby before 35, we feel pretty ok about it.  And then, of course, we get a weird test result. Not the worst. But enough to make the clinic say, hey, not to stress you out or anything, but you might have a problem. Your teeny tiny fetus, through no fault of its own, might be somehow damaged, sick, problematic. Numbers. Numbers and more numbers telling us odds and percentages and nothing.

I don’t want an amnio–fuck YOU you’re putting a giant needle in there–but in the end, we make a choice.  To know. To know, to react to that knowledge, and to make decisions based on this miraculously available information.  Because the truth is, much as I wish I were a person with the strength or the open-heartedness or the religion or whatever to say that no matter what, I’ll go through with it, I’m not. Sometimes, before this all happens, I think I might be.  I think I might be equipped, with this husband and this first-world medicine and all this love, to take on whatever it might be. Other times I think, no way. We live in a time when we can spare everyone the pain, the sickness, the hospital, the guilt, the burden.

At all times, every day and as long as I live, I am pro-choice.  I believe in the right of a woman and her doctor and her family to choose to terminate a pregnancy. But I will say that the weeks I was waiting to know, waiting and wondering and realizing that I might actually have to face that choice, were the single worst time of my life. I have never been so afraid, and I have never identified more with the pro-life stance.  Who am I, I wonder in the dark, tears filling my eyes and then my ears and then pooling at the back of my neck, to decide a life or a death? To decide whether the light, no matter how small, stays lit or goes out? This is not a choice I should be able to make.  Nor is it, to be clear, a choice anyone else, especially the government, should get to make for me. But it seems like information I shouldn’t have– a secret I shouldn’t be privy to.

I talk to it at night, the fetus, aware that I am being maudlin, but so raw and open and IN IT that I don’t care. I talk to it, I tell it not to be afraid, that no matter what, I love it and will do what I hope will be the right thing. I cry in the day, in my mother’s lap, telling her I shouldn’t know, it isn’t a call I should be able to make.  I nearly find religion, although not quite. But I do pray, guilty of that depths-of-despair prayer that even the occasional atheist succumbs to in the darkest moments.

Other times I am less afraid. I think of statistics and numbers and realize that in all likelihood it will be fine, that the numbers aren’t so bad, all things considered, that they are only numbers, and that they are only a probability and that it will all be ok. I talk myself up and down and up and down for a week, or a month, or whatever it is. It feels like forever.

In the end, after the giant needle, after the waiting, she is fine. She is fine, and she is a girl. And we cry again, in the day and in the night, from the relief.  From not having to make this choice, this brutal and terrifying choice that we have the legal right to make.  How lucky we are, to live in a time when we can choose to spare a child a lifetime of illness and pain, and how lucky, how immeasurably lucky, we are not to have had to make it.

Second Toddlerhood

"Whyyyyyy, Master Chef?  Whyyyy?"

“Whyyyyyy, Master Chef? Whyyyy?”

So I was working on a post about the ways in which it is truly dreadful to be pregnant and have a toddler at the same time, inspired by the combination of month four of “morning” sickness and some kind of diaper hell-scape. As I thought about it, though, I realized that it’s significantly more accurate to say that being pregnant is more or less the same as BEING a toddler. For example:

Sleep: I’ve always been a terrible sleeper, but I’ve now reached a stage where I wake up disoriented every time I finish a 45-minute sleep cycle. It’s all I can do not to yell for my mommy when I can’t find my water in the dark or wake up tangled in my (admittedly amazeballs) body pillow. Apparently, I need to learn how to self-soothe. I am totally capable, however, of falling deeply asleep in public places, mid-conversation.  A couple of weeks ago I snored myself awake on an amtrak train, my head uncomfortably close to some poor old lady’s lap.

Food: I have no problem eating one bite of something and then deciding I want a mountain of something different, only to make said mountain, take one bite, and decide the first thing was better, but really what I want is Trader Joe’s alphabet cookies. And by “want,” I mean “all I will eat for the next four meals.”   Also, the elapsed time between “I think I would like some cheese” and “cheese in my mouth NOW OR I WILL RAIN DEATH AND HELLFIRE UPON THIS HOUSE AND EVERYONE IN IT” is very, very short.

Words: I speak English.  I speak Spanish.  I speak them both pretty well.  And yet, I forget the words for totally common objects on the regular, even though I SWEAR I knew what that thing was called a minute ago.  You know, the thing.  With the thingie!  For putting on the…with the…I need a nap.

Growth spurts:  Dude, things that fit me yesterday don’t fit me anymore.  Only unlike N, where it’s his little wrists and ankles that suddenly poke out of too-short sleeves and pant legs, in my case it’s just my GIANT ASS.  Or my giant fetus.

Emotional disturbance: Like a toddler, I have ALL THE FEELINGS right now (which is SUPER fun for C, the poor bastard).  One of these feelings is sudden, unprompted homicidal rage, sometimes directed at inanimate objects.  There is a lot of crying, some sappy and some whiny and some angry.  Things that have made me cry so far this pregnancy include but are certainly not limited to:

  • A song by Grover (my favorite, because he is the Anxiety Muppet) to the tune of “On Top of Old Smokey” in which he is walking home from school and loses all of his crap on the way.  The last line is “then I found my mommy with all of my stuff.”  This struck me as extremely touching, instead of filling me with the aforementioned rage in defense of poor Grover’s mother, who has to pick up after him all day long.
  • An episode of Master Chef that required a vegetarian “cheftestant” (that’s not a thing, Fox) to make sausage. They unveiled a table full of raw meat, and kept flashing back and forth from the meat to the vegetarian’s horrified face. And then, as they panned down the length of the table, there was-behold!- a whole section of tofu and tempeh and whatever at the end, for her to make sausage with.  I bawled my eyes out. Please note, I am not a vegetarian. Or a lunatic.
  • Revenge. The TV show. On more than one occasion.  This is NOT GOOD TELEVISION, people.

Physics/gravity: Not unlike my two year old, I have a complicated relationship with gravity and spatial relations. Sometimes I fall over from standing still. Sometimes I am moving too fast and can’t course-correct before careening into a dog/armchair/low-hanging tree branch/wall. N and I are both pretty banged up all the time, but instead of suspecting me of child abuse, I think the pediatrician is going to ask soon if we are regularly engaging in cage matches that I, the adult, do not often win.

A friend once told me that pregnancy made her identify with the elderly and infirm in a way she never could before.  I can see that, too, but right now I’m just pissed that we’re out of alphabet cookies.

Pandora’s Box

Oh, hey! I hate you.

Oh, hey! I hate you.

I honestly have to hold myself back from writing too much about Pandora’s Toddler Radio station.  If I let myself, I could write endless posts about the hilarity/misery/agony/ecstasy that the rotation causes me on a daily basis.  I spend most of my time in the car either gritting my teeth to get through some wretched auto-tuned Barney nightmare or weeping silently through some sappy Sesame Street song from my childhood. Continue reading