Friday, March 13, 2009

mirage and oasis

I don't know what I want to tell you first. The sensible, current, chronological thing to do is to tell you that I've been released from bed rest. And I think I'm supposed to be very celebratory about it, and I am, I am, but my fingers don't approve of my starting on this high note. There's just one more low note I have to relate. I know. Repetitive. But then we can get on to the business of freedom and being sprung and gratitude. I promise that we will really get there and it will get very happy. Just bear with me a moment again.

Two weeks ago, we had what I'm hoping is one last crisis with young Fred. It appeared that I was leaking amniotic fluid, and that the fluid wasn't right. I called the nurse and told her what was happening and she said, "How fast can you get to Swedish?" We got there very fast.

For context, in case you're not a pregnancy and childbirth person, if you're leaking fluid and you're still not too far along and the fluid is green, that's bad. That's very bad. That's bad enough that when you're driving to the hospital with your son wiggling around in your womb, you're certain (repetitive!) that he's going to have to come out. And at this point, if he lives, his chance of survival would hover around 10%. But if your son who's already born and has been here for nearly three years is riding in the car with you to the hospital, you have to play it cool. You can't cry and scream and freak out. You have to be like, "Say, if you like cars, you're going to like this freeway. Hey, did you see that blue truck? Big one! Look, look, there's Mount Rainier. Can you see that mountain?" And you have to keep it up otherwise you're going to go where your hands are, which is on your stomach, patting it, stroking it, silently talking to it, transmitting messages to its contents. Your mouth and face have to do something separate, smiling and talking, "Do you know what's good about when Mom goes to the hospital? You get a present when I come out! The hospital's cool because if you have a problem, they're good at fixing it, so it's cool that we're going here today. What kind of present do you think you might want? A lot of animals, huh?" And your heart, of course, is split in two. One half for Finn, pumping out brightness, and one half for Fred, doing something that I don't even know if I dare look at to try and describe it. I don't even know if I could describe it if I looked. I'm looking and I don't even know how to see it to attach language to it. It's beyond my powers. I can give you two words, maybe. Dark and delicate. Well, part of it is very simple, naturally. That part I can give you. You're saying goodbye. The rest is preparation. Okay, I got more out than I thought I would.

So then there are a few hours in triage. And during the first stretch, I'm in what I keep calling the eerie calm. I've already wept and howled at home getting ready to go to the hospital, and I've already packed that away in the car with Finn, and now that we're at the hospital (Dave and I are there - my mom has taken Finn back home with her) I feel weirdly strong and peaceful. It's like being in the eye of a hurricane, maybe. You know what's around you and you know what the level of destruction can be, but you're calm. There are a few times in my life where I've had this strange feeling like I'm a general going into battle. An old hand. Not averse to the challenge. A readiness. Even a little vestigial feeling of pleasant defiance left over from this mystery general's youth. A touch of the "bring it on". So I had that for a while, propped up there on the gurney, waiting for things to happen.

One phenomenon during this period was the sensation of being cartoon eyeball to cartoon eyeball with Mystery. We had our strong suspicions about what would happen, but we didn't know for sure, and we didn't know when, and we didn't know why. A lot of time was spent staring at the white, textured ceiling tiles there in triage, willing some kind of divine face to poke through and explain itself. When? Why? What? Who? A face persists in not appearing. The tile is relentlessly unchanged.

The mechanics of the event, spread out over hours:

Blood draw. (White blood cell count high. Infection somewhere.) Ultrasound on top. Ultrasound inside. Speculum check. Amniocentesis. (Is the infection in the womb? If so, case closed. Baby is delivered immediately. The ultrasound technician asks the doctor to describe the pull from the amniocentesis. The kind doctor murmurs either "turban" or what I later understand to most likely be "turbid". I ask, "What's turban?" She meets my eye and says, "Cloudy." I like this doctor. I tell her she's extremely charming for the Grim Reaper, and I mean it. I like how she just looked me in the eye and gave it to me, gentle and real. Turban is not good.)

Now we have to wait several hours for the full results of the amniocentesis. First will be the glucose reading, then the gram stain, then a culture. The results will unfurl in phases.

The eerie calm is over with a vengeance. No one seems to think we're going to get a good result. The eye has moved on and now it's wind and sound and feeling, full force. One interesting part of the storm that I watch from the side is my new temporary stutter-curse. "Oh, f-f-f-f-f-f-u-u-ck."

Dave is by my side and he's not going anywhere. We're assigned a room, finally. Elizabeth and Jenn come. We all wait together. Fred is squirming around. The nurse tells us that the womb is showing irritability, and I think she means Fred, but she meant the uterus itself. But I didn't get that until later. I thought (you have to forgive me if I jump from tense to tense) that Fred was irritable because my amniotic fluid was cloudy and polluted and horrible, that he was spending his last few hours choking to death in there. I talked to him on the intercom, which is my hand cupped up against my chest. I tried to help him relax in there. And I talked with Dave and Elizabeth and Jenn about how at this point, I would want there to be a little memorial for Fred. Once a guy is moving around like that, and if he's going to come out alive, then he really landed and lived and deserves a sendoff. We talked about that a little, and I talked into my hand into my chest, and rubbed my belly. And we cried, and I stutter-swore.

At around 10pm, four or five hours after the amniocentesis, while Elizabeth and Jenn were at the store getting me magazines and vitamin C and hand lotion, my doctor came in. "Good news! The glucose test and the gram stain have both come in negative. The chance that the third test will come out positive is so small at this point that it's safe to say that the infection is not in the womb." Safe! Safe! I'll be getting antibiotics for my infection, but Fred is going to be fine! I can go home in the morning! We live to fight another day.

There's such a pleasure when you're lying out flat and you feel like you've been run over by a train, and you know you were lying on tracks and you did see a train pass over you, and then you find that you're lying on the tracks still but you're FINE! You didn't DIE! You weren't even hurt, except for the emotional trauma of lying on train tracks when a train is coming and seemingly rolling over you.

It's amazing how much suffering in this life is a mirage. Like so many terrible dreams. But you wake up shaking and tear-stained, something happened to you. But it didn't. This pregnancy is the longest, most bizarre dream. But Fred is real and I really think we're going to make it. I think we're going to go the whole way. I'm starting to feel confident. He farts around in there reassuringly all day.

While I was in triage, in the eerie calm, I kept having images of Fred as Indiana Jones being chased by the big boulder. I told Dave that if Fred lived, we might have to name him not Fred Harrison David Rowley, but Fred Indiana Harrison Rowley. I was serious, Dave. Dave knew this, and shook his head with his hands over his eyes, headache-style. He pointed out that Indiana Jones is played by Harrison Ford. Dodged a bullet there, my dear. Fred Harrison David Rowley it is. George Harrison with a fedora and a bullwhip. I'm satisfied.

And also, I'm free! Yes! This just in. I went for a follow-up appointment to check my cervix/cerclage, and apparently since it's been a month and everything looks perfect, I no longer have to be on bedrest! I still have to take it easy, but I can walk around, and I can drive a car. Such sweetness, ladies and gentlemen. I got up and made my own toast this morning, and stood there with Finn while he stood on a stepstool, which brought us to nearly the same height, and hugged him and went eyeball to eyeball with him and he asked so many questions, like "Why do you have EYES?" and "Why do you have GLASSES?" and "Why are your eyes BROWN?" and he was so happy and I was so happy and the answer, Finn, is I HAVE NO IDEA.

P.S. You are all so wonderful. I can't get over people. We've been the focus of so much love and care over the last while. I feel as rich as Roosevelt.