I've been anxious pretty much throughout this pregnancy. I've most definitely been worried. Hell--I think I was past twenty weeks before I stopped looking for blood every time I went to the bathroom. I've had sleepless nights before every ultrasound. I still come to my doctor appointment with prepared lists of questions and concerns. And yet, (besides the fact that my first baby unexpectedly died for unexplained reasons) I never had a reason to worry. This pregnancy appeared to be totally textbook, and the Deuce (just like Eliza) appeared perfect at every appointment.
Sunday morning I woke up around 8am. David was already out of bed and had turned on the TV in the living room. I lay in bed for a few minutes, enjoying the luxury of no alarm clock and clean sheets and a snoring dog snuggled up next to me. Then I realized that the Deuce wasn't moving.
I poked and prodded my stomach. I rolled from my left side to my right.
I did some more poking and prodding and rolled onto my back.
Still nothing. I started pushing on my stomach pretty hard. I could feel the Deuce in there, but I wasn't getting a kick or even a wiggle in response.
There it was. I had a reason to be scared.
I called David back in the room and he patted my tummy and talked to the Deuce. I shifted to my side again. No movement.
And then I started to cry.
This wasn't an abstract fear getting my heart racing, wondering what might happen if... This was a cold, sinking fear that started in the middle of my chest and spread outward. I knew what would happen if. I could see it all playing out in horrific detail. I imagined having to break the news to other people, to tell my parents and friends, having to say it out loud over and over again, having to put my worst nightmare into words and endure the pity and the shock from friends and acquaintances and strangers.
David told me not to cry because we needed to be able to feel the baby, not feel me shaking with sobs. I told him to call the medical exchange to get a hold of my doctor.
Then I told him to wait because I knew my doctor would tell me to drink something and lie down.
So I forced myself to get out of bed and drink an orange juice and eat a small piece of banana bread and then I lay back down on my side. And waited.
I look back and marvel that I wasn't hysterical, that I didn't completely lose my shit and start screaming, that I wasn't already on my way to the ER. But I guess my response isn't that surprising. I mean, what else could I do? I managed to stay calm after I learned that Eliza didn't have a heartbeat. After all, there was nothing left to be done. I'll fuss and cry about furniture, about one negative comment out of fifty student evaluations, about feeling overwhelmed at work. But big things that really matter? Instead of getting me riled up, they make me feel frozen. I remember lying on that hospital bed and feeling absolutely paralyzed with that cold realization of my worst fear--a fear that was so terrible I had never really believed for a second that it could happen to me.
And now here I was, lying on my couch at home, feeling that same cold fear and knowing that it could easily happen to me. Again.
After about fifteen minutes of me lying down, the Deuce started moving. I counted every kick for thirty minutes or so, until I was satisfied that it was not my imagination. David was sitting on the floor in front of me, his hands on my belly. He felt the kicks, too, and I watched the tension around his eyes soften, and saw the relief spread across his face.
I continued to be hyperaware (even more than usual) of movement all day long, and Deuce passed our nightly kick counts with flying colors and continued to thrash around after I'd gotten into bed, which perhaps just indicates that the baby is already preparing to sleep all day and be awake all night long. But I never quite shook off the chill of that morning's scare.
I had a doctor's appointment already scheduled for Monday, as my OB wants to see me weekly from the start of the third trimester until this baby is born and I am happy to oblige him. I told him about Sunday morning and he nodded and affirmed that I'd done exactly what he would have suggested. Then he listened to the heartbeat for an extra long time. He said the accelerations were good and everything sounded great. Movement has been normal today, with the Deuce squirming through conferences with my students about their upcoming papers. And so we continue to hope that this false alarm is as close as we get to tragedy this time around.
I think sometimes about what I wish I could do differently in this pregnancy--specifically how I could enjoy it more. Should I be decorating a nursery so I could sit in there in the blue and white rocking chair and talk to the baby? Should I be sorting and organizing baby clothes? Should I be choosing a baby name now instead of putting it off? Should we find out the gender so we can call the baby by name? Should I be ordering diapers? Am I somehow doing the Deuce a disservice by not reading a weekly pregnancy calendar? If the baby lives, will I wish I had done it all differently? And--sometimes more preoccupying--if the baby dies, will I regret not doing these things?
It's hard not to compare myself to other people--especially to those who haven't lost a child--and to wish that I could approach pregnancy the way that they do. I want the Deuce to feel as loved and wanted as Eliza. I don't want the Deuce to feel like a replacement child who's getting Eliza's sloppy seconds (ie. unused clothes, toys, books, sheets, and us as parents). I feel sad that this pregnancy has so little of the confident joy that had me beaming when Eliza was in my belly. I don't spend my spare time looking forward and daydreaming about what it will be to have a baby at home, which is ALL I did when I was pregnant with Eliza. I focus on daily stuff, on little tasks, on kick counts and Pinterest projects, and what's for dinner, on cleaning the inside of my washing machine and grading another stack of essays, because looking at the calendar past the month of May feels much too dangerous.
I know there's nothing wrong with living in the moment. I know that I'm not taking an instant of this pregnancy for granted, and there is as much grateful appreciation for the Deuce as there is fear that he/she may never come home with us.
But still I feel guilty. Like I'm selling the Deuce short. Like I'm wasting a precious time in my life that I'll never get back. A year of my life lost to grief, another ten months lost to a pregnancy that feels like a twist of that story we read in eighth grade: "The Lady or the Tiger." "The Baby Or ..." Could go either way. Will I get a baby? Or will that door swing open and reveal a ravenous grief that eats me from the inside out? Is there any way to be sure that I make the right choices to get the outcome I want? Or is it a total crapshoot in which we hope that the randomness of the universe skips over us this time and makes some other sucker its victim?
And then I have to turn off my brain. Because I. am. doing. the. best. I. can. I may be enduring instead of enjoying this pregnancy, but if not enjoying this pregnancy is my biggest regret about this time in my life, then I will consider myself infinitely lucky. I'll make up for it by enjoying the Deuce once he or she is in my arms. The Deuce will not know or care that there isn't a nursery set up on the day we get home from the hospital. I have to remember that getting through this moment is enough, and if someday three months or three years from now, I look back and wish that small things had been different, who freaking cares? What I would change most in my life can never be changed, and any other regrets hardly seem worth the energy.
But I've also promised myself that on these gorgeous spring days, when the sun is shining and the pollen is making everyone sneeze, when my desk is buried in student papers, when I have nothing to wear and the dogs are obnoxious and nothing sounds good for dinner and I am so, so scared that something will go wrong and we will lose everything all over again, when I feel this baby kicking, I will take a breath and whisper a thank you. Because, at least for the moment, this broken and tragic and fallen world has something amazing happening in it. I may not "enjoy" this pregnancy, but I am so grateful to have every moment of it.