"Do you think you know more than other people?"
I just finished telling her why I was freaked out following our perfect anatomical scan ultrasound with A, and this was Nurse Kind's question in response. I hesitated for a second. At that particular moment I really didn't want it to be true. Not to mention that it would probably get me a this one is coo-coo label on my chart. So I said "No. But I will probably be the most neurotic patient you have ever had from now on." "Neurotic is ok. We can handle neurotic" answered she.
I didn't want it to be true. I wanted to be just another neurotic pregnant woman. Since A's death, though, I have thought back to that conversation with a bit of regret. It didn't change anything, so I should've just said it, owned it. The thing is, I do. I do know more than other people. Or I did.
There, I said it. I won't bore you with the stories of the other times I knew things, or the things I can do. Not relevant. Let me just tell you about the childbearing related stuff.
My mother was the older of two daughters. So am I. For some reason, from very early on, I have thought that I would have two daughters too. At some point in my early adulthood I realized I wanted three children. JD is an only child, and at the time he was fine with one (I feel it would be relevant to note that this lasted exactly until Monkey was born), but was not opposed to more. What I told JD I saw when I thought about us as a family was that the older two would be girls, and that I had no information on the younger one. That was almost what I saw. There was in fact haziness in what I saw, and I chose to interpret it as above. But to be perfectly honest what I did see was the two girls and some haze around them. I chose to believe that the haze hid the identity of my youngest child. I can't discount the possibility now that it also hid my second-born.
The start of Monkey's pregnancy was rocky. The miscarriage was only two months before, and we had no idea whether the progesterone falling in the miscarried pregnancy was due to the pregnancy being doomed (hCG wasn't doubling properly either, although we did make it to the heartbeat ultrasound, only to miscarry the next day) or due to my progesterone defect. Early blood tests in the new pregnancy showed nicely rising and doubling hCG, but progesterone started falling again. I needed suppositories. It was the 4th of July weekend. I didn't know it when I raced out of my apartment to try to fill the script, but because of who the script was written by, I could only fill it at the campus health center pharmacy. Which, say it with me, was closed for the long weekend. Driving back from the regular city pharmacy where they explained to me that they can't fill the script, traffic was miserable, people were doing stupid things in front of me on the four way Stop sign intersection, and I was on edge. Suddenly, I heard her. Clear as a bell in my head. "I will be ok. And, by the way, I am a girl."
I made it through the next couple of days to when the pharmacy opened, and the next blood test showed us catching the progesterone levels before they hit the floor entirely. There were scary parts to that pregnancy afterwards too. There was a cramping episode that reminded me of the feeling the day before I miscarried. There was brown spotting at 14+ weeks. And then there was red, bright red flow. In the mall restroom, the day after my thesis defence. Placenta previa, partial, as it turned out later. At 31 weeks 1 day. By which point we already knew she was a girl. That first ride to the hospital was very scary, but the bleeding stopped quickly, and from then on I was fairly sure she would be ok.
Finding a name for Monkey was very hard going. We had a set of conditions that were very hard to satisfy, and for a long time we worried that we wouldn't find the name that fit all of them. At some point, JD suggested a name that shared the first letter with his grandmother's name, and thus would honor her, as a middle name. I liked it too much. I said let's not. That will be our second daughter's first name. We had a middle name to go with it too, but we changed it after the first ultrasound with A, when we still thought he was her.
I think I have actually admitted before to knowing we would conceive A right after we did. I then spent the next seventeen weeks convincing myself it was a girl. Because see, if it was a girl, I could believe she would make it. But something wasn't exactly right. As I recently told my sister, in response I stuck my fingers in my ears and went la-la-la-la. I needed that baby to be a girl. A girl would live.
We took Monkey to the anatomical scan. She wanted to see the baby, but she really wanted to know whether it was a sister or a brother. She wanted a sister, and was honest about it. Before that day we talked about what if it's a boy? Well, then he will be our baby, your brother.
They needed to measure the vital organs first. Perfect, perfect, perfect. Are you ready to find out the sex? Yes, yes we are. It took her a bit to find the anatomy, and in that gap I knew. I desperately needed her to say it was a girl, and I knew she wasn't going to. And she didn't.
Monkey was all about honesty. "I wanted them to say 'girl.'" I know, honey, I know. That lasted all of twenty seconds, I think. "That's my brother!" said the proud big sister pointing at the screen, obviously working hard to pick the right English words and put them in the correct order. Her mother, however, was not so easy to sooth. Holding JD's hand, with my stomach many feet below me, I said "I don't see this ending well."
And this brings us back to Nurse Kind and her question. I told her about the ultrasound, and I told her I was afraid. And she asked me that question. I will be your most neurotic patient ever, I promised. I just don't have the belief, the surety that this will work out. She also asked what my biggest fear was, and I said preeclampsia. I was at the edge of the age difference between the pregnancies that increases the odds for it, and for some reason that was what I thought would do us in. A failure of the imagination, clearly.
A few of my IRL friends knew of my premonition, and to them I talked about my new fears. One of them, Irene, the friend who was four weeks behind me in her pregnancy, said look, you will have your second daughter, she will just be your youngest child. Irene knew I wanted three. She also later confessed to thinking this was all hormones. I am grateful for that line, though. This is what I eventually used to calm myself down, to talk myself into thinking it was going to be ok.
Not that I was serene and assured or anything. In the next month my blood pressure jumped, not dramatically, but noticeably. I felt like shit. Here it comes, thought I. JD bought me a monitor, and I watched the blood pressure like a hawk. I worried so much, Dr.Best ordered a 24 hour urine collection on me even though he didn't think I was going preeclamtic. I still worried. But by 34 weeks even I had to admit it didn't look that scary anymore. If he came then, we would be looking at a couple of weeks in the NICU, but the chance that he wouldn't make it was minuscule. Like I said, failure of imagination.
We had a great deal of trouble finding a name for A as well. The night of the day A died, I was sitting on the couch trying to do my kick counts, which never came. But while I was at it, we talked about names and some other stuff. JD started to suggest a middle name in honor of his grandfather, the same grandfather our next girl's middle name is supposed to honor. He said after the way this pregnancy was going, he wasn't sure we would be up for another one ever. So I spilled it. Look, I said. I know that girl. In fact in this pregnancy she has been more real to me than the boy we are having. We can't not do this again.
Later that night, in the hospital room, I told JD that maybe that is why I knew that girl so well-- to know that we have to survive this, to know that one day she will come.
I tried to not get attached to A. For a long time there I didn't think we were going to get to keep him. And if that was the case, I needed to protect myself. Fat lot of good it did me. Not until after he died did I know how much I loved him, really. I had glimpses before. But the full knowledge only came with grief, was only illuminated by it.
Thinking about that I decided that "next time" I would give my heart without apprehension. Not right away, of course, for I told myself I was no fool. My biggest fear in the early days was one of those not really early miscarriages, the 10-13 week one. The mindfuck of oh, I am sorry, were you starting to believe things would work out this time?, the feeling of so much wasted time.
When I did get pregnant this time, I found myself doing the denial thing much more than I anticipated. And yet, it is cracking, my ice queen facade. I am starting to live up to the name of my blog. And it is a scary, scary thing to let myself do. And yet, since experience shows that for me the other option is futile, I am letting myself do it. Not necessarily hope, but love. Anyway. Either way.
I went into this pregnancy not wanting to know more than other people know. So I did my best to shut it down-- I can do that too to some extent. Not knowing has been hard. I think I heard her once. But I don't know whether it was from within this time, or from without, like with A. I don't know whether it's finally her.
Tomorrow we may find out the sex. It's no guarantee, of course. A girl may not make it either. A boy might make it anyway, and prove me wrong. But I do think I would feel better if it was a girl. Ok, understatement of the year. I may freak out if it is a boy. And that is exactly why I am finally telling you this-- so that I don't look like a complete ungrateful bitch if I do freak out about the sex. I hope if it's a girl, I will feel more secure. And even if I don't, at the very least the name thing will be in the bag, and in this household that is noting to sneeze at.
Two things left to say. One, early on when I thought back to that question from Nurse Kind, and I answered it in my mind with evermore firm "Yes, yes I do," I tended to add "I wish I didn't." I don't think I think that anymore. I watch so many bereaved parents struggle with guilt, and it makes me so very sad for them. I have none of it, and this is still so freaking hard that I can't help thinking they must have it so much worse. To be fair, there are probably multiple reasons for my lack of guilt (like the autopsy results, for example, or the fact that I was that paranoid in that pregnancy). But I can't discount this one too-- I couldn't make him stay. He wasn't staying, and I know it now.
This takes me nicely to the philosophical point two. Nothing I said here makes what happened meant to be, part of the plan, for the better, for a reason, or something I needed. Seeing something coming doesn't make it a good thing, a necessary thing, or even a pre-planned thing. What I know now is that A wasn't staying. But observing a phenomena doesn't make it happen, and seeing it before others do doesn't prove its origins. Oh, and by the way, knowing it didn't cause it either. I promise.
I am going to go to sleep now, and hope that I didn't just become "that weirdo" for you. I know what I say sounds crazy. Why do you think I put off writing this for almost a year? I have a PhD in hard science for crying out loud, so what business do I have writing this at all? The thing is, though, I still know what I know. And tomorrow we may know a little more.