Sunday, July 20, 2008

Protector, The

Early evenings are the worst for me. The day is winding down, the list of remaining activities is short, and the inevitability of yet another night is staring straight at me. I spend most evenings on the couch, with my laptop, but really mostly thinking whether there had been enough movement in the last 10 minutes, half an hour, hour, and how has this day been, overall?

I worry if he moves "too much" too. In reality, I don't think we have had anything closely resembling the frantic activity of the night before A died. But we have had stretches of time where this one has rolled, flexed, punched, and kicked enough to make me wonder, for just a bit.

Nights. Nights are not easy either. The absolute best way to wake up, whether for a bathroom run or for the day, is to have the consciousness of the world come in the same breath as a consciousness of a movement within. To wake up and know, absolutely know, that he is still alive-- those are the rare moments of almost bliss, moments of reassurance without fear, of existing in a place that fear didn't get a chance to enter, a place of peace.

Far more often it goes like this: wake up, realize it's a bladder call. Make it out of bed somehow. Often not in any way that can be described as optimal because at least one of my hands is engaged in belly-touching, something that often encourages the baby to respond. But not always, and not nearly right away. So I stumble to the bathroom, do the deed, wash hands, reluctantly letting go of the belly for that, walk back, now with both hands on the belly, get in bed, turn onto one side or the other, use the opposite hand to keep holding the belly. Rub a little if need be. Try to keep the panic from closing my throat, try to keep the cascade of images from beginning to run through. I can't, no matter how tired, fall back asleep until I get that proof of life. So far, it has always come.

Panic, throat closing, image cascade, these happen in the light of day too. Driving in a car, when a realization hits that it's been three of these NPR segments since the last kick. And so one hand goes to the belly, and I drive with the other. Which, if I tell you that I drive a stick, should impress you. But not nearly as much as the idea that during these episodes I am also driving with maybe 10% of my mental acuity dedicated to that task. Ok, I take that back-- last part should scare terrify you, at least if you live anywhere near me.

My couch is also an excellent place to feel panic. The doppler helps, but not as much as you would think it would. A had a fine heartbeat the morning of the day he died. He just wasn't moving much.

I wonder sometimes whether my fear would be less if A's story had been different. If my primary problem was preterm labor, would I also be this obsessed with constant reassurances in the form of kicks? If the knots, the notoriously hard to see on the ultrasound umbilical knots, weren't what actually killed him, would I be less tightly wound? If there wasn't also an infection, would I be ok with less uniform and less consistent movement?

At my first NST this week, the nurse in charge of the room handed me a small Jeopardy-style clicker to press every time I felt movement. The machine recorded my clicks as little arrows on the strip, right next to his heartbeat printout. When she came up to me to talk about the fact that we will have to give him a bit more time because he seems to be asleep, she said that I was feeling a lot of movements. She meant that I was clicking for tiny movements others wouldn't notice. I tried to suppress the smile I was expecting to come out a lot more sad than wry as I thought "you have no idea, lady."

As I have seen the veterans tell others before, getting to the part where the monitoring is twice a week-- an NST on Tuesday and a BPP on Friday-- has helped. I no longer feel entirely and fully responsible. Only I kinda do. The appointments help for a bit. They should, in all honesty, help for longer. A BPP is supposed to be good for about a week, but it only really works for a day, maybe two with me. And only if it was Dr.Best doing it. This week he was out of town, and I didn't like the tech at all.

The contractions I keep having add a strange dimension to the whole thing. They can be tiring, they can be annoying, they can even be significantly physically uncomfortable. But what I realized today is that my biggest concern (funny, since it seems to have taken me long enough to articulate that to myself) is that I am afraid that they are distracting. I am afraid that if I pay attention to the contractions, as I am supposed to, or so my doctors tell me,-- how frequent are they, how strong, are they changing in any way-- I am afraid that if I pay attention to them, I may relax my mental grip on paying attention to movement.

So this gig as The Protector. It's tiring. It's scary. And most of all, I recognize, it is mostly futile. The chance that I can do something, that I can affect the outcome, that I can save his life, the chance is minuscule. But it's not zero. And so I persist. I wonder, though, how rational I am about this. Even if the chance was zero, could I let go? From where I sit right now, I don't think I could. I would, I think, want to be the first to know.

I was chatting with another bereaved mom when I saw the post announcing the arrival of Wannabe Mom and Dad's new son pop up in my reader. I think we exhaled in unison. And then I typed the first thought that came to mind: She must be so relieved. Now, how fucked up is that? My first thought was relieved, not happy. Not ecstatic, not crying in joy. Relieved.

That must be, I later thought, because I can't think past that for myself. I will be relieved when this gig is up. I also told JD I will need a drink. But maybe a good cry will be enough.


Catherine said...

{{{hugs}}} Just keep hanging in there.

Anonymous said...

You are not waiting for this gig to be up alone. Keep hanging in there, you are doing a great job.

Julie said...

I wonder sometimes whether my fear would be less if A's story had been different. If my primary problem was preterm labor, would I also be this obsessed with constant reassurances in the form of kicks? If the knots, the notoriously hard to see on the ultrasound umbilical knots, weren't what actually killed him, would I be less tightly wound? If there wasn't also an infection, would I be ok with less uniform and less consistent movement?

We're different people, of course, but based on my experience I'd guess not. What my pregnancy with Charlie taught me is that you almost never see the one with your name on it, you know?

I too had a bad time with a tech this week. I've flunked the last two NSTs, so I am very much on edge. The BPPs have been reassuring, but the tech who did the last one kept impatiently jiggling my belly with the transducer. It infuriated me: What I want to see is the baby moving on his own. Anything else seems like a cheat. And when you're already freaked out, that is of marginal use.

Hang in, nice lady. No unborn baby ever had a fiercer protector than you.

CLC said...

I can't even imagine how tired you must feel. Hang in there. I am always thinking of you, and waiting for new updates. And I exhale every time I see that everything is still ok.

misha said...

It's not futile: they didn't invent all that monitoring just to give you a peace of mind. Hang in there.

k@lakly said...

Oh God,
As stressed as I am now I still can't imagine how bad it is going to be when I get as close as you are, to feel within reach and still so terrified and helpless.
I hope the time moves quickly and you get that little one out safe and sound and into your arms. One hand wrapped firmly around a healthy, tiny baby, the other hand wrapped firmly around a healthy, not so tiny, stiff drink.

Mrs. Spit said...

This is the hard part, I think. Getting so close that you can see the finish line, but you are not quite there yet. And it must be wearying.

It is exhausting to live like this each day. Thinking of you.

luna said...

like mrs. spit I imagine it must be exhausting to live in that constant state. we will ALL be relieved when your boy is safely in your arms. and I think we'll cry too. and have a toast.

for now, I am wishing you more peaceful moments of reassurance and near bliss, where fear has no place to enter.

niobe said...

I can hear from your words how difficult and exhausting it must be.

But I have to admit that I'm a tiny bit jealous. For me, if something goes wrong, I'm not likely to hear about it for hours or days....

Aurelia said...

You are doing all that you can do, and you know what, that's enough.

Give yourself a break, and know that I did all the same things and had all the same terrors, even though my previous losses were earlier in pregnancy.

You will survive this, just hang on tight.

Snickollet said...

You must be so tired.

I am thinking of you. You are a wonderful mama.

Lots and lots of hugs.

Mandy said...

You have been through so much, and there are many waiting with you for this time to be different, holding our breaths. The details of how your son died could have likely been different and still you'd be (understandably!) a wreck during a subsequent pregnancy.

I'm so glad they gave you antibiotics just in case, that they are watching you carefully and will take you seriously if you are worried.

You have my thoughts and prayers. We're waiting with you.

kate said...

certainly relief was my prevailing emotion when C. was born alive. It was as if a gigantic burden fell off my shoulders immediately.

Yes, the final stretch is very difficult, especially with the dates looming. I also found it helped *just a little bit* to review the daily kick counts & see that they were mostly the same, no pattern of slowing. But, yeah, none of this stuff helps the anxiety very much.

janis said...

This is so exhausting, Julia. ((hugs)) to you; I am sure other than feeling relieved, you will feel joy too, I really think so. Sending you strength.

Ashleigh said...

I am existing in the space right now and you are right it is exhausting. Now I've starting comparing the the baby's performance on the bi weekly

Magpie said...

i would like to buy you a drink when it's time.

hang in there!

christina(apronstrings) said...

you must just be exhausted. i wish i could save you from this constant fear. i'm sorry that you're going through this, buddy.

Lori said...

I know that relieved feeling- and it was, definitely, relief at first. Relief became joy and happiness and new, more normal forms of worry- but it was definitely relief in those first few moment. I heard her cry and all I could think was, "Oh thank God..." Relief.

I'm praying you will know that same kind of relief in the not so distant future. In the meantime, all I can think to say is- hang in there.

Rosepetal said...

It's not fucked up - it's true. Relief is also what I felt when Beanie was born crying. And from that point on you will probably stop feeling like you are 100% responsible for being the Protector.

The kick counts did reassure me even though my OB wasn't very interested in them. I plotted them on a graph in a spreadsheet. Stopped short of pivot tables though :-)

But I also went into the hospital panicked even when I had heard the heartbeat on the Doppler and done the kick-counts, just because I didn't feel right. Don't hesitate to do the same, even if it's just a feeling and you don't think it's based on any logical fact.

I knew those moments of bliss too. When he was just moving and I knew he was still alive. Thankfully he did it on the morning of my induction when I woke up. I remember my mum telling me that he had a right to sleep in there as well. But I didn't hesitate to poke and prod to wake him up when I needed him to move.

Lots of love and hugs.

Bon said...

i get this, friend. and i don't know if it matters what it is that hits Julie said, we never seem to see the ones with our names on 'em, so the wait is always cruel and relief makes perfect sense to me. when O was born, to be honest, i think it was relief that carried me through the entire colic was only after that joy crept in, that i was ready to believe that things might actually just go well.

ms. G said...

Oh ((((Julia)))) reading this brought me back to baby girl's A pregnancy. Your description of checking movements sounds exactly the way it was for me. And I was the same way, I needed reassurance movements a lot, but I also didn't like it if I felt like she was "too active".

Sadly, I was relieved when A was born. I'll admit it, more relieved than happy even.

This is such a difficult road. Hang in there, take deep breaths, that is all I can say.

Betty M said...

It sounds immensely hard and exhausting. You are doing everything you can do. Hoping for many moments of bliss for you.

Beruriah said...

Oh, Julia. For me, it was all kinds of anxiety, all the time. I am so sorry you have to go through this and would do anything to speed it up. Much much love to you. Like the others above, yes, relief was the dominant emotion as soon as Samuel was born. And then amusement, because he was so damn big and squirmy....I so wish I could fast forward through these weeks for you.

mama o' the matrices said...

Relieved sounds fine to me. So does that drink!

And of course you notice more movements. They speak a different language to you than to the average preggie person.

a- said...

Wishing you endurance friend...blessed endurance.

red pen mama said...

I know, I was obsessive about Monkey's movements, especially as we neared 37 weeks. By that time I was going for NST's twice a week, and sonograms usually about once a week. We had problems with the placenta, rather than with the cord. Induction was decided upon at 38 weeks, and I firmly believe it was the right decision. (We induced with my second daughter at 37 weeks.)

Hang in there. I know how it is. You will feel relieved, of course, but you will also feel joyful and happy. Don't feel bad for wanting it to be over -- I remember feeling that way, too.


Amelie said...

This sounds so exhausting. You so deserve a good drink (or cry) afterwards. I hope the coming weeks pass quickly and calmly.

Lori said...

This post really helps me to understand how it is to risk again after unbearable loss.

I get how relief would be your first emotion.

STE said...

Up until 6 months ago, crying *was* relief for me. It makes perfect sense that relief would be the first feeling, then would come the joy.

I have this neurotic thing where I feel better if I worry about something, like it has any effect or it demonstrates my ability to change anything. It is exhausting. I know I'm not alone in this magical thinking, and I see so many DBMs worrying through subsequent pregnancies, not with magical thinking but with horrific experience.

You are in my thoughts, as I'm sure that as you get closer to your due date, the anxiety will ramp up -- at least I think it would for me. It's that feeling of, "I'm so close now, but I just can't let that breath out. I want to, but the idea of something going wrong at this point, the fear, it gets more horrible by the day."

At least for me. With the boys, I got more confident as time went on, despite the NVP. There was always nagging doubt, but I was able to quash it. Don't know if I could ever do that again, quash that doubt.

STE said...

Which is to say, you seem a much braver person than I. At least right now. I have moments where I think maybe I could get through another pregnancy. And then there is the doubt and anxiety.

You are doing an amazing job staying sane, taking care of this baby. Whether it feels like it or not from the inside.