Time is a river which sweeps me along, but I am the river; it is a tiger which destroys me, but I am the tiger; it is a fire which consumes me, but I am the fire. -Jorge Luis Borges
I remember so distinctly those first few hours in my hospital room after Quentin was born. One minute, I was feeling constant movement of a baby inside of me, and then he was born and that feeling gone. I have been feeling this baby move for months. Much as I tried to keep myself detached, thinking that distance would help if something were to happen, it became unavoidable as a steady stream of movement captured my attention throughout the day. In those early days of movement, I had to place my hand on my abdomen to feel it, since the anterior placenta made it tricky. It became easier. I could see the movement from the outside. A constant reminder. It doesn’t mean that I loved Nelle or Iris any less, but the time I had with them was shorter. The bond here has had more time to develop into something tangible.
My anxiety increases measurably each day. I know the cause: I now fear something else going wrong. The cruelest trick of the universe that I would make it to the end and something unrelated happens during delivery or in the days leading up to it. I am acutely aware of everything that can go wrong in pregnancy and it now seems a miracle that babies are born healthy, ever. I decided the other night that the baby was moving too much; it had to be a sign of distress. The internet is my worst enemy and the worst type of compulsion. What do the medical sites say? What do the forums say? And of course, some self-talk that this would not have even been a question during my pregnancies with Theo or Quentin. I trusted my gut there.
That nagging feeling underscored my pregnancies with Nelle and Iris. With Nelle, I was reserved from the beginning but could never explain to myself why. It was just a feeling that I had. With Iris, going into that 16-week appointment I was insistent on an ultrasound even though there was no reason to be concerned… and she was gone. Somehow, my mother instinct knew. But that instinct has now been warped by trauma. Three times I have gone into the doctor on a “feeling” that something was wrong: at 16 weeks based on nothing more than an overwhelming sense of dread, at 27 weeks when I felt that movement was irregular even though movement patterns are not completely established yet, and at 33 weeks, when movements had slowed for a brief period. Each time given a sympathetic smile, somehow “proved” that everything was fine, and sent home.
So close now, I can no longer easily say “If we bring this baby home” the way I did in the early months. People now assume the end result, so I’ve had to alter my speech to “when we bring this baby home.” Delivery requires some planning. In my head, I still say “if” sometimes, even with only days left. I tried to picture delivery and started crying. Not the type of tears that silently slip down my cheeks, but the hard, painful crying where I shut my eyes and my entire face contorted.
I wake up multiple times at night and lie in bed, desperate to feel the slightest movement.
Today was my final OBGYN appointment, a pre-op. The doctor delivered Quentin, and delivered Nelle. He was the discharging doctor after Iris was born. I remember when he came into the room and said that he couldn’t believe my name was on the patient list after the previous loss we had experienced. He always calls me “Anna B” – the first initial of my middle name, which seems unusal. It is oddly comforting. “B” is the first letter of my maiden name, which I took as my middle name when I got married. A co-worker, a father-type figure, used to call me “Anna B” when B was my last name. Every time this doctor says “Anna B” it makes me smile inside.
I made it through the appointment fine. The doctor hadn’t even realized that he was scheduled for my c-section in six days until he looked at my chart, then went through his spiel. Then on my drive home, I received a call from the hospital, wanting to go through all information regarding my surgery. When to stop eating, when to arrive, what medications I am taking. It was routine. Then she said “And in the recovery room, you will be hooked up to a bunch of monitors, but we will make sure that you have skin-to-skin time and are able to breastfeed your baby.” I choked up at those words.
Counting the days, soon to be counting the hours.