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3 Mar

A Bellyful of Light

This is me, some 30+ hours before WonderBaby arrived in the open air of this fine world. I was in the beginning stages of labour; I thought (thought) that my water had broken (how one gets this wrong I still do not know) and had hied me hence to the hospital as instructed by my doctor (group B strep positive). It was complicated and frustrating and soon to get very, very painful, but I was – as I think the above picture demonstrates – pretty happy about the whole situation: free at last! free at last! Praise God Almighty I will be free at last!

Hence the big smile, the palpable air of ease. Note that I am cleaning my glasses. The most pressing bit of business in that moment was to clean my glasses. The better to appreciate the pending view between my legs, I suppose.

This was not my most challenging or uncomfortable pregnancy moment. This was my most challenging and uncomfortable pregnancy moment:

I am not quite four months pregnant in the above photo. The little bump that was the growing WonderBaby is barely visible. My ass is still tiny and I am still wearing size 4 H&M khakis. It was early days; early, early days.

But those were the hardest days.

I bled, off and on, from about 6 weeks of pregnancy through six months. Doctors could not explain it; they shrugged their shoulders, as doctors do, and patted me on the shoulder and warned me, with placid smiles, that I might very well lose this pregnancy. That lots of women ‘lose’ their pregnancies. That miscarriage is common. That there was nothing they could do, nothing I could do. Wait and see, they said. Wait and see.

When I passed the twelve-week mark, I was exultant: I’d passed the point of greatest danger. I had made it – we had made it! – to the second trimester. It would be, I thought, smooth sailing from that point on. After the first trimester, odds of miscarriage drop precipitously; all of the books said so. I seized on this fact like a life preserver: we need now only hang on, my bean. JUST HANG ON. But the bleeding didn’t stop. At fifteen weeks and some days, after a week or two of respite, it renewed its assault on my undergarments and on my soul: I was, I was certain, having a miscarriage.

I was delivering a lecture when the worst of it hit; I excused myself, attended to things in a washroom just outside the lecture hall, and then called the hospital. The resident-on-call said, sounds like a miscarriage. There’ll be nothing that we can do. You’d best go home and wait it out. I went back into the lecture hall, apologized for the disruption, and finished my lecture. Then I went home and asked my husband to take the picture that you see above. If this was the end, I thought, I at least wanted some record that I – that we – had made it this far.

It would, I thought, be the only non-medical record of a brief life. I spent that night curled up, tightly, under blankets, gripped by my sadness, bound by fear.

Sometime, in the night, the bleeding stopped. When we went to the hospital the next day, for an ultrasound, our bean – WonderBaby – was fine. We heard her heartbeat. We heard mine. Both were were strong.

The bleeding was never again quite so bad as it was that night. Somewhere around the six-month mark, it stopped completely. The doctors were never able to explain what had caused it. One of the many mysteries of pregnancy, they supposed. I spent the rest of the pregnancy in fear of those mysteries. I spent the rest of the pregnancy struggling with heartburn and backpain and swollen feet and fingers. I lost my wedding ring to the swollen fingers, and spend days crying over missing jewellry and outgrown shoes. Once, I got stuck in a closet, my fat ass and giant belly blocked by a box of baby crap that I’d pulled in behind me (pulling, not lifting, to be safe, of course). I sat there, crying, terrified and in pain, for a good ten minutes before the husband found me and pulled me out. There were a lot of moments of pain and fear and discomfort during that pregnancy. But not a one of those moments ever came close to those terrible days, and that terrible night, when I thought that the pregnancy – and the growing life that was the pregnancy’s work – would be snatched from me by some inexplicable force of biology.

No matter how hard that pregnancy got, I never – not for one moment – wanted it to be taken from me. I would have suffered through a full ten months of blood and fear – ten months squared – and still clung to every one of those months with every ounce of spirit in me. I would bare my soul to ten times that darkness – ten times infinity – to reap the reward of the miracle that carries that darkness.

I would do it all over again, in a second. In a second.

I really would. I just might.

(In honour of the lovely Lindsay of Suburban Turmoil, who is counting down *her* moments. And in honour of all you other brave souls, who are living your moments – good and bad – with power and grace. Who are inspiration to me.)

(Did I miss anybody?)


Edited to add: please stop in at the Basement, whenever you get a chance. There’s someone there who’d like an ear, and perhaps a warm shoulder, or many such shoulders, to lean on…