There were the bowling ball (candlepin not tenpin) sized fibroids that were removed along with a hairy and toothy dermoid, there were two caesarian sections, two vbacs, nine and a half years of nursing, and then there was the time that I was pregnant for two whole years (nearly) straight.
I emerged from these two years of gestation with one live baby and one dead baby. Born 378 days apart. Both girls with full heads of raven hair. Blue eyes, well-formed and voluptuous limbs, clear skin, ten fingers and ten toes. Perfectly defined lips and delicate noses.
They were my fourth and fifth pregnancies.
The fourth was nauseating, I was vomiting through the ninth month. I knew right around 9.11.2001. It all ended 5.3.2002. This was in the South Carolina low country, much of that time was so hot. The AC was broken on both the cars. The room I was teaching in was in an ancient grammar school with high ceilings and massive west facing windows. No blinds. One small window unit. I thought that I was being proactive when, in November, I started asking the principal to put some shades up. It never happened, and by late February, every day at about 10:30 am the AC unit would short out and turn off. At which point I’d climb up on a chair to flip the fuse. Often the custodian would be walking by and react with alarm as nothing freaks people out more than seeing a woman in late pregnancy standing on a chair. Despite these daily events, nothing changed and I sweated through every afternoon ministering to the needs of my students. No blinds. I was sure though that I would emerge from this torture with the big prize: a healthy baby. Because I was confidently carrying the third child, it would therefore be the last pregnancy. “Enough!” I thought, triumphantly.
Zap. In week 39, I went in for my weekly ob/gyn appointment, and watched with horror as my doctor frantically tried to find a heartbeat, then listened to her as she declared the baby dead. And then there was labor and delivery; much easier to tolerate with the idea of a live baby as the carrot. The thought of a dead baby was a terrifying stick.
If I hadn’t been scarred by the previous events, the next pregnancy would have been a breeze. Relatively little nausea, high energy, I looked great, we had moved north, it was winter and early spring, I wasn’t hot. During the final two months, I went to the local hospital for bi weekly non stress tests. This in order to make sure everything was fine with the baby’s heart and movement. I was accompanied by my 4 year old daughter Sammy. We’d get a chocolate shake from Burger King in order to get the baby moving. At the hospital, I’d be set up in a room, fetal monitors covering my stomach; Sammy and I would proceed to watch TV and drink shake for an hour. Although the back story was tragic, this was a fun mother/ daughter outing.
Two communications from Sammy framed the gloaming of this interminable era of pregnancy with eloquence:
*At about week 38 of pregnancy 5, Sam said, “I am so sick of going to the bathroom with you.”
* After her sister Lucy was born, Sammy wrote a note, meticulously printed in her preschool handwriting:
EVOL EVOL EVOL. SO SWEET AND NEW. CONGRATULATIONS YOU’RE ALIVE!