This is a guest blog post from Bruce Holmes:
I knew it was Caren as soon as I heard someone run by. Wearing high tops and a sweater with her bulbous belly popping through, she looked like a turtle — a very fast turtle — as she banked off the turn from the toy and game aisles to one of the main aisles of the store. I had been lingering in the cribs and baby carriages section, not ready to start Christmas shopping in earnest, when she flew by. She was running hard. I am not sure if I shouted, “Hey!” but she spotted me. She fixed me with a stare, only to communicate that she saw me and she was not going to slow down.
“This is not what Dr. Gonzalez had in mind when he said your placenta previa shouldn’t stop you from going for walks…,” I thought. What I really wanted to say was, “What the f.. are you doing?” By the time I caught up with her on the other side of the store, she was locked in conversation with an older eastern European woman in a store apron. The woman was saying she had indeed seen Caren’s brown wallet, which we’d left in the shopping cart we abandoned in the Christmas decorations aisle. Olga pulled out her radio and called to Tyrek, who was already headed to customer service with Caren’s wallet.
As we walked to retrieve it, I tried to find the words to convey that a lost wallet was not worth racing through a store of waxed floors when you are seven months pregnant, but I remembered her determined stare and let it go. Taking it easy is not in Caren’s repertoire.
We were advised Caren had placenta previa at our second ultrasound with Dr. Gonzalez, an ultrasound specialist. Placenta previa is a condition of pregnancy in which the placenta sits vulnerably close to the cervix. He said back when he was in medical school, the treatment for such a condition was to require women to spend the remainder of their pregnancies on bed rest. But he said he was still hopeful Caren’s placenta might migrate off her cervix as her uterus grew. He did clear Caren to go walking on the boardwalk, which Caren liked hearing more than the earlier advice she received from her obstetrician, who’d said Caren should refrain from exercising altogether. Both doctors warned us to be cautious and look out for excessive bleeding.
I’m sure ‘cautious’ didn’t include pushing a half ton pickup truck full of plumber’s equipment up a small incline, something she and I did earlier that same afternoon. Our friend Bob’s truck had died on the Garden State Parkway the night before, and we drove him up to the rest stop where he had left it. The plan was to have Caren sit in the driver’s seat and jumpstart the truck by releasing the clutch with the truck in gear, as Bob and I pushed it to a sufficient speed. But looking at how short a downhill run we had to work with, we realized we were going to have only one or two tries to get the truck started. Because it was Bob’s truck, and he was more familiar with it, and because he had jumpstarted it before, we changed the plan and put 200-pound Bob in driver’s seat. I stood behind the truck and began to push, first slowly and then once it got going, I started to run, moving the truck forward. Bob popped the clutch, and the truck skidded to stop. We had one more try before we ran out of hill. This time, I was really pushing, and we were going faster. As I looked to my right, I saw Caren was next to me with two outstretched hands on the tailgate, pumping her legs. Bob popped the clutch again. Varoom, the truck turned over and sped off. We hooted and hollered and celebrated. I forgot to yell at her.
This pregnancy was not easy to achieve. Most 47-year-olds in our situation would not need to be scolded about being too active. Being the lazy one in the marriage, I’d love to be confined to bed rest or told to take it easy. I could catch up on TV, or read, or just nap. Caren is different. Right after the implantation, when the pregnancy was just 45 minutes old, she insisted on traveling from the fertility clinic on York Avenue and 70th Street in Manhattan all the way down to her acupuncturist’s office on 29th Street and Fifth Avenue. I did win the argument about cab versus subway. Afterward, we took the M7 bus back up to our apartment uptown because she admires the efficiency of its route, which has a stop right around the corner from our home. She got a seat after a couple of stops. Whatever period of bed rest she was assigned back then, I am sure she cut it in half. Two weeks later, I attended a freelance writers’ conference with her in Chicago, and two weeks after that, she was riding around Toronto with a cop well-versed in social media for a story.
She hasn’t slowed down since. She had some very demanding stories this summer and took on new assignments in the middle them. I know that I had a hard summer and fall, working eight days a week as I’m a lawyer and I had a heavy trial schedule. Every night I went to bed feeling achy and overworked, Caren would still be up clicking on the keyboard. Every morning, when I was leaving, she would be back on the computer editing a daily online business newsletter. Between the houses, (we are landlords), the stream of assignments and insisting on an active social life with her friends, her writers group, book group and family, I gave up trying to slow her down. I argued against hosting Thanksgiving, against having a pot roast AND a turkey, as well as 11 different side dishes and six desserts. I also argued against us having it in our city apartment, where our kitchen is in a hallway and ill equipped. I definitely did not want to decorate the place, with pine rope and white lights. I lost on all counts. It was a great meal. This summer, I joked to a colleague at work that if the kid cannot survive a little stress in the womb, he or she was not going to make it around us anyway.
Last week, she addressed a heating issue in one of our rental properties by borrowing two guys, who work for our roofer friend, Frank, to tear up and replace the attic insulation. And I’m currently sitting at a makeshift office on the dining room table because I was pushed out of our home office on account of a last minute decision to add a master bath and dressing room next to our bedroom. We’ve been sleeping on the futon in the living room for a month, brushing our teeth in the kitchen sink and plucking clean clothes out of a laundry basket because we can longer access our closets or dressers.
The new bathroom is full of hard-to-find old bathroom parts that Caren was able to locate, and the bathroom and dressing area are lined with old wood paneling. Even our contractor, Bob, went on vacation for Christmas, but Caren spent New Year’s Eve and Day doing some unauthorized scraping, painting and staining. As with Thanksgiving, I argued against the bathroom project, but it looks beautiful — particularly the 100 square feet of reclaimed oak paneling, now stripped and stained, that I told her not to buy two years ago in Rochester.
Despite our outward confidence, Caren and I have both been carrying around an unspoken worry that maybe the chickens have come home to roost. Over the last two months, as her belly has swelled, Caren has maintained almost the same weight. In fact she actually lost a pound in one appointment. And in that time period, we had not had an ultrasound that would at least give us a glimpse of the baby’s development and a report on its size and general health. When we finally met with the obstetrician last week, Caren read to the doctor from a list of questions we had written on a legal pad that morning. The doctor assured us that the things we noted, like varicose veins, excessive heartburn, even a low-grade fever, were absolutely normal – though we were reminded to get a flu shot. Apparently, Caren should have gotten one a long time ago.
Even our concerns about Caren’s weight were assuaged. The doctor took out her tape measure and wrapped it around the basketball in Caren’s stomach. The doctor squirted a gel on Caren’s belly and got ready to run a hand-held microphone, almost like a stethoscope, across it.
“Size is not a problem,” the doctor said. “You are actually a little bigger than you should be.”
Through the amplified microphone, we could hear the baby’s heart pounding. “Do you hear that? The heartbeat is strong,” the doctor said. “It may be feeding off of you a little bit, but you are not emaciated. Everything looks good.”
It seems like our little family actually thrives on stress. I hope that is the case because we just got hit with a surprise. We do not have a month and a half to get ready for baby Eddie. We are probably going to have a baby on January 29, in thirteen days. Our ultrasound doctor re-examined the placenta last week and saw that it hasn’t moved much at all, that it still sits perilously close to the cervix. So they decided to move more quickly and deliver the baby about a month ahead of schedule.
We obviously didn’t expect this. Caren has two stories due that weekend and was only then going to begin shopping for items for the nursery. And I was going to be frantically working on the last portions of a trial I had to start a few days ago. So today, we worked in earnest clearing out the baby’s room, where we had dumped three room’s worth of stuff during our construction project. We’ve been painting, dusting, mopping, buffing, and using this time to get rid of things we no longer need, like sweaters with moth holes and books we’ve already read. We booked Caren’s mom a flight for January 28, and we made a clean space for to Caren to work. I prepared a trial witness over the telephone and researched parts of a brief needed for the end of the trial. We need to. This baby is not walking into our lives but running, and he’s taking quite a risk by coming out early. But given the way things roll around here, he sounds like he’s going to fit right in.