Archive for February, 2011
To gut a deer, one puts the animal on its back and straddles it around the chest area, facing its back legs. An incision is made from the sternum to the butthole. The cavity is then opened, and the paunch and intestines are removed. Once the diaphragm that separates the higher organs from the intestines is cut, one can reach inside the upper cavity and locate the windpipe above the lungs, grip it with a free hand, and then cut through it with a blade, so that the upper organs can be removed in one clean sweep.
A Caesarean section delivery is apparently similar except for the part about facing the back legs, cutting the windpipe and removing the upper organs. Despite the similarities, I’m relieved to be having a c-section. Slice me open like a deer. Anything but that bone crushing, hip separating childbirth of which I’ve heard so much about. I feel a little guilty that I’ve gotten what feels like a free pass. But the doctors didn’t want to take any chances. I have placenta previa, a condition in which the placenta grew too close to the cervix. If I go into labor, the doctors fear the placenta will be the first thing to come out, and I’ll bleed too much, putting me and the baby at risk. And so they want to deliver the baby tomorrow, a month early and well before I go into labor, and they plan to do it via a Caesarean. While I really wanted to go through the horrendously painful bladder-busting shit-yourself process they call vaginal birth, I’ll just have to reconcile the fact that I’ll miss it.
But this doesn’t alleviate my other fear: that the baby will come out deformed. I’ve imagined everything from fins to club feet to the doctor pressing too hard with the scalpel and inadvertently cutting into the baby’s face. Or maybe the baby will have a big, purple splotch on his head like Mikhail Gorbachev. After all, the woman who donated the eggs for my IVF procedure was Russian. And then I remember she wasn’t. The Russian didn’t work out. The donor we used, in the end, was half-Jewish, half not, had one parent who was tall, one who was very short, and she was large-breasted, yet she was a ballerina. A bit schizophrenic on paper, but it seemed like a good fit.
My real fear is that the child will be so developmentally disabled, I’ll be taking care of it all day long for the rest of my life, and I’ll think, I didn’t have to do this. I could have gone on quite happily into my fifties and sixties and seventies without a child, drinking martinis at our local bar every Friday night, going out to dinner with friends on Saturday, singing karaoke on Sunday. But no, I had to flag down the last bus out of town and jump on it, and now I’m destined to take care of someone well into adulthood, to wash them, feed them, hold up their head — someone who might not even know who I am. I almost want to keep the baby inside me because in not knowing what it’s like, I can go on thinking it’s perfect, like the law student who walks around for a week with the sealed envelope containing the results of his bar exam.
But the more I fear having a disabled or deformed baby, the more I think, how heartless could I be? I should love whatever comes into my life. And then I fear God is going to punish me for being so ungrateful. And then thankfully, the Knicks game comes back on, and my mind is preoccupied with happier thoughts for at least another quarter.
Last week, we went to the ultrasound specialist’s office to have an amniocentesis to determine whether the baby’s lungs were developed enough to deliver him early. As I lay on the examining table, I heard a woman down the hallway cry, “Nooooooo!” It was the heartbreaking utterance of someone who has just received terrible news. I remember making a similar sound when I received a call at work 10 years ago from my parents, telling me my father’s cancer was not cured and in fact had spread throughout his body and that he had just six months to live. My pained cry of “Noooooo,” must have sounded very strange because upon hearing it, the man who sat behind me burst out laughing. I don’t know what news the woman in the doctor’s office was given, but it must have been dire. I began to cry on the examining table.
I also fear I may be too selfish for this parenting game. Bruce and I went to an Indian restaurant recently that had a buffet, and as I put a large piece of Naan bread on my plate for the two of us to split, Bruce headed off to the bathroom. When I got back to the table, I ripped the bread in half and saw one piece was larger and hot while the other was smaller and cold. I instinctively started to give him the cold piece. And then this little voice in my head said, “Don’t be so selfish.” I quickly took the cold piece of bread off of his plate and gave him the warmer one, but I knew my initial impulse, and so I had the worst of all worlds: I felt selfish, and I got the cold Naan.
It’s a weird time for us. Bruce is completely engrossed in a trial, unable to help very much with setting up the baby’s room and getting our house prepared. And me, I’ve been consumed with finishing up my last stories I’ll be writing for a while, and cleaning, organizing, arranging, folding, and wiping everything down with anti-bacterial wipes. I’ve never been a germaphobe or someone who carried around anti-microbial lotions, but with a baby coming, it suddenly seems like my house is filled with dirty, filthy germs that will sicken my child. But so basically, we’re both silently making mud pies in our own little corners of the yard, neither one of us able to comprehend what is coming down the pike tomorrow. Now and again, I’ll stop what I’m doing to sniff one of the powders or lotions I’ve stocked underneath the baby’s changing table to try to conjure up an image of what our new life will be like.
“Doesn’t this smell like babies,” I said to a friend, thrusting an open bottle of baby lotion under her nose.
“Actually, babies smell like the lotions, because that’s what we put on them,” she said.
I need dumber friends.
Back in September, on a trip down to Florida to see my grandfather, my fashionable Aunt Teddy took me maternity clothes shopping at a bunch of Goodwill thrift stores she frequents down there. As we drove from store to store, I asked her questions about when she was married many years ago to a man called Ben. At the time, Teddy was working as an interior decorator in Manhattan, and Ben was a painting contractor turned real estate developer, a career that netted him a small fortune. They lived in a tony suburb in Westchester called Briarcliff Manor.
One Friday evening after they both finished work, they got into the car and drove north toward the Catskills to go skiing. Teddy said she was looking out the window as the sun set and the moon began to rise, reflecting off a huge field of snow. Off in the distance, she saw a farmhouse, and one of the windows was illuminated in purple light. It looked warm and cozy against the cold white snow, she said, but just as they drove by, the light clicked off, and the house went dark.
“I thought, his day is ending, and mine is just beginning,” she said.
So is mine.