Saturday, October 30, 2021

Countdown To Catastrophe

I cannot tolerate being pregnant anymore and yet I realize that as soon as the baby arrives, the hardest part of the journey will begin. I will have to make a decision about her fate and live with the consequences.

Emotionally, of all the shitty situations I have found myself in over the past 40 years of my life, this seems like the worst, if only because it was completely preventable yet I plowed ahead anyway. Now, so many people’s lives hang in the balance.

"You were trying to better your family, for lack of a better term," my therapist Shania said during our most recent session.

Yeah, well, as an ex of mine used to say, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. What I wouldn't give to go back one year and do everything differently.

It wasn't that long ago that I marveled at women who somehow magically knew they were done having kids. How does a mother ever discern that? I wondered. It befuddled me. Now I know, because I am utterly, completely done having kids. It's unfortunate I didn't figure that out before I got pregnant.

"Maybe you didn't need to have another child to know that," Shania said. "Maybe getting pregnant was enough. It was an itch you needed to scratch."

It would seem so. But doesn't it suck to be the baby I created in that pursuit? Granted, none of us had a say as far as when or under what circumstances we came into the world, but this little girl really got dealt a bad hand. Shouldn't she be welcomed with all the love and joy her parents can muster, not fear and dread?

Physically, I am at the point in pregnancy where everyone feels the liberty to gawk, smile, and comment on the state of my body. The pregnancy counselor wants to check in. The doula wants to chat. The teachers at my toddler's ECFE class inquire about names. I want to pretend none of this happening.

"Let me see if I can get a few pictures of the face," the sonographer said at the 37-week OB appointment after breaking the news that the baby continues to measure huge. (Why do I make such big babies despite lower-than-average pregnancy weight gain? It’s a mystery.)

"That's not necessary" I said. "She'll be here soon enough."

At my 38-week appointment, there was no warning, no consent. The sonographer went straight for the 3D face shot. And how dare she! The baby is freakin’ cute. I’ve often thought that the decision to give the baby up for adoption would be easy if 1) I could be unconscious during the birth and 2) I never saw her face. Neither of those things are realistic.

How in the world am I supposed to meet a little being I grew inside of me and then give her away? On the flip side, how the fuck am I supposed to care for another kid when I can barely take care of the current members of my household, much less myself?

The fact that the 8-pounder who has been treating my cervix like a punching bag will be here soon feels so surreal. Like many women nearing their due dates, I feel like I will be pregnant forever. But in reality, we are talking days now, not weeks, until I give birth.

We’re also talking about induction, which Dr. Baby-Maker has offered me at 39 weeks because I am of “advanced maternal age.”

At our last appointment, she laid out the timeline: arrive at the hospital at night, insert Cervadil to soften my cervix, and take something to help me sleep (because, believe me, I'd need it). Twelve hours later, break my water and start Pitocin.

"Ideally, you'd meet your baby by 4:30," she said.

There was one hitch, however; quarantine has resulted in a baby boom, so if the hospital was full on the night of the scheduled induction, I would have to wait until the next morning, and receive Cytotec every two hours instead of Cervidil.

Once Dr. Baby-Maker started listing the medications and interventions required for induction, I silently questioned who all this was for. It wasn't better for the baby, and it didn't sound great for me, either. My primary concern, though, was that an induction would mean I'd miss another night with my toddler, whose breathing, mucous, and choking issues have reemerged. (Whether that's due to seasonal allergies, a cold that's been circulating through our household, or something else has yet to be determined.)

It sounds absurd, but I don't want to dedicate any more time giving birth than absolutely necessary. I have other responsibilities to tend to!

When Dr. Baby-Maker asked if I had any questions, I said, “I’ve heard induction can be very painful.”

Labor is painful,” she responded.

OK, but I think we can agree that not all pain is created equal. It's a spectrum. That's why the pain scale exists. A 5 is not even in the same stratosphere of sensation as a 10. And I've heard induction is an 11 at best. I suppose it doesn’t matter since I’m dead-set on getting an epidural anyway, but…why prolong or intensify the suffering unnecessarily? Haven’t I been through enough?

Induction seems like a lot of hassle for something that will eventually happen on its own -- and likely more efficiently, if only I can summon some patience. Still, I agreed to the induction date proposed by Dr. Baby-Maker, figuring I could always cancel or change the appointment. Then I went home and Googled Cytotec, and was horrified to discover it associated with things like uterine rupture, maternal hemorrhaging, and fetal distress.

So, yeah, that’s a no. At least for now. Nature can have a little more time to take its course.

Every morning I think, “Today could be the day! It’s a beautiful day to give birth!” By nighttime, I think, “Phew. I’m glad it wasn’t today. I wouldn’t have been up for it.”

Back and forth. Back and forth. Get out of there, baby. Stay put, baby. Let’s get this over with. Wait, I’m not ready.

In the meantime, I try to cherish the one-on-one moments I have left with my toddler, taking them as seriously as though I had a terminal illness and will have to say goodbye to her soon. I love watching her sleep, the way she throws her little arm around my neck or falls into my lap and kisses me unprompted. I delight in the funny things she does, like shuffling around the house in her big sibling's Crocs or busting a move to '80s pop. She adds new words and phrases to her vocabulary every single day. (“Hello there!” “Here you go!” “Uh-oh!” “Rascal!”) I am so enamored with her. And I feel terrible about how much her life is about to be upended. She has no idea what's coming (nor do I, really, for that matter) but I know my mental state and my ability to be fully present will likely decline after the birth, regardless of where the baby ends up.

What would it take for this situation to feel less like a waking nightmare and more like a dream come true?

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