shadow of the moon/christmas present

We defied the doctors orders, or rather ignored his suggestion (depending on your viewpoint on doctors).  Instead we decided that we would wait until the end of December when the possibility of hearing the heartbeat was more assured.  We were astronauts in the space capsule finding ourselves in the shadow of the moon, cut off from all communication with Houston, unsure of what our fate would be when we circled back to the light side and communication resumed.

In the mean time pregnancy was commencing.  One morning without warning sickness took hold over my wife and wouldn’t loosen its grip for months and months.  You were never quite certain which smell was going to set her off.  Will it be the soggy fish and chips at a gritty comedy club?  Will it be the smell of alcohol?  Or one of any number of smells that previously would have gone unnoticed or at the least uncommented on, suddenly became cause for major concern.

Then there was the car which might have been renamed the vomitmobile .  We needed only to drive a few blocks before motion sickness threatened to paint the inside of the car with the days breakfast, lunch, or dinner.  It took us weeks to realize that my wife should be the driver.

It’s standard to wait three months before informing people that you’re pregnant.  I don’t know when or where this started but I was going to abide by it.  By mid December the only people who knew about the baby were parents and the closest of friends.  That all changed on the weekend of December 10th while attending a birthday for my wife’s Grandfather.  She spent the entire night tugging on my shirt sleeve begging to let her tell them.  I finally caved and she spilled the beans to everyone.  Then I spilled the beans to my family, and basically anyone who was interested we spilled the beans to.  We spilled the fucking beans all over the floor and let me tell you there’s nothing worse than having to clean up a floor covered in spilt beans.

Dry beans aren’t such a big problem, you just get a dust pan and sweep them all up, just a minor inconvenience.  In this case though it felt like these were canned beans, wet and slimy.  I bring up this analogy because the week of Christmas we got a call from Dr. B’s office wanting to know why we hadn’t been to get another ultrasound to prove that this was indeed a viable pregnancy.

I can remember the phone call clearly because we were driving on the freeway when my wife answered the phone.  I could hear the subtle change in her voice from excited to concern.  I listened as she explained to the nurse why we were electing to wait another week to get the ultra sound, then silence.  An appointment was made for the following day at 8 am, December 23rd.  She hung up the phone and I asked what was said, and she explained to me that the doctor wanted us to get the ultrasound done ASAP, she also told me that he had some major concerns that this wasn’t a viable pregnancy.  I immediately pictured myself on my hands and knees scooping sloppy wet beans off the kitchen floor.  Were we seriously going to have to go back to are friends and family and tell them that it was all a false alarm, we’re not pregnant after all.

There was another side to all this that asked some big questions.  Such as, what specifically about our pregnancy was the doctor concerned about?  Is it because he didn’t see a yolk sac on the first visit, even though he warned us that we probably wouldn’t?  Is it because we didn’t hear a heart beat at our next ultrasound, even though it was more likely than not too early?  Is it because Dr. B could not remember who the hell we were and simply wanted to get this thing confirmed before he invested too much energy in us?  I don’t really know, it could have been  a little of all of those reasons.

It was also explained that there was concern of an ectopic pregnancy, meaning that the embryo was growing outside the womb.  Seeing as the yolk sac was already forming inside the womb, that was highly unlikely, and seemed to be a poor excuse for scaring the shit out of us.

I don’t think either of us slept much at all that night.  I was awash with equal parts fear of confronting my family with news that it wasn’t a viable pregnancy, and sadness that this baby I was beginning to picture wasn’t alive at all.  To make everything worse we were just two days away from Christmas, which meant that we would have to tell everyone while opening presents, presents that I knew neither my wife or I would be able to enjoy even a tiny bit.

The capsule was nearing the blazing white edge of the moon, radio communication was about to return and when it did we would know if we were doomed to circle the moon for ever and ever, or if we were in fact coming home.

Again my wife filled her bladder to bursting point, disrobed and lay down in the examination chair.  The technician took out the wand and began to probe.  For the layman nothing on the screen makes sense, it’s just a bunch of black and white it could be good, but it could also be bad, I find myself instead looking at the technicians stoic face looking for the cracks that would reveal what exactly is happening on screen.  The longer you go without seeing anything confirms in your mind that there is nothing to see.  The wand continues to probe through this black and white void for an imaginably long time, so long that you think you can’t take it any more and that you’re going to just yell out, “is there anything in there!”

And there it is, a tiny little figure, like a perverse alien emerging from its UFO.  Massive head, tiny flipper feet, and hunched back, it was our baby.  As I write this it seems impossible that I can look to my left and see Jackson as she is today, two and a half months old, cooing and smiling, crying and crapping.  It seems so unlikely that that tiny, almost amorphous lump could become a whole baby, that that age old myth of the stork feels more plausible.

But we weren’t out of the woods yet, we needed to hear a heart beat, without one, tiny fetus or not, it would not become a baby.  There was no need to worry, because there in the middle of it’s microscopic chest was a slight flicker, a beating heart, pumping blood through hair thin veins.  The microphone was activated and there was the sound of a thudding heart, the radio silence was over, we were coming home.  It was the first sound we would ever hear our baby make.  It was the first time in this whole ordeal that I would begin to tear up.  This was my baby.

We were given a virtual tour of the uterus and ovaries, and measurements were made concerning size heart rate.  With everything looking good were free to go.  With a our first grainy black and white photo in hand, we gleefully showed off our amorphous blob to all our family.  It sounds cheesy to say, but quite honestly all our Christmas presents paled in comparison to the one we received on December 23rd.

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