Monday, August 11, 2014

Pregnant and Bedridden: Riding the Tide and Going for Broke

Copyright 2012 Andrea Arthur Owan 

           On January 25, I had an early morning appointment with Dr. Landry. Although I looked forward to washing, dressing in real clothes, and venturing outside into the sweet spring air, apprehension about walking out of the house—down the front steps and then climbing into our van—rattled me. I wasn’t thrilled about what I’d have to do when we arrived there, either: Walk across the parking lot, ride the elevator, go through the undressing routine, get examined and then reverse the process to get home. It all seemed way too risky.
            As much as I hated the confinement of my bed, it had become a safe, familiar haven. My established routine seemed successful. My brain and body were comfortable with it. Breaking it might upset the emotional or physical tightrope I walked. Chance taking had vacated my vocabulary.
            But I went through the routine, spent the two-way ride stretched out in the back seat of our van, and was delighted—and relieved—to hear Dr. Landry pronounce that the baby was growing and gaining weight. He seemed genuinely pleased with the progress. The measurements indicated I was, once again, carrying a long, skinny baby. When every ounce of weight gain or development centimeter means a better chance of survival, every change—no matter how miniscule—brings hope. The kind of hope that sweeps your sentiments to the crest of an emotional wave you ride, until the wave levels out and you wait for the next swell to carry you along, hopefully in the direction you want to go.
            Like an ocean.
            Sometimes the ocean remains flat for interminably long periods of time; nothing visible in the horizon to anticipate. It’s what beach and ocean people refer to as, “Calm.”
            At other times, the water upsurge occurs so rapidly and continuously that you can’t decide which breaker to take.
            And often the water simply rises gently and effortlessly, in tranquil, methodical, undulating repetition, quietly coming ashore without a climactic billow. No foam. No spray. No side effects. Easy.
            But occasionally the relentless, repetitive pounding of the surf overcomes your physical ability to withstand the curl, and you lose your sense of direction. You end up thrashing around in a swirl of cold, unforgiving turbulence and sand.
            When you’re standing on the shore, waiting apprehensively—or excitedly—for the big one, you forget that all waves coming in usually get you going in the same direction. They usually bring you into shore. Eventually.  But your choice of which wave to ride, or lack of choice, can be critical to your survival. The choice may get you to your destination in one piece, or broken.
            Successful wave riding is often like life. Sometimes you don’t have a choice. You just need to take what’s given to you on any particular day and ride with it. Take what is given you and realize that there’s a purpose in the endless flatness of it; the gentle repetitiveness of it; the strength and size of it; or the unpredictable confusion and tumultuousness of it.
            The thing to remember is that God demonstrates His power and glory in all of it. And if we learn to lean into that power and glory, and not fight it, we will be swept along on His grace.
            We need to earnestly seek Him in the mundane as well as in the pain and confusion. He’s always ready to carry or guide us to safety and the security of His shore, although His destination may be entirely different than ours.
            I also learned as gymnast that if I trusted my spotter and didn’t hold back—if I went for broke—I could soar! It was when I flinched, or “choked,” that I usually failed miserably. Or experienced serious physical injury. There was never an in-between.
            There couldn’t be.
            Once you committed, you couldn’t—shouldn’t—turn back. The potential for serious damage was too high and the results too costly.
            I had committed to this pregnancy even before becoming pregnant. Bailing out would have been emotionally, physically and spiritually catastrophic. God, not I, was going to decide when this ride would end. I would just have to sit on the crest, waiting and watching.
            I was riding on a high crest of elation throughout most of the day after that visit with Dr. Landry, until the afternoon when tiny blood spots appeared.
            My heart rate spiked. My thoughts stumbled and stuttered. This must be it! Call Dr. Landry. He told me to call him if there was any bleeding. I quickly dialed his office and waited anxiously for the return call, staring at the phone as if glaring at it would make it ring.  
            “How much blood is there?” he asked, rather too calmly when the call came.
            “Just a couple of spots.”
            “Any more since you called me?”
            “No, there doesn’t seem to be.”
            “Any contractions?”
            “I’m not surprised.” Gee, I’m so relieved he’s unconcerned. “I was tugging on your stitches pretty hard this morning,” he continued. What was he doing that for? Can’t he leave those things along? “I wanted to see how well they were holding.”
            “So…it’s nothing I should be concerned with?” Who am I kidding! I’ll be a nervous wreck no matter what he tells me.
            “Not unless the bleeding increases and you begin to have contractions with the bleeding. It would have to be more significant bleeding than what you’re describing to me. A lot more. And continuous.”
            “Okay, Dr. Landry. Thanks for calling. I’ll hang in there. Seeing the blood made me pretty nervous.” There’s that familiar, creeping feeling of over-reactive, embarrassment.
            “No problem. Everything looks good. Remember, it’s an insignificant portion of your life right now, with so much riding on what you are doing.” Ah, the pep talk again. “You have to remember that you are an incubator for your baby. The baby is in the best place it can be for development; you are doing the best thing you can do.”
            “I know. No what ifs, no doubts, no chances. This is our final attempt.”
            Just please don’t pull on my stitches again, I thought while hanging up the phone. You scared me to death! Next time you might just send me into labor.
            I felt so full of life and energy that morning, it was hard to imagine anything going wrong. Able to stand erect and momentarily stretch, I had enjoyed a fairly comfortable day. Maybe this was the day! The day I’d be treated to a miracle: My cervix would miraculously narrow, and I’d be able to get out of bed! Dr. Landry always held out hope I might be able to return to walking around, though he wouldn’t commit to any time frame.
            He had, however, retracted his promise of automatically cutting my stitches at thirty-six weeks and letting whatever happened, happen. Now he was telling me he’d take me as far as I could go; the further we made it, the longer he’d attempt to take the pregnancy.
            So much for my goal of thirty-six weeks so eagerly penciled in on my makeshift calendar. No longer could I make plans or count on anything. But if all of my days from that point on would be as good as today, I was ready to meet the challenge of an additional four weeks—one entire month beyond our original goal.
            It didn’t happen the way I hoped, though.
            Within hours, another tumultuous, frightening tide crashed with vengeance upon my frail, receding shore.
            Actually, it was more like a blind-siding rip current or a rogue wave.
            And I was anything but prepared for it.


NEXT WEEK: A bad day gets worse, impending death of a faithful companion, and the uplifting love of a four-year-old…

Until next week,

Thanks for joining me!