Monday, September 22, 2014

Pregnant and Bedridden: A Valentine’s Day Pass, Panic Attacks and a Fear-Evaporating Candle

            Ah, Valentine’s Day! The day when sweethearts remember one another with special dinners, roses, chocolates and maybe a jewelry bauble or two. (I could get really cynical about how it usually ends up being a day for wallet-busting dinners, second-rate chocolates, and over-priced roses, but I won’t. It’s capitalism in action. Actually, I don’t think one day of showing your love to your sweetie cuts it, but that’s for another blog…)
            Anyway, it had finally arrived. Valentine’s Day. February 14. The day I’d penciled in and looked for to so eagerly. Ached for, actually. The day I’d give myself a gift. The day I’d arise from my mattress confines, heat the shower water to near boiling temps and luxuriate in the billowing steam and caressing waterfall.
            But it didn’t quite happen that way.
            Valentine’s Day arrived, along with cards and flowers from my two significant others, Chris and my four-year-old son, Parker.
            And I made a decision.
            No shower.
            I waved away the opportunity for it. My cramped, stringy, weakened muscles would just have to continue to … well … stay weakened, cramped and stringy. A brief, selfish act wasn’t worth the risk and its potential consequences.
            I could postpone Valentine’s Day.
            Miraculously, we’d made it to thirty-two weeks and added more steroid injections to the program. And a home monitoring system connected through my phone line to record and evaluate contractions had been installed. The injections always managed to leave me painfully bloated (actually made me feel as though I would explode) and invariable caused the baby to run races and perform somersaults and fist punches within in my uterus. My derriere became a pincushion and my baby a star wrestler. Little holes finally wore through my pajama seams, and the divot in the egg crate resisted rebounding to life when I left it momentarily to use the bathroom.
            My hips grew increasingly numb from the constant pressure, and the baby often pressed high into my ribcage, especially following those critical injections. Sciatic nerve pain sprang to life as the hip numbness worsened. Vigorous back rubs and hot water bottles offered some relief, and as I more frequently flipped form my left side to my right, then back again, my water bottle and support pillows followed suit. It was my exercise for the day, and I was beginning to get a lot of it.
            But the big physical activity continued to be toe pointing, while the highlight of the day was the telephone contact with my health service to discuss the results of my hour-long contraction monitoring. With every contraction came a compulsory logbook entry. With unwanted continual, consistent uterine activity came the precise time keeping of contraction intervals, extra water ingestion, and a Terbutaline “vitamin” tablet to get everything under control.
            Motivational and instrumental tapes continued to lull me to sleep. I even thought the baby might appreciate a little music, so one evening I applied the headphones to my swollen belly to impart some entertainment to the womb. That was, until Chris reminded me that the fluid in the uterus might conduct the sound waves in such a way as to be detrimental to the baby’s hearing. In my debilitated state, I’d forgotten most, if not all, of my therapeutic ultrasound training and practice. Horrified, I plucked the headphones from my tummy and prayed that I hadn’t permanently damaged my unborn baby’s sensitive ears!
            By February 22, the thirty-third week, Dr. Landry seemed driven to present me with a baby to take home, minus any hospital stay. That sounded awfully nice, but I doubted that my broken body retained enough energy supply to care for a newborn infant. A couple of days in the hospital for both of us sounded like a reasonable alternative to me. 
            And what about those panic attacks?
            Mercifully, they ceased to be a threat, until one night when Chris had to momentarily shut off the power to the house and take away our one working flashlight from me in order to see what he was doing with the circuit breaker.
            There I lay in abject darkness, unable to even see my hand in front of my face.
            Slowly, the familiar, smothering, chest-clamping fear crept across my body then coursed its way through my nerves like a rapidly ascending elevator. I called for Chris but received no response. He and Parker were in the garage, where he told me they’d be. For some reason, when the panic began my memory took a hike.
            Several minutes seemed like an hour, and, as I lay there panicking, my brain fed into it, only making the situation worse. I couldn’t breathe. I felt faint. My heart slammed repeatedly against my chest cavity. Sweat beads erupted, not just on my face but all over my body. I choked. My urgent calls to Chris continued, each one progressively louder and more frantic than the last one.
            And then I did it.
            In irrational desperation, I climbed out of bed. Carefully. I was still coherent enough to remember my movements had to be done carefully. I lifted my hand in front of me and followed my searching fingers through our large entryway, up three dining room steps and into the kitchen to locate a candle, a match, and a plate.
            But a stationary parade of stars displaying themselves throughout our kitchen’s slanted ceiling windows diverted my attention, and I gazed—enraptured—at their illuminating brilliance in the pristine winter sky.
            I stood transfixed, eyes glued to the heavens. No wonder the Bible says there are too many to count, especially when these only represent the ones I can see without the aide of a telescope. Finally pulling myself away from the mesmerizing, twinkling light vision, I located the articles I’d gone in search of, lit the candle, and re-navigated the course just taken.
            On this trip, however, I held a tiny beacon.
            Using one hand to support my precious uterine contents, I returned slowly and carefully to the bedroom, placed the candle on the bathroom counter, lay down on the bed and started at the flickering glow.
            Kind of like fastening your eyes on the light of Jesus, I thought. If only I would learn to follow His light with such single-minded intensity.
            As I stared, I relaxed. The longer I stared, the more I thought about Christ and his life-producing light. The more I thought about Christ, the more his supernatural peace replaced the paralyzing fear encasing my body. The more I thought about Him, the greater His presence penetrated the depths of my soul.
            It was then that I really understood my relationship with Him. And His relationship with me.
            With Him, I would never be alone.
            Within minutes, the room lights sprang to life and Chris and Parker bounded happily into the house. “You left me completely in the dark,” I pointed out, a strained edge to my voice. But why did I even tell him that? It doesn’t really matter now?
            “Sorry.” Chris simply said, with raised eyebrows, a perplexed look and a shrug.
            He doesn’t understand. He couldn’t understand. No one can, really, unless they’ve personally experience the choking fear of irrational thoughts and brain-induced survival chemicals ripping through your body.
            It was my final attack. No announcement. No tapering off. In just one night, the hedge of protection went up and the gauntlet was swept away. Fear evaporated as a blanket of peace enveloped me like a protective shroud.
            Except for the continued contractions, uterus-monitoring calls, increased boredom, and general third trimester discomfort, the remainder of my nights seemed relatively uneventful.
            Beautifully, mercifully… uneventful.
            I don’t think I’ve ever been more grateful for anything in my life.


NEXT WEEK: Radiant lights, the nesting instinct sets in, my prayer focuses changes, and getting stuck between a rock and a hard place…

Until next week,

Thanks for joining me!