Waiting Part 2: Fear and Pain and Rebuilding the Farmhouse

All I have to go on for this is my own experience, my own story that is still being scratched across history as we speak, bleating and wailing and ripping at the corners of me to get out. I don’t know who reads this, or if anyone will. But more than anything I know it needs it’s own space outside of me.

I don’t mean to undermine the realities of an eating disorder but dealing with language is a bulimic experience for me. When I read, it is with a voracious appetite; I consume quickly and without stopping. I become only a mouth that gobbles character development and plot lines and chomps desperately at everything within my line of vision. When I write, it is always a purge; it comes out in gasps and furious fingers that can’t keep up. Writing is the experience of spilling out over and over until I’m empty. This pattern is compulsive. It’s how I’ve always been, however, from the time I learned to read and sneaked chapter books under the classroom table and when I filled composition notebooks with observations made from the branches of the Maple tree in my front yard and expansive stories of fictional kingdoms to now. My academic career is an excellent example of this: poems are pages and pages until I’ve stopped the mind-dump and can call on the meticulous and cruel editor in me. I have never under-written the first draft of a story or paper in my life.

So here is my latest purge.

There is a cultural expectation that every time the baby kicks I am supposed to be overjoyed and certainly not weirded-out or uncomfortable or ungrateful for the lack of sleep. I am supposed to immediately turn into a perfect little mama-to-be constantly wanting to talk about pregnancy and the things to come and how excited I am all the time. The reality isn’t near that. The emotional range has totally varied from one end to the other. At the beginning I genuinely struggled to be happy about it, knowing that something was forming inside of me. My body felt as though I was wrestling the physical manifestations of every inner demon. Depressive episodes I hadn’t seen the likes of since high school were washing over me like tidal waves. I spent several weeks in the beginning of my second trimester wrought with grief and confusion and total doubt in myself. It got worse when people would call me things like “Mama” or ask about my preparations. I was so unsure of how to answer those questions or deal with those responses. I was terrified of living into a role I felt too selfish to claim.

The physical aspects of being pregnant have hit me perhaps even harder than the psycho-emotional ones. It was so bad I had to drop several of my ambitious graduate school classes from my 7-class schedule. Following that, I had to deal with the emotional fall-out of feeling like a failure. Why couldn’t I handle this, when others could with swan-like grace? I felt more like a cat with rabies, hissing and scratching and blind.

The struggle, the anxiety, the fury at God…

The wondering, the confusion, the desperate fear…

The vomiting, the total exhaustion, the insomnia…

None of these things has made this potential human any less wanted or loved.

I wasn’t open about this experience for a long time. Perhaps because for most of the last several months the experience was still red hot on my palms, I was so afraid of facing it. I couldn’t even wear the clothes that I had on when it happened until recently.

There was a scare. Our earliest scan came back with an abnormality. We chose a test that would give us answers. They inserted a needle deep into the recesses of my abdomen. There is still a purple dot of a scar below my belly button that itches from time to time. I squirmed. I could feel every movement through my stomach and I couldn’t even look at the doctor who did it. It hurt, and it cramped, it was the most uncomfortable I’ve ever been. I squeezed my husband’s hand to keep tears at bay. And the test? It didn’t work…

So they did it again, this time my legs in stirrups, inserting that ghastly long needle through my cervix. It wasn’t nearly as painful, the doctor described everything he was doing. It was fast, and he was gentle. The Ultrasound tech smiled and showed me when they checked the heartbeat before they released me. They even let me stay a half an hour  anddouble checked with the lab that they had what they needed. I put on one of those horrible “sanitary napkins” that feels like a diaper. My mom picked us up. I thought it was over. The genetic counselor told us 2 weeks. The cramping was strong on the ride home. They’d told me that would be the case.

But suddenly it wasn’t. There was a release, a whoosh, an emptying. Bright red spilled out. It covered my hands and the seat of the car. It kept coming, with every cramp I bled more.

The only thing I could do was scream. Over and over. I don’t even remember what words I said other than “Mommy, the baby”. I haven’t called my Mom “Mommy” in more than a decade. All I remembered were my husband’s arms flung around my chest holding me and whispering while I held my belly, as if I were holding together a bursting seam. At the hospital they took me back alone, in a dark little room for what felt an eternity. I put on the hospital gown and took off my blood-soaked pants. And I laid on an examining table.

All I could do in that cramped little room by myself was pray the Lord’s Prayer over and over and over. I didn’t even have a personal plea that could form on my lips. I fell back, hard, on the thing I have always known. The prayer that has always come easiest to me.

Our Father, who art in Heaven
Hallowed be thy name
Thy kingdom come
Thy will be done
On Earth as it is in Heaven
Give us this day our daily bread 

And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors 
And lead us not into temptation
But deliver us from evil 
For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever.

At this point my belly is distinctly rounding out from mush to a curve. There isn’t a moment that goes by where I’m not aware of his presence in there. I feel him move and flip and punch and kick. But struck with this new awareness, I am afraid of losing my identity in the very moments as it shifts into taking on a new facet. I am worried that the prism of my self is no longer reflecting a rainbow but one steady and brilliant color while the other pieces of me get focused away and fade into nothing. I am enveloped by it.

This is not an easy thing for me to deal with. There are a thousand questions each with a thousand “right” answers. I miss being asked about school, and hockey, and all the things that I have loved and have let define who I am. I miss the ambitious person who isn’t exhausted by a trip to the grocery store, who can balance her introversion and social situations, who doesn’t need to spend an hour curled on the bathroom floor with nausea and indigestion. I miss her as she slips bit by bit through my fingers, and at the same time I want to push her out the door, reconstruct her into a better version with a new brilliant and sparkling side.

If I have learned anything, it’s that becoming a mother and becoming a parent is not a moment for me, but a process. I couldn’t call myself a mother when an embryo implanted. But I am in the process of becoming one now and it is pushing and whipping and throwing me around much like a tornado to a farmhouse.

Rebuilding that farmhouse is a lot of work. I am not very good at it, and tend to bang my thumb with the hammer a lot. I have had to learn I can’t follow any directions like it’s a piece of furniture from Ikea. There is no blueprint to building a person. I misplace boards and leave gaping holes. My windows go in crooked on occasion and I have to take them out and re-do them and even then…

But this house is not just a nursery. I am a whole person, a house with a big dining room table and lots of rooms for long-term living and fleeting over-night stays.

I am not, nor will I ever be perfect at this. I walk into this mess and chaos that has been the last six plus months of my life with basically a shoddy broom and broken dustpan. Sometimes in the process I break a glass or two and neglect to clean it all up. One of my coping mechanisms has been humor. I’ve used language and jokes and laughter as a fall-back for the stress. Sometimes not taking it all so seriously lets me breathe for half a second. Apparently this method of how I deal, or perhaps the words I have used have been hurtful to some people. I have been called names and told that I am a host of things recently; ungrateful and not knowing how good I have it, cruel, inconsiderate.

Let me make this perfectly clear: I am grateful for this blessing, but I’m not going to pretend or hide or censor my feelings about my experience to make someone else feel good in a public forum. If there is anything from the tornado that ripped through my self that I have held onto it is my conviction for trying to remain at least partially that self, to hold on to the blueprints of who I am. I have only spoken of pregnancy through the context of my experience. I am sad for anyone that is hurting because of issues with pregnancy or infertility or doubt or even similar issues to my own. I sympathize greatly with other’s pain and I always have. If I have hurt or offended or made anyone feel less than, I am truly sorry my words have been so harsh as to do that. But this exact experience is not one that anyone else can claim. It is mine, and mine alone, and I can’t change the way that I feel, but only express myself in ways that are healthy. The words I choose have always and will always be in reference to that experience and no one else’s.

_____________________________________________________

If you drive by a farmhouse or a barn in rural Pennsylvania, even if you were to stop in and look around, you can’t even witness the whole thing at once. You have to walk around it and do some work to get to know it. The side you see when driving past, even if you saw it every day, is only one side. There are spaces and cracks and wooden boards and pieces of glass it is constructed out of that you will never know intimately even if you were to spend time with it. I ask you not to judge that farmhouse by the small amount of space you are witnessing, and certainly not by the side that is facing the public. While it may look sad run-down and abandoned, or perhaps it’s brand new and shimmering in a late afternoon sun, there are things that may surprise you and there are angles that are different and colors and shadows that shift when you witness it in a different light.

And if the sight of that farmhouse is too much to bear, if it is so offensive to your vision and your line of sight that you are genuinely disturbed or hurt by it’s presence, you can choose another route, another path. You have the option to make a wide berth around that farmhouse and leave it alone. Because that farmhouse is there, and it’s not your land, and it’s not your place to demand it be repainted or fixed to your particular vision.

_____________________________________________________

Finally, I end this particular piece on this note: The farmhouse I am re-building has a bedroom expanding for a baby. It has a crib at the end of the full bed that is slowly collecting blankets and books and diaper bags. It has a rocking chair in the corner, and a little box so over-stuffed with love it will never be empty. This room is being built slowly with a man who hammers when I am too tired to keep going and weeps when I am weeping and laughs when I am laughing. He holds me when I cannot hold myself and kisses each corner that does not yet have love pouring out of it for a baby with prayers.

This room never leaves me. It is a space that breathes and grows with every kick and spin and balled fist that launches into my abdomen.

Our Father, who art in Heaven
Hallowed be thy name
Thy kingdom come
Thy will be done
On Earth as it is in Heaven
Give us this day our daily bread 

And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors 
And lead us not into temptation
But deliver us from evil 
For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever.

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