The Reason I Hold On

Ahem. I cheated and copied the first half of this post from Facebook. It’s not so much an economy of words as much as having an IV in my hand, making typing a little awkward, that urged my self-plagiarism.

So. Skip to the bold line if you already read my Facebook post.

I am 31.5 weeks pregnant with a baby who appears to be healthy, but unfortunately, someone has thrown out his bathwater (my amniotic fluid). I never noticed it come out, but I appear to be at least a quart low (or however much 95% would be). A slow leak perhaps?

We might get an answer about whether it’s a slow leak in the next day or two, but for the time being, I get bed-rest, baby monitoring, and watching for infection for the next 2.5-5.5 weeks in the hospital. [update: tests still show no evidence of a current leak.]

The danger of no amniotic fluid is that there’s no cushion for this little guy. He can get pressed against the uterine wall with his cord pinched in-between, depriving him of oxygen–which is kind of critical– plus fluids and nutrients. When I have my Braxton-Hicks contractions or something else that puts a little squeeze on him, he recovers quickly, but the poor guy can’t move about freely like before. It’s like being in a mostly empty bathtub instead of a swimming pool.

There isn’t a safe way to simply “replace” the fluid at this stage. Infection and accidentally inducing preterm labor are the main concerns I think.

It appears that all the anatomic machinery is there for making amniotic fluid, that he is growing normally, and that he had the fluid during the critical stages of lung growth (he breathes it in to expand and develop his lungs). They were worried my leak (if that’s what it is) began with the placental hemorrhage I had at 14 weeks, which would have made survival outside the womb impossible due to lack of lung development.

I have found that trying to sleep while attached to cords and tubes and while keeping the baby from getting squeezed wrong is a monumental task that gets you to 6 am with two hours of sleep under your fetal monitor belt and a nurse coming in to tell you to get turned to your side right now because baby doesn’t like you on your back. Apparently drifting off finally for 30 minutes was a bad choice. So I cried a lot. But I’m better now. And the nurses and docs here have been wonderful. It was just a bad moment to hear that all my efforts had been insufficient.

Just as previous pregnancies taught me about “morning sickness,” “pre-eclampsia,” “post-partum depression,” and a lot of other medical jargon, I am going to learn that “bedrest” isn’t just some nebulous medical term. It is a rock-hard, spine-wrenching, mind-numbing word cleverly substituted in medical dictionaries for “torture.”

On the bright side, I told my mom I would someday watch “Downton Abbey” if I had to be on bed-rest. So bring on the class warfare soap opera! And all the books I’ve been slowly working through. And my 2-yr-old’s baby book I haven’t started. And a few blogs I will be too sleep-deprived to write sensibly.

Another positive: after 25 hours of not eating (I usually need to eat every 2-3 waking hours), I at last ate. That might be the only way that this hospital’s food will seem palatable to me, but I am trying to not complain in the midst of many blessings. I will write a blog about that when I’m awake enough to use that part of my brain again.

And now after a shower, a nap, and a non-hospital apple, I am writing that blog.

Praying is something some of us do. More people are now embracing “meditation,” which I see as an “opening of the consciousness to the present and letting the universe speak to us.” But distinguishing between our own thoughts and an answering voice, whether that voice is through God’s spirit, our own inner voice, or something that is undefined to us, is difficult. How do we capture the answers we seek or feel that the answer has the weight to move us in a given direction?

I have been praying with my husband for a few months about changes we wanted to make. We tend to get an itch for change in the springtime. This year, he considered a new job when his company began showing signs of corporate distress: all the perks were disappearing, layoffs began, and upper management was getting in the way of an effective work culture.

In a matter of weeks his department went from about 24 employees to maybe 13. Three or four co-workers, all whom my husband admired and felt close to, decided after the layoffs that it was time to leave the sinking ship behind. His workload became incomprehensible. His responsibilities multiplied, and he told his boss he had begun looking elsewhere.

He has a fabulous boss and did not want to let her down, but he couldn’t see a way to continue toeing the line.

Then two of his remaining co-workers disclosed to him that if he left, they were leaving too. All of the support staff he worked with would be left without a functioning department. Their jobs would ultimately disappear if my husband left.

He had a week or so to think about this development before an interview with another company. He packed his Sunday best that morning and had a plan for slipping out early on our anniversary to go interview and then come home so we could celebrate. He called before lunch and said, “Why am I going to this interview when I know it’s the wrong thing to leave my job?”

I had been thinking the same thing, but I didn’t want to quell my husband’s ambition or compel him to stay in a situation he found untenable.

“Stay.”

Every time we had prayed about this decision. Every time I had pondered over it while doing housework. Every time I had let my mind unfold its ravels of thoughts, that word had gently touched my consciousness. But I dismissed it because I had seen the movie “Interstellar” a few months ago and thought my lines-quoting brain had just latched onto a useful snippet of drama and tried to pass it off as personal insight.

So I finally told him what I’d been receiving as an answer: “I think you should stay.” “Me too,” he said with relief. He canceled the interview. We celebrated our ten-year anniversary by deciding to stay in a hard situation because enough of the right elements were there, like co-workers who felt like family and a department ready to expand and develop in a direction that he could take the lead in. And somehow it is working out.

We have also had the itch to buy a small acreage and build our family’s lifelong home. The one that will accommodate parents whose knees don’t want a flight of stairs between them and their bedroom. A home that is oriented toward energy efficiency and effective use of space. An outdoors where mom can see kids playing from the kitchen window, and kids can have some small animals and a big garden to care for and derive food from. A home made to suit a more land-connected lifestyle.

I drafted my plans and walked my husband through it. We made little changes and practically giggled with anticipation. We searched for just the right land, builder, etc. I combed through city and county ordinances to learn about where and what animals could be raised. We dragged the children to big lots in the middle of nowhere or on the outskirts of towns where their imaginations were kindled and they felt enlivened by the space and the view. The idea of packing up, getting the house ready to sell and changing up some of our roots seemed doable in the midst of a fourth baby coming because we had a dream worthy of every sacrifice.

But when we prayed about it, that darn word rolled along the edges of my mind again. It didn’t force its way in or resist when I pushed it away, but it kept coming back, like a helium balloon that follows you through the house and startles you when you think you’re alone. It was just always there.

“Stay.”

After banging my head into dead end after dead end in our search for the right land, I realized that we were not going to make the dream happen this summer as hoped for. I would be dealing with a cramped yard that wasn’t made for kids, watching my spruce-ups around the house get goobered by kids again, and wondering if the financial climate would even allow for such a dream next year.

And I wasn’t just sad about it. I was angry. I felt like my dream didn’t matter to God. I wanted to throw it back in his face that I never seemed to get what I wanted. I just had to slog through all the demands of children and household duties and adult obligations but it was never my turn to just live the life I wanted. And as you might have noticed in some recent blogs, I’ve just wanted to quit the life I do have.

So I begrudgingly told the Lord that I would stay. But I made it look a lot like quitting for a few days. Just to show him.

Then after a couple weeks of dealing with the rut I had put myself in–and it was pretty deep since hormones and life worries compounded my tendency toward depression–I began to see the light again. My life was still whatever I wanted to make of it.

And somehow the Lord let me go through my tantrum at just the right time and for just the amount of time I needed so that I would be ready for what he had been gently preparing me for.

I am going to be doing a lot of staying for a while. I won’t be fixing up the yard or getting a house ready to sell. I won’t be relocating my family or putting down roots in the rich life-giving earth. I will be in a room full of chirping machines and an artificial climate so that the one person who has had no say in any of these decisions can have a home and keep his roots planted in me for as long as he can.

My other son is almost six and asks me question after question all day long. Why do numbers matter? Who came up with the word “ache?” What is nothing from? What would happen if…? Who put nickel and silver at the center of the earth?

It goes on and on and on. After a shopping trip and grocery unload on Wednesday, I thought my brain might explode with all the questions he’d been asking me.

“I need a break. No more questions. My brain can’t keep coming up with answers right now.”

He managed to stop a couple questions before they burst out, which I saw as real progress for this compulsive question-asker. But then as we hurried into the car for our rushed drive to kindergarten, he asked, “Why do you love me?”

I took a breath and said, “There are so many reasons.” And then I let myself think about the answer as we sort-of sped a little to the school.

Just before turning to the school, he threw in another question: “What if school was just 10 seconds long?”

And I had my answer for him. I said, “You know, ten seconds ago it was you I was pregnant with and looking forward to meeting. Do you know how I already knew I would love you?”

“How?” He doesn’t usually listen to the answers to his litany of questions, so again, progress!

“Because I was making room for you in my life ever since I knew you would be in our family. I made a place for you in my heart and my home and my family.”

I don’t know that he needed to hear that answer as much as I did since he was already running to the playground as I trailed off.

IMG953994

He has been so curious about the ultrasound gel, so he asked the doctor if he could help find the “wow-wow-wow” of his brother’s heartbeat. An hour later I was walking into the Emergency Room and wanting to ask question after question.

The psychiatrist I saw a couple weeks ago said that after my big scare at 14 weeks with this pregnancy, maybe I just never allowed myself to bond with this baby. I didn’t agree. I just thought I was depressed.

But she was right. I haven’t been making room for him in my heart or my home or my family. He was just along for the ride, and I was determined not to let him matter too much in case he didn’t stick around.

Now that he and I are sharing this tedious but precious time together, I at last feel myself carving out a place for him and wanting more than anything the chance to show him what love has prepared for him.

And then I hope he will stay.

But even if he doesn’t stay here with us, my prayers and all the prayers uttered for him still have an answer. Stay.

Dear son, you are the reason for the place I made, and you will always have a home in my heart.

[The genre of the song doesn’t fit, but I’m playing the “pregnant-so-I-got-the-power” card, and if I can think of my baby as the singer in the tub, and I am that surprisingly high-pitched man, then I think this song actually fits my feelings very well right now. Besides, we would both love a soak in our own personal tubs–whether man-made or mom-made–right now.]

5 thoughts on “The Reason I Hold On

  1. Your writing is absolutely beautiful! Thank you for sharing raw moments of your life. The answer of being told to “stay” can be such a hard answer, especially when it means that you will not get to do what you have been dreaming of doing. Prayers for you and your darling family!

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  2. Thank you! I decided that home is where plenty of dreams come true–they just don’t always seem that glamorous or noteworthy. And can you imagine if we had just changed jobs and were trying to move? My husband wouldn’t have an understanding boss with co-workers who had met his family. We would be in the middle of insurance changes and who knows what else! And then trying to move and sell with mom in the hospital? It would have been a nightmare! Staying was right for so many reasons, if not just the knowledge that we listened to the answer we received and that we can keep seeking answers and finding them.

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  3. I inhaled this in one mouthful. Beautiful writing. Your candor and humor are always instructive and inspirational.

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    • Thank you for being a part of my story–I will never forget the moment everything changed and I had my dear sister standing next to me to help me absorb the blow.

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  4. Pingback: Boy, You’re Gonna Carry That Weight | the well-rested mother

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