Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Fear and Loathing in Las Plexus

22 Weeks

Greg and I try to catch one of our doctor's eyes as he stares at the screen and delivers his concerns. "...So, I'd like to see you again in a month. We'll keep an eye on it. I like your shirt." Greg and I both look down at our chests in the dimly lit room highlighting our baby's first black & white television appearance on the wall. The doctor still faces the monitor. "I'm from there." We deduce it's Greg's shirt he's complimenting since there are no words printed on mine. I'm handed a Kleenex to wipe the jelly off my belly while Greg and the Doc chat about the city-worthy-of-a-t-shirt-purchase. Doc leaves. Greg and I freeze. Silence. Then we talk at the same time: "He would have said more if it is that big of a deal/He just wants to keep an eye on it/He did say the baby looks good/It'll be fine/Just keeping an eye on it..."

Greg sits to my left—in every room it's my left—while one of our doctors stares at our file as she delivers her concerns. "...So, like he said, we'll keep an eye on it and I'll see you in a month. Don't Google it. Any questions?" We freeze. Silence. Then talk at the same time: "I don't think so/Sounds like we just have to wait/We're back there in two weeks/Nothing I can think of right now..." She leaves. Greg and I hug.

"Wait until you have one!!!!" How many times have you heard this? I always thought it was a pretty assuming thing to say to a person. Not everyone hits that milestone. You can still matter on this planet without multiplying. And so sinister, like a curse—something to defend against. But I think I'm starting to understand... it's not a threat... or a promise, it's an excuse...

P A R E N T H O O D   M A K E S   Y O U   C R A Z Y.

We're only 22 weeks into growing the thing and already it has taken over our every nerve and impulse. Sure, there are fleeting moments where we forget we're going to be parents and remember our own names, but for the most part the roller coaster of worries we ride now has everything to do with this additional heartbeat under my skin. Will we have enough money? Strength? Knowledge? Appendages? Will we hurt our family's feelings and ostracize our friends if we never let him leave the house or meet another human being? What if they drop him? Poison him? Confuse or worry him? Will we have to get rid of the dog? The microwave? The computer? The stairs? The paint on the walls? Gravity?

I call my father. "...So, they're keeping an eye on it." He responds: "If there was more to it than that, then there would be more to it than that." And he tells me a story about one of the times he helped deliver a baby in Vietnam. I am once again reminded that the fear pulsing through the synapses in my nervous system is relative to my own little world and I am grateful for this tiny 'concern' our doctors have shared. We're lucky in this day and age. They can keep an eye on things. Daddy then proceeds to tell me about his newfound affection for watching little league baseball in his retirement and then explains which gallery he is going to call to see about showing his newest painting.

I suppose I won't mind going crazy so much if one day I'm a part of a simple conversation that can soothe my worried son.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Bees Do It

21 Weeks

It's 4:17am and I wake with a start, gasping like I've been holding my breath. I close my eyes. I open my eyes. I close them again. They open. I sit up. Yep. Gotta pee.

"I worry about you on those stairs."

"Are you sure you should be that close to the window?"

"You're not going to eat that are you?"

"WHAT are you doing? Put that down. Let me carry that!"

"I'm driving."

There are a lot of things I'm not allowed to do anymore. And not because I'm pregnant but because I'm WITH CHILDDDDDddddd. (ECHOOOooo... echooo... echooo...) Greg and I have noticed a distinct difference between what each of us experience while this fetus grows. Me, I'm precious and helpless. Him, he's invisible and a superhero. These are strong stereotypes but they do smack us in the face pretty consistently. Sometimes we do the smacking to each other, unfortunately. 

I've always had vivid dreams and they say they are heightened when you're pregnant. They even say your partner has them too. He does. Anxiety dreams. I have at least two a night. I've lost our new baby at party in a monstrously filthy house. I followed Greg through a twisted amusement park and watched him kiss another woman. I took my parents to a restaurant where they were food poisoned. "How could you do this to us?!?!" I gave birth to a monkey-cartoon-robot-thing with tiny, marcasite eyes and razors for teeth. I found myself on a successful ex-boyfriend's film set—forgot to wear pants. When do I dream about flying through the stars with Mother Nature and feeding the homeless from my Manhattan sized breasts?

Preparing for a child is a monumental accomplishment in today's day and age. At least it feels that way. The stuff, the advice, the books, doctors, research, questions, questions, looking for answers to all of those questions... Why? I'm not a jerk, I know why, but really—why is this so HUGE? Why is this so wonderful and so terrifying at the same time? What are we doing to ourselves that makes the very things that are so normal about our existence so scary? Life and death. We all get to do it. What's the big deal? 

It's that intangible magic called love, I suppose.

All you need is love. Birth and dying are loaded with it, huh? And heartbreak is the very thing we fear the most, I think, even though it is probably the most universal pain humans have experienced and survived. Love always comes back and so does hope and then... you close your eyes and dream about your fear of losing it until you wake with complete relief to relieve your completely full bladder. Again.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Shock and Awe

20 Weeks

Bill T. Jones is developing a work-in-progress titled, Analogy, based on the character Ambros Adelwarth from W.G. Sebald’s The Emigrants and an oral history Mr. Jones conducted with Dora Amelan, 94 year-old French survivor of WWII. I know this because I work at Bard College where Bill T. Jones and his company are creating this piece and also because my boss, a dedicated arts supporter, told us to go watch an open rehearsal. After the staff meeting, many of us went to our calendars to see where we could squeeze in the extra time away from work. I was thrilled to oblige since the performing arts just happens to be what I live for and asking me to follow through on this kind of task is like asking me to find time for ice cream. Especially these days.

"She's eating for two." Greg points at me telling the next-shift, diner waitress as she balances a Wonder Bread BLT in one hand and a plate of sausage-and-buttermilk-gravy covered biscuits with a side of eggs and toast in the other. She sets our meals down in front of us, amazed that he wasn't the one who ordered the heart attack.

I'm pregnant.

I'm not just pregnant. I've been kidnapped by aliens and replaced by a pregnant lady with boobs and nice skin. My life is completely unrecognizable at this point and I find I am capable of spending countless minutes in front of the mirror trying to figure out who that woman is with the wonder in her eyes. This is my first pregnancy. My first baby. My first time I ever truly realized what can happen when two people make love.

I'm 41 and I've been told since my early twenties that I will never get pregnant without major medical assistance. Too many conditions and broken parts. I haven't used birth control in a decade. I think. Maybe more. Never a scare. Never a thought. A worry. Now, lo and behold, I'm knocked up out of nowhere.

"But wait! We only have one car! We don't live in the suburbs! We never go to bed early and we can never keep a bottle of wine in the cabinet for more than 24 hours! We can't be parents yet—we're not even grown ups!"

"You're 41?" I get this a lot. And it isn't because I look young. I look 41, I'm just immature.

I write plays when I'm not at Bard. Greg is working on building a new business. Family planning was something we scheduled to talk about with doctors when we got around to it, next year. A few years after that we'd order up a scientific miracle and work on being a really great aunt and uncle if it didn't work out. Being a parent is something we both want but in all frankness—I think we both thought things wouldn't work out so we didn't ever get our hopes up. To me, it always seemed something unattainable. Too good to be true. A dream life that doesn't come in my size. And yet, here we are.

About now, our little guy has been developing inside of me for approximately 20 weeks. 13 weeks ago, we discovered that I did NOT have the flu, but in fact we were going to have to grow up. That's 91 days of mind blowing, dumbfounded, amazement and pure shock. I've never been so happy. Ever. And I've never grown so far, so fast in such a short amount of time.

They say that this is the time in your pregnancy when you're to feel movement from the little soul inside of you. And I have! Little nudges and tickles. I find it unbelievably bizarre, numbing, and now I obsessively think about this PERSON growing INSIDE of my body. I have all of the normal fears about his health and my parenting skills but those seem to fade as the days go by and I discover things like watching a deer cross our backyard on a moonlit night while I think, "Relax. This child inside of me is not mine. He belongs to the universe. All I have to do is share what I've learned so far and keep learning right along with him. I can continue to have just as much awe about this world as he will."

I'm watching Bill T. Jones grab his forehead. There are about 30+ people in the room, this modern cathedral—technicians, managers, designers, dancers, two or three onlookers. Everyone staring in silence and waiting for his next direction. We're in church and he is the messenger of God. Mr. Jones sighs and points his long, slender finger at the sole musician behind the piano with an accordion around his neck and a microphone strapped to his cheek. "Just... you'll have to... whatever it is you have to do... figure it out... Everyone! Go back to 'The River'... start at the top of 'The River'!" Music plays. Dancers dance. Technicians adjust. Life goes on.

I suddenly find myself getting choked up. Hormones? A life-long battle with sentimentality? I have a vision of standing on the chair where I sit and exclaiming to the entire theatre: "I HAVE A CHILD INSIDE OF ME! A CHILD I TELL YOU! A CHILD! RIGHT HERE!" And everyone gathers around, hoists me up and over to the stage to adore my belly.

"I'll figure it out... whatever it is I have to do..."

I decide to reach into my purse for a mint instead.