Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Baby


 The following is a creative non-fiction piece I wrote while I was in college and pregnant with Gabriel. It's one of my favorite self-written pieces, and basically got me an A in the class (my professor told me that since I'd missed too many classes...which...hello...I was pregnant and miserably sick for half the semester...I had to write a ten page piece to pass creative writing) I also like this piece because it shows you the worry of parents over their matter how small the problem. We found out a little over half-way through my pregnancy that Gabriel would at best have only one working kidney, which is so far fine to this day. His remaining kidney is healthy and working well, and the human body can do perfectly fine with only one kidney. We just didn't know what to except when we first heard the news...we didn't know for certain whether or not his healthy kidney would stay healthy or not...and it's always terrifying when there is anything wrong with your children or complications with your pregnancy. Enjoy!

       The red stilletto heels were definitely going in the trunk. Along with five other pairs of shoes, thirty-six tops, and every single pair of jeans that you own.Well, besides the new maternity jean that your sister bought you from the gap a couple of weeks ago. You throw the red heels in and survey your closet with satisfaction. It felt better bare than it felt with all those too-small clothes staring you in the face. Yes, this was a closet that you could now breathe in.
       You go to close the trunk, of course it won't close. Whatever, just leave it open and shove it in the corner, although Eric will probably run into it later and bruise his shin. If it won't be him, it will be you. You wonder what it will be like to have a house full of too tall, too thin people all walking around each other, knocking things over, too awkward to live in the space of a home together. It would be like trying to fit a grown litter of Great Danes in a small apartment, their tall heads knocking together, their long legs getting entangled. That's what we'll be, you think half smirking, a family of Great Danes.
      Then the phone is ringing, and before you leave the bedroom you manage to bump into a floor lamp with one or maybe a couple of your toes, and you laugh at the confidence. "Hello?" you say, as you pick it up.
      "Miss Patterson? This is Nicole from Dr. Robinson's office. We were wondering if you could come in for another appointment to talk about your last ultrasound. I can put you down for one thirty on Friday if that's okay."
       "Again?" you ask. "I was just in there last Thursday. Is there something specific you're checking up on? I thought I only need a check-up once a month."
     "Well, it really is just to check on some things. Once Dr. Robinson had a chance to review your last ultrasound she found some things on it that she wanted to double check. It's nothing to worry about, but unfortunately our policy doesn't really allow me to give out any more information over the phone. Friday okay?"
     "Yeah it's fine." You say, hanging up the phone. A sense of floating. You remember back over the Christmas holidays when you got that one terrible phone call.
      The voice had been soft but not comforting. "Your hormone levels just didn't rise enough Miss Patterson. That means that it's not a viable pregnancy, it's going to be a miscarriage. Sometimes this just happens. Call us when you start bleeding so we can make an appointment for you to come and see Dr. Robinson." YOu had been about to take a bath, in the bathroom with the water already running. You stood beside the tub for a few moments, the cordless phone still in your hand, knowing you should call Eric, knowing you would have to. But the bathtub was large and clawfoot, and white and clean, and when you peered over the edge at the filling water, it looked like nothing could possibly exist in there. So you climbed in and lay on your back, water seeping surprisingly slowly through your clothes that you were still wearing and finally down onto your skin, your hair soaking up the moistur eand dancing-floating in the water to music that only the fine fibers could hear. You grab a wisp as it sashays by you and hold it out of the water in your fingertips, just to make sure it couldn't dance away.
      Eric got home from work around nine thirty, and was quiet as usual. The two of you were so loud and exciting together sometimes, but Eric was always quiet when he first gets home. "Hey gorgeous" he says, his keys being placed on the counter with a jangle. He wore the green button-down that you bought him for his birthday to work today, and he looked stunning. The green against his skin makes him look honeyed and brown, and sparks of green stand out in his dark eyes. He catches you looking at him and swoops down to where you are sitting on the sofa to give you a peck. You fight the urge to grab his neck and pull him down to you and hold him. You fight that urge a lot lately.
      "What are you watching?" he asks, noticing the TV on and the remote in your hand. Truthfully, you weren't watching anything, but you thought he'd find it a little much if you were simply sitting on the sofa facing the door and waiting for him to get home, even if that was what you were really doing. You drop the remote suddenly and it bounces off the springy cushion of the couch, and the metal surface of it leaves a cold pool of sensation on your palm.
      " know, girly stuff. A makeover or something." You answer, not really even sure what channel the tv is on. A commercial ends and the programmin returns and you see that it's a program on the top-ten most poisonous snakes in Africa.
      "Some goddamn makeover." Eric says, and walks to the bedroom to change.

      That night, the kicking and twisting and rolling inside of your stomach is unavoidably insomnia-inspiring and you feel guilty for trying to sleep with half of your weight on your stomach. After the tenth or so side-change, Eric stirs and wakens.
"What are you doing over there?" he asks, slightly amused, slightly grumpy from disturbed sleep. A spray of moonlight splashes into the room and paints the top of his head, bathing the tips of his hairs in silvery white.
      What an asshole, he has never had to try to sleep while six months pregnant. "Trying not to crush your son." You say, and turn over. An invisible foot from inside your abdomen kicks purposefully at the bed.

       The next day you realize that you completely forgot to tell Eric about the somewhat mysterious doctor appointment on Friday and you wonder how this is something that could have possibly slipped your mind. You decide not to wait until you see him after work, and call him on his cell instead. Everything seems less serious over the phone. At least then you won't have to see his eyes. They are beautiful, shining, terrible things that should be avoided as much as possible.
        Surprisingly, he answers after a couple of rings. You tell him about the doctor, and of course he is concerned. "They didn't say what she saw? I thought when the nurse looked at the ultrasound, she said everything looked okay."
        "She did. I don't know what it's about, but the nurse who called me said it's nothing to worry over." So don't worry.
       "I don't know's just sketchy. If nothing was wrong, I don't know why they'd have to see us again so soon. We were in there less than a week ago." Eric sounds different when he's worried. It makes you feel unsafe.
       "Eric, I know. But do you think we would have made it past all we did for nothing? He's not even supposed to be here..." It's hard to say and you're not sure if you even should, but you go further. "They told me he wasn't alive once...and now here we are over halfway through and he's fine. We wouldn't be this far for nothing...we just wouldn't."
         You say this with more conviction than you really have, although it is something that you really believe.
"Okay." Is all he says, and the discussion is over.
         Yes, much less serious over the phone.

        Friday comes eventually, when Friday felt like coming, as most days usually do. You sat, side by side in a coral colored office with a tank of brilliant-colored tropical fish darting to and fro on the far wall. You sat across from them, and as the pufferfish slowly ascended from the depths of the tank to face you in front of the glass, youy noticed how slow, how sad his eyes moved up and down, and you wondered how fish babies look, and if they are ever born with some sort of thing wrong and worry their fish parents to death, and then you wonder if these are questions that maybe only a third grader should have. You sneak a peek at Eric's serious face to see whether or not he could read your silly thoughts. You shrug with the conclusion that he can't. His face was turned forward, looking at the fish but not seeing them, and the flick of a memory or maybe memories ran across his face and burned in his watery eye. You look away, this is not your favorite Eric, maybe simply because it is the Eric that you love the most.

        A nurse calls you back, and her tiny frame and pale plain face make you feel like a giant butterfly, a huge, beautiful, gaudy thing, and you wish you hadn't worn so much makeup that day or curled your hair. Your new curves that you sometimes almost like seem ridiculous and showy, and as ineffective as it was, you suck in, maybe just a little. Eric follows behind you, in these hallways he's always behind and never beside, and you bravely march  behind the nurse to whatever room that awaits you, the whole time silently listening to the soft scuff-scuff of Eric's feet on the carpet behind you.

     The room this time does not look like an examining room, it looks like a cell-three chairs and a small table with magazines, a phone, and a box of tissues. The tissues stare at you with a silent aura of hate, and you think maybe you hear them whispering too, with voices that were stuffy, and condescending, and laced with cold.
      The nurse closed the door behind you, so you and Eric sat, in a room no bigger than a large closet, for almost thirty minutes. He gets claustrophobic, and you can see that he's extremely uncomfortable here. "How long has it fuckin' been?" He asks, his voice quiet but husky with anger.
       You don't answer, which might tick him off. He thinks you have a problem with talking about serious matters. You do. But you do not see why it is so wrong to want to keep your mouth shut when you are upset. YOu even think that maybe perhaps if everyone had this problem maybe the world would be a lot better of a place. Why is it that refusing to yell or curse at someone would be a bad thing? Having the ability to stop yourself from speaking out in anger and saying things you might not mean?
        But this is not why you do not talk sometimes, it is not because you think it is best to stay calm and quiet. It is because you just cannot help it, the more he begs, "Please L, just talk to me, if you talk, we will be okay", the tighter your throat gets, and the more your heart slams against your chest, and the words get buried, deeper and deeper down inside of you.

     You glance at the wall behind your shoulder, and there is a huge piece of metal artwork mounted, a black hulking thing that was out of place in the miniscule room, although the vines sculpted in the frame were beautiful in their sprawling. You noticed a small pattern of scratches towards the bottom, and you strained your eyes to make out any form of words, any writing, any kind of omen that could be hidden. There was nothing.

      Finally the door opens, and Dr. Robinson steps in. She sits across from you and Eric, her smile is geniune and the warmth in her voice is not forced.
      "I'm sorry for your wait, I'm trying to do something crazy and open up my own practice here, so I'm the only doctor in the office today." She takes out some form from a folder. "Unfortunately, I've had a lot of patients today who have taken up a lot of time." She looks over our folder. "So you know what you're having right?"
       "Yes, a boy." I say, still getting used to the words.
       "That's right. Congratulations." She says, and Eric squeezes my left hand just a little. "I had you come in today because of something I found on the twenty-week ultrasound you just had. Everything looked completely great, except the baby's right kidney." She pulls out a rudimentary run-off copy of a skeleton with only the urinary tract system picture inside. "Right here." She points to the kidney, "I found a few cysts. It may be that the waste inside the kidney is not getting excreted out and that is what is causing the cysts. Now it looks like the baby's left kidney is doing enough great work for both of them right now, since the amniotic fluid that is recycled is at the normal level for this stage, so as long as it keeps that up, it looks really good."
        The word "cysts" brought hot tears to your eyes and both sides of your mouth were jerkily getting tugged down by invisible weights and you thought how stupid it is that sometimes a person can't control their own face. Afraid to look at Eric, you ask, "Do cysts go away? What does this mean?"
       She tries not to look at your jerking face and studies the chart. "We call this multicystic kidney disease. His right kidney...will not be a working kidney. Like I said, his left one is doing the work for right now, and he is fine. We will just have to monitor him very carefully from now on to make sure that it stays that way.
   You can't look over at Eric, you can't, you can't.
    "Can it spread to his left one? What happens then?" you ask quickly, needing answers.
     "In some cases, yes, it does show up in the other kidney, but right now, everything on the left one looks fine." She hands you the diagram in case you want to hold on to it.
      "What if it does show up on his left one too?" She hadn't answered the second part of your question. She shuffles papers, embarrassed by your emotion, your jerking face and waning voice bring hot spots of color up to her neck and on to her face.
      "Then there's nothing they can do L." Eric says without a hint of comfort. You turn to look at him for the first time since the doctor stepped in. You search his amber-brown eyes, read between the dusty brown fringe of his lashes, and trace the delicate lines in his softly sculpted lips with your gaze-you find nothing. Eric is gone.
       After rushed pleasantries and closings, the doctor is gone. You and Eric's body are left in the tiny cell of a room alone, and you glance back over your shoulder at the hanging metalwork, at the scratches on the bottom, to see if perhaps now a message of hope or doom has appeared, and it hasn't.

       Suddenly, Eric is back, he is crying, his face is red and it shifts and changes under the harsh fluorescent
lights. You try to pull his face to your chest but his shoulders are rigid and you aren't sure if he even knows you are there. You try to tell him everything will be okay, that the news was not necessarily bad, but when you open your mouth to speak your words either melt or break before they reach his ears.
      "This is my life." He keeps saying, over and over through clenched teeth, his dimples showing on his cheeks in a way that is alarming instead of cute. You want to ask him what he means, but he is so far away, and you doubt he will hear.
      Out of nowhere, his face clears and he is ready to go, and you're not sure if he notices, but you link your arm around his and hold him up as you walk to the check-out desk. But you sneak a peek at him, and he actually does look fine now, the only evidence of his episode are remnants of pink splotches under his eyes and on the tops of his cheekbones, and he looks beautiful, like he has just spent an afternoon at the beach.
      The woman in blue and purple patterned scrubs sitting across the desk from you takes your check out sheet from your hands and eyes you suspiciously, as if she knows you are too young to be here. She looks at Eric, and without his shirt-and-tie work clothes he looks just like a regular college student, with jeans that are a little too baggy for him and a wrinkled t-shirt. And for some reason today, he could probably pass for eighteen.
      "Looks like we need to see you again in about a month." She says, and starts looking up dates on her computer screen. "The eighth of next month okay? It's a Thursday. Two o'clock all right with you?"
       You can't help but notice the southern accent that her voice is dripping with, or rather the accent is stuck to her words, and it's annoyingly stuck there like a wad of gum that you step in and can't get shake off your shoe.
      "Yes, it's fine." I say, and Eric keys the appointment into his I-phone like always. Finally, you are outside, and although the weather channel claimed the high for the day would be sixty-eight, it was at least eighty degrees outside. Eric walked ahead of you to the car, fumbling in his pocket for a cigarette, his silhouette in teh fading afternoon sun tall and lean, and again you think of Great Danes.
      The breeze picks up out of nowhere, a chilly one that reminds you it is in fact only March, and a tendril of your hair flies across your face. You sweep it aside, and it dances in the air to music only it can hear, and will soon fly back into your eyes, and you will only have to sweep it aside yet again.


Anonymous said...

Seriously Leah?!?! I know I'm like one of your biggest blog fans/stalkers but this was AMAZING. So beautifully constructed and well written. It hit really hard and close to home but was achingly beautiful. Thank you for sharing. Honestly, thank you.

Life as Leah said...

Thank you Leah...your comment really means a lot to me, really.

Anonymous said...

oh doll! i love this! i cried. my doctors didn't count Emmy as viable until 5 months; i wouldn't stop bleeding and my hormone count wasn' increasing like it was supposed to. thank you for this.

megan m

Life as Leah said...

I'm glad you were both touched by my story...and I am so sorry for what both of you went through. I hope you guys found a way to express some of your feelings, because it can be so healing. Megan I can't believe it took them five months...that must have been awful! She is such a beautiful baby, by the way : )

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