It's official. I've lost it.
I knew the third trimester would be difficult. Of course it would be. It's when I lost you. It's the home stretch. It's where I'm supposed to feel more confident and content and close. It's when we buy curtains and diapers and assemble cribs. Cruise control.
Only I can't recall a time in my life where I have felt so increasingly out of control. For the record, I have been through some tough circumstances in recent years, so this is saying something.
Lately, I'm obsessed with counting kicks. I downloaded an app solely for this purpose. I lay on the couch and wait. Little belly dances. The most adorable and reassuring and most terrifying and panic-inducing sight these eyes are currently privy to. I watch and I count and I wait. And I wonder if each jolt will be the last.
At work it manifests in post-it form. I carry them with me everywhere. Walking around during lectures, faculty meetings, parent conferences...and I note the time. Every time I feel something. A student asked what I was documenting last week. I told him the last few ounces of my sanity.
When your brother asks about this baby, it's a conscious effort to use "when" instead of "if", and it's excruciating. Feels like a jinx every time.
The at-home fetal Doppler that I've used for a matter of months is broken. BROKEN. And not from the fall from the bridge I'd like to throw it from most days. It is broken from overuse. I have probably used it one million times, and I have already emailed the manufacturer for an exchange.
On the really bad nights I eat dinner with my coat on. Just in case. Only half aware of the chicken on my plate, and mostly prepared to jump out the door if I get the feeling that something is off. And I always get that feeling.
Last week, I drove to Labor and Delivery for the second time in three weeks, because I was POSITIVE this baby's heart rate was slower than it should have been, and I was SURE that I should be feeling stronger movement. Your father has learned that when I'm convinced that something is wrong, there is no reasoning with me. In short, I am beyond reasoning anymore.
I ran to the car, as I have done before. Drove about ninety to the hospital, was crying by the time they checked me in. The nurse found the heartbeat pretty immediately. I think we were in the same room where I sat with you that night. The night I had been correct.
She lovingly suggested that since I was clearly upset, and since I had driven all the way here I should at least stay for some monitoring, for some peace of mind. Of course, I obliged. I would still be there if they'd have me. They were pretty busy and there were no rooms available, so I followed her to a "side room" of sorts. Placed my purse on the floor.
It's strange, but as we walked through those halls, those same halls that haunt my dreams, past the infant crash carts and the giant digital clocks, I felt safer than I have in a long time.
They hooked me up to the monitor, and baby was looking fine. After twenty minutes a room opened so we moved down the hall, and that's when it happened. The moment I have been dreading since the discovery of this pregnancy.
They could not find the heartbeat.
The nurses were amazing. At first, there was just the one. Calmly, methodically she searched it, eyes on the monitor. She was trying to keep me calm, attempting the normal conversation, but my mind would only allow for the one place. The one sound.
After a few minutes another nurse entered and offered to help. Still nothing. There are three nurses now, and they hear something but then it fades. Was that it? No, Nora, that was yours. Your heart is beating faster than the baby's. They call for the portable ultrasound and I felt it leave me then. The control.
Gently, they tried to reassure me, and bless them for it. We had just heard it a few rooms down. Only moments ago. It's there, baby is just moving. Have you emptied your bladder? Sometimes that helps. But I can see the panic start to set in their eyes too. I am beyond reassurance right now. I am somewhere far away.
I see what happens before they are able to. The confirmation. The consolation. I can her touch my shoulder as a friend would do. They call my doctor and I call my husband, and we prep for the induction.
I watch them hand this baby to me, gray and still. I think of the sub plans on my desk.
Your father enters the room as he had that night with you. I hear sounds for the first time. Sounds that I haven't heard since. Sounds I never want to hear again.
I see the chaplain. Hear the blessing. I count fingers and toes, memorize dimples and discolorations and wrinkles and I say my last goodbyes. Then I'm thrust back into life. Into a world of a lesser understanding, exhausted and confused and without.
I think I said some things aloud. "I can't do this again" and "I want to go home" and perhaps some other things I don't remember. They rolled me to my side and placed the monitor so close to my ribs that I could swear this baby had climbed in, and there it was. All hidden and magnificent and alive.
It's been seven days and I'm still shaking.
It's amazing how much this fear feels like grief. So if I'm smiling or laughing or seemingly otherwise distracted, you can bet I'm feeling it.
I'm just fighting it too.