Saturday, June 24, 2006

The dark side

And then there's the moments of terror about impending motherhood. This came on yesterday, when suddenly, at about ten at night, I realized that I couldn't quite remember the baby moving that day. A month ago that would have been no big deal, but these days the baby seems to spend most of her time trying to physically rip her way out through my abdominal wall, so this was a drastic change of routine.

I wracked my brain. Had she been kicking me in the car that morning? Not that I remembered. Did she move at work in the afternoon? I didn't think so, but I was in such a fog of exhaustion all day that I wasn't sure. What I knew was that she did not perk up after an evening bowl of ice cream (usually a sure fire way to get her going) nor did she visibly move my stomach around during our nightly television watching. She moved so little that the cat, deeply suspicious for some time now of laying on me and getting kicked by a fetus for her efforts, actually moved back in and settled down on my stomach for a nap.

Now I've been CALM during this pregnancy. The soul of calmness. I have been relatively even keeled, not given to much anxiety or moodiness, not worried (much) about whether she'd stick around in the early days when she was the size of a peanut and her future was much less certain. Overall, I've been serene. Just riding a general feeling that everything would be fine.

Which is, I guess, why I was due for a freak out of the proportions of last night. By the time we went to bed, I was convinced that the worst was happening or about to happen and that she would never move again. Which led to the realization that, holy cow, the game has really changed. We used to be safe, I sobbed to Brett, just us, only the two of us to worry about. Now there's another little person involved, someone I'm going to watch over and worry about and love desperately and for whom I'll be filled with the agonizing knowledge that if anything ever happened to her it would utterly and completely kill me.

What are we thinking, us self-sufficient adults, when we decide to take on that kind of risk?

Back in the days, a year or two ago, when Brett and I would talk about whether to have a baby someday -- often after some kind of baby catalog would arrive in the mail, reducing me to a quivering mass of hormones -- I'd say to him something along the lines of this: "Don't you want to know what it feels like to love something like that? Don't you want to know what it would feel like to just be ripped open by love, the way people say they are for their babies?" And he would look at me like I'd just grown a second head. Hell no. Why would we want to open ourselves up to that?

Last night, I was thinking that maybe he was onto something, way back then, before he changed his mind and got hit by the baby bug himself and suddenly saw a whole different future for himself. Why would anyone want to make themselves that vulnerable?

It was hard to remember for a minute there.

Of course, I'm not serious that I've actually changed my mind about any of it. I want - and already love, in fact - this baby more than anything. But I had to face up to the fact last night that my carefree, can-take-anything-that-comes life and the resilient riff I've been playing for the last 35 years may well be a thing of the past. Because this is different. This is somebody we made, someone completely helpless and dependent on us, and already, not having met her or held her or seen her little face, I want nothing more than to mindlessly protect her from any harm, and can't quite imagine anything worse than going through all this only to have some cruel twist of fate take her away.

Sophie, of course, is fine. After my hour long freakout last night, which ended in exhausted sleep, I woke up this morning around six to still find her not moving much, so I quietly snuck downstairs to load up on carbs and caffeine, and then laid back down. That did the trick, woke her right up. She punished me by spending the next hour pummelling my insides. And I've never been more pleased about it.

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