Monday, January 7, 2008

A Theology of Female Embodiment- One Month of Pregnancy (in five installments)

Written December 14, 2007
Four of Five (to read from the beginning scroll down to January 4)

Well, we’ve just had our first appointment with Dr. Mary Bowman and she was everything I would want in a delivery room doctor. I almost bounded into the crowded waiting room and announced to the staff that I could barely fill out the new patient paperwork because I was so excited. They grinned a tolerate, indulgent smile at me.

I waited so happy, I wanted everyone to feel this delighted. Dale was reading these words of fallen soldiers in Iraq, a Newsweek special highlighting the letters written to family and beloved friends should these sons and daughters die in battle. He wanted to read them out loud to me. "Can you not do that?!" I asked him impatiently. "I want to focus on this experience." I checked off a bit proudly that this was my first pregnancy and that I had no health problems (as if that was something I could take total credit for).

Well we finally got into a room and then we saw the baby, a perfect lima bean in a lovely clean yoke in my placenta. But there was no heartbeat… which was disappointing.

Dr. Mary Bowman said the baby was rather small, not too small if I ovulated later than the 28th day (which is totally possible, I thought), but still small. The heartbeat didn't concern her for a fetus this small, it was normal. She asked me again when I took the pregnancy test and when I told her, she made the smallest of facial movements that alerted me. Something was wrong.

“This might be a miscarriage, but we don’t know yet. I’d like to see you next week.” My heart skipped a beat, and I glanced towards Dale. I felt an enormous calm fall over me, a calm I knew all too well, it was numb fear.

"Well, THAT won’t work," I told her. "We’re going to be in San Diego next week speaking to high-schoolers at a camp, then we spend Christmas with my family in Whittier." For the next five days, I doubted we’d even be close to a hospital or cell phone reception. My heart was fluttering in shock and worry. Was Soulation already getting in the way of this baby's health and life? Was it a mistake to think we could manage a child and this work?

"Tell me," I said, what to expect if I do miscarry. " She began to chronicle what my body would feel like. I could expect bleeding, heavy and red and also that I would begin to cramp really badly. She recommended a D & C, which immediately put me on guard. It sounded like the procedure I had first learned about when I volunteered for the Whittier Pregnancy Care Clinic (I've since learned the abortion procedure has some similar processes, but the abortion is called D & E, Dilation and Evacuation). I did not want to do that, I did not want some foreign instruments put inside me, scrapping the side of my uterus, potential for scarring and infertility. No, no no! While I didn't voice any of this, I knew I'd prefer to do this process naturally.

Mary said the hormones in my body would remain for awhile even if my baby was dead. "So you would not be able to tell unless you begin to bleed, heavier than any period you've ever had." That sounded incompatible with speaking in front of 100 high schoolers.

It bothered and annoyed me that I might feel nauseous and dizzy and hungry and tired. It bothered me that my body was not making a good environment for this child. And it annoyed me as immensely inconvenient that I just had to wait to start bleeding or not (which Mary told me was not necessarily a sign all was well either). This was not what I expected, feeling pregnant without any of the goodies of being hopeful that this was a living being.

Then Mary asked me, “Were you trying to get pregnant?” I realized in a flash that she meant was this pregnancy wanted, was this baby something I could dismiss with a natural abortion without substantial heartache. I shot this right back,

“We weren’t trying, but the baby is welcome in our lives.” I asked a few more questions and then Mary looked in my eyes. “I’m so sorry you have to face this uncertainty.”

“Well, there’s nothing to be done,” I said attempting to be brave. “I’ll just have to turn this over go God.” And as soon as I brought Him up, my eyes began to flow. Mary gave me a big hug which turned my silent tears into loud hiccups and sobs. I sat down and grabbed Dale’s hand. I was already dialogging with my God,

“Look Lord, you know that we weren’t trying to have a baby, but you gave us this delightfully unexpected answer to our questions of "if?" and "when?" If you mess this up, we might never have another child. Just wanted you to know that.”

With that foolish retort of a prayer, I walked out of the clinic holding Dale’s hand, feeling weaker than when I walked in. I could barely maneuver the icy walk, holding the weight of discouragement and worry along with a pang of hunger (and for what? I asked myself, this baby might not even be alive!) And 10 days stretching out in front of me including Christmas and New Years as I waited to come back and have a follow-up appointment, that is if, this child made it.


Gretchen said...

I've been through this.... I feel every emotion again as I read this.

Susy Flory said...

Hi, Jonalyn. I'm right there with you in the doctor's office. Please hurry with installment #5!!

Also, we're starting our Ruby Slippers study tomorrow in Castro Valley, CA. We have 65+ women signed up (we expected around 25) and they are so excited. Wish you were there with us!! (But I guess you written form.)