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Avgolemono, or 31 Weeks

December 5, 2011

I don’t want to start every blog post with an apology for never blogging. It’s just not easy to accomplish at the moment. Life has slowed to a turtle’s pace. The pace of a large, pregnant sea turtle, seeking a place on the beach to lay her zillions of eggs. Also, the turtle spits. Perhaps, because of the spitting, we switch metaphors to that of a llama on the beach, confused as to why it is on the beach. But make that a slow llama. I don’t want you to be picturing a fast beach llama.

Tuesday was 31 weeks, and it was a rough day in the annals of pregnancy. I had a doctor’s appointment that left me in a tailspin. I love the obstetrician but she told me to be prepared for the possibility of *hospital bedrest* later in the pregnancy, and to take my blood pressure every three or four days. (My current blood pressure is perfect. In fact, “perfect!” is what the medical assistant who took it on Tuesday said. But it’s creeping up from being imperfect—low—and my inability to keep my potassium at normal levels means that my body is not able to regulate it, and so my doctor is already fearing pre-eclampsia, despite a blood pressure reading that, on any other day, would earn me a trip down the medical runway, strutting and swinging my hips with an unfocused look in my eyes.)

Anyhow, hospital bedrest, even the phrase, was a tough idea to get acclimated to. What about plain horrible bedrest? Couldn’t we start there? Maybe we can start there, should we need to start somewhere. And I know that she just wanted me to be aware of things that she might prescribe for me in the future.

And then, she did a fundal height measurement, which is a vague and medieval way of doing obstetrics where they touch your belly to see how high up your uterus is extending, and then measure that with a tape measure, and then compare the number of centimeters from your belly button with the number of weeks pregnant that you are, and decide if the number matches. It reminds me of taking my cat to the vet, my dear baglike cat, and they’d “palpate” (mush) her and say “mmm-hmmm, kidneys good, ok, there’s her liver, liver’s good,” etc. I am more taut than the cat — especially now, for crying out loud, but it’s hard for me to see how the doctor can tell where my uterus ends and my everything else begins.

Anyhow based on the fundal height measurement my baby seemed a bit small to her, at least in contrast to the baby’s formerly gigantic-whilst-in-utero older brother, Henry, who sent the obstetric team off of the deep end for entirely different reasons. We were with another practice then. They had higher tech machines for measurement, and they would tell me how far along he was measuring according to his measurements. And I’d come home quaking because the message was “you have an enormous baby in there; it is measuring two weeks ahead — no, THREE! three weeks ahead!” But, though I was highly concerned about the method of egress, I was also delighted that I was making such a big one, because big equated to healthy in my mind.

My current OB wanted to be reminded of how large Henry was, and then she wanted me to find a time to go to the maternal fetal evaluation unit of the hospital to get the current baby measured, because the baby seemed small.

Now, we live in Brooklyn. It’s quite a trek to get to the Manhattan OB, and with a two year old in two, it’s quite a trek. So I called the hospital and begged for them to see me right then: we were already a block away, we had nothing but a proposed nap on the schedule, one which would be flouted and ignored and screamed at anyhow, and I knew I’d be overly concerned thinking about the baby without the information.

The first person I called at the maternal fetal evaluation unit acted like I was crazy to ask, and then asked if I wanted to propose the idea of them squeezing me in to the supervisor of the unit. I did! I did want to propose that to the supervisor of the unit! I just wanted to see whether it was possible. If it wasn’t, I’d certainly understand, but I decided to ask.

However, the supervisor did not answer her phone, so I had to call back. When I called back I spoke to someone else, who said “They think your baby is measuring small? Come in at 1pm today: we will squeeze you in. Go have some lunch first, and then come straight here.”

I asked if I could bring a two year old: not all medical offices thinks that is ok. “You child is a blessing,” this woman replied. “Of course you can bring him.” Ok, so, lots of blessings. Things were looking good, maybe.

Even better so because my favorite Greek restaurant is across the street from the hostible, as Henry calls it, and I would be FORCED to take him there to pass the time. Still, I felt panicked by the visit, and like I am somehow underperforming as a human making a baby, because all of these things keep being really difficult and confusing. The spitting, the palpitations, the intermittent but still existant vomiting, a possible thyroid problem, and recently, lots of anxiety and irritability. And it’s one thing if I am disappointed at the way I am handling things, but another thing altogether if whatever physical challenges I have are getting in the way of baby being able to grow well in my body.

So on the way there, I called my husband to let him know what was happening. I was trying to get Henry to the Greek restaurant but then I started crying while talking with his dad, and of course I never stop spitting, so I was taking a few tearful steps and then having to spit into the gutter, and when you cry you get sort of mucousy, so rather than a confused sea-llama I may have been looking like an enormous pregnant drug addict, I am sure, hawking sticky spit while responding to sweet perfect Henry holding my hand and looking at me and my tears and saying, hopefully, “Mama, you are happy?”

Matthew indicated, as delicately as possible, that my hormones might be slightly responsible for my mood. I was delighted to hear that, actually, because I’d far rather be reacting to hormones than being truly as broken or crazy or worried as I was feeling. Henry distinguishes between something being “‘tend scary” (pretend scary) and “really scary.” Hormones might mean that my life was ‘tend scary. I’d prefer that. We wrapped up the call and I wiped off my face and entered the Greek restaurant.

One of Henry’s favorite food groups is soup, and one of my favorite soup groups avgolemono, the classic Greek recipe of chicken, lemon, orzo, and egg. More specifically, I love the version that they serve at that restaurant. In fact, I discovered my love for it at that very restaurant when I was pregnant with Henry, and I kept having to stop by the hospital for tours of it, or scans, or to get an amnio, or when I’d need to drop off 24 hours worth of urine in a giant, flagrantly yellow container with a red cap. So I wanted to try the soup for old times sake, but Henry rejects chicken, declaring it “spicy.” He rejects all meat and meat substitutes on these grounds: he doesn’t know the word “disgusting” or “visceral” yet. But I ordered a bowl for us to share, and a side of rice pilaf, and a side of broccoli.

The soup arrived. And I have never heard such moans of pleasure while eating as I did from my little guy. MMMMMMmmmmm, Henry intoned. This is SO YUMMY. This my soup? This is our soup? We can share? You have a big spoon and mine is smaller? MMMMMmmmmmmm. This soup is for ME. We will share it.

It was a delight to see him share one of the great eating pleasures I had during my pregnancy. And now he was out, and loving it, either because he’d had it in utero, or because he himself had ALWAYS loved it on a cellular level, and driven me to eat it again and again during our similarly fraught visits to the Greek restaurant.

Either way, I was moved. And moved again to realize that our baby Rainbow, small or big, still on the inside, was also getting to taste our wonderful family soup. My big Avgolemono, and my little one. My outdoor one, and my indoor one.

I am reading a book about being pregnant with the second child — Waiting for Birdy by Catherine Newman — and one of the salient themes is that the writer is so blessed with her first child and her absurd love for him that she is terrified that her luck — the luck of health, among other things — will run out with her second one. The reason that the book is good is because she can tap into and describe the see-saw of joys and fears that parenting provides. It’s like gambling with a lot of chips on the table. It’s why I never had much interest in trying interesting forms of drugs: things are reasonably good, why mess with them? Even if they might be really fun?

At 1pm, we trudged across the street to the hospital.

The baby measured 55% on the scan.

“All of our children are above average,” my husband joked, when I called him from the lobby of the hospital. Henry climbed all over the green-patterned chairs while we talked, looking at the pigeons who had somehow gotten into the high-ceilinged atrium. Henry, who was either inside my belly during our previous visits to this lobby, while we wondered and worried about his health, or newly outside and being arranged with great love and care into his carseat for his trip home, on these very seats. Like it or not — and I guess I like it, and I guess I don’t — these are incredibly emotional times.

An old friend pointed out during a spate of hormonal or potassium or stress induced weepiness (that would be mine, not hers) that looked at another way, I have ideal blood pressure and a wholly normal seeming baby. And that the story could have been related that way, instead of my exhausted and terrified interpretation.

Yeah. Wow. Right.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. lupe ramsey permalink
    December 5, 2011 10:58 am

    Meredith, thank you for pointing out how beautiful and scary parenting is. Wishing you the best of the best.

  2. Karen permalink
    December 5, 2011 11:36 am

    Well yeah, but jeez, your version seems like The Official Pregnancy Version to me. You are one brave soul for doing it again, friend. Every time I think gee, I wonder if there are any amongst my 43+ y.o. eggs that would serve, if called– I hear some story like this and go, you know what, n.o. w.a.y. can I go there again. As Mia is wont to say, in a fit of pre-pre-teen angst, “I just CAN’T, I said!”

    Even though I know Rainbow is going to be a spectacular sibling and in all ways exceptional, never mind above average- and Henry already knows that too- still, better you than me, and perhaps you ARE better than be for being willing! I am ok with that. And then to be able to write about it in such a wonderful way… Rainbow, you are already a gift to the rest of us as well, in addition to your family.

    Rest well, Meredith. Hang in there.

  3. December 5, 2011 12:32 pm

    I’m wishing you all the best in the home stretch of your pregnancy. If you’ve got to do a couple of weeks of bedrest–hell that it is–you’ll rest more comfortably knowing that you are in the best place for a great pregnancy outcome. It’ll all work out! –Erica, Lena & Kellis’s mom

  4. December 5, 2011 5:07 pm

    I guess I wasn’t supposed to cry, or maybe I was, or maybe it’s the hormones, but thanks for writing this. Thank you.
    When you hadn’t posted for a few days I was concerned. I’m glad we’re FB friends now so I know you’re ok when you don’t have time to post!

  5. December 5, 2011 9:52 pm

    Dear Sea-Llama, you’re doing just fine!

  6. Amy Daniewicz permalink
    December 13, 2011 11:05 pm

    Oh, super sweet, Meredith. So super sweet. I know, it’s the craziest thing, isn’t it? And it has been for generations, apparently. And yet it feels brand new each time.

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