Mitigating risk

When I was 24 and went in for my yearly exam, I learned I was pregnant. Certainly it was something I wanted, some kind of made with love correction to my previous experience of pregnancy – which I had, in my teenage mind assumed was god punishing me for having sex before marriage, growing nightmare sized in my belly, but planted accidentally by love, god and I having long parted ways…

I wondered which of the two men I was dating might be the father, and if it mattered. I was smarter and dumber then – close enough to the tragedy of my first marriage’s end to know that love and an impending child are not enough, but not smart enough to use condoms with any regularity; I could stand on my own though, I knew at least that much.

On the table, my feet in stirrups, my doctor pushed her hands down to feel the shape of my uterus while I fantasized about what my life would be like, one child far away in New York with his father, and an infant I could love like no other, a love I had yet to experience for a child of mine (not yet anyway, I would discover that unconditional love for him in myself later – an act of grace) – But that day I daydreamed a new and whole life as I felt the scrape of the tiny brush the doctor used to take samples of my insides.

She said “you have some abnormal cell growth on your cervix, it may be an abrasion or a bit of growth that sometimes happens in pregnancy, but we’ll know in a couple days if you need a biopsy.” It was something like that. Normal. I didn’t worry about me, I worried about how to politely tell then men I was dating that I was having a baby and I didn’t know which of them should worry about it.

I didn’t tell Daniel I was pregnant at all, but I told Josh the next day. Josh wanted to get married, He was a writer and a Christian and a swimmer and a sinner and I was temptation there to trap him into behaving, at least to hear him tell it. He was firm in saying he didn’t believe in abortion, evil as it was. Evil as he thought I was he still implored me to move in with his mother. He would do the right thing, regardless of what I wanted.

A few days later I got the call. Abnormal. Come in for a biopsy, no need for an appointment, they’d fit me in. I didn’t tell anyone. I didn’t want to worry them until I knew. And then when I knew that parts of my cervix would need to be removed because of cancer, I told Daniel, but just about the cancer.

I wonder now about that fragmentation of trust, of who we choose to tell what… but I didn’t want to tell anyone the whole truth, dramatic as it was – part of it was shame, I’m sure, mitigating the emotional risk for myself. I’ve always been terrible at being the victim of circumstance; I don’t like people feeling sorry for me. It’s like I owe them something for their concern. And I didn’t want anyone to see my whole self, monstrous as I felt I was.

“The cancer will grow as rapidly as the baby does, you have to think of the child you already have, you have to mitigate the risk.” That’s what the nurse said to me when we discuss next steps. I thought the child I already had needed a mother and not me, but I arranged an abortion anyway and shelved all the plans I had about loving anyone.

I tried to read the New York Times up on the clinic’s operating table, and they wouldn’t let me do that, said I had to be present… but too, they wouldn’t let me see the tiny mass of blood and tissue that could have been someone, I wasn’t allowed to be that present, wasn’t allowed to say goodbye.

I didn’t tell Josh about the abortion or the cancer, I said it’d been a false alarm, maybe a miscarriage. I don’t know, I guess I thought it would be more than he could handle or maybe he didn’t deserve the whole truth. There were some tears and some things said that were felt at the time but not true. We broke up on the sidewalk in from of my apartment. Daniel and I stopped seeing one another soon after that as well.

I only had room for so much heartbreak. I didn’t tell anyone else anything, not even my family. Mitigating risk.

A week later I was in another operating room. My legs had been in stirrups so often by then they weren’t even uncomfortable. The surgeon sat there with her laser ready to cauterize the pieces of me that were growing wild and uncertain.

She looked at my chart and said “You’ve had a tough couple of weeks.” She said it so dispassionately I don’t think she really believed it. I was just another of her appointments, another of the irresponsible impoverished women who defined the way of her world, hour after hour. I didn’t cry, wouldn’t dare give her the satisfaction of knowing there was a human being attached to that chart.

The anger in my heart at that doctor, the anger that I’d let myself hope, the sound of a fetal heart monitor in the next room, and the smell of my own burning flesh as the laser did its work. That’s how I remember grief

Thank You For Being Alive, Mother Fucker

My husband went for a guy’s weekend with his friends, they take a trip together every year. It gets increasingly more complicated for them to get together as they build careers and make families. I mostly give him my blessing, it’s important for men to keep their male friends after they get married. I read a paper about this once, how men drop their friends after marriage but women don’t, anyway, I think it’s important to have a support group outside of your marriage, friendships that don’t depend on so many details…

A few of these trips have been bachelor parties, which of course, is unnerving, but manageable.  I have to trust that as long as my husband plays by the house rules and doesn’t do something he will regret for the rest of his life, these things aren’t anything to worry about.  I did NOT feel this way about bachelor parties when I was pregnant and nursing, back then, they were most definitely off limits. You can blame it on the hormones of pregnancy if you like, but it doesn’t invalidate the way I felt.  That’s the funny thing about marriage, as it matures, as the hormones and feelings work it out, the house rules change, if just a little.

Our calendar says that my husband’s flight home was last night, I remember him telling me he’d be home in time to help take the children to school in the morning, but… he wasn’t. I called his phone but there was no answer. I had to decide between denial, worry, or anger to get me through this morning. I chose the first as my exterior expression while the other two ran through my mind in the background, setting fire to every senario. I rented a car to try delivering both children on-time to their schools (which are across the city from each other, and start within 15 minutes of one another.) This is so much easier when my husband is home, weekday mornings don’t work well without him.

On the way to the car I found a four leaf clover, a common mutation I am told, not that lucky at all, but I held onto it for a while, just in case. I opened the door to the rental car and the alarm went off. The car wouldn’t start. While the rental company tries to fix it, it becomes apparent we’re going to be late for at least one child’s school. We leave the car broken and beeping, I left the four leaf clover in the front seat, it was an accident, I considered retrieving it, but left it, telling myself it meant something to find luck and leave it in a stalled car. One child made it to school on time, one child stayed home with me. The fires of worry and anger in my mind are too mentally exhausting to withstand the bus trip and necessary school office interactions to sign the kid in as tardy. I’ve already pictured every ditch my husband’s body might be found in, there is no way I could walk into that school office alone without the weight of thinking I might always be alone bearing down on me.

After 8 hours of wondering what happened and twice as many connections to his voice mail, Mr. Pierce picks up the phone, relief washes over me. “Where are you?” I ask. “Venice Beach.” he says. “I thought you had a flight home yesterday.” I say. “It’s tonight.” he mumbles. “That’s not what you told me and that’s not what’s on the calendar.” I say. “Well, it’s tonight.” he says. “Thanks for being alive, mother fucker.” I growl in anger before hanging up the phone.

Somewhere in Venice Beach is a man half awake, probably hung over after a long weekend with his best guy friends, the ones he hardly ever gets to see. In his fog he’s probably wondering what he did to deserve such a pleasant 6am wake up call, he’s probably wondering if the house rules changed while he was snoring. But if he’s smart he’ll realize love is an unfeeling bitch at the other end of the telephone line, a really… lucky… bitch.

 

 

 

Two Weeks in the Life of an Egg

Roadtrips are kind of awesome when I’m not the one in charge…

Two weeks ago, armed with a camera, some beautiful dresses, my smarts, and a yet to be discovered tiny fertilized egg, I hopped aboard the Jones Soda tour bus with seven strangers and embarked on a trip across the Arizona desert toward a tech, film, and musically- fantastic conference, otherwise known as SXSW in Austin Texas.  Continue reading Two Weeks in the Life of an Egg