Knocked Up

Image

Photo courtesy of Crystal Mackay of http://thegildedlily.ca

 

Despite my brother J’s dire predictions, my belief in Dave’s goodness prevailed. When I returned home from Peru I knew I had to confess immediately. The few days prior to the flight Dave and I had emailed and talked by phone, me pretending everything was completely normal, when it was clearly not. It was torture keeping this incredible and terrifying news to myself. Finally I was home. After our hellos and hugs, we settled into each other’s arms. And I told him.

“Remember when I told you that I felt like you were healing me?” I said timidly.

“Yes.”

“Well I was right! You did heal me.”

“Awww. That’s really sweet,” he replied as he stroked my hair.

Silence. I waited for him to ask how on earth I would KNOW that he had healed me.

Nothing. Okay here it goes…. “And I know that you healed me because… I’m pregnant.”

Suddenly the silence had weight; the density of those words filled the air.

I can’t recall the rest of the conversation. I only remember that he was very calm. His composure did not surprise me. Intellectually I knew that there was a very real possibility that his reaction could be to walk out the door never to return. And if he did could I really blame him? But I felt confident that he would not. So confident was I, that I hadn’t even considered how I might raise a child on my own, while not even half way through my degree.

Faced with this life altering news, Dave was thoughtful and considerate. He instantly committed himself to me and to our child, despite not wanting children, despite only knowing me for a few months. And curiously, I felt calm too. I was about to share my life and a family with a man I barely knew. He was in the midst of a major career transition. He didn’t even want children. What the heck was I thinking?

For anyone who knows me, however, as crazy as this whole situation seemed to be, from the viewpoint of my life, it was characteristic. My life has never followed a typical path. I meandered, took many detours, had many adventures. When I have tried to force my life to mirror normality, it tended to result in disaster (see marriage #2). Meeting a guy online and getting pregnant within 6 weeks when I was supposed to be infertile just fits with how my life has unfolded. Having met and gotten to know one side of my birth family confirmed that this folly that is my life is likely, at least in part, genetic. So what was the point in fighting it? Submission seemed much more practical (and interesting).

Although Dave initially seemed quite relaxed about the whole thing, panic set in about two weeks later, when the reality of how his life would forever change sunk its scary teeth into him. Even in the face of his panic, however, my calm endured. I did not doubt for a second that he would find his way through his fear and honour his commitment to me. Even when I completely lost my shit one morning, which resulted in me beating up my hangers – causing injury to my knuckles – then throwing myself onto the bed sobbing, all due to the fact that I was famished and we had no edible food in the house (read no food pregnant me wanted to eat), Dave stayed true. He did not run for the hills like the Monty Python soldiers fleeing from the killer bunny (Run away! Run away!). My display of erratic behaviour was accepted as a direct result of pregnancy hormones. He is a good man, even if his way of dealing with any degree of craziness or anger on my part is to slink into the next room and shuffle papers.

Once we started to settle in to our new life, I borrowed the film “Knocked Up” from a friend of mine. The similarities between that movie and our experience would be creepy if it weren’t so hysterical. There are still times when I look at Dave, particularly when he is doing something silly or amusing, and see Seth Rogen. There are times, admittedly, when I think that Dave learned the art of seduction from him … or the Three Stooges. (Love you Dave!)

The pregnancy itself was uneventful, until we decided to take a trip to Toronto. It was supposed to be a weekend trip. We were staying with my ex husband’s ex-wife and her husband. I adored them and we were having a wonderful visit. Dave and I decided to pay a visit to my birth sister and her fiancé. Within about five minutes of arriving I felt sick. Very sick. I left the room so that me and my agony could have a little privacy. It felt like the baby in my 9 month pregnant belly had learned to stand up and was using all of her strength to push up, military press style, on my internal organs. I went to lie down. It became abundantly clear that something was terribly wrong. I was in incredible pain. Dave wanted to call an ambulance. I wouldn’t let him until we had called the health line to ensure that I wasn’t being overly dramatic. The health line nurse called the ambulance. Then I was both worried and mortified. We had just been about to sit down and enjoy a cup of tea and my silly pregnant body had to go and ruin everything. How embarrassing.

When we arrived at the hospital the doctors did some tests and determined it was pancreatitis, which, they informed me, was indeed, incredibly painful, but not life threatening. Then they fought over who would get me for the week while they tried to treat it. Would it be the pregnancy doctors because I was 8 months pregnant? Or the surgical people because it was the pancreas that was acting up? The surgical people won. Despite being able to get a semi-private room, it didn’t prevent me from hearing my roommate tell every single one of her friends and family members about the impending removal of her colostomy bag and the special cream she would have to put on her anus, it not having had to accommodate the passage of feces for a year. (Sorry. I just had to pay that over-share forward).

After starving me by feeding my pregnant body only liquids for four days, I was finally allowed low fat food, moved to the pregnancy ward, and then sent home with instructions to eat a low fat diet for the rest of the pregnancy. Talk about cruelty!!!

As far as preparing for the birth of our child, admittedly, Dave and I are not the most organized people. We didn’t join anything: no pre-natal classes, no how to give birth classes, nothing. We did, however, get a doula. She was amazing and I would highly recommend it. We relied on her to teach us everything we would need to know. After meeting her, reading a few of the books she lent us and watching a DVD, we decided on a natural birth. Although the pain of contractions and labour frightened me, the pain of the gargantuan needle they stuck into your spine to rid you of pain scared me even more.

The only resources we had to learn how to have a natural birth, however, were from the 1970’s. In the DVD we watched, the birth coaches were clearly unfamiliar with the metric system (being American). Instead of centimetres (as in cent) they said “sauntimetres” like you would say “saunter over here, sexy”. We just couldn’t take anything they said seriously after that. The books we were given were filled with awesome nude, fully-bushed women giving birth at home with their nude or shiny short shorts-wearing husbands by their sides. Who doesn’t love the 70’s?

To say that I was prepared for childbirth is a gross overstatement. No one is prepared for it, just as no one is prepared the first time they fall in love, or experience their first orgasm. All I can say is I don’t know what I would have done without Dave.

Stay tuned for the next post to learn about Maya’s birth!

Advertisements

Coming out the other side – Part V of Trust in the Process

I knew next to nothing about how the actual ayahuasca ceremony worked. I did know that there was a strong likelihood that it would involve vomiting.

I had been privileged to experience some First Nations practices and the ayahuasca ceremony reminded me of a blend of two: sweats and vision quests. In the sweat lodge you are clustered around a pit in a circular dome covered with hides or blankets. The pit is filled with rocks, which have been sitting in fire, often for hours. The door to the lodge is closed and you are surrounded in darkness. There is singing and drumming. The elder running the sweat will put water on the stones. The heat of the steam fills the lodge and it is difficult to breathe. There are many lessons to learn in the sweat lodge, but the primary purpose of the sweat is for healing. The purpose of the vision quest, on the other hand, is to prepare children for the transition to adulthood.  The rite of passage involves a minimum of four days of isolation, sacrifice and deprivation, which leads to visions where the person’s spirit animal will be revealed. When I had done my vision quest, I learned many, many things, but it had not led to visions as the deprivation only lasted three days.

My experience of the ayahuasca ceremony was that it was a blend of these two traditional North American indigenous practices. We entered a dark room and sat in a circle. The shaman gave each of us tobacco, which he said would help us with the medicine. Through our guide, who translated, he told us that the medicine we would be taking was powerful. It would bring us visions that would reveal to us what was needed to heal our bodies and our spirits. I was nervous. In the dark I could see buckets on the floor and knew their purpose. We were told we would have to share. I ended up clinging on to my bucket and let no one else near it.

The Shaman went to each of us and offered the ayahuasca in a wooden cup. It tasted wretched. Then he started singing and shaking his rattles. He sang for hours without stopping. The music was hypnotic. People were smoking their tobacco and the smell was making me queasy. Soon I started to feel the effects of the medicine. My perceptions of the world around me shifted. I could hear and feel the hum of all of the living things around me; their energy. I heard people say things that they later told me they had not said. I could feel people’s fear and saw shadows of a giant man on the walls. The power of the medicine was frightening. I felt panic, an urge to flee from it, but nowhere to go. I closed my eyes and felt the world around me spin, a kaleidoscope of colour and light. I surrendered the spinning. Surrendering was exactly what I needed to do. And then started to feel sick. I was the first one to vomit.

I had not thought about what healing I would ask from the Shaman. I had already spent so many years of my life healing, mostly from loss. I was sick of healing. But there was one thing which I had banished from my mind. The loss was too painful. Did I dare even think it?

I wanted him to heal my womb; to untwist my fallopian tubes, to allow my fimbriae to loosen from their contorted knots. It was a ridiculous request. I was 40 years old with twisted insides. I could not conceive. But I reached out for his help anyway. I used my thoughts and my heart to send the Shaman this message. Please heal me. He answered. I saw in my mind’s eye me lying down on my back. My belly was exposed. Two lines of flowers, blood red and brilliant white, were streaming out of my belly. People surrounded me. They were laughing and smiling and filled with joy. I relaxed. It would be okay.

My awareness then shifted to my body. I was vomiting. There was snot coming out of my nose (thank goodness it was dark). Ayahuasca is not for the vain. As I focused on my body, I realized that this must be what it is like to be a baby. They are completely focused on the physical sensations of their bodies: hunger, pain, touch. But most of what they do is expel liquids from their bodies; tears, mucous, vomit, urine, feces. I was completely aware of the physical sensations of my body and how primitive we are when we strip everything away.

Once I had finished purging, however, the misery I felt in my body was replaced with a sense of deep contentment. I lay down, curled up in a foetal position on a blanket. I was so cozy. The vision that came to me was of a little baby lion, all curled up in the sun and utterly satisfied. I lay, all curled up, listening to the Shaman’s singing, and the shaking of the rattles. I was filled with a lazy sense of bliss, like a baby animal would feel after eating a good meal and snuggling up next to his mama. Then the next wave of nausea would come and lift me out of that warm place. I would vomit, and then drift back to the cozy baby lion.

When the medicine started to wear off, the Shaman came to each of us to give us a treatment. Mine consisted mostly of him whacking me on the head with some kind of straw fan. He seemed to be lingering on me a lot longer than the others. I was sure that he could sense that I am one of those people who are plagued with too many thoughts. It felt like he was trying to swat them away like flies. But I didn’t mind. My thoughts can be like little flies, buzzing around, just to be annoying. “Swat away”, I thought.

When it was over, the sun was starting to come up. We staggered, wordless, to our rooms and went to sleep. It was the next morning that it dawned on me that I had not had my period once on our entire trip. It had been almost a month. I had always been terrible with keeping track of my cycle, but I had brought enough supplies to get through two periods, and I had not yet had one. Up until that point I had not thought about it because I was just so grateful that I hadn’t had to deal with it while trekking through the mountains or tramping through the jungle. But when I did the math, it became clear. I was late. Very, very late.

On the bus ride back to Cusco, up the windy, bumpy roads through the mountains, I felt ill. I had gotten along incredibly well with J the entire trip, but now everything he did bothered me. I kept my suspicions to myself and said little. We took a bus to Arequipa, the last city of our journey.  Once there, I finally told him what was bothering me. He was sure it was simply the effects of travelling. It happened to his girlfriend all the time. I was not convinced. “Well go and get a test if you’re that worried!” “Fine! I will!”

I was sure it was going to cost a fortune. It was near the end of our trip and we had both spent more money than we had planned for. I went to the pharmacy and bought the pregnancy test. It was $1.50. It was not a box with a lovely, modern, plastic wand inside, but the size of a large bandaid. The shiny wrapper stated that the pregnancy test was the result of a Canadian initiative. Being Canadian, I thought that was fitting. I went to the bathroom and peed on the tiny strip of paper I found inside. The result was immediate.

I came out of the bathroom and said to J “Well, I’m pregnant”, as if it was his fault for not believing me that it was possible. He gave me a big hug. I was PREGNANT!!! Then it dawned on me. What the hell was Dave going to say?