23 May 2008

Untitled, Part Four

"Do you feel up to talking about your decision-making process with regards to the pregnancy?"
"No, I really don't have the ability to face that yet."
"Well, let's leave it for now."
"Thank you."
"Did you decide to tell anyone once you made the decision?"
"I told my manager at work, mostly for the time I'd need for doctor's visits."
"Why not someone close to you?"
"I didn't know how they'd react, and I wasn't sure I was keeping them to raise."
"Let's begin there for today."

It had begun to get cold in Chicago as I neared my first ultrasound date. My mind was swirling at the thought of seeing two little faces and two sets of hands, eyes, feet waving at me from the warm confines of my expanding waistline. It was surreal, and I still didn't really believe that I was pregnant at that point, even after the Dopplers and the measuring and the movement. I was living in two bodies--the pregnant one I was in, and the old me, where it was all just a strange dream.

Physically, I skated through the first trimester, but the second trimester had me tired, listless, and anxious all the time. Because I was high-risk, I was having a three-dimensional ultrasound today, and the odds were really good that I would know the sex of the babies. What wasn't good were the odds on whether I would tell anyone. I had stopped myself twice from calling my mom and telling her, especially since she had gone back into the hospital for pneumonia-related complications just last week, and was frail and sick still. I couldn't tell Devon; my stepsister had send me an email about Heidi and him fighting all the time. I didn't need to add more stress to their fledgling marriage.

With a jolt, I realized I had been standing outside a baby boutique near the El station for the past ten minutes, hot cocoa in hand, gazing into the window. I could see my reflection in the lengthening shadows of early evening, my grey wool coat unable to button over the burgeoning mass of my stomach, my suede ballet flats mere smudges on the glass. The diplay was a complete bedroom set up, with chic beding diplayed alongside little genderless outfits folded into cunning shapes, and a plush area rug under a richly stained crib set. I carressed the bulge under my coat unconsciosuly and shook my head, walking the stairs up to the platform and onto the train.

The office was in a new building, warm and comforting in its anonymity. I checked in early with a pleasant, bland receptionist in a pink cardigan sweater, and handed her my co-pay check. Shrugging off my coat, I sank into the plush armchair nearest me and took out the book I had been reading. Other patients' chatter was muted and out of focus in the quiet waiting room, with the occasional beep of the receptionist's phone lines the only distinct sound. I turned off my cell, not wanting to break the comfortable quiet, and opened my book.

I was called back ten minutes later, and led to a dim room in the back of the office. The technician handed me a warm blanket so I could take off my skirt, exposing the growing swell of my stomach, and left the room. I got ready and laid down, looking around the room. A flat-panel television was connected to an expensive-looking machine in the far left hand corner, and the room smelled faintly of buttercream frosting from the outlet on the wall. An upholstered wheeled office chair was next to it, and small, discreet folders held medical pamphlets--all very warm and non-threatening. I began to relax a bit.

The door opened, and the technician returned with a clipboard. We went through the preliminaries, then she dimmed the lights all the way and turned on the machine and the television. Applying a generous dollop of warm sonogram gel to my belly, she began the scan, pressing the wand firmly mere centimeters above my pubic mound. The first images showed up on the screen, rendering me speechless.

I was breathless, my heart in my throat at the detail of the scan. Every little feature of their faces showed up in a rich sepia tone. Baby A had my small pointed ears and snub nose, even at eighteen weeks. Baby B had a longer nose and Devon's strong jaw. The technician noticed I had been holding my breath and smiled.

"You can breathe," she said. "It's allowed."

I took a deep breath as the tears trickled down my face. "They're perfect," I breathed, my voice barely a whisper. "Is it too soon to tell?"

"It may be, since twins are a bit smaller, but we can see." She guided the wand closer to my navel, and showed me the umbilicus of Baby B. "It's a strong cord," she said, pushing slightly on my stomach to get them to shift. Baby B moved slighty, and there it was. "A boy," the technician said unecessarily. I smiled again, waving at the monitor at my little boy floating inside me, his thumb in his mouth.

The tecnician glided the wand down to where Baby A's bottom was cradled under my ribcage, applying more pressure to see if she could get a clear view. She tried for ten minutes, poking and prodding the little guy to make him clear the way without results. He seemed to enjoy the attention, his little fists pushing up at the flat spade of the ultrasound wand. Finally, she wiped my belly clean and sent me waddling to the bathroom. "We'll let you empty your bladder, then try again," she said. "They need a bit more room to maneuver sometimes."

I sat on the cool porcelain rim, feeling the suddenly familiar shift and roll of the two babies in my womb. I was lightheaded from the rush of emotions and the onslaught of light from the sterile bathroom. I finished up quickly and headed back to the room, where the technician was waiting, wand in hand.

"Ready to try again?"

I laid back and said a silent prayer to any deity who happened to be listening. "Here we go again," the technician said, spotting Baby B's tiny penis waving about in the amniotic fluid. "Budge over, little guy, so we can see your sibling." Almost as though he had heard her, Baby B flipped onto his side, allowing Baby A to flip, facing front. "Well, look here," the technician said, "You have one of each!"

"A girl?" I asked, a second small spring of excitement welling in my chest. "A boy and a girl?" The technician said something affirmative and gestured at the screen as I closed my eyes, a small smile forming on my lips. "Just like Devon," I thought, "to give me everything all at once." As quickly as the thought came, it went, leaving a new batch of tears and grief in its wake.

I realized in an instant that I had made my decision, even before I saw the two of them, floating and embracing one another in the watery confines of my womb. I just hadn't known it. I took the towel the technician offered, gently passing it over my belly and whispering softly to my babies.

"Hello, little ones. I'm your mommy."

"So, did you decide to keep them because they were one of each?"
"Partially. But mostly, it's because they became real little people to me at that moment. They had just been sounds or feelings until then."
"Were you ever planning on telling your parents or your friends?"
"I was going to wait until I was further along. I wanted to make sure I knew what I was getting into."
"What made you change your mind?"
"My mom went back into the hospital three weeks later."
"I see. So you came home?"
"I had to see her. The doctors said she wouldn't be leaving the hospital again."
"She was dying?"
"Yes. And I think I helped her die quicker when I showed up."
"We'll discuss that next time."


Lara said...

This is truly an amazing piece of work. You have such talent.

holly said...

this is just fantastic.

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Jo Beaufoix said...

Oh the babies. Sigh. So cute.