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Monday, April 28, 2014

The Narrow Hallway.

Here is how it is. At least, these are the images that contain the experience for the moment.

On the brighter days, life is a hallway with peeling strips of tin foil on the walls. The ceiling is one long fluorescent light; I can't see anything but white glare. The floor is white, almost reflective, seamless tile. The hall is narrow, so narrow that it skims my shoulders on both sides. Sometimes, this opens out for a while, and the wider spaces make me want to run, test echos, slide on my knees. For some reason, I see myself wearing black cropped leggings, a short white cotton T-shirt dress, and low-top Chuck Taylors. The foil catches and tosses the light in long prisms that don't strike and don't shatter.

But then, the hall gets narrow again. I keep moving, but I'm aware of the almost-pressure at my shoulders, like people breathing on me. And the light is too harsh. The foil rustles like metal icicles. Then it catch on my hair or clothes and tears, sending that tiny shrill scream of it's silvery rip sliding like a fingertip from my sternum to my chin. Torn and featureless reflections of me catch my peripheral sight. And I see other blurs and slices in those sheets that could be me, or the continued reflections from the other wall, or something else I can't see beyond the glare. And a torn curl of foil contacts my arm just right, leaving a stinging thin cut worse than paper.

The worse days offer no wider passages. The walls are jagged vertical shoots of brushed steel. The light is gauzy and gray, and the walls give no reflection. I have to shave past protrusions, hoping no spur will open my skin. And before I see it, another sudden outcrop may bruise my chest or collarbone. All this would be easier if these rough gray clothes weren't so loose and if the floor weren't thick with something black and slippery. And if there weren't strange noises, or if I could at least know whether or not I am making them. I can't find enough flat space to lean back or to drop my forehead to the wall. I pull something in this knee and that hip as the black slick sends one leg back and one leg forward and left. A metal rod, blunt enough, keeps me from falling by digging between my ribs. If I cried, I could see even less. Somehow, I know better than to call out.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Another Kind of Pregnancy.

I remember both the massive responsibility and the keen comfort of being pregnant, of carrying my baby with me at every moment. I had to be careful. I controlled my reaction to loud noises and sudden stressors. I turned down my music and anticipated strains that might be abrupt or frightening. I drove more carefully. I didn't let myself get hungry or thirsty or hold my breath. Every moment impacted him. But I had his company, and I knew that his safety was almost as much in my control as my own safety was. If something were wrong, I would know it (This did not turn out to be true, but still, after the first agonizing months, I felt that way). I couldn't see him, hear him, or touch his skin and hair, but I held him. Even then, I knew that I would miss that containment. Once he was outside of me, I would feel helpless, clueless, and afraid. How would I protect him, anticipate his needs, comfort him, and keep up with him then?

Last summer, I read How They Met and Other Stories by David Levithan. Lucy, devastated over a relationship that turned out to be mostly one-sided (and over much else), teeters between a longing to disappear and an urge to demonstrate every stabbing emotion. Her best friend, Teddy, does not let her avoid him.

"'Spill,' he said.
'I can't," I told him.
'Why not?'
'Because if I start, I might not stop.'
That's what it felt like--that if I let a little of the hurt out, it would keep pouring out until I was a deflated balloon of a person, with a big monster of hurt in front of me."

I couldn't forget this.

The analogy is distorted. This isn't about motherhood in any literal sense. This is not about my experience as a mother to my tiny elfin treasure. Still, it works in some ways, so I'll go with it, at the risk of misunderstandings.

Therapy. Even talking. Dealing with it. All the black mass that is it. Maybe it's more disease than pregnancy. Maybe it's more parasitic twin than child. Why do we try so hard to protect our hurts as if they were children? Maybe it's the child versions of ourselves, really.

No body is built to carry a pregnancy past its term. Many are not built to carry even to term. I wasn't. Still. What is inside seems safer, more manageable--the care more automatic and instinctual. And of course, giving birth is painful and lonely at best. It can be dangerous, terrifying, and scarring. I did everything everyone said, everything I could have done, and it was still not okay. And now, even though it turned out is not okay.

I know it won't be something I can endure for twelve hours and finish. No twilight or full anesthesia afterward. It will be, as my nightmares told me repeatedly in the hospital, something I have to do again and again and again. For months or years, something will keep moving, pressing under my ribs. And my body, my mind, will weaken, will churn and filter and consume me until I go back. And back.

And I won't be able to leave the monster of hurt in book-lined office, on a Steno pad, or in a filing cabinet. Empty, I'll stumble out when my time is up, and all I've expelled will be with me still. Outside me. And I will be responsible for what it does. And I will have to hear its whimpering or shrieking. I will have to look in its face.

And life will not pause for that. Because no one, not even those who know, will know.

And what if it doesn't work? What if my arms can't hold them all, and I still have all those extra heartbeats, and my body continues to deteriorate in response? I don't even know what is there.

I guess I'll have something like an ultrasound soon. And maybe I'll have some idea of what I'm facing.