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Sunday, October 10, 2010

Guilt, Party of One, Your Table is Ready


So I scheduled the amnio.  What else would I do, really.  Statistics don't work for me.  That I might be the one in however many thousands who might hold the (defective) bean is something my psyche could not stomach.  And the anxiety, crying jags, shakes, and erratic behavior set it.

I made the appointment and told no one besides my mothers-in-law, my husband, and my best friend.  I didn't want to hear one more bit of advice, read one Internet anecdote about an amnio gone bad, or have one more person telling me that they "had a friend who..." I needed radio silence.  And I was smart enough to know that the people I told respected my decision, or even outright supported it.  I was tipping the scale in my favor with absolute impunity.

I think it was a stroke of luck that my husband couldn't accompany me to the doctor's office that day.  Not that he's not supportive, but he's not as, say, indulgent, of my fears as my friends or my mothers-in-law.  I needed someone who could coddle me, not by feeding my fears, but by acknowledging them.  Someone who would allow me to own and hold these fears, and then just BE THERE. I think we all know what I'm talking about here:  I needed a woman by my side.

I got two.  Boy, did I hit the jackpot in the wedding lottery.  I hear mother-in-law horror stories all the time, but I have none of those.  If there was a divorce, I know who would be on MY side in the courtroom.  Seriously, I couldn't have dreamed up a better Amnio Dream Team.

One mother-in-law, who I'll call Mother Hen, sat in the waiting room and tried to remain calm by pacing the waiting room while the other one MIL did bedside duty.  Nurse Reddi, I'll call her. You want Nurse Reddi, or someone just like her, at your bedside.  Nurse Reddi was the one who held my hand and watched the doctor like a hawk.  Nurse Reddi was the one who whispered to me, conspiratorially, "I like him, he knows what he's doing.  I feel really good about this" when the doctor briefly left the room before the procedure.  Nurse Reddi also had the presence of mind to ask questions and remember the answers, like, when the tests would come back, if we could order a rush on them, and even asked about checking on some random birth defect even I hadn't heard of.  Nurse Reddi does online research prior to taking her place next to the bed.  I recommend you find your own Nurse Reddi and hang on for dear life.

I'm not a queasy, or easily grossed out sort of person.  I love looking at the needle when I'm having blood drawn.  If there was a full-time Surgery Channel option on my cable subscription, I would definitely add it.  In HD.  I can talk about knee surgery or a bout of diarrhea at the dinner table as I shovel steak into my mouth.

But I was unable to stomach the thought of watching the amnio needle enter my belly for this test.  All I could do was apologize silently to the fetus for what I was about to do.  A sharp object was about to invade his warm, wet, haven, and I had signed the papers to do so.  I am so sorry, I said.  But momma needs to sleep through the next five months without the assistance of opiates.

I'm not going to lie.  It hurts.  Not a lot, but it's a pain that I've never experienced before, I guess because it's not every day that your womb cramps up from being punctured with a 22-gauge needle.  In case you are wondering, that is incredible thin.  I had assumed it was going to be about two or three times as thick as a strand of spaghetti.  In actuality, it resembles the sort of needles used to draw your blood, maybe even thinner.  Also, I had mistakenly thought that the needle went into the belly button.  Again, not so.  The doctor uses the magic ultrasound wand to look for the best pockets of amniotic fluid, and then constantly looks at the screen to help him guide the needle to the fluid.  As soon as the needle goes in, the uterus reacts by cramping up -- there's the pain.  I pictured a jellyfish contracting in the water when I felt this.  The remainder of the time was spent pain-free, but it was the longest 60-seconds or so of my life.  That's when the doctor is piping out a couple of test tubes' worth of amniotic fluid.  (It takes so long because the needle is so thin.)

And then, that's it.  I was allowed to go home and rest for before resuming a somewhat normal life -- no heavy lifting, sex (that this would even be a remote consideration by a husband after an invasive procedure, is, in my opinion, a precursor to filing for divorce), or air travel, that sort of thing.  Oh, you also have to check for signs of leakage or blood.  I thought that the leak would come from my stomach, the place where the needle went in -- again, I imagined a sea creature, this time a whale, spouting out amniotic fluid from it's blowhole.  But no, the leak comes out the vagina.  These are the lessons learned by warm glow of an ultrasound screen.

So I was released on my own recognizance.  But I still had Mother Hen and Nurse Reddi, the ultimate Recovery Tag Team.  They all but took me out in a fireman's carry.  On the way to the car, there was much debate among the two of them as to whether or not I should proceed along a short incline or walk down small set of stairs.  I took the stairs while they evaluated.

The rest of my day was spent on my couch.  Mother Hen delivered my favorite foods and Nurse Reddi filled my water glass and they both spent a full six hours talking with me about every subject under the blue sky -- except amniocentesis.  If there is a medal for "Care in the Service of the Neurotic" these two earned it twice over.

After my Florence Nightingales left me in the ahem, care of, my betrothed, my night was once again, sleepless.  This time it was because of my trips to the toilet to check for leakage or blood (there was none), and because I would not leave the confines of the couch.  The remote became my talisman, the television, my companion, late into the night, while I monitored the cramping that the doctor had warned me about, and which he emphatically reminded me was perfectly normal.  Two Tylenol later, I finally nodded off under the watchful glow of Iron Chef.

The next two days would be a reprise of the first.  Bathroom, couch, kitchen, couch.  Though I was told one days' rest was sufficient,  I convinced myself that three days' rest would more fully insure me against the worst.  Three days passed, then three more, then three weeks, then five, and the memory of that morning fades more and more as the fetus slowly morphs from "it" to "him."

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1st millennium B.C., Near Eastern fertility goddess