I have a weird relationship with God. Dr. Lukenaar came in to check up on me and we were talking about the missionaries that came to her house. She’d invite them in because here they are respectively from Holland and Mississippi, and they have to work six days a week and don’t really get to have a full travel experience. If they’re good Mormons they don’t watch movies, they don’t drink, they don’t have sex, and they don’t do much of anything other than talk about God.
“I’m not religious, I don’t think I’ve ever even dated anyone truly, devoutly religious for long because it is a form of brain washing and we have nothing to connect over or have a real conversation about,” I tell my doctor. There has to be this place in our heads that accepts the unknown, and there’s no place for that in religion. Everything is already mostly figured out and none of it makes any sense. But I’m not an athiest. And I guess I’m not agnostic because I always find myself praying.
So after talking to Dr. Lukenaar I pull my maternity pants up and go for a walk. I end up at the nondenominational chapel in the main hospital. I dip my fingers in the holy water, kneel before the stained glass Jesus and pray: “Hello God, it’s me, the pregnant girl again. If you have ears please listen in and help Annie. Okay, dear Annie, hello, how are you? I’m sending my love; please take care of Charley, and send us your love too and some strength to face the challenges ahead. Please help him get sober, and fix the car asap and please help Dakota and I return to a good home when we leave Mormon country.”
Today is Charley’s grandma’s funeral. Annie’s being cremated and placed in a miniature boat to float down the Rio Grande. There’s going to be singing and music and dancing in her old flower garden.
“I don’t know why she wanted to go down the river. When she gets to Albuquerque some asshole is going to destroy the boat and ashes. What are they thinking,” Charley says.
“I don’t know, she loved to travel; maybe she wanted one more trip.”
It’s September 11, 2016: my one month anniversary of being in a hospital. It’s also 15 years exactly since I was in Jackson packing for my first year of college and watching, on my parents’ obscenely small television, the Twin Towers blow up and sink to the ground. It was 2001 and I had spent the entire summer making up interval exercises and buying skin products from infomercials in the attempt to be the perfect version of myself and get laid in the first trimester (UO is a quarter system but for most of us it was three terms and a summer hiatus). I was leaving the confines of home and determined to become this new, improved, and powerful renovation of my former self.
Everybody in my generation talks about how they remember what they were doing when 9/11 happened the way everyone in my dad’s generation talks about how they remember what they were doing when JFK was assassinated. When I went to college there was a lot of energy in the air. I went to the University of Oregon and there were war protests, riots and rallies and in every way it was like a watered down version of Berkeley in the ’60s. If you had a hand drum or a few wall tapestries you were more likely to fit in, even with the fraternities determined to replicate “Animal House”.
It only took until Halloween for me to get laid, and while it wasn’t a complete stranger, it was a boy named Thor dressed as a ghost. He was from my cultural anthropology class and was working to fulfill a bet with his frat to sleep with as many women as possible his freshman year. He also wanted to be a dentist and had a girlfriend. My dorm friends took me to McDonalds the next morning to celebrate the end of my virginity.
“Do you like being there?” Charley asks.
“I mean, it’s a learning experience.” I’d said the same thing about South Korea when I wanted to throw myself under a bus.
Charley asked me again. “Do you like being there at all?”
“Yeah, I kind of do.” I like the peacefulness. I like my doctor. I like watching TV and looking out at the mountains. I like being given this responsibility by everyone to rest as much as possible. How often are people encouraged, even praised for doing absolutely nothing? The more nothing the better. The answer is never, not even if they are the leaders of a meditation retreat or new age ashram, the answer is never.
So right now I have medicine to keep my pressures down and gourmet food that’s making me fat. This is almost a retreat from my life that the Universe decided I needed, and yes, I kind of do like being here. As long as it’s just a detour and not my life. Detours are easier to swallow than lifetime commitments. Maybe that’s why the baby and marriage all sort of ravaged Charley’s brain a little bit (and mine). But I have hope (and prayers) that things are changing for the better.
I spill a small cup of watered down cranberry juice on the floor. On my hands and knees, grunting, I clean it up with a towel and my ladybug scurries up to me and then meanders around like the White Rabbit trying to find a tea party. She now has eight black spots, all symmetrically displayed on her wings.
Turns out spots have nothing to do with a ladybug’s age, but are actually a defense mechanism to ward off enemies. I’ve discovered that some ladybugs bite, some practice cannibalism, and all are beetles. This makes me feel a little differently about my 8-spotted friend, but I’m still relieved she didn’t die from excess honey.
I guess eventually everyone has to leave the honey. For instance, maybe I’m just telling myself I like it here because I’m afraid of the alternative- labor, motherhood, reality. There’s no getting around it, I have to do all of these things soon. No more hiding behind TV and books and catered meals.
My biggest incentives to get out of here are missing my three dogs and wanting to just look normal again. I’ve gained so much weight during my pregnancy I might as well have a full grown dog in my stomach. And it’s not going away until I go into deliver the baby and start a daily regimen of yoga, running and breastfeeding. With the beginning signs of preeclampsia, my face is swollen and I pretty much feel like Jabba the Hutt from “Star Wars” or the Golgothan (aka. Shit Monster) from “Dogma”.
I’ve probably gained twenty pounds more than I should have in the past 33 1/2 weeks (mostly in the second trimester) and now I have to just sit here and do nothing.
So what do I do? I look up prenatal yoga videos on YouTube. There’s “Energising Flow”, “Vinyasa Flow”, “Gift of Life” and “Beautiful Belly”.
I start with “Yoga for Birth Preparation”: a woman who doesn’t look pregnant enough is stroking her belly and practicing some breathing exercises. “Hmm she just doesn’t look pregnant enough to me.” I turn it off and watch “The Godfather.”
“He’s going to the mattresses.” Perfect.