“Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that.” -The Queen, Through the Looking Glass
September 15th: Charley calls from the restaurant he’s working at. He’s worried about making enough money this month, but he sounds good- level-headed and thoughtful.
One of the hospital’s high risk doctors pays me a visit. I try to give her my full, puffy-faced attention. Her name is Dr. Carpenter, and if she weren’t a doctor she would probably be a film star or model. I even straighten my glasses and compression socks out of self-consciousness.
We decide together that, puffy face aside, there hasn’t been any emergency yet to justify inducing my baby. So the plan is to keep going, monitoring pressures and staying relaxed. Maybe she’ll increase my blood pressure medicine. All of the little annoyances- stretch marks, sweatiness, large boogers, puffiness, dry eyes, headaches, exhaustion, acne, hemorrhoid- are so minor in the realm of quantifiable pregnancy troubles. I’m sure the high risk doctors are bored with me. I’m bored with me.
My head is fuzzy and I’m not sure if it’s “pregnancy brain” or if it’s a side effect of hypertension and preeclampsia or both. Pregnancy brain doesn’t change a woman’s IQ, but it does temporarily fuck up her memory and spatial intelligence. Because of surging hormones- 15 to 40 times more progesterone and estrogen marinating in her brain, as well as surges in oxytocin- brain circuits get all knotted up and overwhelmed.
Instead of focusing on work and taxes, the mommy brain shifts priorities toward baby. If the brain were a filing cabinet, all of the essential folders would be “newborn baby”, and “cute fat baby”, and “my little baby” and they would be in front of all of the other folders like “moody husband” and “fucking bills”.
This forgetfulness and priorities-shift is typical “momnesia”. But what if the fuzziness also correlates to stubbornly high blood pressures and evolving preeclampsia?
I make the unfortunate blunder of googling “preeclampsia and brain” and find out that not only does preeclampsia generally affect blood pressure, the placenta, liver, blood, kidneys, and brain, but it can lead to the following neonatal brain injuries: cerebral palsy, hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), intraventricular hemorrhage, periventricular leukomalacia and intellectual disabilities and developmental delays.
Good god! I know Dr. Lukenaar- and now Dr. Carpenter- are keeping a close eye on me but I still might have to ask some questions and wave my arms about and show extreme nervousness. I mean what if I just have a brain hemorrhage like my mom’s cousin who was only in her twenties and extremely healthy. Anything can happen at any moment!
September 16th, 2pm: One month and five days in the hospital, and pregnancy week 34. That means baby Dakota is the size of an average cantaloupe and I am the size of a light heavyweight boxer.
Dr. Luikenaar comes in for the daily check-up and we talk about Dr. Carpenter and conclude that waiting for this baby to come out later- if all is good with my labs etc- is still the right thing to do.
“The massage therapist said you were worried about the plan.”
“I don’t know. She said the plan.”
“Um. Maybe she’s talking about the other day? I got a massage a few days ago and talked about wanting to keep the baby in as long as possible. Maybe even past 37 weeks? Maybe that’s what she’s talking about.” Why does everyone talk about everyone else all the time?
This reminded me of talking to my dad after my mom would gossip about something I’d done or said. Always making a mountain out of a mole hill!
“Lol it’s not a big deal.”
My labs are good. Dr. Carpenter wants my ultrasounds upstairs with the high risk doctors and not in radiology. My insurance is good but might have to be transferred to Utah. I’m trying to stay relaxed. Everything will work out. Don’t think too much. No mountains here!
At 1pm, after a quick shower and lunch (a veggie burger and soda) I have my Reiki session.
“Sorry I’m late, I don’t know where the time goes. I’m always running around.”
“I feel the same way. There’s never enough time in the day.”
Diana shuffles through a nano for music.
“What do you want to listen to?”
“Anything you think is good for baby.”
She turns on something sweet and harpy.
“Mmm too angelic.”
She scrolls down to a deep chanting voice that sounds like a didjeridoo.
“No it’s perfect.”
Diana says her daughter had high blood pressure but had cut soda and excess sodium from her diet and it had lowered a great deal.
“Oh I eat pretty healthy I’m not sure that would help”, I say, thinking about all of the burgers and steaks Charley had grilled all spring and summer.
Turns out, pregnancy induced hypertension can be an ongoing problem after labor, or the foreshadowing of a later problem. Hypertension affects more than a billion people worldwide and the prognostics indicate that by 2025 the number of people with this problem may increase by 29%. Well shit.
This Reiki practice- along with massage- are peripheral therapies at the hospital. Most hospitals have never had anything like this and here it’s not even common knowledge, only administered by one person for each. However, by reducing imbalances in the body’s energy, both reiki and massage have been documented to holistically help decrease anxiety, illness, insomnia, nausea, pain, fatigue, diastolic blood pressure (mine went from 86 to 78 in one 30-minute session) and a long list of other ailments.
In a study at the Institute of Neurological Science of South Glasgow University Hospital, Reiki showed a positive effect on some determinants of the autonomic nervous system. Forty-five subjects were randomly assigned to three treatment categories – Reiki treatment by an expert practitioner, a placebo-induced treatment group and a group with no treatment. The subjects that underwent Reiki were found out to have significantly lower blood pressure and heart rate compared to their placebo and no treatment counterparts. There have been a number of examples like this but it’s proof enough just to see the blood pressure monitor’s results before and after a session.
Plus, it’s good for the baby. While it helps mom with everything from tiredness, back pain, morning sickness to mood changes, high blood pressure and stress, it is likewise helping baby connect to mom, calm the fuck down, and wriggle around with pleasure.
“This is Jonathan Goldman- ‘Medicine Buddha’ “, and with the deep chants, Diana hums softly, placing her fingers over my head, then across my chakra points. After what feels like two minutes, she places her hands on my belly and Dakota starts to dance. I feel like there’s a springboard in my uterus and she’s jumping into a pool for laps. What feels like ten minutes ends up being 35.
“I could really feel the music resonate with you today. I could feel the energy working through you … more intense than before. Did you feel that?”
“Yes,” I lie. I just felt the baby kicking and my own foot twitching. I still don’t know what I’m supposed to be feeling and if I’m feeling it.
“I’m definitely clearing my energy blocks”, I say. What am I even saying?
“Make sure to drink lots of water.”
Everyone is running around very busy and I am sprawled out in a hospital bed marinating a baby. Ahh, quiet time.
Knock, knock. Goddamnit. Knock knock knock.
A nurse leader comes in and stares down at me. I feel like I’m in Wonderland and the Red Queen is about to chop my head off.
“Everything going okay? How are you? Do you need anything?” Her mouth is moving fast and I can’t concentrate. “I love a warm pig belly for my aching feet.”
Exactly 10 seconds pass and another nurse leader comesin. “How are you doing my dear? How’s your family? Do you need anything? How would you like to have your head hacked off?”
“You know you guys don’t have to come check on me so much.”
“But we LIKE to! I’ll be back on Monday. Don’t do anything bad over the weekend! Keep that baby in the belly!” She laughs robustly. “My dear girl, anyone with a head that large is welcome in my court.”
“I am so grateful.” The Red and White Queen are gone. I stare at the ceiling.
A random CNA comes in to check vitals. 165 over 91. She points at the 132/78 on the board.
“That is from today?”
“I think you need your medicine.”
“I think I do too.”
“Getting cabin fever?”
“Not at all.”