Three weeks ago maintenance ignored my request for a newer model DVD player and a remote to move selections on the menu screen for DVDs. That meant I couldn’t watch “Snatch” or any movie that didn’t make “play movie” the first option on the menu.
Tonight, however, watching the Masterpiece Theatre show “Poldark”, I pause to take a shower and the DVD player turns off and resets itself. Needing some means with which to scroll on the menu down to the second episode, I take matters into my own hands, and remove a new DVD player from a neighboring room. I feel like badass O-Ren Ishii, member of the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad. Except, I’m really just an enormous pregnant blob in a hospital room.
I make the mistake of telling Jeanine about the contractions I’m feeling and that they seem to be every ten minutes from my estimation. Even though I’m sure they’re the artificial ones and no big deal at all, she calls Labor&Delivery up to monitor them until 1 am.
I’m trying to imagine what the detox center is like for Charley. Probably some good meals, some medication to help him detox, some sleep. How long will he be there? A month? A day?
In “Poldark”, everyone is always gossiping. Ross marries his redheaded servant Demelza and ooh boy it’s on.
“Society will never forgive him. … A lowly scullery maid! … What was he thinking? … Doors will be slammed in his face…”
It’s a Cinderella story. Maybe I want Charley to be my Cinderella, (and maybe I could be his), but only with detox will he find his inner prince. And people will keep gossiping because that’s what everyone does all the time and fuck everyone.
Demelza comes from poverty but she’s a diamond in the rough, and Ross knows that, and that’s all that matters.
The neighboring patient just had her child and is now in her three day postpartum baby time with the husband. She has also been using the loud automatic faucet by her bed a million times per day. This is the reason I hear a bang-thud noise about 500,000 times per hour and increasingly throughout the day. Now it’s 6am on the 29th, and there she is, with her husband, thudding away.
I fill up a cup of coffee and start turning the automatic faucet on and off. On and off. Pause. On and off.
I do this for half an hour. They’re much better at this than I am. Thud. Thud. I take a break and do it again. And again. I will have to rewrite this series “angry stubborn pregnant woman”. I just start banging on the wall.
Dr. Luikenaar visits during my NST in the morning. She’s wearing Halloween spider earrings and navy blue scrubs. We chat for a minute while the Labor&Delivery nurse fiddles with the monitor. She leaves for a few minutes and comes back a few minutes later to say that she’s read some notes on my high blood pressures and contractions, and will be scheduling some labs and an ultrasound. If my health starts to decline at all she will go ahead and induce me. But everyone says I’m lucky to have made it this far.
September 29th. 35.6 weeks today. Every time I take a deep breath or move, the monitor belts slide out of position. I spend the next thirty minutes trying to keep Dakota on the monitor. She’s kicking the belts and I imagine her little legs stretched out as far as they’ll go, like she’s in a Pilates class.
Mom calls. At first she just wants to gossip but I dig at her for information about Charley and the rent and Duke. “Me me me me me me my mine me”, she says mimicking what she seems to think I sound like asking for Duke. She says it’s selfish to want to just keep a dog that’s tearing up the house. She says I can’t watch a baby and that damn dog. “Me me me me me me…”
“Me me me me me me.” I want to murder her. She says Charley’s paycheck was stolen and that dad paid all of our rent this month. This kid Adam is staying at the house and isn’t paying anything or answering my calls. I text him but no answer. I say “Hello I don’t know what the deal is but I am pretty sure you are at my house with my animals and my dad paid all the rent and supposedly Charley lost his paycheck and is in rehab and Duke is being given away?? … those are my animals and my house and my husband so yeah a response would be nice thanks”
I’m not selfish. I’m not trying to “control everything”. I just want to know what the fuck is going on. Obviously. And yes of course I want to keep my dog. If he’s too much I can decide that for myself! I’m so mad I could walk around the whole hospital again.
Tracy isn’t answering. I WANT TO SCREAM. I send everyone a message and I call mom again. “I just wanted to say fuck you all.”
“Ohh, that’s real nice Claudia.”
I hang up.
I call dad. He’s the most reasonable person in the family. And he gets worked up like me, but in a sort of congressional way. He yells and he’s always the dominating voice in a conversation, but still the most reasonable. So the phone rings fifty times and- hating the phone- he answers with a growl.
He reminds me that the baby and my health are the primary concern. And Charley is a primary concern. If Charley doesn’t get real help, and that goes beyond a few days of detox, then he could die. He’s seen many people get sober and live a life of recovery but he’s also seen many people relapse again and again and die. Real recovery treatment was the only answer. And Duke was not a primary concern, he says. I was talking too much about this goddamn dog.
Maybe I am. But he’s my goddamn dog.
I ask him to talk to Tracy. I’d already sent about five Facebook messages and was surely solidifying my place as the new crazy daughter-in-law. Or, to be quite honest, I was just worrying the shit out of her, making her think that she was causing me stress. Perhaps she believed that all I should do is be here in a relaxed environment separated from the outside world, not stressing and not thinking about anything but the baby.
Dad talks and talks and then his phone rings and I quickly tell him I love him and he should answer it and if it’s not Tracy please call her and see what is going on with Charley and tell her to keep my goddamn dog and goodbye.
In between all this fury and disgruntlement, Angelique comes in to take my vitals and my blood pressure is surprisingly low. My labs (blood tests) came back perfect, the ultrasound measuring fluid in my placenta is perfect, and only the urine test is shady, showing a large increase in protein spillage, which is one of the indicators of preeclampsia. So nothing too surprising. I look healthy for the anxiety and stress I’m feeling. The main physical give-away is the pathetic state of my gnawed off nails.
And I can’t shake the stress either. Putting my ego and concern and “me me me” selfishness and whatever else aside, I try to repair my messages to Tracy. “Sorry I’m probably worrying you. I know you have a lot on your plate forgive me 💕❤️💕”
According to the Dec. 2007 issue of the Association for Psychological Science’s magazine Observer, stress causes deterioration in everything from your gums to your heart and can make you more susceptible to illnesses ranging from the common cold to cancer.
It’s probably part of the reason I landed in the hospital in the first place. It’s part of the reason Charley started drinking when he was 13 and landed himself.
When an animal perceives danger, a chain reaction of signals releases hormones — most notably epinephrine (“adrenaline”), norepinephrine and cortisol — from the adrenal glands. Norepinephrine strengthens neuron connections that solidify memories of emotionally-charged events, also encouraging us to dwell, and stress, over traumatic incidents. These hormones then boost heart rate, respiration and glucose in the blood, enabling the infamous “fight or flight” reaction.
Charley was always fighting or fleeing. I suppose, in many ways, I was doing the same. But together we had formed a tornado of movement- creation and destruction- and this movement was the absolute paragon of stress.
And here the Universe snatched us up individually, and placed us in these solitary rooms to slow down. The tornado is destroyed and from it we are left formless, small, hopeful.
How do you combat stress? Do you go to Thailand and drink coconuts? Do you stay in an Ashram, assign yourself an inspiring guru, and meditate? Do you take pills? Do you buy ten sessions in a sensory deprivation tank or a month of bikram yoga?
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America says to take time out, eat well, limit alcohol and caffeine, sleep, exercise, take deep breaths, count to ten, “welcome humor”, “accept that you cannot control everything”, learn your triggers, talk to someone, stay busy, stay positive, get help.
What has always helped me with stress?Nature. Sex. Sex and nature. Walking in the woods. Walking in flowers. A greenhouse. A hot bath. A good book.
“Stay calm and stay pregnant.”
After drawing this as my mantra everyone is saying it to me. On the phone my dad says “stay calm…”
My nurse says “stay pregnant”, (giggle), “stay calm and stay pregnant”.
Everything is out of my control. Is this a great test from the Universe? Did I design this Life Program before I was born in a Soul Convention from the Spirit Realm?
I miss walking in the woods. This is the essence of the challenge: detach from all that you love that stresses you out, and all that you love that sets your soul at ease. Detach from what you think you are and what you think you own, and then find peace.
I guess I have no answers. “When is the due date? Any plans?” The nurses want answers too.
“No”, I tell them. “It’s all up in the air.”
I take a walk. I pick a white flower from a bush and place it in a bowl of water. It smells like hope. I want to have hope.
Charley sends a Facebook message asking if I deleted his aunt from his Facebook.
“That’s it? Why would I do that and how are you on Facebook at a detox center and what’s going on anyway?”
He calls from home. “I can’t be in detox! I have to take care of things at the house!” He says everyone in detox is in the same room together wearing scrubs. It’s like prison. “I can’t handle these animals! Too many animals! They’re pooping everywhere! Peeing on the mattress.” He says I don’t understand what he’s going through. “The cats are ruining the blinds! Everything is ruined!”
“What can I do about it, Charley? I’m stuck in a hospital room.”
“I am losing it! I can’t detox like this! And work! I need them gone!”
“I heard you lost your money. It was stolen? Everything from work? What are you drinking?”
“Yeah it was stolen. I’m drinking orange juice!” He needs to be in rehab. I can’t follow anything he says. He sounds Iike he’s stil detoxing.
“You ungrateful bitch,” he says. He says it three times. Hangs up.
Maybe I won’t go back to Taos. Fuck my life.
Charley calls again. “I’m going to masturbate.”
“Say something sexy.”
“I can’t say anything sexy after that. You have to say something nice first.”
“I love you.”
“More nice things.”
“Stick your finger up your pussy. Rub it around. …. Are you doing it?”
“Yeah sure.” I was drawing a crown on a piece of paper.
“Say something sexy.”
“Jesus, I don’t know. … what are you wearing?”
“Can you say something nice?”
“You suck at this.”
“I’m not a sex worker. … Do you miss my pussy?”
“Yeah baby.” He’s moaning.
“Did you come? … Hello? Charley? Are you there?”
There’s about a minute of static and silence.
“Claudia. Once I get everything figured out it’s going to be okay,” he finally says.
“I hope so.”
Pause. “The dogs pooped all over your books.”
“WHAT? How? How did they get on my books?”
“I don’t know but I can’t clean it all up.”
“THERE’S POOP ON MY BOOKS? GET THE POOP OFF MY BOOKS.”
He says he’ll work on it.
“Dogs don’t just poop on your books, Charley.”
And he says not to contact his mom or Adam for awhile. “You talk a lot. You have a lot to say,” he says. “I understand you but … just talk to me.”
I tell him I hope he goes to NA or AA. He needs help. He tells me telling him what to do makes him want to do the opposite. “Just let me do it. Don’t talk about it.”
Thud. Thud. The postpartum neighbor patient and her husband are at it again with the automatic faucet. Thud. Thud.
I tell Charley my mom is a bitch. Saying “me me me me me me”; giving me shit about Duke. He says we need to get our parents out of the picture.
“Just you and me.”
“I’m thinking about you. I miss you a lot. I love you.”
All up in the air. I put my hand under the faucet. Thud.
Thud. I smell the flower. Stay calm. Stay pregnant.
Imagine you are surrounded by flowers.
I take a deep breath. I think the spaceship pill is stuck in my throat.
So there is hope.