“I hope you’re happy with me Charley. I hope this works out for us.”
It’s Thursday, October 6th. It’s National Poetry Day and I can’t concentrate. I’m sending Facebook messages between trying to memorize lines from “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”. It was written by T.S. Eliot when he was only 22 years old.
Garrison Keillor lost some of my respect (which I’d used to defend him to my father-in-law) when he’d said: it’s “a small, dark mope-fest of a poem”. I personally have always been enchanted by it: a wickedly satirical fairytale with marmalade, tea and oyster shells. I have the first part down:
“Let us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherized upon a table;
Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
The muttering retreats
Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels
And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:
Streets that follow like a tedious argument
Of insidious intent
To lead you to an overwhelming question…
Oh, do not ask, “What is it?”
Let us go and make our visit.
In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.”
But that’s only about 1/10th of it. In its entirety, “Prufrock” is a dramatic interior monologue from a depressed cosmopolitan man, grappling with feelings of isolation and indecisiveness. According to Kathleen McCoy in English Literature From 1785, “epitomize frustration and impotence of the modern individual” and “represent thwarted desires and modern disillusionment”. It’s October and “time for a hundred indecisions”. Prufrock dejectedly wails about inertia, lost opportunities and spiritual malaise, and is haunted by memories of unrequited and unpursued love and carnal desire.
Written 101 years ago, this poem has an epigraph from Dante, a modernist slant that made it slightly controversial in 1915, and a transparent reflection (or foreshadowing) of Eliot’s own sexless marriage and unfulfilled obsessions. This is a man who had once been nicknamed “The Undertaker”.
“For I have known them all already, known them all:
Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,
I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;
I know the voices dying with a dying fall
Beneath the music from a farther room.
So how should I presume?”
I love the poem’s resonance and musicality; its heavy sense of melancholy, anxiety, and dreaminess.
Anxiety is my closest companion. I woke at 6am feeling anxious about the early labor and stayed up till breakfast cursing my discomforted brain. I smile desperately when the nurses ask too many questions and I feel claustrophobic by life choices narrowing in on a few giant responsibilities. Dr. Luikenaar hasn’t arrived yet today (she’s usually in before sunrise) so I imagine this is because she’s upset with me for some reason.
Raeanne sends a picture of the dogs waiting for a treat and I smile. I’ll be back to them soon, and try to forget that Duke and Freyja fucked (“They were butt to butt for 15 minutes!” Charley said).
I’m mostly nervous about this induction date. Why so early? My tests have been good. My health-preeclampsia or not- hasn’t deteriorated. My placenta and liver and cervix are all holding up and the baby is healthy. My Medicaid is still covering the bill. So what’s the issue here? I’ll be at 38 weeks on October 14th. Is that enough time for baby to develop her optimum pre-birth brain? Should I just be grateful to have made it this far? Doesn’t pitocin induction the night before mean sleeplessness and anxiety and exhaustion at labor? Will my vagina be shaved enough for the doctors?
My head is a hive of swarming anxieties.
“I should have been a pair of ragged claws
Scuttling across the floors of silent seas.”
So maybe I’m missing something or don’t get the gravity of the situation concerning my blood pressure. Maybe I just need to sit down and hear, in depth, the important reasons for delivering at 38 weeks instead of 39 or 40.
“I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker,
And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker,
And in short, I was afraid.”
My Medicaid case worker back in Jackson asks me to keep talking to her which only wounds me up more. My nurse says the same thing. The longer she’s in there, the better, unless you’re in harm. I look at Q&A’s online. Some women are griping about being induced at 41, even 42 weeks. I think about the lady who delivered after a year. Jesus. That’s nuts.
I’m wondering if the high risk doctors are saying “Get her delivered now or send her home” and Dr. Luikenaar just wants to be the one to do it.
“No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be.”
To be so confused. It’s probably all the pills, I don’t know. Once again I’m grabbing for closeted answers. There’s no more procrastinating. No more time.
“Your placenta could be going capoot. Be careful with that one,” says one comment. “If I had to be induced for medical reason I would be okay with it but I think a lot of doctors do it for convenience,” says another.
I call mom, the retired nurse. She says to talk to the head nurse. My nurse says to talk to the doctor.
“Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?”
I narrow my google search: “doctor to induce early high blood pressure” and most of the responses are for blood pressures much higher than mine. I doubt these are women who have been lingering in a hospital with treatment for weeks.
“I’m a little worried just because I haven’t been dilated or anything. Really don’t want to end up in a c section.”
A woman who most resembles my case and my blood pressure (150s over 90s with medication), says: “I have reservations about being induced but I trust my dr to do what’s safest for me and baby!” But she’s being induced at 38-39 weeks and I’m being induced at exactly 38.0. This is all very complicated and as a first time mom who still doesn’t know the average age for a baby’s first words, crawls, walks, I’ve found most new information regarding pregnancy, labor and motherhood surprising and worrisome.
Too much time to sit and think about it.
Anne the RN comes in to check vitals: 162/89. “Let’s try that again on the other arm”: 150/91. “That’s better.”
I’m rattling off about due dates and my healthy placenta. I look like somebody who’s been in a hospital too long.
“We have lingered in the chambers of the sea
By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown
Till human voices wake us, and we drown.”
In the middle of memorizing poetry and freaking out, I get a call from Charley. He’s borrowing a phone from work; he’s sober and stoked to get up here. We solidify plans. I then send another message to the landlords requesting heat-a wood stove- in time for the baby. So my dates are finalized after all before Dr. Luikenaar can ask why I was fretting about everything in the first place.
I take a walk and I’m slower than ever. My belly feels like it’s going to fall to my feet. I waddle to the elevator, down to the parking garage, and around to the back. It feels like autumn. There’s snow on the mountains. The sun blankets my skin and I feel happy.
Holy shit I’m having a baby.