Friday, March 7, 2014

In the Still of the Night

My eyes flutter open in the darkness.  It's three a.m.  Maybe it's four.  Every night is slightly different, but still always the same.  Mike is sleeping next to me, often snoring.  The dog is inevitably sprawled out on the floor doing the same.  My belly, heavy and round, rests on the body pillow at the edge of the bed - and it feels frighteningly empty.   Every night.  Every night, I wake up to an empty stillness.  I can't feel her.  I know she's in there, but the fear creeps in that I've lost her.  That sometime between feeling her flutter as I fell asleep and waking up to silence, she has left me.  As I lay there in the dark, my mind twists and turns down frightening corridors, trying to find its way back to rational thought.   She's okay.  She's fine.  She's just sleeping and comfortable -like I was just a few moments ago.  She's still alive.  But, my mind won't let me believe that.  I need proof.   I need to feel her move.   Sometimes, it only takes her a few minutes of me being awake before she gives me a little pop. (Probably my escalated heart rate wakes her up)  One pop is often not enough for me, though.  What if I just made it up?  What if, in my panic, my body just twitched and that wasn't really her?  I need at least one more, maybe two.  A good punch to really assure me she's still alive.  Most of the time, she gives me what I need within a few minutes, and I can go back to sleep with a little more reassurance.  Sometimes, though, she's not cooperative, and I have to shift myself around.  I turn to the other side.  I try to sit up.  I poke her a little bit.  Anything to get her stirring.  Anything to put my mind at ease.  Sometimes, it takes half an hour or more to get those kicks.  Half an hour, laying in the darkness, worrying about my world crashing down around me a second time - often convinced that it is.  Twice, I have panicked to the point where I actually get out of bed and pull out my Doppler.   I sneak out into the living room so as not to wake up Mike and I search for her heartbeat.  When I finally find it, I cry heaving sighs of relief.  She's still here.  I have kept her alive for another night.

Being pregnant again is no cake walk, as many of you already know.  While I am not completely terrified 24 hours a day, I do think about her safety most of the time.  I have begun keeping a kick-count chart per my doctor's orders.  Three times a day, I have to sit with my feet up for an hour while I record the amount of times she moves.  That's a tall order for a teacher.   If she moves at least 10 times, I can stop counting.  Usually, I can get all of her kicks in within the first 30 minutes.  My students have been fairly cooperative with this new development, which is very helpful.   However, if she kicks less than five times in an hour, I have to start over.  If she still doesn't make ten kicks, I have to go to the hospital.   That's a scary thing to specifically focus on three times a day.  So far, so good though.  

During the day, I'm fairly active and distracted with work and other things.  She's always on my mind, but I can usually remember the last time I felt her move, so I can keep myself calm with those thoughts.  Night is different.  When I wake up in the middle of the night (and I do - every night), I don't know when she last moved because I was sleeping.  I don't know how long it has been.  I know I've been asleep for at least three or four hours, which already surpasses the two hour maximum for my kick counts.  A study I read once, which was a terrible thing to do now that I think about it, said that the majority of cord deaths that occur before birth occur between the hours of 2am and 4am while the mother is asleep.   Looking back on this, that was probably what happened with Kenley.   She left me in the very early hours of Sunday morning.   I can't let the same thing happen to Bean.   It's probably why my body won't let me sleep at that time.  I wake up every night without fail.   I can't lose her too.  I just can't.

So, the darkness and I have become old friends.   It greets me with a soft silence when I wake.  In the darkness, I lay my hand upon my belly and will my daughter into moving, trying my hardest to stay calm, but often failing.  Once she reassures me that she's not going anywhere, I can settle back in with a little calmness - into the still of the night. 

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