My belly, myself

September 22, 2008

I was an “expect the worst” kind of person, usually. When I found myself in an uncertain situation, I would conjure up the worst possible scenario and then worry about it. Nine times out of ten the worst wouldn’t happen and I’d feel relieved, and when bad things did happen, well, at least I wasn’t that surprised by them.

I couldn’t do that with Teddy, though. Couldn’t expect the worst for my baby, couldn’t not hope.

When N and I found out that our baby had a diaphragmatic hernia, and that babies with this condition have roughly a fifty-fifty chance at survival, we talked about how we couldn’t prepare for the worst. We needed to hope for the best, to love our baby as well and hard as possible for as long as he was in our lives, and we knew that if the worst happened we would bottom out on grief and that no preparations would really help in that case. I, expect-the-worst woman, hoped for the best, and I hoped with everything that was in me.

My belly was not just the place where my baby lived and grew, it was the physical manifestation of my hope. Polyhydramnios (high amniotic fluid levels), which isn’t uncommon in mothers to babies with CDH, made my belly bigger than it should have been for the last three months of my pregnancy. I used to laugh if I caught a glimpse of my profile in the mirror. My belly button popped out, and my round belly was covered with bright pink stretch marks in a pattern of tiger stripes. And despite my new waddle, I was fierce like a tiger, carrying that belly. I knew it was the best life support system Teddy would ever have, that he’d have to fight immediately after being born, and I wanted to keep him safe as long as possible. My doctors all worried about early labor, and I worried, too, fretting over every twinge and tightening. But I drank gallons of water, and did the bed rest when they told me to, and somehow early labor never happened. My belly held – proud, tough, tiger belly.

Now my deflated belly sags and wobbles, the stretched out skin still sensitive to the touch. The stretch marks have lost all of their fierceness and look like nothing so much as the trails left by woodworms in old logs; my belly button has retreated and retrenched, sore and strained. It finally lost it’s battle, this belly – it didn’t want to give Teddy up any more than I did; the induction took over two days and while I was fully dilated at the end, shortly after I started pushing, the doctors had to open me up to get Teddy out. So below the sag of my belly sits the new scar of my c-section incision, my first surgical scar, nearly healed now but still pink and new.

I hate that, the one time in my life when I didn’t expect the worst, the worst happened. My hopes were so big, so brightly colored, so warm, and now they are gone. I’m left deflated and sore, hollow and weeping. I love and hate this belly, this defeated, sad and healing belly. It kept my Teddy safe as long as he could be safe, it tried so hard and bore with so much only to lose. It hurts, it heals, it mourns. It is me.

One comment

  1. Hi,

    I am so very, very sorry for your loss. I’m a grieving mom of a little boy lost to CDH too. If you haven’t found CHERUBS, please drop by. http://www.cdhsupport.org All of us there have been touched by CDH, it’s a great support system when you feel like no one in the world understands how you feel. E-mail me if you need to talk. I’ll keep you in my prayers.


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