Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Breakdown {37 weeks}

     23 weeks, the golden stage of pregnancy

The first time I was pregnant, I was enamored with the weekly updates: how was the baby growing, developing? When did its eyes start to blink? When were the lungs fully developed? I was equally intrigued by the changes in my own body: the slow and steady expansion of my belly, the weight that increased with every doctor visit, the shifts I could feel with the baby growing larger and stronger, the way I could feel the baby descend as we neared the end. 

All of this is discussed with glowing faces among pregnant mothers--especially those that are delivering their first child. The faces of those who have delivered before know the reality: all of the build-up--the creation of a child and a vessel that grows and supports that child for nine incredible months--comes crashing down with delivery. While the baby exits with a rush of adrenaline incomparable to anything I have ever experienced, the vessel of this baby's existence is left a shell of a near-martyr. Stretching, working, spreading, often tearing--the body turns inside out as the baby exits. 

For weeks following the delivery the transformation continues, as milk is produced, as the uterus shrinks down to size, as tears heal and stretch marks fade and skeletal shifts all seek to return to their original positioning--all with growing pains of their own, all with very little sleep.

The last few weeks of pregnancy foretell of this breakdown as muscles become pinched and strained and one body prepares for another body to exit. In medical school a professor lectured Curtis's class on why the skeletal structure of a woman allowed for birth to happen--complete with a small skeletal baby on a stick that slid through a larger skeletal woman's frame. Curtis said it was all presented in a very comical fashion in this lecture to first year medical students, but the humor is quite absent when the reality takes place. An OBGYN that worked with him in residency once commented "pregnancy maims and kills"--an adage meant to be both blunt and sobering in an event that stretches women to the limit. Only in our modern age do we see it as an event that is somewhat domesticated, in a setting where safety precautions have created an assembly-line-like process where women are watched and monitored from beginning with the attempt to try and foresee potential threats.

This transformation that allows for a delivery is one that brings some women to the edge of survival, and the exhaustion that follows speaks of the depths from which she must recover. Yet this child that emerges, the product of chance or dreams, brings us beyond this breakdown, our bodies miraculously surviving and even thriving on the other side of the trauma--for we have no choice but to do so.

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