Another uterus post. It’s my blog, but I feel the need to apologize for it.
For ten weeks and two days a bundle of cells that I would some day call Lyra, had been growing, dividing, developing specialized functions, and draining all energy from me. The pregnancy had arrived an inconvenient time. I had been fired from my job six months prior, which plunged me into a deep well of self-doubt, and from which I still have not emerged. Our rhythm was disrupted. Eventually, it would be destroyed.
For over twenty years I had been tied to a monthly cycle of gathering and releasing blood. On this December day I had already had the last menstrual period I would ever have, but I didn’t know it. Like all pregnant women, I saw my current state as temporary. I was taking a year off. A menstrual sabbatical, as women had done (have done, are doing, millions of them, around the world) since the beginning of time.
I’d felt good for the first time in weeks. I made pre-dawn love to my husband. I walked him to the door. I kissed him goodbye. Ten seconds later, I felt a gushing between my legs. I grabbed a towel from the back of the couch that had been washed and folded, but had yet to be put away. I clasped it between my thighs. The lights were still off throughout the house. I ran to our hall bath, flipped on the light switch, and pulled the towel from between my legs. My eyes fixated on the dark, red splash of blood.
My next exhalation was primal. I stumbled to a phone. I choked something out to him. I told him to come home. He was only a few blocks away, and when he came back through the door he would find me choking sobs on the floor. Blood was dripping down my thighs and onto our bathroom tile. I couldn’t get up. I wanted to curl my entire around the mess, scoop up what I knew was my lost baby, grab my dissolving dream and stuff it inside me, again.
Eventually, we made it to the ER. I don’t know how I got dressed. I presume my husband cleaned up damage. A nurse came in with a doppler. She was impersonal and matter-of-fact and told us that it’s rare to hear the heartbeat at 10 weeks and she wasn’t expecting to get anything. She squirted on the jelly and began rubbing the metal wand agaisnt my belly. The wooshwooshwoosh of my future-daughter’s heartbeat exploded through the speaker. Tears were spilling out of my eyes before the nurse could say, “Did you hear that?” I’d heard it. My pessimism–and the nurse’s–had been proven wrong.
At around 20 weeks the fetus begins to hear. Though we think of the womb as a calm and peaceful lagoon, what she hears for her remaining weeks in utero sounds more like a vacuum cleaner running 24-hours a day. Though there are rumbles and gurgles from the colon, the swooshing of valves, and even the occasional intrusive sound from the outside world, the soundtrack of the unborn is the percussive, techno beat of her mother’s heart. It’s omnipresent and more powerful than the bone-vibrating sound of her voice. That’s why we are so mistaken when we believe that what babies miss is the peace and solitude of the of the womb. It’s not quiet they want, it’s quiet they’re trying to escape from, during those fitful first months that some affectionately call the 4th trimester. Birth is violent disruption to the rhythm that has defined her life. It takes a while for a new pattern to emerge.
Each month Garrett has to remind me that it’s time to pay bills, again. “What day is it?” I ask. It’s the 1st or the 4th or the third or the sixth. I cannot tell the difference. My sense of time is completely lost.
My first period was September 15, 1986. It was the fourth day of school. I was ten-years-old. The second one came exactly thirty days later. My organ was a perfectionist, and for years she would keep the facade, engorging herself from the 1st through the fourteenth, emptying between the fifteenth and the seventeenth.
After I married, we’d eventually mark every departure and arrival on a calendar, along with every act of “inclement weather” and “shifts in the jet stream” that might delay or cancel her appearance. The calendar is why I know my cycle eventually shortened to twenty-six days. It why I know the precise day I conceived.
And now, my built in moon cycle is gone. No waxing, no waning. It’s a sky illuminated only by stars, no cratered orb to provide direction. No gravitational force to pull the waves.
I don’t know how to get that sense of rhythm back, having taken it for granted for the two decades it was here. But I know how much time has passed since I could last rely on my own body to tell me what day of the month it is. It’s been 661 days.
Tomorrow, it will be 662.