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07/21/2008

Everything must go, including my serenity

You know, I'll cop to cranky.  I admit I'm on edge lately, and not just because a couple of celebrities declare they like to have sex.  If the headline grab seems a little desperate to me, if making an announcement before there's anything to announce strikes me as worthy of at least a cynical sigh, if I get a little testy at hearing, "It sure is fun to try!" when that is, after all, a supremely grating response many of us have heard more than once when opening up about our reproductive difficulties — well, it is in the grand scheme of things a petty gripe.  One, incidentally, to which I feel entitled, being no less prone to irrational flares of irritation than anyone else, but that perhaps I should mutter only to myself.

What's weighing more heavily are the last couple of weeks of this pregnancy.  I feel like we're in a good place as far as readiness goes, insomuch as anyone can be ready.  That's not to say I have ranks of spotless onesies massed at the ready, or that my freezer is stocked with anything but mysterious packages bearing labels like SMILODON, 1.5 MILLION B.C., or that I've even considered packing a hospital bag.  And it's not that I feel emotionally prepared for any of it, because I don't — I'm not convinced you can, that you can have any real idea exactly what's going to hit you.  It's more that we know, from our experience with Charlie, how little any of that really matters.  We know that somehow, sometime between actually delivering a baby and, oh, his first birthday, you get ready, onesies, meals, breakdowns and all.  That knowledge feels like preparation enough.

It's just the big finish that's eating at me.  Even having passed into the storied land of full-term pregnancy — 37 weeks and change — I worry still about the baby's safety.  This worry is exacerbated by having flunked my last two non-stress tests.  A non-stress test involves sitting quietly while the baby's movement and heart rate and any uterine contractions are tracked.  It is expected that the baby will move a certain number of times throughout the testing period, and that his heart rate will rise correspondingly a certain number of beats above baseline for a certain duration.  I've been doing these twice weekly since about 26 weeks.  My last two were clunkers, and I can tell you that it's deeply unnerving to sit strapped to a fetal monitor for 75 minutes while the nurse slides the readout paper through her hands looking for responsive spikes in the baby's heart rate, sucks air through her teeth, and says, "I don't know, maybe this one will count..."  And then it doesn't.

When this happens, the immediate result is a biophysical profile, a detailed ultrasound checking to see if the baby is moving, if he's practicing breathing, if he has adequate amniotic fluid.  In my case, it also includes a careful look at the placenta and umbilical cord with the Doppler to make sure the blood flow is unimpeded.  And those have been reassuring.  But just like any other similar technology, which falls considerably short of the powerful combined crystal ball/Eye of Sauron I wish someone would invent, they only tell us what's already happened; they can't tell us what's up next.  Although the baby is moving, things have gone brilliantly throughout this pregnancy, and I have no concrete reason to suspect a problem, because of these worrying NSTs I can't stop hearing the doctor telling me, "If you notice a decrease in movement, come in sooner rather than later."

For most of these 30-some weeks I've been fine.  Relatively even-tempered, ready to assume the best in absence of proof of the worst.  Even now, I'm not panicking, and I'm not assuming the worst.  The BPPs tell us that everything's still okay.  But I'm still white-knuckled and tense, and apparently starting to show some strain.

(From the other end of the house I'm sure Paul just heard me type that combination of keystrokes, because I think I just heard him yelp, "Starting?!")

So on to something a little more diverting.  Free stuff for you.  Let's start with the chocolates, shall we?  The lucky commenters, each winning an edible something from Vermont's Lake Champlain Chocolates, selected at random were Mary, kj, and micki!  Please check your e-mail and we'll make arrangements.

Catsgroupthumb_2 Next we have a handsome brace of cats.  (Click to enlarge.)    They come from a pattern by Keiko Goke featured in Kaffe Fassett's Quilt Road.  They are stitched up Frankenstein-style from a collection of orphan blocks — blocks I acquired in Internet swaps but could never find a home for, and, in the case of the black-headed fellow, a block I screwed up when I was making a quilt to be mentioned in about two paragraphs.

Please meet Cat #1 (front and back), Cat #2 (front and back), and Cat #3 (front and back).  Their progenitor, Cat Zero (front and back), is staying with me.  See?  I do understand the value of a well-loved pet.

The cats are gifts for runners-up in the quilt giveaway I proposed back in — gulp — 2006.  Please consider them my apology for the unconscionable delay in finishing this up, and give them good homes.  This means you, Rebecca S., Amanda L., and Monica K.!  Check your e-mail for details.

And finally, half a century in the making, the quilt itself.  Way back when, many, many of you contributed to a friend's adoption.  I am pleased and grateful beyond measure to inform you that the girl you generously helped is now at home with her sister and her adoptive family.  Since I began this quilt, she has settled in nicely; completed primary school, high school, and college; achieved several advanced degrees; built a family of her own; met with wild success and professional acclaim in the career path of her choice; and is now approaching menopause with grace, good humor, and a deep sense of contentment.

Well, it has been a while, anyway...

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Back to the quilt.  (Click the photo for a larger view, but be warned: it's big.)  It's from a pattern called Feathered Goose by Judy Niemeyer, who's known in the quilting world for intricate patterns with lots of pointy parts.  It features a combination of paper piecing and curved piecing, two of the fiddliest and most time-consuming techniques I know.  It also features my own signature technique, which involves carefully selecting every single piece in the quilt; agonizing over each print, including each patch of black-on-black and white-on-white, which vary throughout the quilt; and staring really hard at the progression until it seems to make some visual sense or until I got sick of looking at it, whichever came last.  Based on a very rough count of each block's component pieces, I believe I did this approximately 1,348 times.

I think I will call this quilt I Swear I Almost Went Blind Like A Fucking Flemish Lacemaker.

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But I am really happy with the result: a quilt I'm proud of having made, and an incredible reward — having helped to give someone a family, y'all! — that makes me weepy, lo these slow geological eras later.  (Click to enlarge.)

Here are a few closeups.

Now, who won it?  Why, Catherine C. (Kate) did!  Check your e-mail if that's your name and you remember, sometime back when we were all still busy crawling out of the tar pits, entering to win.

And that is all I have today.  Tomorrow: another NST, another doctor visit, and — who knows? — maybe, if we're lucky, another unattractive scene.   

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