Mayhem is proud to announce that she has passed a major gestational milestone, at least as far as the zeitgeist is concerned. Yesterday marked the end of the 24th week of this pregnancy, which means that now, by both medical and judicial definition, Mayhem is viable.
It’s a beautiful concept, and a ridiculous one. You don’t want a viable baby, you want a thriving one. It is a truth universally acknowledged that Mayhem has no business being born before November. If she came out kicking and screaming any sooner it would be a tragedy, or at least enormously upsetting for all involved. But at the same time, it’s a relief to know that her chances of survival would be better than average if she did.
In a “controlled” pregnancy, these things never stop mattering. The automatic fatalism that comes with a garden-variety pregnancy — the certainty that, once you’ve peed a positive, you’ll have a normal baby in nine months — is not included with the diploma from Remedial Fertility School. Conception, if you can manage it (and huzzah if you can!) is just the first hurdle in the process. Then there’s the fear of ectopic. The fear of miscarriage. The fear of congenital defects. The fear of placenta issues, gestational diabetes, pre-eclampsia. The fear of exposure to who the hell knows what. The fear that, for reasons you might never discover, each day might be your fetus’s last. Every week can bring a new worry, if you let it. And you’re not even being irrational: these things happen to people, people you know, normal people no more or less fertile than you.
I don’t mean to imply that these worries rule my life. All signs seem to indicate that this pregnancy is still going just fine. Mayhem loves to snuggle and wriggle and dance with her Baby Plus, which has just graduated from a waltz to a march beat. And this past week she achieved two other milestones of sorts: kicking so emphatically that her daddy actually felt it, and kicking so emphatically that the pattern on my clothes moved. All of this is wonderful. But it is not without background noise, the dull drone of the next thing that hasn’t yet happened but could.
When my mother came to visit last month, she introduced us to the morbidly fascinating world of childbirth shows on Discovery Health. These start out at an educational-yet-reasonably-reassuring level (Birth Day) and quickly progress through the alarming (Babies: Special Delivery) to the tabloid-ridiculous (I’m Pregnant And…). If you’ve never actually been privy to a baby being born — and neither & nor I ever have — these shows are remarkably enlightening. But it’s easy to get sucked in to the “gateway drug” shows (see, honey, that’s why you don’t need to panic if I scream or if there’s blood or if we need a C) and, before you know it, you’re miserably mesmerized before images of micropreemies and neonatal surgery.
(Full disclosure: I loathe television and have steadfastly refused to learn how to operate ours, ever since it was installed in our living room last fall over my dissenting vote. The unit does one thing right, though: it disappears behind our fireplace at the touch of a button. That part, I very much like.)
Worries are never far from hand, never hard to find. If you let them, they’ll get under your skin and worm their way into your dreams. My mother speculates that Mayhem is too active, that All This Kicking is a sign of something amiss. Overstimulation from the Baby Plus, perhaps. Or maybe mommy’s uninterrupted consumption of excessively spicy food.
But I’m not going to fret. (Or put away my condiment of choice.) I love that we’ve made it this far, that Mayhem has come from behind more than once and now enjoys dancing and squirming and kicking the crap out of me in a totally viable way. This kid has spirit and spunk aplenty, and right now, that’s what I’d most wish for her.
Along with a timely, healthy birth. And a generous sleep schedule. And, eventually, a taste for spicy food.