Hello there true believer.
It’s that time again. Yes it’s time for another thrilling installment of the Continental blog that has absolutely nothing to do with anything continental! It has taken it’s own damn direction like this thing called life as the world spins madly on! Yes kids the hit’s just keep on coming and the hearts just keep on breaking as the roller coaster takes another white knuckled dive before its slow and deliberate climb once again to heights unknown… when she drops, nobody knows! So clench those teeth, hold that breath, and don’t get too comfortable! Cause’ you’re in the jungle baby! And you’re gonna die!
That’s pretty much what I’m feeling lately and let me tell you why. Last week I was in a waking state of uter and absolute blissful euphoria. My wife Melanie and I received the joyful news that we are expecting a daughter and that if we didn’t hear anything by Monday, then we were to operate under the assumption that her development was just swell. Well, I guess swelling went down… because Melanie received a call from the doctor on wednesday to let us know that they had detected something known as a “soft marker” in her level I ultrasounds.
A “soft marker” is a term used to indicate possible risks of chromosomal abnormalities in pregnancies. In laymen’s terms, it’s a way to see if your baby is going to have downs syndrome or not. Some of these soft markers are shortened femurs, lack of a nasal bone, renal (kidney) dilation, nuchal translucency (a thick watery pocket on the neck) etc… It turns out that our growing baby, Violet has some dilation in her kidneys and we are scheduled for a level II ultrasound on the 19th of August.
Yep… the giddy bubble popped. When I heard that, it was like the wonderful broadcast of my perception suddenly flashed with technical difficulties of human angst. The program just….. stopped….. and autopilot intellect switched on, leaving the viewing audience of my soul to wonder who the hell just changed the channel? The world went about it’s chaotic business with no concern for my paternal plight which left me frozen in my tracks. One second there I was in my mind with my perfect little daughter standing on my feet and holding my hands for balance as we plodded down the hallway together…. and the next minute I was staring at my special needs daughter trying to picture her as a “normal” kid and wondering how I could free the person locked in that mind. Which made me feel a twinge of shame.
My younger brother is developmentally disabled, and I’ve honestly always carried a fair amount of guilt for never knowing how to be a better brother to his special needs. I remember times when I was a kid and my dad would scold me because he caught me staring at him for a moment, just trying to figure out what was going on in there. It brings a shudder to my heart to think how uncomfortable my prying, staring eyes must have made him in those moments, and the possible emotional or psychological effect it had. I don’t know if he even remembers anything like that but it still matters to me. The shame to think that I would catch myself doing the same thing to my own daughter just elicits a split second compulsion to self destruct. I don’t want her too EVER feel that brand of alienation from everyone else around her or feel like I have been the cause of it.
The doctor told Melanie that we should specifically NOT google anything about the Violet’s soft marker of renal dilation because we would only end up working ourselves up and freaking ourselves out. But this is America by God and using the media to work ourselves up and freak ourselves out is something we now do better than cheeseburgers, and we will simply not be denied that basic right. So in the name of fear and instant gratification, google we must and google we did. With confounded exasperation we turned our squinted layman eyes to other folk’s grainy ultrasound scans to compare with our own and found nothing of any note. Jose can you see? No sir, I can not. How the radiologists can use these grainy smudges to discern a pair of dilated kidneys from healthy ones was beyond us. We’d have better luck reading tea leaves in the dark than even trying to locate a single kidney in the handful of spotty black and white images stuck to our refrigerator door. However, the majority of information gathered from online message boards indicated that this soft marker is actually a very common occurrence in the gestation of countless healthy babies, but that did nothing to talk me down from my cliff. Aside from my own genuine and stubborn concern, other literature designed to psychologically prepare parents spoke of different stages of grief upon learning of an oncoming special needs child- the first stage being denial. So though I am told that Violet is probably okay, my fear has just been reinforced by a backup generator of despair telling me not to entertain any denial.
The ironic thing is that any practice or questioning of self awareness seems to be an act of denial in itself. Because already this week I have caught myself multiple times projecting my angry fear onto other small and meaningless situations. When not glazed over like a gasping fish fading from life under a cruel boot, I have been exasperating minor annoyances and making a perfect, self righteous ass of myself. I am grumpy and sensitive and kind of a pain in the ass to be around because I can’t seem to understand why the people in my proximity won’t just act according to my thoughts. Melanie and I have at least been able to come together over it but we have had to check ourselves and each other in order to do so. It’s a stressful thing to be reminded that despite your vision or intention, while you may think you are in the driver’s seat, you are just along for the ride.
I want my daughter to be healthy. Her health is my health and I find myself in a position of helplessness to improve that health with any certainty. Yeah, there’s a good chance that she’s going to be just fine. But that’s not enough because how do I really know? I don’t. I can’t. And no matter how hard I wish, pray and yearn, in all reality my health and hers are not mutually exclusive to one another- not right now anyway. Despite the supplements Melanie and I picked up to possibly help Violet’s kidneys, there’s no way for me to have a direct influence on any outcome. Writing about all of it definitely helps me to actually recognize and process my feelings more clearly in order to not project them onto other situations. It also reminds me of the general promise of love “no matter what” that I have made to the members of my family. I am obligated to fulfill that promise and want nothing more than to do just that. But sometimes the old wood cracks before it bends and that’s kind of scary because they have to rely on me to be a source of confident, unfailing, mental, and physical stability and wellness… and I’m just a man- fallible and along for the ride.