Thursday, October 9, 2008

Chapter 31 - A Precarious Pregnancy

November 21, 1948

The sound of a woodpecker pecking on the log cabin competed with the whippoorwill calls. Solomon lay quietly enjoying the feeling of waking up beside Becky. He had his usual morning hard on. He nestled it into the small of her back and brought his thighs up to meet hers. A cold wetness shocked him. He touched it and looked at his fingertips. It’s blood! He threw the blankets off Becky.

She grabbed for them, “Don’t do that!”

“Becky, wake up! You’re bleeding!”

She sat up and looked around the room. She was disoriented.

Solomon dressed and said, “Where’s your gown, Becky?”

She didn’t answer. She was staring at the blood.

Solomon found a blue flannel nightgown in her chest of drawers. He pulled it over her head as if she were a child. “Arms up,” he said.

She obeyed him in her confusion.

“Jerry! Get up!” he shouted. Solomon put his socks and shoes on as he watched Becky. The dazed look on her face along with the blood loss frightened him. He put on his coat, wrapped her in a blanket, and carried her out of the bedroom. He met Jerry in the living room. “Becky’s bleeding. I’m taking her to my house where I have equipment to take care of her.”

Jerry opened the front door for Solomon. “Okay,” he said, “call me.”

“I will.” Solomon carefully walked down the front steps. They were covered with a thin glaze of frost. His breath came out in white puffs. The morning air was below freezing. The truck starter ground a few times, and then it turned over. He pumped the gas. Clouds of white smoke billowed behind the truck. He pulled Becky close to him and rubbed her shoulders. She was shivering. “Hang on, Becky,” he said.

Solomon carried Becky into the exam room and laid her on the table. He heard Ma moving around upstairs. He dreaded telling her what a stupid thing he’d done to Becky. The IV pole clanked as he pulled it over and hung a bottle of saline on it. He spiked the bottle and tied a tourniquet around Becky’s arm. He stuck her and hooked her up to the IV. She looked pale. I should have insisted that she see a doctor, he thought, now she’s in trouble. He was angry with himself. He got a set of vitals and bumped up the IV rate. He turned her face to his and said, “Becky! Do you hurt anywhere?”

She shook her head no.

Ma came into the exam room. “What’s going on?”

“Becky’s bleeding,” he answered.

“How much?” Ma asked.

“A lot,” he said. “I slept with her last night. When I woke up this morning, she was lying in a puddle of blood, and her level of consciousness sucks.”

Ma was pulling equipment out the drawers that she knew he’d need to examine Becky.

“This is my fault,” he said. “I had sex with her last night without knowing anything about her pregnancy.”

Ma cut her eyes at Solomon.

“I know, I can’t believe I was that stupid,” he said.

“Stop beatin’ yerself up, son. Concentrate on what ye got here.” She slid the metal equipment tray to the bottom of the exam table.

“I know,” he said, “you’re right.”

Solomon mixed a bowl of warm soapy water and sat down with it at the end of the exam table. He put Becky’s feet into the stirrups. She instinctively pulled her knees together.

Ma held one of Becky’s knees under her arm, and she pushed out the other knee with her extended hand to keep her from being able to close her legs again. “Let us hep ye, hon,” Ma said.

Solomon sat on the stool between Becky’s legs and cleaned her up. “It looks like she’s quit bleeding.”

Becky strained against Ma’s arms trying to bring her knees together. Her feet came out of the stirrups, but there was no table to put her feet on since Solomon had retracted the extension. Her feet danced in the air. She dug her heels into the edge of the table up against her buttocks.
Solomon looked at Ma and cut his eyes towards the door.

Ma nodded and left the room.

Solomon stood up and leaned over Becky’s torso. He held on to her hands and stroked her forehead. “Do you remember what happened?” he asked.

“I remember going to sleep with you last night.” Her voice trembled and her legs quivered.

Solomon pulled the table’s extension out so she could relax her legs. “You’ve lost a lot of blood.”

“Did I lose the baby?” she asked.

“No,” he said, “but the verdict’s still out. I need to run some tests, and I need to examine you. You probably have placenta previa, but I don’t know the extent of it. Becky, you need to understand that this has life-threatening possibilities for you. Not just for the baby, but for you too.”

“Can’t we do it tomorrow?” She was in denial about the situation and still disoriented.

Solomon shook his head no. “This cannot be put off, Becky,” he said firmly.

“I want to take a bath,” she said peeling the tape off her arm. “Can you please take this out?” Confusion had turned to aggravation. She snatched the catheter out of her vein before Solomon could stop her.

Solomon took a deep breath. “I’m worried about you, Becky,” he said pressing a cotton ball to the blood that was oozing out of her vein.

“I promise I’ll let you do whatever you need to do,” she said, “after I’ve had a bath.”

Solomon put his arm around her and helped her walk to his bathroom upstairs. He ran her bath water and gave her a clean towel and a hospital gown.

“You have to leave,” she said.

“Alright, but don’t lock the door.” He sat at the top of the stairs so he could hear if she got into trouble.

Ma stood at the foot of the stairs and said, “I’ll be outside picking persimmons. Holler if ye need me.”

When Solomon helped Becky into the exam room, she was trembling. “What do you want me to do?” she asked. She hated the way the room smelled of alcohol and disinfectant.

Solomon had put on his white coat. The stethoscope and BP cuff were in his pocket from the last time he’d worn it. The instrument tray that Ma had set out was still beside the exam table. Equipment that he’d need for measuring Becky’s pelvic cradle was on it along with a speculum still wrapped in sterile paper. Lubricant and sterile gloves were there too. He pointed to the scale beside the bathroom. “Let me get your weight first,” he said.

She stepped up on the scale clutching the flimsy gown around her belly. She let it open in the front like she’d heard him tell others. Solomon shifted the weights. “One hundred and thirty,” he said.

He helped her climb onto the exam table like she’d seen him help Nellie and Bertha. He covered her with a white flannel sheet like she’d seen him do before. It all was familiar to her, but this time it was personal. Her fear and loathing were overwhelming. Solomon’s flurry of activities blurred in her mind as she acquiesced to the inevitable.

She turned her head when he picked up a hypodermic syringe for a blood draw. He tied the tourniquet. “Make a fist,” he said, and he drew a few cc’s into the chamber. He loosened the tourniquet and injected the blood into a small sterile bottle.

“I need a fundal height,” he said as he picked up the tape measure. The tension in the room was palpable. He couldn’t give serenity to Becky when he couldn’t give it to himself. He felt that Sarah and the Pure One were disappointed in him. In his mind, he heard Sarah saying, It’s yer own guilt that’s botherin’ ye.

He pulled the sheet down exposing Becky’s belly. He said, “This is my favorite pregnant belly in the entire world.” He was trying to put her at ease. He knew how much she hated the clinical nature of a medical examination. He also knew that she was self-conscious about her body.
His comment got a smile out of her, so he bent over and kissed her belly just above the navel. He sensed that she was beginning to relax.

With the edge of his hand, Solomon found the upper limits of her uterus below her breasts. He held the tape measure at that position, and then he stretched it over the top of her abdomen down to where her belly rose out of her pubic hair. “That’s perfect for twenty-two weeks,” he said as he recorded the measurement in her chart.

“Is that how far along I am?”

He nodded, “Uh huh, twenty-two weeks.”

“Now the width of your pelvic girdle,” he said putting his thumbs on the iliac crest of her pelvic bones. He measured the distance between the two and wrote that in her chart too.

“For the next measurement,” he said smiling at her, “first I apologize, and I promise I won’t look.”

Becky rolled her eyes and said, “I’m afraid to ask.”

He said, “I need to measure the distance between the bones the baby’s head will pass through.”

“Oh God,” she said, “and how do you plan to do that?”

There was no modest way to accomplish this so Solomon just told Becky what he needed from her. “I need your feet in the stirrups,” he said helping her. Then he slid the table extension back into the table. “Relax and let your knees fall open,” he said. Surprisingly, she did what he’d asked. He pressed his thumbs into her groin and found the maximum width between the bones. Then he triangulated that measurement with his index finger to the middle of her symphysis pubis. He said, “This bone will move apart here.” He pressed his finger into the middle of her pubic bone. “It feels solid to you, but there’s actually a joint right here separated by cartilage.”

“I liked it better when your thumb was there last night.” She blushed with her out of character remark.

Solomon grinned at her. He tried to separate his sexual feelings for Becky from his clinical need to examine her. Earlier when he was afraid for her, it wasn’t a problem. But now that the crisis was over, his mind wandered back to the night before.

Becky said, “Solomon, you have to do disgusting things. How do you stand your job?”

He leaned over and whispered to her. “This is the first time I’ve ever done that without gloves. I wanted to be able to touch you. I think everything about you is beautiful.” Then he kissed her on the cheek.

She shook her head in disbelief.

“I need one more thing,” he said. “Have you ever had a pelvic exam?”

She shook her head no.

He straddled the stool between her legs and pulled the goose-necked spotlight down so that it shone on her perineum. He opened the speculum’s sterile wrap. He pulled on a sterile glove and lubricated the speculum. “This glove is sterile so I don’t get germs in you. I’m sure that your cervix is open now.” He ducked his head down so he could see. “This won’t hurt,” he said as he spread her labia and inserted the speculum's tip into her vagina.

Becky grimaced and stared at the ceiling.

Solomon locked the speculum in the open position and looked her cervix. He winced at what he saw. “Becky, are you having cramps today?” He looked up at her.

She wouldn’t look at him, but she shook her head no.

“You haven’t had any kind of contractions,” he asked, “not even Braxton-Hicks?"

She shook her head no again and finally looked at him. “Why?”

“The good news is that the placenta is not covering your cervix. From the amount of bleeding you had last night and because it was painless and without contractions, I believe that your placenta is attached low in your uterus. I’m not too concerned about that. Time will probably correct it.” He removed the speculum and pulled the exam table extension out so she could put her legs down.

“And what’s the bad news,” she asked.

He straightened the blanket over her and said, “What concerns me is the fact that your cervix is dilated two centimeters, and it’s thinned and shortened. You were not dilated or effaced at all last night.”

“What’s that mean?” Becky asked.

Solomon put his hand on top of her abdomen. “It means that you could lose the baby,” he said. He tried to look calm for her while he listened to the baby’s heartbeat, but his breathing and his worried eyes betrayed him.

“Well, I guess it’s good that we know,” she said.

He picked up her hand and held it to his lips. He kissed her palm, and then he said, “New rules…complete bed rest except to get up and eat or to go to the bathroom.”

“For how long?” she asked.

“And no lifting,” he said, “and no sex until after the baby is born.”

While Solomon was examining Becky, a woman had come into the office in labor. Ma sat with her in the waiting room and timed her contractions. The mother had requested Solomon for her delivery. He was strong for his patients when they needed him to be. When they were afraid, he comforted. When they were in pain, he showed them the way through it. He thought for them when they couldn’t think. With kindness and gentleness he carried his mothers through the most physically and emotionally demanding experience of their lives.

“All the mothers fall in love with Solomon,” Ma had said. And that was true to some extent. He knew that it was common for a woman to transfer feelings of love to her obstetrician. He also knew that pregnant women were very aware of their fertile sexuality. Their female organs were engorged with hormones and enriched with blood. A woman’s blood volume almost doubled during pregnancy. Solomon understood that, and he kept things professional with them.

It was late when Solomon got to Jerry’s. He went inside the dark cabin and looked in on Becky.

She was lying in the moonlight. “I’m still awake,” she said.

He sat down on the edge of the bed, and took off his shoes. He lay on his side and propped on his elbow. “How do you feel?” he asked as he pushed her hair away from her forehead.

“Much better now that you’re here,” she smiled.

“I want to talk to you about the new midwife’s rules,” he said. He played with a long curl lying on her shoulder. “The bleeding last night and the changes in your cervix were basically…because we had sex.”

“They were?” She sounded surprised. “How can that be?”

“Orgasm caused you to release a hormone that causes uterine contractions. My semen bathed your cervix in another hormone that caused it to soften, and so it dilated.” He took a deep breath and said, “I am so sorry, Becky. I put you and the baby in jeopardy because I let my dick do my thinking last night.”

Becky asked, “Are you saying that pregnant women shouldn’t have sex?”

“No, I’m just saying that high-risk pregnancies shouldn’t have sex, or orgasms, or have their nipples manipulated, or masturbate…” he said. He touched her cheek with the back of his hand. “I knew that you’d never been examined. I just assumed that everything was okay with your pregnancy...because I wanted you.”

“I started it, remember?” she said.

He grinned at her, “Oh yeah, I remember. The brain in my head went plumb unconscious.”

“You watched me while you made love to me,” she said.

“Yes,” he smiled, “your pleasure excites me.”

“You’re amazing,” she said laughing. “The women of Rooster Cove would pay you to teach their husbands to do what you did to me.”

“You think so?” he chuckled.

“I know so,” she said, “makes me horny just thinking about it.”

He laughed and hugged her. “Well don’t think about it…at least not until March when it’s alright for you to go into labor,” he said, “midwife’s orders.”

She shook her head and said, “Midwife’s’s going to be a long cold winter.”

Copyright © 2008 by Robbin Renee Bridges
Coping with Grief through Afterlife Communication

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Very good novel. It is well written. It was pleasant to me. Read with pleasure. You have other products. Thanks Marina.
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