Day Five

October 6, 2008 at 12:24 am Leave a comment

I felt the baby move early in my pregnancy. 

One night in the bath I looked down at my cushiony middle and felt her flutter.  She probably wasn’t any bigger than my finger. The warm water swirled around me in my pink Ukrainian bathtub while bubbles of Dove bath soap popped and fizzled around me.  The tub was deep and wide.  Sounds and smells that were unfamiliar to me muted by the running water.  All I felt was warmth regardless of loneliness or homesickness or frustration over the difficulty of the Russian language.  I took a lot of baths and the baby was quite active and hearty for well into my second trimester.  

Then in my seventh month of pregnancy I noticed less movement.  She became sluggish.  I drank lots of orange juice and spent afternoons lying on my left side, counting kicks.  I almost always felt a soft kick to reassure me of her existence. 

Around that time my doctor told us the baby measured small.  She was three weeks behind my due date in her size and development.  I worried.  At times my anxiety was overwhelming.  I wasn’t able to do anything but lie on my bed and cry.

I went to the doctor and she assured me that I had nothing to worry about.  It was something trivial; either we miscalculated the due date or I just had a very petite girl in there.  She wasn’t worried the baby was small because there was consistent growth. 

My Ukrainian doctor was a jolly woman.  Jolliness is not a typical personality type in Ukraine.  She’d smile and laugh and ask us about our two other girls at home while stretching measuring tape around my abdomen.  Were they excited about the baby?  Do they like living in Ukraine?    

“Sergei, please tell her that we are concerned,” I’d cut in, giving my husband a list of questions and concerns at each visit.  I wanted to be sure there was nothing lost in the translation.  To calm me the doctor would order an ultrasound or a non-stress test and the tests would show that the baby hardly moved.  The doctor simply said “ona speet.”  “She’s sleeping,” and my heart beats slowed. 

I talked to my mom on the phone one day.  Her voice was distant.  It felt like the telephone line really did stretch all the way over the ocean.  I told her that something was wrong with the baby.  All I really wanted to do was get on a plane and fly back to the States but instead Sergei prayed and I worried and time passed.  Somehow I was able to convince myself I was overreacting. 

And I ate a lot of Big Macs.  Every Monday, our family day, we piled in to our white ford focus we bought finally after dragging our children around on sleds to the bus stop and metro trains for three years in Ukraine.  We drove to an indoor mall in Kiev that housed a huge, modern grocery store and a skating rink, outlined by a dozen or so fast food places and lots of flower shops.  Every Big Mac tasted like home.  My pregnancy weight packed on. 

We sat right up to the skating rink glass and laughed as beginner skaters flailed around on the slippery frozen surface.  Our kids were appeased with vanilla soft serve ice cream cones that dripped down their chins on to their shirts as they watched the ice.   

Sometimes Sergei took Elaina and Zoya skating.  And then I’d sit alone with my Big Mac and my third little daughter quiet and still inside me and giggle as they crept along the ice, the three of them joined together by locked hands, digging their blades sideways in the ice to move forward.  I’d laugh until tears streamed down my face.   

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Entry filed under: 31 for 21, Books and Writing, Disability, Down syndrome, Family, Former Soviet Union, Gillian Marchenko, Having a baby, Hospital stays, Kiev, Loneliness, People Watching, Prayer, Russian, Special Needs, Ukraine.

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