Life Design Action: Dig Deep
Requires: A spade
Does not require: Rebellion
So you are walking down your grassy Life Path, meandering along and chit-chatting with a friend, when suddenly THUD … out of the sky falls a spade.
It closely misses chopping off your nose.
It cuts into the ground before you.
It stops you in your tracks.
At this point, the more ignorant among us may steer around the spade and feel blessed they weren’t hit.
When Life Throws a spade in your pathway it is telling you something. It is saying, “kid – start digging.”
About three weeks ago I had a spade moment.
My mum, Ads and I had gone to the anti natal clinic to have a bump scan. The hospital have been extremely vigilant with my bump because Roo was small. This hasn’t bothered me much as I 100% believed that Roo’s low birth weight was due to massive bereavement whilst I was 5 months pregnant. Each time the hospital booked me in for another check, I felt they were being a little over cautious, however didn’t want to pass up the opportunity to have a little peek in at my boy.
The last thing I actually expected was anything to be wrong.
But on that trip, three weeks ago, something was wrong.
The scan machine blipped and whirred with its lines and its data and pointed to a point on the chart and in its electronic, robotic way, whispered to the midwife. I don’t speak Robot, but I do speak body language and it was clear from the midwife’s face that something was amiss. She then delivered my spade blow with the grace of a martial artist hill-billy.
“Your baby isn’t developing properly. He was smaller than average anyway, but now he’s not keeping to the line he should be.”
One spade. Slice.
I was told to go and sit in the waiting room. I was very quiet. Quiet in a way that a bottle of sparkling water that’s just been shaken for over a minute is quiet. Inside, a ferocious explosion of bubbling “wtf” had been unleashed.
WTF was going on? Was my body not doing what it was supposed to? Was my placenta not working? Had I drunk too much coffee? Was it stress? was it their machine? Was it their graph? Was it breathing in to many Sharpie fumes? Was something wrong with my baby?
Eventually another mid-wife came out and called me in to see the consultant. She reiterated what the graph and the scan machine had shown. “Your baby has stopped growing. He has not put on a worryingly low amount of weight since your last scan in October. We would suggest you take a course of steroids at once to strengthen his lungs so that should the next scan show no change, we can induce him early.”
Okay. Another spade. This one so close that it guillotined the very breath from my lips.
Three images triggered very quickly in my brain:
1. Baby’s body flooded with steroids.
2. Baby being pulled from its warm, safe, environment.
3. Baby lying in intensive care in a sterile aquarium with tubes coming out (what happened to Pix when she was born).
“I’m not taking steroids,” I managed to choke. “Are you joking?! And you would pull a baby prematurely out of its mother’s body because of a graph reading?”
At this point the midwives and consultant clustered around the graph protectively. “This is a very important graph! And very accurate. We having been using it a year. It is from the midlands!” one of them shrilled. Then she stepped forward bravely. It was as if, by questioning their graph, I had just fallen out of the warm wing of the NHS health service. “And what we are saying to you is our protocol. We have to tell you this so you know you’ve been offered it.”
(Between the lines: Its our way or the highway. You’re either with us (in a dumb, hypnotic cow-like obedience) or you’re on of them, (feral parents who don’t care about their child and would risk their lives outcast). Choose now. The Protocol Demands It.)
My choice was so say no, and to agree to come for the next scan a fortnight later. I then returned to the Sanctuary and hid under my duvet having a very snotty melt-down for several days.
Such a strange feeling. Such a strange thing. The only way I can describe it is that the very wind was taken from my sails and suddenly I was adrift. Everything in my life suddenly felt like a cardboard cut-out – insubstantial and thin – and I had just shed it just as the skin a snake sheds and leaves behind like crinkled parchment paper in the dust.
All that mattered now were the the things made from heart and blood; Pix, Roo, Ads yes. But deeper still, my flesh, my baby and my placenta.
Have you ever prayed to a placenta?
Haha. I hadn’t either until that week.
Every day for the following fortnight I talked constantly to my placenta. I visualised it like a river with strong current, taking everything my baby needed into his dark subterranean world. Me and Baby made a pact that I would send him everything he needed and he had to do his best to grow strong. Every substance that passed into my mouth became pure as mineral water, seeds, nuts, fish. I ate like a Yogi. I started chopping back on anything that involved my energy moving outwards and not inwards to the belly. I did everything in my power to do. But still I couldn’t remove the anxiety that there was something wrong and every time I thought of it, it broke my heart.
Tuesday 28th Jan was my birthday and it was also scan day. At 8.30 in the morning I was sitting back in that waiting room. Ads was with me. I wasn’t talking. I felt like the shaken up bottle again and if I even opened my lips a crack, too much messy stuff would come out. So I sat very tightly, with a swollen chest and waited.
The waiting room was painted cream and the paint was peeling. The chairs were tall and hard, like something from a residential home. On one wall was a long pin-board covered in posters about breastfeeding and STDs. And in the corner was a television with a constant stream of adverts selling carseats, bottle steralisers, nappies, creams …
“You want the best for your baby, don’t you?” the adverts whispered seductively to the mums-to-be as they waited. “You won’t settle for anything but the best for your baby, will you?” Then images of great bulky car seats and prams and the latest technology designed for the baby. And occasionally a baby would appear to be put into the contraption. But it wasn’t the baby that the focus was on. It was the robots. The technology. The plastic.
I pulled my eyes from the screen. Midwives had started to shuffle and float through, protocol wafting behind them like anti-septic perfume. The one who’d so ferociously protected her graph from the midlands looked at me and smiled. I couldn’t smile back. I felt angry at her. I felt angry that she had disconnected from her humanity, from her womaness, from her organic truth and instead had delivered her Protocol without caring for the anxiety it had created in this flesh and blood person. At the same time I knew it wasn’t really her fault. She hadn’t created the Protocol. The Protocol was the voice of a System that only spoke the language of graphs and machines.
“Bethan? Would you like to come through?”
The woman who scanned and measured my baby was lovely. As I lay there I thought she looked like the well travelled, elegant middle-aged woman who had probably spent a holiday in Burma and donated to schools for street children. She was kind and friendly as she measured and tapped away. God knows what she thought of me – because I barely muttered a word.
The scan machine blipped and whirred with its lines and its data and pointed to a point on the chart and in its electronic, robotic way, whispered to the midwife. I don’t speak Robot, but I do speak body language and it was clear from the midwife’s face that something was much, much better this time. She then delivered my good news with the warmth of a freshly baked Victoria Sponge.
“He’s fine! He’s back on the line! He’s exactly where he should be and even a little more.”
I left the room wordlessly. In the consultation room, the consultant flicked through my notes. “Yep, fine, You don’t need to come back.”
I took my notes and left the anti natal clinic wordlessly.
Then outside I sat in the car, undid the lid to my shaken up bottle of water and cried and cried and cried. So much relief. So much anxiety. So much fear. No much anger. So much wanting to take out a midwife with a bottle of scan-gel. So much letting go.
And what was it? Had the baby suddenly grown that much? Had the prayers I’d prayed to the placenta worked? Had my body suddenly kick-started its efforts to build a baby at 7 months in? Was it the lack of Sharpie fumes? Or was it that the original woman who measured the baby’s limbs ad stomach had not done it so well and made an error last time? Was it, that in all their training to read charts from the Midlands and regurgitate protocol, there was still room for humanity but that only came in the form of human error?
Or was it just a spade for me to dig really deep and to look at the people who really care enough to ask and keep asking; to look at the energy I put into the things I do and whether that energy should be rebalanced and redirected; to look at the importance I label certain things with and whether those things really count.
All good digging.
And all diamonds found.
And the best birthday present in the flipping world. Thirty three years old, thirty-three weeks pregnant and my little baby boy is okay.