Category Archives: pregnancy


Now that it’s all over, I thought I would report first from the operating table. I spent the night before the birth in hospital, having a final poke and prod, and had  an amazingly good sleep thanks to some nice drugs which I wasn’t too pure to refuse. I felt remarkable sanguine about my fate, in fact, until I was on my way to the operating theatre, at which point I burst into tears of terror. I didn’t have much time to indulge, however, because I was hustled in by a nurse who told me there were ‘others waiting’.

I kept on crying while they  tipped me onto the table and prepared me. “You’ll feel everything except pain,” said the anaesthetist. In fact, the most painful part of the whole procedure was the wrist- slapping, designed to bring out a vein for the catheter. Otherwise, I had an anaesthetic so I couldn’t feel the anaesthetic, and a little curtain was erected to spare me the sight of a whole team in masks  grubbing about in my stomach cavity.

There was an enormous schism between the momentousness of this occasion for me, and the everyday nature of it for the operating team. Mine was far from the first uterus they had cut open.It wasn’t even the first that day (not that I’m complaining).They gossiped and flirted and I got a chance to experience- for the first and only time in my pregnancy- the vena cava compression effect, where lying on your back causes the huge weight of the pregnant mid-region to press on the vena cava, which in turn leads to a drop in blood pressure.

By the time it set in I was anaesthetised and had an oxygen mask on. I suddenly felt incredibly nauseous and faint and started to sweat. I tore off the mask and was ready to roll off the table and make for the door, dragging my numb lower half like some Calcutta beggar.

“It’s too late,” observed one of the masked figures at my head. “You’ll feel better when we get the little people out.”

And within five minutes, they did have the little people out. I only saw one, hoisted briefly over the curtain, grey and still slimy. I also recall hearing only one cry. From the corner of my eye, I could see their thrashing feet as they were weighed and checked over. A masked face loomed (later I would know that this was one of the hospital pediatricians) and gave me their Apgars, weights and lengths, which I don’t recall. I only registered that they were ‘in good condition’, and lay back to have a little rest while they sewed me up.

Whatever they had given me to raise my blood pressure had had a soothing effect. At some point I heard a slightly agitated discussion about what drugs to give me to make my uterus contract- my gynaecologist (who was in fact operating on me) had warned me that it might happen, and that the worst case scenario (“God forbid”) was haemhorrage and hysterectomy. There was some back and forth over which drug was better, somebody to my north arguing that it was better to give me Metergin because the other thing took an hour to work. My hypochondriac corpse lay peacefully on the operating table, half asleep, and I thought, “Well, that’s their problem.”

The rest of the day looked similar. I lay in the post-op room, stoned and still numb from the waist down. At some point they took Maja away to the intensive care because she was having some breathing trouble. I didn’t notice, and wouldn’t see her until the next afternoon.Marcin and my new friend Aneta, with who I had shared a room the night before, hovered outside the door. Aneta, due to have her daughter a couple of days later, took one look at Janek and burst into tears.

Late in the day I was allowed to drink some water, in miniscule doses, and eat some disgusting rice pap. At nine it was time to get up- I got a shot of morphine and a helping hand to the shower, and nearly passed out from pain, or hunger, or shock, or opiates. We had hired a midwife for the night to take care of Janek so I slept all night, waking up only for another shot of morphine to enable me to go to the toilet. At six in the morning, she wheeled my son over to me, declared her work done, and went on her merry way. I sat and stared at him for a while, then called Marcin to come as quickly as possible, because I had a child to look after and wasn’t sure if I could walk.




Filed under medical, pregnancy, twins

The final days of ménage à deux

This is how we have spent our final week alone.

Saturday: the last party ever, to which we invited everyone we have ever known, to give one final announcement of our presence on the social scene before we disappear for the whole festive season into a mire of nappies and panic.

Sunday: the last hungover Sunday. One friend hadn’t gone home after the party, and her husband came with his own hangover from a disastrous business networking party. We cooked a chicken, did an autopsy on all parties attended, napped and watched crappy television. I was mightily satisfied with this day, despite not having a hangover of my own. I love the melancholy and lack of obligation that comes with having done something horrible to your liver and excusing yourself from action for a day, especially when it’s minus 10 degrees.

Monday, Tuesday: long baths, maniacal cleaning, watching caesaereans on youtube. Marcin is pre-reading his brother’s Christmas book about the Mossad and I am finishing my lesbians- and- serial- killers series of detective books on my Kindle. Boiling bottles, laundering everything. Taking deep breaths, insofar as it’s possible at this size. Reflecting on the many pleasures of childless life.

More of the same planned for today- tomorrow I am going into hospital to be poked, prodded, fed prison food and kept awake all night with monitoring. See you on the other side!


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Children are treasures

This is what the woman who took my blood for the ten thousandth time told me when I expressed a fervent hope that this would be the last, and that I had no intention of further reproduction. It made me wonder when people started to feel this way. For most of history, children haven’t been ‘treasures’ (by which I read something lovely but rather useless- nice to hold but without any real function)- they have been insurance policies for their parents, or free labour. Without them, there would be no old age pension, or no security for their mothers, or nobody to inherit from their fathers, or nobody to dig up beetroots and plough the fields, or nobody to help in  the kitchen and the raising of the rest of the brood.

Now it looks as though they really need us more than we need them. We want them, because other people have them and we wonder what it would be like to have our own,  but don’t really expect much from them in the long run. Or we follow  the you’ll-be-sorry-if-you-don’t line of reasoning-in a few years, our reproductive life will be over and we will spend the rest of our barren decades weeping in corners and wondering what could have been.

I still don’t know why I have decided on this path. I don’t expect it to make my life better or easier. I am comforted by all the excitement it generates in others because it somehow convinces me that I’m doing the right thing. I think the nearest I could come to explaining my motives, if at all, is that I just wanted to see what would happen.

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The body, again

I now weigh 20 kilos more than I did in April. I’m not without my vanity, and have been known to google Celebrity Baby Body for a look at best-case scenarios in how long it will take to look normal again, but my current mass is surprisingly undisturbing to me (until I have to get up from sitting on something low, or walk up the stairs). Marcin is also fascinated, and looks at me from time to time and giggles. He calls me Kobieta Kula (Ball Woman), or sometimes just Samica (Female). Revenge for the early days of our romance, when his friend passed on to him my comment that he looked like a cartoon character ( glasses, overbite, potato nose. I stand by my claim). My sister, who I would not expect to know about  such things, suggested I get a tummy tuck during the  ceasarean I’m likely to have- since they’re digging round in there anyway, they might as well deal with all the loose skin.

This odd pride in my misshapen organism coincides with its return to functionality. I love strolling about and watching people eye my girth. I’m back to the feeling I had at the beginning- that I’m so clever for reproducing. I’m happy to stay pregnant for a  bit longer and enjoy this stupid sense of achievement.

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The weather outside doesn’t seem to penetrate the walls of our flat. I see what is happening outside- the warmth of late summer, then the turning of the leaves, the sharp gold autumn days, and on Saturday, the first snow. I can see a pair of busy, bushy-tailed squirrels preparing for winter in the tree outside the window, along with a woodpecker going about his gravity- defying business. Clouds of crows go beating purposefully by, black against the milky sky. None of it seems to have anything to do with me. When I go outside for milk or doctor’s appointments, the hydraulics of being vertical and the rarity of the occasion engender a sense of total alienation from the world I inhabit.

Inside, I generate my own emotional climate- a succession of mild, overcast days. Inactivity works on me like a mild antidepressant, depriving me  of any emotional excess. I have two moods- weepy and not-weepy. Although as I get more gravid and bilious, I think that I am beginning to add irritability to my repertoire. This sort of extreme stability is something new for me, and in the current situation I have no objections to my limited range as I explore the land between faint hope and faint gloominess.

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Filed under bed rest/ house arrest, dealing with adversity, pregnancy, pure autobiography, weather

The magician

Yesterday we went for an ultrasound to check all the organs and the growth of my foetuses. At first I couldn’t concentrate because I was bracing myself to hear something I didn’t want to  (mmm.. where’s the heartbeat/brain/ major organ? etc ). The technician, who was meeting them for the third time, did his best to translate what he was seeing- Marcin had his nose stuck to the screen and when my paranoia wore off, so did I.

From the watery, wavering universe of the womb, our hipster ultrasound magician was extracting the mysteries of anatomy. A pair of  little white femurs, a waving fist, two pale smears which he assured us were the placentas. Where we saw inexplicable patches of darkess, he saw stomachs and kidneys and heart chambers. He pulled up a brain on the screen and showed us the cerebellar vermis, and then the movement of blood in their hearts, which was colour-coded into a crackling, blue- and- red  intrauterine aurora borealis. According to his calculations, they’re about 36 cm long and each weighs around 1400 grams.

As usual, the she-twin was uncooperative and wouldn’t display herself like her brother, but we got a 4D head shot of him. When I saw his fat crumpled little foetal face, (looking, unbelievably,  just like Marcin)  I finally allowed myself to believe that I was going to have two children, and spent half the night awake with the excitement and terror of it.

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The miracle of birth (in case I seemed immune!)

Long ago, around the 22nd week of pregnancy when I thought everything was normal, I had a revelation about the wonders of human reproduction.I was sitting on a bench in the park in Żoliborz, on a warm grey Friday afternoon, eating peaches and waiting for Marcin. I was feeling the effects of gravity and wondering how I would bring myself to get up when the time came.

It wasn’t a  biological revelation. I am not as amazed as I perhaps should be by the actual physical production of life, taking the laborious production of cute, mewling, half-blind little milk drinkers as part of my mammalian fate.

It was more of a social revelation. I realised that I was going to meet some of the most important people in my life, and that I knew about it in advance. I could even say (so I thought then) with reasonable certainty when this momentous encounter would take place. All I had to do was sit and wait, and they would, with absolute certainty, come to me.

I was allowed to hug this pleasant sense of clairvoyance to myself for exactly one weekend, before going to the doctor on Monday and being informed that I might meet them much sooner than expected. After that I didn’t dare think too hard about the future. It was nice while it lasted, though.

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Other people’s suffering

I am often comforted by thinking about how much worse things could be. At least I’m not having twins in Auschwitz, I tell myself,  where Doctor Mengele is waiting to experiment on them after a starved and brutalised pregnancy. At least I’m not  pregnant in an Indian village where I have to walk 4 hours for water and then collect firewood to cook my single paltry daily ration of lentils. And so forth.  This kind of worst-case scenario imagining has a soothing effect on me- it induces the sort of smug feeling of safety that news of a distant divorce might, a that-won’t- happen- to- me sensation of relief. When bad luck adheres itself to someone else, it reduces the amount roaming the universe looking for a victim.

Unfortunately, this harmless borderline Schadenfreude doesn’t always work. This is because there’s one kind of misfortune which, when experienced by others, does not keep you safe.

It’s when people in the same situation as you don’t get their happy ending. This week I found out that one of my colleagues from the cervix forum lost her twins at 25 weeks, and I realised how much I had been relying on other people’s good news to build my own sense of hope. I took it personally and felt a horrible sense of  grief, along with its companion- an urgent and impotent wish for things to be otherwise. Empathy showed its evolutionary purpose, its cautionary, chastening role in the world. This is not you, but could be, it whispers. It’s a terrifying thought.


Filed under bed rest/ house arrest, dealing with adversity, pregnancy

Dreams and statistics

In all the simultaneous  drama and boredom of a difficult pregnancy, I have discovered that I am utterly shameless in looking for things that make me feel more confident about hanging onto my foetuses for a bit longer. Statistics are accepted or rejected on the basis of whether or not they make my prospects look better. I look at my ultrasound and see that based on my cervical length at 23 weeks, I have only a  1 or 2 % chance of an early delivery (before 36 weeks). Never mind that the chances of having twins, or a defective cervix at all, are about the same, which didn’t prevent them from happening to me. Never mind that those statistics are probably not for multiple pregancies (in fact, I purposely don’t ask. Why borrow trouble?).  I have an insatiable appetite for good news, and selective application of statistics can give it to me.

The same goes for dreams. The dream that I have triplets and they all die and the doctor refuses to sew up my Caesarian cut is dismissed out of hand as a pure anxiety dream, with no predictive powers whatsoever. But I did have another dream,  and this one  I have chosen to regard as psychic. It goes like this.

I dream that our friend Kaśka can travel in time. She  visits us from next July, and says to me ‘well, your pigeons have arrived. There’s two of them, and everything’s OK. You’re going to have a horrible time, though.’

I have to say that this dream comforts me. Partly for its content- all I hear is that everything will be OK in the end, ignoring the part about how awful it’s going to be. But it reminds me that at some point, this will all end; that next July will, in fact, come.  Currently, I find this almost impossible to believe.

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For all of our conjugal life, I have been able to keep up with Marcin. I can ride as fast and as far, drive better, manage as well in foreign countries. I break my bones less, although I have to admit to a severe deficit in the field of pushups, and a slight deficit in the field of navigation.

But now it seems we have been thrown back to the early fifties. I, fragile and female and tending slightly towards hysteria, lie on the couch feeling faint and alone. Marcin strides out of the house with his manbag at 9 to earn a living. When he comes home, I am still wallowing in my sickbed and happy the day is over. He is worn out after his day of secret, intense manly activity (sitting in front of the computer).

This is what biology has done to our modern marriage. I am inescapably Female. There is no way for us to move in harness now.


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