In this installment of ‘Love, Recorded,’ Cathreen is still pregnant and Matt does whatever she tells him.
In the not-quite-morning, Cathreen screams, “Blood!” and I run into the bathroom, fear and lack of sleep fuzzying my sight. A half-dollar of red on the tile, but not my pregnant wife’s. Boise’s. Somewhere in all the baby drama, our cat has gotten diarrhea. Usually his bowel movements are Cathreen’s domain. But pregnant women cannot touch cat poop.
“Call the vet,” I say.
“Get the poop,” Cathreen says. The vet will want it. I scoop it carefully into a plastic bag.
If my wife asks for something now, I do it. I take away her dirty tissues. I bring her food in bed. I find myself at the grocery store buying oranges, strawberries, cake, bread. This is my list. Later, she will eat none of this. I find myself searching for watermelon after all of the grocery stores are closed. Only Au Bon Pain has any watermelon. In tiny cubes. Cathreen eats three cups; then the next day, I buy a bigger watermelon and she eats none.
Eun Chong, she says. That is what we have named the baby in Korean. Eun Chong is the one who doesn’t want it.
Later that afternoon, we have an appointment with Cathreen’s nurse. The nurse says the ultrasound we got in the ER never arrived upstairs. “No pictures?” Cathreen asks. The nurse says everything is fine. We have a hundred questions the baby books have scared us into asking. The nurse recommends a different book. Cathreen says she is having heartburn. The nurse recommends some medicine we don’t take because we are afraid of medicine.
We bring both Bear and Boise to the vet. We think that Bear, the new kitten, is causing Boise stress. He won’t stop playing. Cathreen calls this “attacking.” When we get to the vet, we offer this theory. Bear walks around like the vet’s is anywhere. Boise cowers and hisses and finally makes a long lowing sound like a dolphin dying.
“He wasn’t like this before,” Cathreen says. The last time, the vet took Boise into a back room and we heard this scream, and when he came out, he was afraid of leaving the house.
There’s not much this vet, our new vet, can do. We go home and watch Boise’s poop. I feed him medicine from a syringe.
On Thanksgiving, we drive to Connecticut. Korean wisdom says one shouldn’t take long trips when pregnant, but Cathreen is infused with a questionable amount of Westernism.
“It’s up to you,” I say, of course.
She eats the turkey like nobody’s business. She hated turkey last year. Back in Boston, she is sick and has to go to the Emergency Room.
The doctor, when she arrives, presses Cathreen’s stomach. The pain seems to be in Cathreen’s side. She has a fever. All of this we cannot explain. The doctor says she will have another ultrasound, but then says, also, an MRI. This cannot be right, I think. The doctor says this is safe for the baby; she is afraid of appendicitis.
The word that appears, “risks,” seems aggressively unhelpful. Like it is a tiny vampire bat, flying between the doctor and us, just waiting to turn into a vampire.
We know the drill. Wait eight hours, be seen for thirty minutes. Hold your pee until the ultrasound. We won’t make that mistake again.
At one point, I run out and demand blankets. Cathreen is shivering. I cover her and let her sleep. Four o’clock, five o’clock, six o’clock in the morning. I am shivering but the blankets said, “For patients only.”
In these cases, it is hard not to be a stickler for rules. I don’t want to be, but the rules come with a crushing anxiety. Rules seem like they can make or break whatever it is we are waiting on.
Before Cathreen goes for the MRI, she has to drink a chemical milkshake that will let them see into her body. She throws most of this up, but she has to drink it. Then I wait outside while the machine howls. Or maybe this happens later, after the ultrasound, I can’t remember now.
What I know is, sometime in my sleep, someone comes and pushes Cathreen’s bed to the ultrasound room, and I squeeze her hand, shaking my head awake. The woman there does her invasive thing and onto the screen pops a picture of our baby.
But this time, there’s more: a pulsing. Then my eyes focus, blood rushes through my chest, to my head, and it is as if I am feeling what we are hearing, a heartbeat, the signs of the life inside of her. It’s the cheesiest thing, but that’s the life we made. It feels like a whole other thing, like nothing else.
I am filled with some strange sense of wonder and awe and yet fear and worry, but not as if these feelings are at war, more as if the side of wonder and awe is shaking hands with the side of fear and worry and both are sitting down to a big banquet and feasting on my insides. I do not know whether to scream or hide or burrow in next to my wife or what.
When the doctor arrives again at last, it is someone we’ve never seen before. The shifts have changed. By now we are thinking about the cats, alone all night, Boise with his untrustworthy bowels. “I want to go home,” Cathreen says. We come to these places to leave.
The doctor smiles and says something I can barely listen to, but she seems alright. She is pregnant herself. She understands. I can tell that Cathreen likes her, and when she says that we can go home, there will be nothing wrong. Though the IV in Cathreen’s arm will leave a deep purple bruise and at home the cats will be saddened—at Thanksgiving, our relatives believed the cats could tell that Cathreen was pregnant, that animals know more of these matters than humans.
—photo by Debs/flickr