thejuliemeister

Musings from an unsuspecting navy wife


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Soft Eggs

“The nurse said you had a question about soft eggs,” my doctor says as he enters the room.

 

He’s English with a strong accent, watery blue eyes that match his scrubs and a bald head. His wife is Thai, a fact that he’s mentioned at each of our appointments, though I’m not sure why. Despite his multicultural household and decades stateside, something about him immediately broadcasts that he’s British. It reminds me of my boss whose coiffed hair, gold chain and unbelievably long O’s point to his far removed youth in Long Island.

 

Before I have the chance to ask my question, the doctor continues. “I love soft eggs, don’t you? Great for dipping toast into. I wonder how they do that. Get the eggs just right. Boil them so that the outside is firm but the yoke is still soft. I’ve never perfected that.”

 

His words stream together without the chance to interject in a way that I’m confident would annoy me if it weren’t for his accent.

 

He finally pauses to look at me and I shrug. Cooking has never been my forte. For years I couldn’t adequately bake a potato. If I’ve ever soft boiled an egg, it was certainly a mistake en route to hard-boiling.

 

“Hmmm…” he muses. “Delicious.” Suddenly he interrupts his reverie and looks back to me from staring into an unseen abyss. “What’s your question, love?”

 

“Can I eat them?”

 

His brow furrows. “Eat what?”

 

“Soft eggs. Can I eat them? The app on my phone says I shouldn’t.”

 

He waives a hand dismissively while exaggerating an eye roll. Apps are not to be trusted.

 

“Feel free,” he finally answers. “Anything else?”

 

“What about raw salmon. Is that ok?”

 

He starts to rise from the examination stool he’s just plopped onto. “You can’t cook mercury out of fish,” he begins. “It doesn’t matter if it’s raw or cooked, the mercury is there.” His voice starts to fade as he opens the door to the hall, quickly returning with a pamphlet titled “Local Guide to Fish” that he’s given me twice before. I take my latest copy. I already know it says to eat as much salmon as I want.

 

“This pamphlet,” he continues, “has all the information you need about how much fish to eat throughout your pregnancy.”

 

I nod. I assume this means raw salmon is fine, and parasites and bacteria that I imagine will kill my baby one bite at a time are just that, imagined.

 

My voice always seems to fail me in this office. I’d like to blame the doctor’s gregarious nature and clear intellect rendering me shy, something completely out of character, but I’m sure that’s not it. At least not all of it. It’s mostly the fear that takes me every time I walk through the door.

 

Every appointment when the doctor unveils my growing belly and douses it with jelly, I’m afraid that when his practiced hand comes down with the ultrasound wand my baby will have stopped developing, his heartbeat dormant, his life having eased away undetected. I imagine this every appointment, and often in between, preparing myself just in case. The weeks between each visit are a near constant stream of anxiety.

 

I bought a fetal heartbeat monitor early on that was so cheap I couldn’t even distinguish my own pulse. I thought if I could just verify his presence with the device it would ease my mind. Now I can feel him move and kick and I’m still scared because there will be long hours when he sleeps where I feel nothing, and I’m terrified all over that he’s gone, always waiting and praying for the next flutter to let me know he’s still alright in there.

 

I don’t know if my anxiety-addled mind would have felt like this regardless, or if it’s a direct outcome of losing the first life to start to develop inside me last year. The distinction doesn’t seem to matter. Either way I’m scared.

 

Pregnancy is scary. It’s also magical and wonderful and hard and everything else that women feel when they are growing a tiny person from scratch. But it is scary. Some believe that the greatest fear in life is that of the unknown. Pregnancy is a major question mark on one of the most important milestones in any life.

 

Will I be able to deliver naturally or will I need a C-section like my mom and sister? Will he be healthy? Will he be a good baby who easily sleeps through the night, or will he be colicky and hard to manage? Will I be able to breast feed? Will I be any good at it at all?

 

There are so many questions. A million variables. It’s impossible to predict what will happen when he finally arrives. I’m used to planning and preparing, always with a contingency in case things don’t turn out as expected. But with a baby it’s impossible to know what to expect, bestselling guides with catchy titles be damned.

 

In truth though, none of my life plans are foolproof. Any plan or contingency can be easily derailed by the frailty of life and the myriad of possibilities at any given moment. It’s easy not to worry that tsunami might wipe away my home one day when that prospect, while legitimate, isn’t likely. Why then is motherhood so different?

 

I suppose a lot of it has to do with the idea of responsibility. We feel responsible, even liable for all of the unknowable outcomes of our offspring. Though I know that I can only do my best in raising him, and then let him go out on his own to find his own way. Just like my mom did for me.

 

Still, I worry. I probably always will.

 

The doctor has finally stopped musing on fish and eggs and asked me to lie back. I pull up my shirt and he puts a paper blanket over my leggings, tucking it into the waist. The jelly comes out, and the wand lowers to my belly. I clench my jaw.

 

There he is. My baby. I can see his skeletal frame dancing in black and white on the ultrasound monitor. At the start he looked like a blob and now here he is, a tiny person.

 

“Alright, there he is, love,” says the doctor. He’s half talking to me, half to the instruments in front of him. He moves the wand around, taking measurements and muttering to himself. Finally he seems satisfied and turns his blue gaze to me.

 

“Everything looks just fine.”

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Due Date

In an alternate world, today would be different. It wouldn’t just be a day that I took off work to enjoy Hawaiian living. It would be a day when I was carefully driven to Tripler hospital to give birth to my first child. I imagined using a special water-birthing chamber. It sounded so much calmer than a typical frenetic hospital ward. It would be warm, and peaceful and by the end of the day I’d have a sleeping baby that I could contemplate in its Buddha Zen. Pink cheeks. Ten fingers, ten toes.

 

We aren’t in an alternate world. We are here. Today. And even though it’s my due date, there is no baby. I lost it months ago.

 

Its been hard knowing that everything I do right now would be so drastically different in that alternate world. Last week I went to the Big Island for work. I hiked around Volcano National Park and gained over 20,000 steps each day. It was beautiful and amazing and there’s no way I could have done it if I was 9 months pregnant. It’s hard to hold both truths in my mind. Then I remember there is only one truth, the one where that baby, my first, was never destined to be.

 

I thought about driving up to the North Shore today and buying a lei, then throwing it into the sea. A symbolic goodbye. I took a nap instead.

 

Part of my apathy is survival. I can’t feel it all again right now. It was too much when it happened. I can’t go through that again. Not today.
In a more hopeful way, I feel I’ve already said goodbye. It happened maybe a month ago.

 

Right after the miscarriage I commissioned a bracelet stamped with the initials of the baby, had it been a girl. ALY. Amelia Leilani Yaste. Our Aly girl. We never picked a boy name.

 

I wore it always. It was something that was part of me. That and my wedding band never left my person. I was afraid that without it, I would forget, and do some disservice to the child that would have been. I won’t ever forget though.

 

Then one day, I was wearing the bracelet, and suddenly I wasn’t. I didn’t take it off. It broke.

 

I remembered that a friend told me once that when a bracelet breaks off, it’s good luck. I texted her asking if that was true. I didn’t give her the details. She told me that when a bracelet breaks off, it’s a sign of completion or closure.

 

That same day someone messaged me on Twitter about how an article I’d written about miscarriage gave her courage to write about her own. Her blog was heart wrenching and beautiful in its honesty.

 

It felt right. I’d spent so many months focusing only on loss. This was an opportunity to move forward. Not to forget. I’ll never forget. But to find a path where I can remember without being totally undone.

 

When my mom stayed with me after the miscarriage she suggested I should have a mantra. Something I could say to myself to feel better in some way. I never found a mantra, but I did find a prayer.

 

Please grant me strength and shepherd the spirit of my child.

 

I don’t know exactly what I believe in. I have a complicated history with faith. But I say this to myself throughout the day, every day.

 

Somewhere, I’m sure, ALY is safe.


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Basil

After the miscarriage mom came out for a few days to be with me. Cameron was out to sea. She coddled me, bought us fine wine to share, and made all of my favorite childhood foods. Among these dishes was what we lovingly call Mommy Pasta. It’s a simple pasta with red sauce that tastes divine. I’ve never been able to replicate it.

 

In order to make it she needed fresh basil. I picked the only fresh basil I could find at the store. It was the living kind that still had roots attached. After my mom was done cooking she cut the top off a soda can and put the remaining live basil in it with a little water.

 

The basil sat there on my kitchen counter for a few days, even after mom flew home. I didn’t know what to do with it. I’ve never had a green thumb, but I couldn’t throw it away.

 

I found an old small pot that a friend had painted to say “Julie” in middle school that I’d used as a pencil holder off and on over the years. I bought the smallest bag of potting mix I could find and transplanted the basil to its new home.

 

Some of it died, but not all. Sometimes I’d forget to water it and the basil would wilt in dehydration, but it always perked back up with a little feeding.

 

We moved houses and the basil came with us. Cameron returned from sea. I repotted the basil in an even bigger planter and started growing other fresh herbs. Cameron uses them to cook. The basil is thriving. It’s huge and expanding with large fragrant leaves.

 

The one thing mom said when she found out I’d planted the basil was to never let it flower. If I saw a shoot of flowers start I needed to pinch it off immediately, otherwise the plant would die, its lifecycle complete.

 

For months I was vigilant. I watched the tiny herb grow but not flower. It didn’t seem like it would happen.

 

Then recently, I saw its first tiny bloom. It’s been about five months since the miscarriage. I know a few women with due dates similar to what mine would have been and I can see their growing bumps and know about how big I’d be by now.

 

I plucked the budding flower and dropped it in the grass.

 

The next day there was another bud. I plucked that too. Now it’s almost daily that I’ll find one or two floral shoots and I pluck every one.

 

So now I have this basil that I can only keep alive by preventing its bloom. It’s constantly trying to blossom, and I keep pinching it back. It seems so desperate to flower, to move to its next stage, even if that stage is moving on entirely.

 

I think sometimes about letting it flower. Letting it move through the natural lifecycle progression. I may. Basil isn’t hard to grow, and I could always start another plant. But I guess I’m just not ready yet. Maybe I never will be.