Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Heidi, Part 2

Nine months old

I tried to resume my old life of school, work, home, and looking forward to a new baby.

I kept attending classes daily.  I kept correcting papers and answering freshman questions.  I made dinner occasionally.  I still walked by the mint-green room adjacent to our bedroom and envisioned it empty of office furniture and randomly discarded stuff, repainted a cheery yellow and furnished with a crib and changing table--and a healthy little baby.

The pain in my gut made regular life difficult.  I carried my trusty bottle of Mylanta wherever I went, and when I would feel a wave of pain overtake me, I would sneak a swallow under tables or behind doors like an alcoholic from a flask.  One particular memory is especially vivid.  As a Humanities minor, I spent hours and hours  in the JKHB, a warren of classrooms and offices added onto many times over the years with little rhyme or reason to their layout.  One day I entered a mostly deserted bathroom on the ground floor, and I walked into one of the stalls where I sat fully clothed on the toilet, removed the half-empty bottle of Mylanta from my blue backpack, and a swallow at a time I would pray that the pain would abate long enough for me to leave the bathroom and return to my day.
Rocky Point, Mexico

Days were hard, but nights were worse.  We would get in bed, turn off the light and go to sleep, just to have the pain awaken me in the night with such a shock that I would shoot upright in bed, screaming with pain.  Helpless and worried, Brad would rub my back and ask me if there was anything he could do to help as I writhed around trying to find a position that would take the misery away and allow me a few more blessed hours of unconsciousness.

Agonizing days and sleepless nights began to take their toll on me.  My house was dirty.  My homework was slipping.  Scariest of all, I was losing weight--eleven pounds total by the time Heidi was born--but I kept on going through the motions that life was as it should be and all would be well.
Great-Grandma Olsen, Grandma Tucker, and Me
Thanksgiving came and went.  My family came down to Utah from southern Idaho to spend time with my mom's parents.  While they were staying at my grandparents' house, three generations of my family lovingly added stitches to the quilt my mom had made for our new baby.  It was the years before routine ultrasounds and gender-reveal parties, so the fabric was a healthy balance of baby pinks and blues.  I had seen my aunts and my grandma stitch many quilts over the course of my life, but this time was different--this was for my child, and I loved thinking that even after all of these women were gone, their stitches and their love would wrap my baby/child/adult/grandchildren in its cozy embrace.
Road trip to Utah, 1998

Still I ventured on, and as the end of November approached, so did Brad's dad's wedding in Seattle.  We had received plane tickets weeks ahead, traveling to Washington with Brad's younger siblings, Daniel, Nancy, and Katie.  I remember buckling myself into my seat, and having only made one plane trip before in my life, I reveled in each detail of flight, from the moment the plane was airborne to our arrival in Seattle.  It was going to be an exciting three days.

Brad's grandparents picked us up at the airport, and all seemed to be going well. Friday night we had arranged to have dinner with Brad's maternal uncle and his boisterous family.  I had met Chris and Royal Cardon at my wedding and had seen them once or twice since, and I already loved being around them.  Their family tends to burst into song at random moments, to play cards and games like an Olympic medal was on the line, and to fight for their rights around the dinner table just like my own, and I felt comfortable at once in their sparsely furnished but lively home.

Brad was happy to be around the family--when he was fourteen, his parents got divorced, and he spent the summer living with Chris and Royal in Wisconsin.  He had left with many memories and a place in Chris's heart as her favorite nephew.  Now, he laughed and joked and enjoyed.  Chris had been working all day, so she had picked up Subway sandwiches on her way home from her office at Pepsi's headquarters.  I remember watching everyone hover around the table as they quickly assembled a plateful before anyone else could grab their sandwich and chips of choice.  I was watching--from my seat on the floor in the corner of the living room where I was trying to mask my pain and lack of culinary excitement from these people I barely knew but already loved.

I don't remember how or when my condition became the focus of the night, but I do remember the pain becoming so unbearable that Brad and his uncle gave me a priesthood blessing.  Chris, with her mother-hen good intentions, strongly encouraged me to go to the emergency room and have a doctor evaluate my condition.  I refused, saying that it would pass and that I would be okay.  With doubt written across her face, she relinquished me back to the care of Brad's grandparents, where I spent the night before the wedding hoping I would feel well enough to attend the festivities.

The day before the wedding had brought a rare skiff of Seattle snow, and I know everyone was worried that the unpredictable weather would continue on December first--the day of the big wedding.  Although cloudy, it was warm enough that the snow from the previous day had melted, and no one in Seattle expects the sun to shine anyway, so the day was perfect.  Brad's sisters Nancy and Katie, ages fifteen and twelve, were looking forward to the makeup, the hair, the dresses.  It was a big day.

All I could do was stay on the guest bed and moan.  I felt awful--I knew there was no way I could make it to the ceremony.  After confirming again and again that I would be fine, the wedding party left, and I was alone in an unfamiliar house in an unfamiliar city, fighting an all-too-familiar enemy--my own body.  TV was my only company for hours that day, and I will never forget watching Ty Detmer receive the Heismann trophy that afternoon--I had watched him lead the BYU Cougars on the football field that season, and I was a proud cougar at that moment.

Early that evening everyone came home, tired from the celebration and full of stories--descriptions of the wedding officiator and the ceremony and the food and the dancing almost took me from my afternoon in the wood-paneled TV room to the wedding venue.  Almost.  Brad's Aunt Monica sat down next to me on the couch, and I knew what was coming.  With concern in her voice, she asked me to describe to her the pain I was experiencing.  I didn't even have to think--I had described the pain and the location and the burning so many times over the last three weeks that describing it didn't elicit any emotion from me. This was my new normal, and what could anyone else do?  Monica, however, had a different perspective.  When she was pregnant, she had had a gall stone, and the pain I described to her matched what she had felt over fifteen years before.  Finally, someone else knew what I was feeling--knew the agony and the misery, and she knew there was nothing the doctors could do about it until after delivery.  She counseled me to go see the doctor when I returned home and ask him if a gall stone could be the cause of all my trouble.

It was amazing to me the relief I felt after talking with Monica.  I wasn't crazy.  I wasn't a hypochondriac.  There was a reason and a solution for all of this, and my hopes were hanging on my gall bladder and its inability to pass a small stone.  I flew into Salt Lake City that Sunday night with a lighter mind and renewed determination for the doctor to listen to me in the morning.

It was December 2.


  1. Trying to leave a comment again! In the first one, I said that you are getting entirely too good at creating cliff hangers!

  2. A couple of things - Great Hair Diana! I would almost believe that is Karen sitting at the quilt. And Holy Tucker does Brad look like T in the wedding picture! Nancy hasn't changed much, she is so pretty. And the picture of Brenn and Heidi makes me cry just a little bit...

    Great blog series!

  3. Unreal.

    I am reading this backwards because I got behind, so I already know the ending, but the suspense would have been driving me crazy at this point.