Friday, June 1, 2012

Noellie's Belly

Noelle loves to eat.  She and I have that in common.  So I was surprised each time that I would take her to the vet for vaccinations when someone in the waiting room would say, "She's underfed."  I could never underfeed her, I know how much she loves to eat and I might occasionally overfeed her as a result.  Besides, just the week before she was usually a pudgy little ball of long, black fur on legs.  Her routine visits with Dr. Utt coincided with her growth spurts and Dr. Utt herself said, "I think she's just a lean machine."  But when I think of Noelle's first weeks at home, I think of her rolly polly tummy, which earned her the nickname "Noellie Belly."

Noelle is now 7 months old and still growing, and approaching her first heat cycle soon.  That means it's decision time.  Whether or not to spay Noelle should be an easy choice.  When she was given to me, I didn't intend to breed her.  I agree with friends who argue there are enough homeless dogs in the world that I shouldn't add to the problem by letting Noelle have more.  My landlord has specifically said, "NO MORE ANIMALS." Breeding Noelle would mean dealing with at least two heat cycles, worrying about stray dogs running up to my gates to get to her, listening to Gideon fight them off, diapering a dog who already eats everything else and would likely eat her diaper. . . So why is this choice so difficult?

I guess it's because I know what happens when a dog is spayed.  A complete hysterectomy is performed.  Her reproductive organs are removed, and with them goes the likelihood of various forms of cancers, one more reason spaying a female dog is advised.  When I think of Noelle's uterus being discarded as hazardous waste, while mine is empty and useless, I wonder why both of bodies should go to waste.  If Noelle's gotta have it done, a part of me thinks they may as well lay me on a table beside her and strip me of my parts as well.

"You're young," people say, "You have plenty of time."  I have to wonder why I am the only one that hears that clock ticking away. "Don't you get it????" I want to shake them and scream.  No one can promise me anything.  No one can promise me that there will be more chances, an annulment, another husband, more babies.  The post-miscarriage promises, "Don't worry, you'll get another chance," all seemed so meaningless in the wake of Gabriel's diagnosis and I'm too terrified now to dare to hope that there will be another chance.

"Have you considered adoption?" people ask.  Homeless children, like homeless puppies, abound.  I feel judged by that question, as though what they really want to ask is, "Shouldn't you satisfy your deep, and borderline obsessive, need to nurture a living being by adopting someone who really needs a home?"  Yes, I suppose I should adopt.  I could do it on my own, I wouldn't need some man.  I could pick out a child, lift its lip to check its teeth and gums, select one with desireable hair and eye color, one that looks like me, and we could be so happy.  I feel like the next unspoken question is, "Why would you keep trying to bring new life into this world, when you have failed so tragically before, and there are ready-made lives waiting for you to take them in."

Nothing is really like bringing life into this world, though.  I would take Gabriel with anencephaly over no Gabriel at all.  I would welcome the chance to care for Noelle through a pregnancy, feed her, search diligently for placement for her puppies, hold her while she gives birth, provide for her while she nurses, give her and those puppies everything they need just for the chance to experience bringing another life into this world.  At the very least, I am not ready to deny either of us that opportunity just yet.  I know that Noelle was given to me by Ben in part to shut me up, so I would quit asking for another baby.  I'm not ready to shut up, I guess.

Perhaps the only person I can think of right now who knows just how I feel is Jenny.  A year ago on June 1, shortly after midnight, I locked the doors to the Wright Place at the end of the night for the last time before my scheduled induction on June 8.  Before going to bed I checked Facebook for status updates from Jenny, whose induction was scheduled for that very day.  I slept with my phone beside my bed and checked on Jenny first thing in the morning.  I was crushed when I learned that Palmer had lived for 55 minutes, 55 minutes that Jenny is eternally grateful for but that I knew wouldn't be enough for me.  I needed more, and I begged God for more and I sometimes wonder if God gave me ten days just to shut me up.  Maybe He's sick of me asking for things.  Maybe everyone who tells me, "Just wait, things will happen in their own time,"  is right.  Maybe instead of trying so hard to take charge of everything, I could just let things happen for a change.

Palmer, Gabriel's due date buddy, is celebrating his first birthday today.  I know that Jenny, whose journey has been so similar to mine, is feeling that sad peace again, which comes with knowing there are some things we just can't control.  Like the mail.  Jenny, I sent Palmer's birthday card on Tuesday.  I don't know how long it takes to get mail from California to Kansas.  In any case, I'm thinking about you today, and I'm thinking about Palmer.  Happy birthday to our little mister, Palmer Joseph Lees.

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