“I have to go for one of those stupid, three hour blood tests!” Marcy says. She is angry and I, as the faithful and doting husband, patiently wait until it is safe to leave the room. (Like facing an angry mother bear, you must back out slowly and make no threatening gestures. If she senses weakness and makes a move at you just fall to the floor, cover your head with your hands and play dead.) During her first pregnancy she had a blood test that came back with high blood sugar and she had to go through this ordeal. She calls it “that three hour blood test” with the same venom in her voice as she might use to describe water boarding.
“First of all, you can’t eat or have coffee or anything that morning,” she explains. “Then they stick you like three times and take a ton of blood and then you have to drink this horrible orange sugar drink and then wait for like three hours with nothing to do but sit on their uncomfortable chairs.”
“You can take a book,” I offer helpfully and a moment later I am in a fetal position on our kitchen linoleum and trying not to breathe.
“I know you aren’t dead,” she says, “and I am not mad at you anyway. This is just stupid. After three hours of sitting then they drain another few quarts of blood.”
I wisely decide not to correct her over-exaggeration of the amount of blood they will take. Besides, I am getting lightheaded from holding my breath.
“Well, I’ve got it,” she says. Her voice is shaking slightly and I know that she is about to cry. Marcy is not normally an easy weeper, but pregnancy has changed the weather patterns of her emotions and unwanted storms sweep from out of a clear blue sky sometimes.
“Got what?” I say stupidly. I knew that she had just survived the blood test and I should know better.
“They showed me the results at the doctor’s office today. I definitely have gestational diabetes. I can’t believe that! I have done everything right…”
“Whoa!” I say, “this is not your fault!”
“…I have been eating right and drinking plenty of water…”
“You didn’t do this, Marcy,” I try again. “If you want to blame anyone, blame me. I was the one who got you pregnant.”
“Believe me, I know,” she says darkly. Did I just hear thunder?
“How did it go at the endocrinologist?” I ask. It has been a long day and my feet are hurting, and then she wraps her arms around me and puts her face in my chest and I feel painless and complete. Since the forming of the baby bump, the hugs have been more awkward but no less wonderful.
“She was really nice,” Marcy says tentatively.
The truth is that Marcy is mad that she even had to go see a specialist. In her view, seeing an endocrinologist for gestational diabetes is like hiring a plumber to flush the toilet: it is ridiculous to hire someone to do something that you can do yourself. Of course, since I have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, she has ridden me constantly about taking care of myself. It is different when you are the one getting prodded and judged by the person in the white frock.
“You know,” she continues, “you still need to find an endocrinologist yourself. You should go to her. I think you would like her.”
“Is she hot?” I ask.
Marcy ignores the line. As is often the case in the comedy routine of our life, she plays it straight.
“They were very thorough,” Marcy says in a tone that indicates that perhaps they were a little too thorough. “They did one test and said that they found protein in my urine, which is a little strange. They wanted me to call my doctor in the morning and tell him about that.”
“I am on the way to see my doctor,” she says and I suddenly feel like maybe a goose has just danced a jig across my future final resting place. I can hear the sound of traffic as she drives herself the half an hour to her doctor’s office. I can also hear the panic in her voice. She is scared.
“Today?” I say. She has been out and about for more than a week, seeing doctors and specialists and dentists and everything else. Today was the day that she was supposed to finally get some rest.
“I called his office and told them about the protein in my urine and about how my ankles have been swelling so much and they want me to come in right away. I’ll call you when I know more…”
“Are you going to be OK?” I ask.
“Don’t worry,” she says.
Yeah, no problem.
"So?" I say anxiously.
"Well," she says calmly, "My blood pressure is way too high. It's so high he wanted to put me in the hospital for monitoring."
I can't reply. All I heard was hospital.
"...but he said that I cold go home if I promised him that I would really rest and not do anything else."
"Can you do that?" I ask.
"Yeah," she says, "but I didn't get a chance to finish the house and..."
"And nothing!" I almost yell through the phone, "We can have someone pick up the kids from school and I'll be home as soon as I can."
"Yes...okay." She sounds defeated.
Once when David was much younger, his sister had talked him into cutting her hair. They had sneaked a pair of scissors into their room. David had sat Beth down in a kid sized chair; wrapped a towel around her shoulders and proceeded to mangle her pretty locks.
When Marcy found them she told them the lie that has been passed down by parents for generations: “When your father gets home, he is going to kill you!”
Later Marcy confessed that she put off punishment because she could not stop laughing long enough to be serious about it.
That night, when I got home, I walked into their room and found two very sad and frightened children. David was sitting in the very center of his mattress. He had taken his comforter and wrapped it around his body and over his head like Biblical sackcloth. His head was bowed and when I opened the door, he looked up at me with a unnique mix of fear, sadness, embarrassment and maybe a sliver of hope that I wouldn’t want to punish him after all.
The night after Marcy’s trip to the doctor, I come home and find her in much the same state. She is in bed, the covers pulled tight around her. Her eyes are deep wells and sometimes, like tonight, I can only see what floats on the surface, but what I see is fear and not a little embarrassment.
“I am sorry,” she says and her eyes mist over.
“For what?” I say, coming over to the bed to hold her.
“The house is a mess,” she says.
“Don’t worry about the mess,” I say. “My mother is on the way. She is ready to stay with us until the babies are born to help with the kids and the housework and whatever else we need.”
“I can do some stuff,” she starts and then stops.
“So, how long will you be on bed rest?” I ask
She shrugs. “For another three months. I guess.”
“I guess the kids and I better get to work then.”