Tina Rowley

writer + (performer) + [space left open for surprises]

the ballad of sir freddie crisp

I'm debating the preamble. Do I put one in? Do I put a disclaimer up top, saying something like "I know this pregnancy has been full of trouble and I'm sure you're tired of hearing about it...[blah blah something about The Perils of Pauline]" or do I just jump in and begin?

The half-disclaimer did it. Allude to some embarrassment/discomfort with telling you about more pregnancy frights, but know somewhere more important that no disclaimer is truly necessary.

We thought we were going to lose Fred on Friday. Oh, I think that disclaimer was more necessary than I knew. I feel like the boy crying wolf. But every time I have cried wolf, there has been a wolf. The wolf just didn't eat anyone. Kill anyone. The wolf didn't kill anyone. But the wolf has been taking enormous bites out of me. Fred remains unharmed.

It began with a call to the doctor about some questionable sensations, and in the middle there were painful contractions up my back, as strong as when I went into labor with Finn, and there were other markers of labor. It headed towards the end with the doctor telling us to come in immediately, and us packing a bag for the hospital and heading for the doctor, certain that we were on our way for me to deliver our son twenty doomed weeks early. It ended well. No pre-term labor. Other reasons for the symptoms. Fred fine.

It's the middle, the goddamned middle, that's still eating me.

This is less a post to describe the particulars than it is an attempt to make some sense of all this trouble, although there will be some more particulars in it. There's sure to be some flailing, here.

I just want to note that this is the third time in the past year in which I have experienced the death/impending death of my child, even if it was really only once, and then very, very early. And the difference obviously matters to an infinite degree, if there can be such a thing. I know that. But it's not nothing, this facing it down all these times. It's fucking ridiculously something.

In the middle, when I was having the contractions and panicking and waiting for the ob/gyn's phone to be turned back on after lunch, I was lying on a couch and trying to listen to a relaxation CD. Word to the wise if you find yourself in this situation: don't.


"Note any feelings that are taking place in your body, and emotions that you may be having."


"Now let them drift away."

is not something you can allow to happen in this situation.

It does not go like this:

Well, I'm shaping up for a second trimester miscarriage. My son will come out and be absolutely unviable for this world, and will die quickly. So...yeah. That can just drift away. Drift away. Because, you know, I just need to relax. OH, my god. That feels so good, to just let that go. Shake it off! Oh, yes. Much better. Keep talking, soothing British man. You're taking me to Bermuda.

It goes like this:

British man drones on pleasantly. You squirm, shift, cry out a few times. You bang your fist on the couch. You want to relax because THIS, what is happening, is not what you want. You want to feel something different, and you remember from somewhere in your life that relaxation is good. But you know that to relax is to agree to shake death's hand and show him to your son's room. (Later, your smart friend points out on the phone that you can't let go of something until you have a hold of it. That is also a good point. But you're not aware of that wrinkle while you're fighting with the relaxation CD.) Finally, you throw off your headphones and proceed to eviscerate anyone who comes within three feet of you who tries to tell you something comforting, or attempts to show you a potential bright side/escape hatch. No one escapes your vicinity without their head being bitten off at least once. You assume the character of the wolf.

It goes like that.

But there were isolated moments with that relaxation CD where I struggled not for relaxation but for some kind of honest-to-God acceptance. And that's why I'm here, that's what I'm writing for, that's the jewel here that I'm trying to unearth. Not acceptance in the specific, as it relates to this incident, but a larger one.

I was lying there, and looking out the window at the midafternoon. Painfully sunny, bright blue sky. Bare branches. And these moments would come where I could see that there was nowhere to run to. Your life is the life that comes right in front of you. It can have absolutely anything in it: beautiful, loathesome, there's no quality control. And I could see in these split-seconds that there's no use, ultimately, in fighting. You fight where you can affect things, but this goes right to the old serenity prayer. The wisdom know the difference. And I thought, well, if this is my life, if the life that has my name on it is one where I lose this child, I can't very well turn away from my life. You have to befriend your life. You have to do it. You don't have anything else.

So I was simultaneously trying not to let death come in and take my son, and trying to let my life in to do what it will. And I only had the one door to work with. Keep death out, let life in. It felt so mind-bogglingly tricky.

My mind keeps flashing back to the George Harrison song, "Ballad of Sir Frankie Crisp". (I didn't quite catch the lyrics properly the first few times I heard it. Instead of "let it roll" I heard "Betty rolled." As far as I could make out, the song was all about someone named Betty.) I love this song.

Let it roll across the floor
Through the hall and out the door
To the fountain of perpetual mirth
Let it roll for all it's worth

This is what I constantly find myself trying to do now. Let it roll. Although everything is fine, I still have a situation going on with this pregnancy that requires extra monitoring. And I don't know how to hold my body. There's an impulse to some kind of magical thinking, something having to do with that door where Life or Death can pass through, wherein if I hold myself right mentally and physically, I can stave off death coming in. So I hold myself in whatever way I think that is. And while I'm doing that, I know I'm not helping anything, not affecting anything. But I don't dare stop it, or I only dare for about five seconds per minute. And I know that those five seconds are the only ones in which I am actually living. I can get from the couch, say, to the dining room table holding myself in some way which reflects the old Native American saying, "Today is a good day to die." It feels excellent, like I imagine surfing feels. It feels dizzy and expansive. Living, incredibly briefly, without fear.

Why do I do this? Why do I tell you these things, these terribly personal things? I worry that it's a kind of emotional exhibitionism, but I try to aim some kind of quality control radar at it, to see if it contains something legitimate. I keep getting a green light. I might be brokenly defaulting to green, but I keep getting green.