Small Town Laps

Since I’ve been in Sitka, I’ve become even more addicted to lattes, swimming laps, and chocolate. I never liked chocolate that much before I was pregnant. Now I want it in everything. I almost put it in my peanut butter and jelly sandwich this week. Same with swimming. It's like I need it now--the weightlessness (the body weighs 10% of its on-land poundage in water), the motion that makes my emotions a little more slow and spread out (the pregnant woman can control only 10% of her emotions at any given time). As usual, and maybe even more so now that I'm pregnant, our seasonal situation needs constant explaining. Am I native? No, I'm not. Why am I going to the native hospital? They have the only OB in town. But I'm not delivering here, in Alaska? Hopefully not. What if the baby comes early? Then I hope I have no trouble nursing. Has the constant rain affected the way the baby feels in there? They say barometric pressure induces labor, but I can't tell the difference between home and here once I've been here for a while. All of these are questions with uncertain answers. This is how it is to live seasonally--on whims, on spec, on the basis of what the weather's doing and what the body feels like doing in that weather. Today, a baby blue sucker hole opened over the water and the color reminded me of a Colorado morning in the mountains. Everyone here keeps bringing up the fires at home, and that heat feels so far away, I am again unequipped with an adequate response.

I've been to the doctor a few times here, and every time, I'm amazed how different it is to be cared for in Alaska than it is in Denver--there's less rush, more warmth, and less professionalism. It's a mixture of charm and not-quite-up-to-snuff. But in ways, I like that better than the barrage of technology and decisions that accompany care in an updated urban hospital. My nurse tech here, Kim, has a limp and tight white curls like bedsprings and I liked her immediately when I met her a few weeks ago. I asked her how much fish I could eat while I’m in town. She said fish in the Southeast have less mercury than most places. “And halibut—well, eat the chickens,” she said, meaning the small ones, “Not the barn doors.” Luke was down at the boat getting ready for another four months at our first appointment, while I’m getting ready for the next less-than-three. My biggest fear right now is not to go through labor, but to go through labor without him.

My doctor here is an older Belgian man, retired, and also a swimmer. He gave me a riddle that I can’t remember, but I solved it, figuring out he speaks French and German but isn’t either, and he said his next clue would have been “waffles.” I have my next ultrasound on Thursday of this week, but I almost don't want to have it. It seems like most of the time, I am treading between joy and anxiety and wondering why everyone is so insistent that they know what's going on in this great big mystery of childbirth. A friend at home suggested I put on an ipod and rock out during the ultrasound to make sure they don't blow the gender without meaning to. But even that involves using technology to escape the spontaneity of reality. I found out recently, with relief, that our doctor at home doesn't do 3-D ultrasounds so I don't have the option of seeing my child's face before it sees mine.

Early this morning, I went to swim laps at the pool I never swam in till this summer, thinking it would be as dingy as the other one. But it turns out the water goes all the way to the edge, which I love, and the ceilings are high and white and almost give the illusion that you’re swimming outside. An older woman next to me with nice muscles and lighter skin around her eyes than the rest of her face asked if I’m a coast guard’s wife, which is the third time I’ve been asked that this week. I guess it’s better to be noticed for being new than it is to not be noticed.

Her name is Ann. She said a lot of the young women who come to the pool here are coast guard's wives, but it seems like I've only met locals in the water. Ann said she’s not a coast guard’s wife, either, "just old." She looks like she's 60, but she's 75 and has swum almost every day of her life. She’s only here for the summer, too, while her husband, who's retired, does what he loves to do while the real doctor's out of town. Is he an OB? I asked. Yes. Turns out, he’s mine. Ann and her husband met on the swim team in Belgium. She swam through all of her pregnancies. And with her fourth child, she swam the morning she delivered.

I hope I can do the same. This morning, the coach for the master's swim team invited me to join them for their workouts. I'll start tomorrow. I need a new suit. I can feel the baby's elbow wedged between my ribs and my skin, and the way it rolls is like a hurt and a hello. The sucker hole outside has spread into strips of blue above where Luke is pulling his parents and little brothers over king salmon and halibut in his silver boat.