My intuition has been coming up a lot lately. "Trust your intuition," people say, when I'm not sure how many therapy sessions are too little, too many for Anna. Or, "use your mother's intuition" when Zaley's energy ticks up from wild to barbaric, and I'm unsure whether she's just being 3 or whether she needs a few extra pointers from a professional on self-control. There's such a thing as play therapy that has been suggested for her. There's also narrative therapy, a treating of issues through story. There's also just living through phases, a therapy I'm inclined towards with wary; how does a mother know when to seek (more) professional help for her children? There is the risk of sounding a false Munchausen's-style alarm; there is the risk of seeking no help at all and missing the window of need when it is ajar and asking; there is the risk of over-treating what might be "normal" anyways--a word that pertains less and less to my experience of motherhood. Our lives aren't normal (thank you, Alaska), we have a deaf daughter, and three-year-olds are nuts. Problem being, the intuition is our primary physician. My intuition. And my intuition is not as infallible as people would like to believe. Yes, sometimes, it's right on point. Once, I had a premonition a boyfriend was sleeping with someone else and I went to his bedroom window at dawn and found them. Once Anna was born, as I've written, I knew there was something undiagnosed, or at least, something that unsettled and drew up a darkness of questions. But my intuition is not a Buddha, sitting calm and correct and all-knowing, in my inerds. It's a jumpy and unreliable thing, often prone to superstition and indigestion. Or, an eel: slippery, coiled, rising up to my throat, sometimes in total error, sometimes because I summon an answer no one is giving.
Cmv seems to have no answers. No timeline, no certain symptoms. It erases milestones, eats nerves, leaves absences. We have a P.A. at Children's and an excellent pediatrician, too, but they both defer to each other on the mystery of cmv. Both say that all we should be doing is a six-month antiviral treatment. But I am seeing patterns of stiffness in Anna's legs that bother me. She stretches her feet out, soles together, like she's gripping a stick between them. I don't know if Anna should be doing physical therapy in addition to Anat Baniel Method therapy, if she shoulder receive weekly instead of monthly OT sessions. I finally met another child with cmv last week (whose mother I went to high school with--one of about 100 spooky coincidences since I've had Anna), and she told me her 2-and-a-half year old son did daily physical therapy his first year of life (which, she said, meant she had no life), and he still has such low muscle tone, he's in eating therapy for difficulty swallowing. Anna will not take a bottle. This mother's son walked, victoriously, at 19 months. I dream of Anna bottle-feeding, of her putting one foot in front of the other. I know she will likely be late, by normal standards, but I also know how ecstatic I'll be. Her head is still wobbly, but it's undeniably upright now. When I walk with her facing out, I'm so psyched about her progress, I want to ask strangers if they see how well she's holding up her head.
Still, I'm in the turning-over-stones stage, looking for clues from parents who seem more professional than the many-degreed. The early intervention team of three sits on my rug and asks me how much physical therapy I'd like for Anna to do. I don't know. The ABM practitioners suggest against physical therapy. I don't know. I am a middle-grounder, neither woo-woo, nor convinced by western methods. The eel knots itself, wiggles, looks for warm water.
So we canceled appointments, booked a hotel at Glenwood Hot Springs, and lowered ourselves into long hot pools of natural spring water for the last three days. Zaley couldn't get enough. On the edge of the hot tub, while Luke is in the hotel room with the baby, Zaley is calm. In her deep, hushed storytelling voice, she tells me about her friends at school and creates imaginary scenarios built out of candy and someone named Alabe' and rules ("if you aren't nice, then you don't get to do nice stuff"), which she enforces with a whisper and a close-to-my-face wagging finger. She asks the lifeguard about every chemical and repeats the ecological process to me, how the calcium carbonate and iron (eye-ron, so phonetic of her!) build up on the side of the pool. How the salt in the water heals. She points out a cut that isn't there anymore. She pours water over my outstretched shins. She talks and talks and we return to the pool again and again, three times each day, for these various therapies. While looking at the coating-over mountains, she asks me, "What is the flavor of the snow?"
Anna liked the pools, too. In the warm one, she almost fell asleep tucked under my chin. But since taking her out seemed too traumatic a transition in the cold, I swam with her in the bathroom tub instead, watching her legs untangle themselves, her ears device-less and filling safely with liquid. One day, while both girls were sleeping and Luke stayed in the hotel with them, I snuck away to the lap swimming end of the hot springs. A line of small black birds was swooping dramatically down from the white sky and back up into it. They repeated this rolling wave--like the dashed-line of the U's Zaley is learning to trace--some finding roost in a waving pine tree, and others spiraling out past the edge of the pool towards the frosted slopes. Between laps, I watched the birds in this airborne swimming, so beautifully cutting the air and finding their place in line with each other. I was mesmerized. The day was ending. My arms steamed as I lifted them from the surface. I wished, as I often do, for a life that means never leaving the mountains.
I could have swum for hours out there. Big snowflakes landing on hot water. No pressure on the intuition. The birds like they have been doing this thing forever. I don't know if I could hear anything. I didn't notice. But I love swimming even more now because I bet Anna will be able to do it just like everyone else. You don't need uncompromised legs. And you can't really hear anything when you're underwater.
Those trees, as Wordsworth wrote: "A soft eye-music of slow-waving boughs."