Le Scaphandre et le Papillon

Recently, on holidays up my brother’s farm, I saw a film in DVD called “the Diving Bell and the Butterfly” (Le Scaphandre et le Papillon). I had read the book years before, and it touched me deeply, reaffirming for me the power of the written word. I was a little astounded when those mad frenchies decided to make it into a film. I figured as a movie,  it would either be stunning, or an unmitigated disaster.

The book is a short internal monologue, musings on life and consciousness, written by Elle fashion magazine editor, Jean-Dominique Bauby, paralysed from head to toe after a massive stroke, who completed the book over 10 months with his one moving body part, by blinking as the alphabet was read to him over and over and over by a carer.  As I read the book, and realised what has gone into making each word, I understood the levity of stark prose, not overwritten, each word chosen, letter by letter by letter. Not an easy thing to turn into a screenplay

The film was stunning, life affirming in its beauty, with cinematography that spoke of both his internal world and the world he was kept from. Needless to say, we shed tears watching it. And laughed.

(Hell, if you get a BAFTA for best screenplay on a silent film, The Artist I’m guessing the French film industry knows what it’s doing! I later discovered The Diving Bell and the Butterfly also received a best screenplay BAFTA back in 2008).

For me, this week, as frustration has started to rear its head, I think of that man who felt as though his body was physically locked in an old fashioned diving suit, but whose consciousness was like a butterfly, flitting free & high above.

My life has made room for frustration now, and it’s actually a good thing. There is only room for frustration when medically, nothing is happening (touch wood). I have had eight days free of hemorrhages. This is a record since my dramas started. Still spotting old blood, which can still be scary, (so I can’t have that soak in the bath I am busting for), but not bleeding.

Sunny days make it worse, and make it more uncomfortable to lie around. Weekends are harder, with more coming and going and the usual together time marred by my motionless frame. Weekdays have elastic time, where it is often just me, alone, and sometimes I kill hours easily, and other times if I looked more than two days (two hours) ahead at this I’d just wig out.

I’d like to wash the floors. And tidy. And de clutter a few cupboards. I’d like to wander down to the backyard (I did on Sunday; momentuous), or hang out some washing, or cook something . I’d like to run, and box, and swim, and sit in a cafe. I am so tempted…To just do a little bit. So often we run through life wishing for the gift of some time. I have it, and I can’t use it.

Instead I hold fast to my promise to sit still, and I shuffle: Facebook, email, blog, games, books, radio, staring out the window, short visits, phone calls, tv series, a movie, nap, shower, meal. I try to do books/radio/iPhone activities/nap in the morning in bed, and by two ish move to the couch for lunch, sometimes visitors, and a bit of tele til hub-in-boots gets home around 6. Each day is sort of ok, but the weight of accumulated days like this is getting heavy.

Physically, my muscles are becoming uncomfortable and twitchy, my shins have gone weird and angular, my feet hurt from lack of use. I am not as good at seeing the milestones as I was: Skype counselling today, doctor (ob) tomorrow (woohoo leaving the house!), 14 weeks on Saturday. I need their forward momentum.

But weirdly, on my fourth week of bed rest, I want the other two weeks in bed. I am fearful of hearing ‘yeah you’re ok to go back to work’ from the ob tomorrow. Dont get me wrong: I hate bedrest. It sucks. But it has a purpose. And I want gumby to have the best chance possible, conservative treatment, at least to make it to 16 weeks.

I also have clarity of purpose here, at home. There is only one objective: grow gumby. Ok maybe two: 1.grow gumby, 2. absorb clot. I think dealing with this whilst dealing with work would require more resilience than I have just now.

My sleep is a weird in between space, where I don’t get much precious “blank time”. I wrestle with waking up every couple of hours, with dreaming I’m hemorrhaging again, with unnamed terror when I sit bolt upright at the slightest noise. I am not physically tired enough to get proper rest. Emotionally, I seem to be wrestling with more, now that the immediate physical danger has seemingly passed. Having passed the all important first trimester milestone, I seem lost for a strong focal point; hopefully temporarily. The stupid what if game has a bit more power at the moment. At times I run through scenarios in my mind, wondering which I need to be prepared for.

So I feel the need to blog, yet I don’t have much to offer. I could give you dvd reviews after a marathon viewing of “Game of Thrones” a medieval ish drama series filmed in Northern Ireland (took an episode to get into it, then knocked over 10 episodes in two days! Sad!). I watched a Harry Potter yesterday (Harry Potter and the order of the Phoenix). I am not much of a dvd box set watcher, my first ever being Dexter (series 1-5!!!) during IVF down time. I find TV leaves me feeling listless. After conquering Gabriel Garcia Marquez Love in the Time of Cholera and then a fairly quick effort on Jeffrey Eugenides The Virgin Suicides, followed by Hsu-Ming Teo’s rather lovely Love and Vertigo, I seem to have hit the wall, book wise. I may branch out to a Neil Gaiman next. Or possibly something as nasty and throw down as the Twilight series.

I found The Virgin suicides a beautifully constructed novel, perfect in its simplicity of voice and pre-ordained storylines. It was much more readable than his later epic, Middlesex, which is one of the few books I have picked up several times and failed to finish (I will never forget my struggles with Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness whilst at school. It’s one of those rare ones I never went back to). In an ideal world I would use this time to catch up on all the classics I’ve never read; in reality often my head is too busy with pregnancy worries for weighty tomes and self improvement.

As nice as it is to use time, I find that time often uses us.

I am lucky in the sense that I live in an age where this pregnancy could happen at all, and where, as the problems reared their ugly heads, I was able to monitor what was going on, to know Gumby was still kicking. I am lucky I live in an age where we have Skype, and email, and iphones to keep me feeling connected even as I disconnect. I am free to communicate. I can move if I really need to. But I think in my own limited way (though hardly comparable to Jean-Dominique Bauby) I understand the heaviness of feeling like I am stuck in a diving bell, while the world carries on in its noisy way, and the traffic still jams and the people still work, and the mail still gets delivered, and I wait, motionless, in a muted two room world.

Like Jean-Dominque Bauby’s butterfly, at times I can rise above this here and now, and think beyond these walls, and enjoy the sky and the leafy green wall of trees that lies beyond our apartment windows, and sometimes even have the optimism to flit forward to a full term labour and a perfect little Gumby (who, importantly, has no chromosomal issues…we got the full screening results and the all clear yesterday). But sometimes, I can only make 6 o’clock. The optimism and the dread, the yin and the yang, the hoped for growth of Gumby and quiet non eventful disappearance of the clot. A butterfly just went past the window as I typed this…I’m taking it as a good sign.

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2 thoughts on “Le Scaphandre et le Papillon

  1. uffda123

    When I was on bedrest for 16 weeks I learned how to fold clothes and crochet while laying down. It gave me something to do. When I would have to go to the hospital because of contractions I would actually ask the nurses to put the iv in my left hand so I could still crochet. That was 23 years ago. That baby is now a daddy himself. Hang in there!
    Wendy

    1. Thanks… I’m already roping my mother in law in for some left handed crochet & knitting lessons. Got to keep those hands busy. Good to hear of people that get through this 🙂

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