I took a year of Old Norse in college, which mostly consisted of me poorly translating myths and mispronouncing ancient curse words three times a week. One of the only legends still knocking around in my brain is the story of Thor being tricked into performing feats of strength by a bunch of giants hoping to humiliate him. Thor fails miserably. He cannot finish a drinking horn in three gulps. He cannot lift the king’s cat. He is badly beaten by an old woman in a wrestling match. Later, the giants explain that the drinking horn was actually attached to the sea. The cat was Jörmungandr the world serpent in disguise. The old lady was age personified.
More often than not motherhood is the giant who challenges you to a drinking contest that includes the entire sea.
No one can drink the entire sea, not even the god of thunder.
I began writing this from the infusion wing of the hospital. This jumble of autoimmune diseases I’ve been saddled with has been flaring up since I gave birth and I’ve finally admitted that I need more help than a handful of Advil and daily steroids can bring. I’m trying a new drug this time around, separate from the acupuncture, the herbs, the good thoughts, the elimination diets, and the heavy doses of denial I’ve previously experimented with. It’s been almost a decade since I last gave infusion drugs a chance, partially because my overactive immune system refused to be tricked by them. Now, daytime television is full of ads promising remission from Crohn’s disease and autoimmune arthritis.
When Jacob and I were first dating he often accompanied me to my infusion appointments, snacking on stale saltines and diet ginger ale while bag after bag of expensive potions flowed into my veins. Now, two surgeries and a baby later, the stakes are higher.
This time around I’m googling drug studies that don’t exist and studying the molecular weights of biologic immunosuppressants. No one has given me a definitive answer as to whether or not this new drug will do any harm to my daughter. A study of lactating monkeys showed that while the drug does pass into breast milk the trace amounts present will most likely be destroyed by the digestive tract of a nursing infant. An attending nurse less than gently suggested that I wean the baby. My doctor said that it’s probably fine. Frida’s pediatrician assured me that the benefits of breastfeeding probably outweigh the risks of the drug. Probably. Everyone has solemnly noted that this is my difficult choice to bear. No one wants to be held fully accountable.
I keep thinking about all of those lactating monkeys and want to cry.
Back in May the hospital sent Frida a bill for her portion of the birth, beginning the minute one doctor stopped cutting and another pushed and pulled my baby out of me. In that moment, we became two separate patients. But of course that isn’t exactly true.
The benefits will always outweigh the risks. I’ll never stop trying to drink the entire sea.