Conversations of the last few weeks

[Context: I want yoghurt at 2 a.m.]
“Please don’t get yourself arrested on your way to the store. And don’t get into any fights either.”
“Don’t worry, if there’s five of them, I’ll run away. If there’s three, I’ll fuck them up. If there’s four, I’ll improvise.”

[When considering a role in a bad TV show]
“You know what they say – ‘5 minutes of humiliation, and then you get to be an artist again’.”

“Open your LiveJournal. There’s a gift inside.”
“What is it?”
“The greatest thing ever – that Arnold gif with the minigun.”

[Lamentations about the fact that there is no sea close to Moscow. Reassuring selves that at least we won’t drown due to global warming – we’ll just die in a fire instead.]

Too tired to attempt a clever blog post, so here’s a pregnant photo

picture by Maria Savelieva

I have never been this tired before *in my life*. I imagine that after The Globe is born and we’re back home from the hospital, I will be *even more* tired. The mind boggles. How do people survive? How has the human race been propagating itself all of this time?

Oddly enough, the only thing that has the potential to make me feel alive right now is Pepsi. Freaking Pepsi. Not coffee, even good coffee, and certainly no healthy fruit smoothie stuff. Not yoga. Not vitamins. Goddamn PEPSI.

Whatever works, I guess.

The Globe and I

“It’s not a fucking walk in the park.”

– Madonna, on pregnancy and childbirth.

Well, except on those rare occasions when it is:

© Maria Savelieva. 2011.

This summer in Moscow is nothing like last summer in Moscow. For one thing, I don’t wear heels (I don’t even know where all of my high-heeled shoes went, at this point – and may have to hire a detective once they become relevant to my life again). I don’t stay out until 5 a.m. I don’t fall asleep on the grass in the park. Somebody’s little feet feel as though they’re pressing up against my ribcage on occasion. The owner of the little feet is an entirely new person.

Occasionally, this person gets the hiccups or turns awkwardly. The latter causes me to stop dead in my tracks and gasp, while the people in the street pause to look at me in horror – and their faces say, “Is a woman about to go into labour right in front of me?! Will she now start screaming and watering the sidewalk with amniotic fluid? Goddamit, I knew I shouldn’t have left the iPhone at home!”

I am mostly hysterical, but every once in a while I smile – and now we have photographic evidence. I miss my husband – he is filming. I have packed a little backpack and put it by the door.

At this time of year, the nights get watered down early. Because I don’t sleep much, I greet the magical turning point at which the night sky suddenly becomes a not-quite-night sky. Something rich and strange. Having moved away from the center, I notice that the grass here smells like grass is supposed to smell in the morning.

Because of finances, I haven’t really invested in much maternity wear. Thankfully, a surprising number of my clothes are somewhat stretchy. People greet me at social gatherings – when I manage to crawl to one – and say things like, “Well fuck me, here comes Natalia, guess I have to put out my cigarette” or “At least it’s nice that you’re still going around half-naked – it means you haven’t lost your identity.”

A drunk actor who starred in one of the most controversial Russian TV shows to date (I suppose this was to be expected from the likes of him) called me “a walking advertisement for unsafe sex” recently. My husband made a big show of flying into a jealous rage. Then they made up and kept drinking.

Recently, I have discovered that my passenger has musical tastes that are similar to that of Dmitry Medvedev. I’m not kidding, nothing quite sets him off like Deep Purple.

I have discovered that I am an even bigger coward than I have previously realized. I have discovered that my capacity for love is bigger than I have imagined – and that it towers over me like a Stalin-era skyscraper, all resplendent and full of secrets.

I’m supposed to present a documentary drama project about the death of Liza Fomkina and her aunt at Teatr.doc next week, and I end all of my correspondence on the subject with a cheerful: “If I’m giving birth that day, I probably won’t make it!”

In reflecting on all of these peculiar changes, I have come to the conclusion that this could only have happened to me in Russia. It could only have been a Russian guy – who could do this to me. Clearly.

On chronic pain: love your body, or it will smack you down

Thank you for your donations that are helping see me through what’s been a really difficult time and are helping me buy more time as the result. Although I’ve managed to carve out a fairly decent life for myself in Moscow, medical bills have been an absolute nightmare – even though I have managed them in such a way that I would have never managed them back home in the States. The good thing about life in Moscow is that you are still able to afford decent doctors if you are middle-class and don’t have comprehensive insurance coverage – but even so, the expenses can add up when you’re in my situation, and then add up some more, and more.

In addition to taking care of my eyes and other parts of my body is the amount of physical therapy I have needed, just to manage pain. I’ve been living with chronic back pain and stomach for a while – the direct result of not taking care of myself, not loving myself, really, not allowing myself a break. The pain was bad before, but pregnancy can make it unbearable – entire sections of the physical matter which I occupy can light up in agony so great that it feels as though my nerve endings are being fried. And then I wish that they were being fried. I wish that someone could take a blowtorch to them. The hatred I feel for my own physical weakness in that moment makes the pain that much worse.

When I get treatment – which I can afford right now because of your donations – I’m often told that I shouldn’t be in so much pain. That there is more going on here than a physical problem with my spine or a problem with the lining of my stomach. The tests, the pre-pregnancy x-rays, the medical history – all tell one story, but there’s another story running parallel to that, one that my physical therapist was able to pin down after many other medical professionals just shrugged, because he’s seen it all before.

And the story is of how much I have hated myself and hated  my body, down to the point where me now asking it “hey, could you please carry this child” results in a resounding “I suppose I can – but YOU CAN GO TO HELL.”

Psychosomatic pain is not a phenomenon that’s well-understood, but when you have doctors telling you, for years, “Look, you’ve got some physical problems, but you shouldn’t be screaming in agony right now, Jay-sus,” it becomes something worth looking into. “Do you just have an adverse relationship with your body?” My physical therapist finally asked me. “Do you even know how to relax it? Do you realize that you could be making yourself worse?”

Besides working with the physical manifestations of the problem, we talk about the psychological aspect. “You need to let go of this,” he says as we work on trying to get my collarbone to stop acting like a huge needle that’s been inserted by some sadistic god into my skeleton for the sheer fun o fit. I’ve been learning to exhale it – this feeling of agony and desperation. Spinal problems are problems of flesh and bone, but the if the flesh and bone are constantly being told to go screw themselves, you may never get better.

When we first met, my husband began asking me questions about my relationship with my body. “You do realize, that we have the chance to talk right now and interact, because we’re occupying physical bodies?” He would ask me. “Look what I can do,” he’d say, and run his fingers up and down my arm. “I can do that because you have a body and I have a body.” It was the mere fact of the existence of our bodies that allowed for the creation of The Globe, who always sits very patiently when mummy is getting help for her ailments, and only begins to cautiously tap out his Morse code when mummy gets to the point of shrieking from how much it hurts. No bodies = no Globe. It’s as simple as that, but something buried deep inside me has yet to accept that.

But I’m trying. I really am. And if there’s anything useful I can take from this experience so far and share it with the readers of this post it’s the following – Don’t despise yourself. It’s totally not worth it.

And Tara agrees, love-hate relationships are not healthy: