Hospital Flashback

26 09 2007

In keeping with this week’s emerging theme of things that make me cry, I must admit to a bit of a moment yesterday. This being week 30 of my gig hosting “baby Squiggles” in my body meant it was time to drop off my registration paperwork at the hospital where I’ll be labouring and delivering. As I waddled down the corridor toward the J Wing elevator, I engaged in one of my favourite pass times: preforming quick studies on the faces, gestures, postures, conversations and silences of total strangers, and trying to imagine their stories. Hospitals are one of my favourite places for that.

There was a woman who looked like she had just survived the childbirth from hell. Limping down the hall in her pyjamas, off to face the realities of new motherhood. In front of her marched her agitated husband, a man who looked like he had little tolerance for crying from mom or from baby. And at the head of the procession trotted the grinning Granny, oblivious to the tension that followed her because all she could see was the little bundle of joy in her arms.

Next, there was the young couple who had the look of Special Care Unit veterans. Dark circles under their newly opened eyes, coffee in his hand, jars of expressed breast milk in hers, navigating those now familiar halls on zombie auto-pilot. Their look, their pretend story, was far more familiar to me than the parade of post-natal mom, grouchy dad, blissed out Grandmother and chubby baby on their way home. My premature babies spent 2 weeks in the hospital – one in this very hospital, in the same Special Care Unit I surmised these new parents were headed for. So I knew that anxious, exhausted look. We’d been there. And sure enough, they headed in the direction of the Special Care Unit, greeting every nurse by name. A little wave of nostalgia lapped at my big pregnant cankles.

Then came the little quake that nearly set off a tsunami of tears. Coming down the corridor, I saw the Ambu-trans team pushing a small fortune’s worth of machinery. Attached to the convey of machines was a small, blanket covered isolette. I immediately knew what the story was here: a baby, probably a preemie, with problems more serious than a Special Care Unit can handle, being transferred to a higher level NICU. Suddenly, I flashed back to the day four and a half years ago when I watched a similar cluster of blue-clad people wheel away my very sick, day old baby girl: destination, a Level 3 NICU downtown. Roo spent her first two weeks of life in one of those isolettes, with a horde of tubes and wires and beeping and dinging machines attached to her baby body, while her twin Neener hung out in the Special Care nursery. At the time, we did not grasp the gravity of what had happened. Roo tore a hole in her lung while struggling through respiratory distress, and almost died. I remembered hearing the code called over the hospital PA as I got in the shower, and though “Ooo, that’s not good. Somebody’s baby is in serious trouble.” It did not dawn on me that it might be one of mine until I got out of the shower to find a panicked nurse standing outside the bathroom door, telling me that the neonatologist needed to see me immediately. I remembered the social worker coming to talk to us, and wondering why on earth we’d need a social worker. And I remembered the moment they wheeled her down this very hall and out to the waiting ambulance, to take her to the place where sick babies needed to be. Those weeks were full of gut-wrenching ups and downs. But it all worked out pretty much fine. We took it one day at a time, and never really though too much about what had almost happened, or how bad it could have been. But now, I am aware of what some of the realities, and some of the potential outcomes really could have been. I don’t think about it often, but every now and then something crosses my path that brings it all back.

I hastily dropped off my paperwork, the little checklist of my hopes and expectations for my next childbirth experience, knowing full well that so much of what will happen is completely out of my control. I watched the baby in the isolette pass by, and said a little prayer for her, and a little prayer for strength for her parents. They would need it, even if they did not yet realise it yet. Then I said a little prayer for strength for myself to handle whatever comes my way when the time comes for Squiggles to be born. And then I high-tailed it out of there before I really started to cry.






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