January 17, 2006
My first entry in this series ended at about 5pm on Tuesday. Looking back over the entry, I felt that I should add more information.
During labor, I held S’s hand or leg and tried to cheer her on and Jackson out. During an early break in the contractions, S said that she felt that I was pushing with her. The ups and downs, physical and emotional, caused my knee to go to a pain level of 8. I couldn’t walk without limping. I couldn’t bear weight. The knives in my knee were at work. I add this because it contributed to my mental state for the next several days. While I could walk again on Tuesday evening, the pain was still at 6 or 7. I needed to elevate my knee, and there just wasn’t room in the maternity ward “suites” for me to do that comfortably. (The pain continued to decrease throughout the week, and as I write this, I haven’t had a major increase in pain since then.)
On Tuesday, Max had seen Jack through a window in the nursery. I asked to do the same, but the nurses didn’t want to disturb his sleeping. I asked if he was being held and cuddled. The nurse, Jennifer, I think, said that they tried not to “handle” the babies too much. After she left, I stared through the nursery window, able to see only one arm and hand, and the occasional foot. I began to cry, and I apologized to Jack for his being in this poor excuse for a hospital. He wasn’t getting the right care, and policy trumped health and patients’ individual needs.
There was no information about any tests or procedures that Jack had been through. Another nurse told me that, even if there were, she couldn’t give them to me.
Now, this hospital has air drier than the desert in summer, and it hides the water fountains so you’ll have to buy Aquifina or Dasani for $1.50 at the vending machine. I walked over to the attached wing, and just couldn’t keep from crying. I needed somebody to tell me that I wasn’t an ogre for wanting to see and touch my baby, for feeling like the baby in the NICU wasn’t mine until I could do that. I wasn’t a mother yet, and I needed to know that it was OK to feel that way. Even while I was concerned about S’s feelings, I was having a lot of conflicting emotions myself, and just needed a pair of sensitive, compassionate ears.
I walked by a woman in a hospital gown, attached to a big IV pole. She asked if I was OK. I told her, no, but you’re probably worse off than I am. She asked if I would tell her what was wrong, because “sometimes it’s nice to hear about other people’s problems, it takes your mind off your own.” So, I spilled it all out to this complete stranger who was obviously ill. She was attentive and empathetic. I could write any number of adjectives describing her, but in the end, it boils down to: She was just plain NICE. I found out that she was attached to a feeding tube, due to a problem with her esophagus. She had been in and out of the hospital for a year, and was going to have the feeding tube in full time.
Being in the hospital so much also brought back feelings about my Grandpa’s death. I spilled that to my “new friend” too. And she just stood there and listened and said encouraging words.
A word about encouraging words: For the entire day, every nurse who asked me how I was replied with platitudes like, “You’ll get to hold him all the time soon enough,” “But you have to think about her (S’s) feelings,” “You’ll look back on this and realize it wasn’t so bad.” Not one person said, “Yeah, this sucks. I’m sorry.” My “friend”, J, took the time to listen and to say truly encouraging words that really did make me feel better. I owe her quite a bit for that.
After another eternity, S signed the paper that gave me the privilege to see Jack. It was difficult, going in, not to just hold him as closely as possible. He had little tubes and bandages stuck to him. He was so incredibly small, and so incredibly beautiful. I finally did get my chance to hold him, and you know, I wish I had had the strength to write in my journal that night. I remember feeling awful that Max couldn’t hold him. I remember how Jack smelled, different from regular baby smell, which is like powder and milk. He had a more exotic smell, sweeter, almost like fruit and coconut. When he opened his eyes, I could see that they weren’t completely brown. Instead, they were smoky, I thought at first. Later, I decided that they looked like the ocean at night, black and midnight and moving.