Tonight, Quinn, you are snoring next to me, just shy of three, not quite ready for your birthday letter, but inspiring me all the same. Today is the anniversary of the day I was put on hospitalized bed rest.
The energy of hospitals shifts at night, and the daytime clatter of cafeteria trays, chatty nurses and visitors, switches to a dull yellow buzz, illustrated by that one gleaming florescent light that shines, constantly, above the bed. The proof of my own visitors (drawings from the other children, photos of fat Chinese babies from Mrs. Brys, wrappers from sweet treats) became my only company after eight o’clock.
There is an intimacy between the nurses and women on the antepartum unit. Women who are simply waiting. Waiting for good news or bad, alone with their pregnant stomachs and it is the nurses who we look to for any hint that the outcome of our waiting might not be the news we are wishing for.
I have never been in a confessional booth, but I imagine that it feels the way it feels late at night, when the nurse puts the fetal monitor on your too-small-yet-wait-not-now belly and listens for a heartbeat, which just might not come. It is like waiting in the ER, but the emergency is inside of you and all you can do is be still. The heartbeat, when it comes, is like counting rosary beads, every tap, a prayer.
When I waited for Quinn, I imagined he was a girl (all those ultrasounds and I never asked) and I chanted to him and talked to him and asked him endlessly to please stay. I would stare at the white board in front of me, where, upon arrival I wrote in green marker, “All things are possible.” I watched every single season of Weeds on Netflix and I would laugh and hope that my laughter reached my baby. Each box of the calendar seemed to be a mile wide and I set my eyes on October 13th, Lolo’s birthday, but we did not even make it to Christopher’s birthday.
Your birthday was my darkest day. I was so helplessly sick and when the team of specialists rolled you away from me, I did not know if I would see you again. I did not call anyone or answer calls until late in the afternoon the next day. I remained in critical condition and I remember thinking about how the Mary Group (http://www.themarygroup.com) told me that we have three windows of opportunity to die and I knew that the window was open for me. To be honest, I hesitated, before shutting it.
After an emergency c-section, one returns to the antepartum wing, belly flatter, baby gone. You were in another part of the hospital, in a clear incubator … it is a place in the hospital where that dull yellow buzz never fades, but gets louder with each passing minute.
As for my room, nurses came in to show me how to pump milk, to walk me to the bathroom, to help me shower. With the element of wonder gone from the room, the energy shifts to a simple “matter of fact” vibe, all of us fully aware that I only had three days before I would have to walk down the hall, out the door, to the parking lot, without you.
It is just about midnight now. You, dear, sweet boy, are making a noise that reminds me of the late night hospital buzz, but this time, the sound is not a threat or an annoyance, but a reminder to me that it was not only me who had the opportunity to go out that window.
It’s okay that you hesitated too.