the things i want to remember




Dreamboat Owl

"It was designed by a woman who did not receive an epidural in time, so she insisted her husband suffer as well", the doctor said about the couch on which my sleeping husband was curled atop, mauve hospital blanket covering all but his striped socked feet.

Half asleep, through what we affectionately call 'butt hole eyes' he looks up, then sits up.  "Huh?  Oh, hi.  Really?"

"No.  It's just an uncomfortable couch", he says, slightly annoyed that he has to state the obvious.  I'm a little embarrassed for the only sleeping adult in the room, even though no one should be expected to decipher a joke from truth in an unconscious state.

My doctor looks like an owl.  I could never put my finger on the definitive animal he resembled until a visiting friend made the observation.  "Yes.  An owl!"  I've seen him regularly for years, twice from the vantage point of his owl-like brow on the crest of my pregnant stomach during delivery, my spread legs often flanking his head.  How was I unable to identify him as an owl after so many years in such intimate settings, but she could within seconds of meeting him?

The nurses all whisper and blush when he's around, as I imagine they do with other doctors as well.  It seems like the sort of long standing paradigm you'd expect to find in hospital halls.  The knee-length white lab coat and peeking tie must buy many doctors a sex appeal that I would suspect they lack after changing into civilian clothes.  Add to the coat, tie, and polished shoes an air of indifference (sprinkled with the occasional joke about IVs and monitor scans) and you've got yourself a gaggle of giggling ponytails in blue scrubs.  One nurse loves to run into my room after he leaves and ask questions like, "where do you think he goes out to eat?" or "have you ever seen his wife?  I bet she's beautiful..." or "I dunno. I smell old money, what do you think?".

I never knew that my doctor was such a dreamboat.  Or an owl.


Read the Label 

Wrapped in blue tissue paper is a disco ball, which she hangs above my hospital bed as soon as I pull the last of the paper off.  Then there's a Gumby doll- the very same one I had as a kid!  And then glow sticks (for the rave I never went to during my youth.  Time's-a-wastin, after all).  And then a pack of magic card tricks, dentures with silver incisors (to wear when my nurse comes to tuck me in at night), pop rocks, candy cigarettes, note pads, and other things that could only bring this much joy to someone stuck on extended bed rest.  If you had told me that at 34 years old, I would be perfecting my repertoire of magic tricks, then counting down the days to show my visiting children, I'd have certainly laughed.  But good friends know just what you need in times of boredom and solitude.  

Perhaps my favorite in the bag of goodies she brought was the hand sanitizer with the picture of a business woman extending her arm for a handshake, reading in large bold print above her head, "YOU MIGHT HAVE TOUCHED YOUR GENITALS".

I wait for the perfect time to pull this one out, which of course is bound to be a terrible time.  The nightshift nurse walks in, and she is not my regular nurse.  Under the circumstances, I have the self restraint of a child.  I reach over to my nightstand, grab the bottle, and hand it to her.  "Did you wash your hands?", I ask.

She nervously stutters and apologizes and opens the lid to squirt some into her palm.  Of course she didn't read the bottle.  

"Oh, no.  Read the label."

She laughs, hands me back the bottle, and with regained confidence says, "I have not touched my genitals today, but have in fact touched many others' genitals, so thank you."

Predictably I ruin the moment of a good labor & delivery joke by reassuring her that I would never, ever really undermine a medical professional by asking them if they washed their hands.  Just to settle matters.  And she uncomfortably reassures me that she would never, ever touch her genitals on the clock.

I've not seen her since.



Francesca

"Why are you there!?  What did you do!?", my grandmother yells at me over the phone.  

"I didn't do anything, and the baby and I are fine.  We just have to wait patiently in the hospital unt- "

"It's becawse yuh so neg-a-tiiive!"  She sing-song scolds me, "If-you-were-pos-i-tiiive... you-would-have-had-a-boy!"

If it were anyone else, I would've been offended by this non sequitur.  But it is my grandma.  And I know that she is both hilarious and harmless.

"I'm visiting you tomarrah", she sounds just like Linda from Bob's Burger's or Nathan Lane from The Birdcage.  "Whaddaya want?"

"Avocados.  I'm craving avocados and lemons.  Can you bring me a small bag of each?"

"No.  I'm not bringin you avocados!", said with such disgust you'd have thought I asked her to bring me a jar of mayo and a spoon.  "That's weird.  What else are you craving?  Subs?  Hoagies?  Wha?"

"I'd love a sub."

"What kind?  Bologna?  That's always been yuh favorite- I'm bringing you a bologna sandwich!"

I've not had bologna in at least 20 years, but I am in no place to disagree or turn it down.

"Dera?  Whaddaya namin this baby?  Please tell me you're naming her 'Francesca'..."

You can probably guess that my grandmother's name is Francesca, but who'd have guessed that I ate every last bite of that bologna sandwich?  And she brought me a bag of avocados and lemons.



Code Blue

"I'll just step out of the room while she does that...", my youngest daughter squeamishly murmurs as she slips out of the room.  

"It's just the blood pressure thingy!", my oldest yells to her, purposely petulant in front of the nurse/orderly holding the blood pressure cuff.  She makes sure to flaunt her strong stomach with every opportunity.

"I know, Fi-o-na!  I just don't like anything with the word 'blood' in it!", muffles heard through the door.

"ATTENTION ALL HOSPITAL PERSONNEL.  CODE BLUE.  CODE BLUE IN ICU.  REPEAT: ATTENTION ALL HOSPITAL PERSONNEL.  CODE BLUE IN ICU", says the robotic woman over the loud speaker.

The door swings open and Neve's big eyes blink at me.  "What does code blue mean?"

Code blue means someone has gone into respiratory arrest or cardiac arrest, but I'm fine with them thinking that code blue means a baby boy has been born.  Before I have the chance to lie to them, as any good mother would do, the nurse/orderly (who is now placing the pulse monitor on my finger) answers them honestly, as if they are nursing students.

Fiona and her strong stomach nod.  Neve slips back into the room and closes the door with a gulp.

"Ms. White?  Are you breathing?  It's not picking up your pulse... don't make me call code blue on you", and everyone erupts in laughter.  Everyone except for the two children biting their nails.



Goodnight.

It's 11:00pm.  The night shift nurse brings me a Colace and an Ambien.  She stands there, waiting for me to put them in my mouth.  I've insisted several times that I need neither, but some nurses just need to be able to check the thing off their thing.  "So please just put it in your mouth and swallow, Ms. White", I'm sure she's thinking.

And I do, without breaking eye contact with her.

After eighteen days in the same hospital bed, with the same rotation of friendly hospital faces, digesting the same five items off the hospital menu, one is quick to embrace a ritual or two.  I never thought I'd look forward to washing my face, brushing my teeth, applying night cream, braiding my hair, turning on my reading lamp, and falling asleep to the book du jour.  But I do.

Two hours before the hour of Colace and Ambien, I either FaceTime with my girls or we text each other goodnight kisses.  Then the nurse will hook me up to the heart monitor.  I listen to her little rapid beats and loud intermittent kicks and movements.  I use that time to do something that (as much as I hate to admit) I probably would not do if I were home- exhausted at the end of a long day, and possibly asleep even before my face gets washed.  

I talk to her.  Aloud.  I tell her she's doing a great job.  I tell her about her sisters, how funny they are, reassuring her that she'll like them.  And her father too.  I may sing her a song, if the mood strikes.  I once told her I couldn't believe I didn't see the plot twist coming in the book I was reading.  I once apologized for the pot roast I wished I hadn't ordered.  I tell her I love her.  I tell her to be good and stay put for a little longer.  She responds in the only way she can- a sweet goodnight kick to my cervix.
(Noah got a rainbow.  It only makes sense that my sign of hope from bed in Labor & Delivery would be a teddy bear cloud.  Can you find him?  Days later and it still makes me laugh...)