A hand gently tapped my foot, waking me.
“Hey, Stephanie… Loma Linda just tried to call.”
Oh yeah… I guess that really did happen.
Abigail was now 45 miles away, being admitted to a hospital other than mine. A hospital with a large NICU floor, and the latest in testing technology. While I was grateful knowing she was going to be in good hands there, my baby needed her momma. And I needed her. I recalled hearing that the standard time for c-section patients to stay in the hospital afterward was anywhere from 3-5 days, depending on progress and the amount of support waiting at home. Thankfully, since we were living with my parents, I knew I’d likely be on the 3-day roster. But that still gave us two more days apart.
God, help us get through this.
The nurse handed me the hospital phone that was hanging directly behind the curtain, the one that divided my roommate’s bed from mine.
A few seconds later, it rang again. I answered quickly, expectantly.
The greeting was warm. Familiar. But not my husband. Nor the Ambulance crew.
It was my pastor, and friend. He addressed me the way he always had before in the previous 16 years I’d known him. Whenever something bad had happened in my life, he’d call to check on me. While he was certainly there for joyful times too, this, now, served as a reminder I was once again in a crummy circumstance.
With my husband gone and my mom at home with Sweet Pea, he served as a sympathetic and captive audience as I rehashed the details of the labor and what followed, sharing with him, just as much as trying to make sense of everything myself. He had heard that Abigail was transferred, hence his call, and promised that my husband and I had support and prayer. I thanked him before hanging up.
Not a minute later, my husband called on my cell phone, notifying me that they’d made it to the hospital, and they were in the process of settling her into the NICU. Once things were calm and he saw she was well taken care of, he’d be on his way back to me.
Once off the phone with him, I noticed the voice on the other side of the curtain sounded different. They must’ve changed my roommate out while I was sleeping.
We got acquainted audibly, through the closed curtain, neither of us feeling up enough to get up and pull it back. It’d just be too much effort. But she seemed nice, and I learned that the other baby that had been in the little two-bed NICU at our hospital, was her daughter, born just an hour after Abigail, via c-section, same doctor. She’d been transferred to Loma Linda as well.
So, we were the baby-less room. The nurse later admitted that was a common practice, separating the mommies that had their babies, from the ones that didn’t. It was a practice I was thankful for.
My husband eventually made it back, and reported that Abigail was settled in her new temporary home. The nurses at Loma Linda would call us if anything happened, and we were obviously free to call and check in on her. He handed me a thin plastic bracelet, same as the one secured on his right wrist, that had a special number printed on it. The “secret code” number we needed to tell the nurse there before we’d be given any information. We called before going to sleep that night, and they gave us an up-to-date report, and told us tests would be ran through the night. My husband would be back by her side the next morning, but he wanted to be with me for the night, to aid me in the dozens of ways I still needed help. I know he felt torn, having all his girls separate, and having to choose where to spend his time. He’d asked if I could be transferred along with Abigail, so we’d at least be at the same hospital, but they declined.
After speaking to Loma Linda, and calling to say goodnight to Sweet Pea, my husband cozied up in the recliner by my bed, and we both napped through the night, waking every few hours to the nurse visits of blood pressure checks and narcotics.
“Listen, I know your daughter got transferred to Loma Linda, and I know you must be anxious to get down to her.” This was a new doctor, but I liked where this was going already. Keep talking. “It appears that you’re doing pretty well. If you are able to have a bowel movement and take a shower today, we will release you early so that you can go be with her.”
My husband and I exchanged a look of relief, and a subtle smile. He was just getting ready to head down to see her, and welcomed the prospect of us going together. I was overjoyed at the thought of getting to see her again that very day, but at the same time, I was terrified. Those two tasks were so minor, such insignificant daily habits of nearly every single day of my life up to that point. But now, after all my body had been through in the past three days, they were mountains. Two monumental mountains that I was terrified to climb, for fear that my body was now incapable of such simple factors of life.
I was afraid of the pain of the first, and the grossness of the second. The first was conquered by 3pm.
Onto the second.
After the nurse escorted me to the shower, a communal little room that was only accessible through the open hallway, she gave me the instructions.
“When you’re done, I need you to take the bandage off. Then lie back down on your bed. A nurse will come inspect the incision, and put a new covering on it. That one you will leave on until your one-week follow up appointment when you go to get the staples removed.”
Was I really being held together with staples? I guess I just assumed that they’d stitched me up. I never heard anything that sounded like a staple gun in the operating room, and didn’t even know what one might look or sound like that was created for flesh. But in that moment, my mind was so caught up on where they were taking my baby and, of course, her state of health. I hadn’t paid too much attention to what they were doing to me. And now, I guess I was glad for it.
I didn’t want to remove the bandage. I didn’t want to see the freshly sliced skin, or feel the bumps of the staples. It all was too much.
Come shower time, my husband aided me, and pulled the original covering off gently. Thankfully, my still-rounded postpartum belly wouldn’t allow me a glimpse, even if I tried. But I watched his face, to see what his reaction would be as I felt the tape tug my skin. His expression remained calm and unaffected, and he told me it looked like it was doing well.
The nurse confirmed his assessment a short while later, back on my bed, before placing a new, smaller bandage over it. Then, she told me to get dressed.
I was ready to be discharged.
Two mountains down.
As I slid the floor-length grey-and-white cotton dress over my head, I was grateful my mom was able to do a little shopping for me that morning, after I’d realized that my “going home” outfit was a pair of yoga pants and a tank top. There was no way I wanted any sort of waistband pressing on me. No amount of pressure was welcome near the incision. The new dress draped in true two-sizes too-large fashion, and I was grateful.
While waiting for the paperwork and clearance to go through, my husband got busy, stashing my pink-and-white puppy, among other things, inside a pink-and-navy Nike bag. He was ready, and couldn’t wait to get down to her. Finally, the nurse came in, removed my IV, handed me a bottle of prescription-strength painkillers, and told me I was free to go. Less than 48 hours after surgery, an entire day earlier than the required minimal stay.
Thank you, God.
As a nurse pushed my wheelchair into the lobby, I spotted our van parked outside the entrance. When the automatic doors slid open, my husband jumped out and helped me switch from one seat to the other.
I couldn’t wait to go see my girl. Kiss her. Cuddle her. Serenade and sway her. My body craved her, after housing her for the past 9 months.
My husband looked to me, waiting for the cue. I gently crossed the seatbelt across my body and snapped it into place, careful to not move my torso. I rolled up a white swaddling blanket, and carefully slid it between the seat belt and the incision. I could tell this wouldn’t be a comfortable drive, but there was somewhere I needed to be. Someone who needed me. I looked to my husband and nodded.
We still had one more mountain to drive through.
She was waiting on the other side.
Continue reading the story here.