Content note: baby shower
On New Year’s evening, I went to work and promptly found myself having an overwhelming, visceral flashback to New Year’s day 2015, which I spent in the ER with one of my worst episodes passing clot after clot after clot. January is filled with anniversaries I’d rather forget, including the weekend my uterus got extremely irritable and I had to go to L&D at the small hospital in my community, begging them to give me something to stop the contractions and of course, the night my water finally broke.
I literally work down the hall from the L&D unit I was transferred to on Jan. 23, 2015 where I spent 55 days and the NICU where E was hospitalized. Sometimes, if I’m in the right area of my unit, I can see the tower where the L&D unit is housed and I can almost, but not quite, see the window of the room I lived in.
Sometimes this is an issue, but other times, I find it weirdly comforting. My memories of NICU are overwhelmingly negative, which is not the fault of the staff -many of whom were kind, excellent, and we liked enormously – or the NICU unit itself, rather, they are colored strongly by that second NICU stay when I was tired of the whole thing and angry about my baby going back to the hospital for nearly two more weeks. My memories of my time spent on bed rest in L&D, however, are quite positive.
One memory in particular stands out. I’ve meant to write about it for months because it was an act of kindness so far beyond anything I’ve ever expected or experienced that it deserves to be remembered. In a month full of dark anniversaries, it is a light.
When my water broke, I had nothing for the baby bought. The entire pregnancy had been so tenuous that I couldn’t bring myself to start really planning for a baby, let alone buying the necessary items.
Slowly, the weeks passed. We updated our care plan from having them hand us the baby as soon as she was born and doing only comfort measures to intubation only to full resuscitation. I passed the point of viability and then some. We had wonderful nurses (and doctors as well). Over several weeks in the hospital, the nurses had gotten to know us and we had gotten to know them. At some point, one of them had remarked on the adorable blanket and knitted wash cloths my aunt had sent. I told her I was pretty excited about those because they were the only baby items we had, along with a bib Arthur’s grandmother had made.
One day, the nurse manager of the unit asked if I wanted to have lunch with her. Arthur was working at this point, so I typically spent the day watching Castle, reading, or playing around on the computer, trying to stay calm and in a sort of modified Trendelenburg position to prevent myself from gushing and keep the pressure of E’s head off my cervix. However, the doctors had told me that every couple of days it would be okay for me to sit up or go out in a wheelchair for an hour or two so that I could get out of the room. I thought some company for lunch sounded great, so I accepted.
On the appointed day, I was almost 26 weeks along. I put on my bathrobe and the nurse manager wheeled me off the unit into the elevator. Instead of getting off on the cafeteria floor, however, we got off on a different one. She wheeled me into the OB classroom and I gasped in surprise and delight.
My nurses had put together a baby shower.
It still brings tears to my eyes that these women brought us wonderful food and gifted us so many beautiful, necessary items for having a baby. One of the nurses had even made us a gorgeously decorated cake. It was the first time I’d really felt like we were going to have a baby that we might actually bring home. It was the first time we’d truly celebrated the fact that we were having a baby and that fact – no matter what – deserved celebration.
Arthur had managed to get the afternoon off work in one of those serendipitous coincidences and we opened adorable onesies. Pink ruffled outfits. A soft musical giraffe. Bath sets. Stuffed animals. I brought E home in one of those outfits, and a onesie reading “Supergirl” hung in her NICU room to remind us how far she had come and all the odds she had beaten to get even that far. To this day, I use many of those items, and every time I pick one up, I think of that incredible generosity and the even greater message of hope that they gave me.
This is what gets me through those days where I get cynical or sad or other memories seem overwhelming. It’s what reminds me of the real goodness and beauty that exists even in the difficult days. It’s a gift I am incredibly privileged to receive both then and now.