My Life, in Hospital Stays, Sort Of…#JusJoJan Day Thirteen

Welcome to Day Thirteen of Just Jot It January,  where the prompt is: hospital.”

My first marriage proposal happened in a hospital bed. We set our wedding date for June 10, 1995.

Instead, on April 13, I sat on that same bed, embracing my fiance while one of the nurses gently braided my hair – I wish I could remember which one, because the core group had become like family to us during Tim’s four weeks-long stays there. It was such a simple, human gesture, not required by her duties, but soothing in those moments when my fiance and my life as I had known it were dying.

My next time in a hospital began abruptly in the very early hours of September 2,2001. I’d been trying for a homebirth, but my 20-days-overdue child apparently didn’t agree with me, and after 27 hours of active labor that had become more like an out-of-body experience than a natural process, our midwife wisely suggested that we go to the hospital, where our baby began showing signs of fetal distress. The decision was made for a cesarean, and, at exactly 3am, Jeremiah made his entrance into the world, screaming lustily – a ten pound, two ounce, twenty-two and a half inches long giant of a newborn.

July 12, 2003 saw us back in the hospital, in a different state, in what we thought were very different circumstances. This time we knew we were having a son, already named Elijah James. My water had broken, and we were determined to have a natural birth – a determination that was hampered by labor that didn’t progress the way it was supposed to, a second baby facing “sunny side up” – with the back of his head, and not the softer front, pressing against my spine. Five minutes before he was born, the neonatologists were consulted, thinking they would have to break his collarbone to allow his birth – and that’s when he went into distress and was delivered by forceps.

And he wasn’t breathing.

He was resuscitated, taken to the hospital NICU – and there he remained. Seizures brought the decision to induce a coma. We sank into a limbo of caring for our 22 month old and traveling an hour each way to be with our baby as often as we could.

Limbo ended in that same NICU, on July 25 – four days before my 34th birthday. I sat beside Jim as he held our dying newborn – a beautiful, almost nine pound little boy who seemed, by appearances, to be so robust next to the seriously premature that he should have gotten up and just walked away.

Except that his brain was profoundly and irreversibly broken, and, instead, he died that afternoon. In the same hospital, his walnut-sized heart was removed, its valves going to give a far better quality of life to an anonymous two-year-old girl.

Less than a year later, I was strapped to an operating table in another hospital, waiting for several eternities between the moment our baby girl was delivered by planned cesarean – no way we were risking another natural birth! – and her first uncertain cry. It was a year before I was sure that she was truly with us to stay.

On February 19, 2012, my life came full circle in an interesting and terrifying way. Our sheriff knocked on the door. After verifying my identity, he informed me, “Your husband is being airlifted to Albany Medical Center. He collided with a deer.”

Jim had been coming home from work on his motorcycle. It was the eve of his vacation time – his restaurant closed for two weeks every February – and the eve of his birthday. We’d argued about something – I don’t remember what. Anyway, when he called me, I thought he’d brush what seemed like a very big deal under the rug, so I didn’t answer, never suspecting that he was lying on a country road, calling to say goodbye because he thought he was going to die.

He didn’t. When the kids, then 10 and 7, and I finally saw the doctor, it was to learn that he had 8 broken ribs, a lacerated spleen, and a collapsed lung, but he was alive.

Seeing my bear of a husband lying in the emergency room moaning in pain was sobering – and put an end to whatever the argument had been about. It was ten days later that he was finally released, battered but healing, from the same hospital where my fiance had died almost two decades before.

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