“It’s senseless,” she said, before they parted ways.
Two women were talking about the unexpected death of a mutual friend.
She was sixty-three years old.
A mother. Grandmother. Wife. Friend.
Vibrant and working one day.
Gone the next.
One where the person’s stories will now be spun by those who love her.
Those who are left behind.
The tales will be interspersed with tears of sadness.
And with tears of joy.
You don’t know them, but on some emotional level you can relate.
We are neighbors in grief and allies in healing…™
* * *
The following excerpt from my manuscript, Digging for the Light, covers that seemingly senseless day in my life.
The day my son was born.
The same day he died…
I’d already filled out the preadmission papers that were supposed to help fast-track the admittance process. I had only a few technical formalities to finalize: verify the information, answer a couple of last-minute questions, complete a few additional pieces of paperwork, and fit the arm bracelet to my wrist. That done, we headed up to the labor and delivery unit.
I can’t believe it’s time! It’s time! My baby will be here soon!
In that initial examining room I went through those customary and brief admittance procedures; you know the ones: The nurse smiles kindly as she hands over a hospital gown. She instructs you to “Take everything off; the gown opens in the back. I’ll let the doctor know you’re here. Someone will be with you shortly.”
I stripped down, enlisted Warren’s help in assembling and tying the mess of strings, and heaved myself onto the table, my legs dangling over the side.
Little time passed before the are-you-ready knock on the door came.
As I remember, my doctor had recently returned from a trip to Philadelphia and happened to be in the hospital. He was still wearing a business suit.
If you’ve been involved in any part of a pregnancy, you know what follows:
“Let’s take a look and see what’s going on. Shall we?” the doctors says.
One plastic glove. Snap!
“Lie back, place your feet in the stirrups, here…” He opens the silver foot rests on each side of the examining table.
Second plastic glove. Snap!
I know, I know. Lie down and spread ‘em.
The nurse hands over a tube of goop; the doctor squirts the cold gel into his glove and then disappears as he sits down on the rolling stool and positions himself between my legs.
Ugh, I hate this.
He reaches deep with his fingers, the pressure intensifying the persistent contractions.
From then, the conversation proceeded something like this, “…barely dilated…not effaced…cervix not thinned…two weeks yet…go home…see what happens…”
Go home? You must be joking! You can’t send me home. You can’t tell me these contractions are doing nothing!
How can that be?
So much for walking uphill in a cold rain.
I remember telling the doctor I’d been having contractions since two in the morning and they’d progressed to five minutes apart.
This can’t be false labor. It just can’t. It hurts too damn bad to be nothing.
The doctor instructed the nurse to hook me up to the monitors to see what was happening. She told us she’d be back shortly and exited the room.
Warren left to see if his sister had arrived.
The nurse returned with the apparatus; seconds after hooking me up, she departed the room once more.
I don’t remember thinking anything about it until, all of a sudden, people were everywhere…giving orders, operating the monitors, racing to put needles in my arms…
One step I had forgotten. Years after the delivery, I met with one of the nurses who was present that day, and she reminded me of it.
When the nurse returned to my room the second time, she came in with my doctor, who hadn’t left the floor yet. The doctor broke my water. At that point he saw the meconium (the baby’s first bowel movement.) “…Looks like pea soup in there,” Warren heard him say.
Warren doesn’t recall if someone came and retrieved him, or if happenstance brought him back to the room just as the doctor realized the warning signs of trouble.
My mind’s eye sees this: The room, a flurry of unanticipated static…anxious tones…commands…equipment…strange noises…unfamiliar words…Warren walking back in through the door, his handsome, chiseled face, smiling, his thick, dark hair…
I think there’s something wrong with the baby.
Those words circulating through my brain, creating tension in my body…
I try to convey to Warren what has transpired, so quickly, as our eyes lock…as I see someone gently push him out of the way, holding up some papers…
“I think there’s something wrong with the baby.”
Every nerve ending seizes with the fear of those words. I wonder, now, was I successful in emitting that message from my mouth?
“We need you to sign these release papers, Warren.”
Those words permeate the visual and auditory muddle that has, within seconds, replaced the vision I created weeks prior in those Lamaze classes.
My tidy, routine delivery with its sunny skies, sandy beaches, and sounds of tranquil waters had vanished in a tidal wave of fear and reality.
And then, the sense of powerlessness…my body immobilized…the inability to move my legs…my arms…my eyelids so heavy, too heavy to lift…like the soundless screams nightmares are made of, the mind says Speak! Cry out! MOVE! But the response doesn’t come. I strain and strain and, finally, my voice squeaks, “Where’s my baby?”
Baby Boy, as staff referred to him, was born May 11, 1990, at 3:54 PM.
He weighed a healthy six pounds eight ounces and was twenty inches long.
He was pronounced dead twenty-six minutes later at 4:20 p.m.
Someone must have told me the baby didn’t survive.
I remember screaming for Warren.
You are not alone.
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How do you relate to the senselessness this woman described?