As quickly as all the nurses and doctors had spun into the room to get ready for the delivery, they gathered their tools and trays and disappeared, like pushing “rewind” on a VCR and watching the movie backwards. The last one out of the room turned off the lights and shut the door, leaving my husband and I cold and deserted, sitting in the dark.
“Do you want to hold him?” He held up a cocoon-wrapped-blue-striped blanket with a knit-hat-covered-cone head. I blinked at the cocoon bundle trying to process the events of the last hour:
* I had been at home in my own bed, trying to fall asleep. (Maybe this was one of those absurd, hormone-induced pregnancy dreams.)
* Now I was shaking in a hospital bed, the drafty hospital air molesting me through the gaping openings a starched hospital gown.
Something told me that I should know what was inside the blue-striped blanket, but my head was strangely detached from my body, as if I were Ann Bolynn and Henry VIII had been my doctor.
I’d been sucked through a worm hole. I’d experienced a cosmic explosion caused by being jerked so quickly out of my home, out of my reality, and the shrapnel of my exploded reality tumbled around in the dark space of my skull like wet tennis shoes in a dryer. In the meantime, my mind floated lightly in a dimension separate from my body, bouncing like a balloon across the sterile hospital ceiling. For a few very brief seconds everything was sweet silence and I felt nothing except pleasant lightness, being unconnected to the events happening in the room, floating whispily above the shivering girl in the bed.
“Do you want to hold him?” my husband asked again. How much time had passed since he asked the first question, and why hadn’t I answered?
My voice. I felt disconnected from my voice. I concentrated on forming words.
Hearing my own voice triggered something and in an instant my body sucked me back in, like a vacuum capturing a delicate spider web. I found myself in the middle of a deafening war zone, a battle waging under the hospital bed sheets, and I regretted ending my out-of-body experience so soon. As my nerves reconnected with my mind (like Peter Pan sewing on his shadow) I became aware of tremors, like mini-earthquakes, occurring simultaneously in various regions of my anatomy. I experienced an urgent need to move, to get out of the war zone, but I couldn’t feel my legs.
The tremors escalated, building and growing, eventually erupting like fireworks, only, the firework showed had been flipped upside down. I was the night sky and the bed was the earth. The fireworks were erupting from the sky and shooting towards the earth until I could no longer discern if I was shaking the bed or if the bed was shaking me.
“Aaaren’t…yyyooou…cccooold?” I asked my husband.
“It’s June in Arizona. It’s over a hundred degrees outside,” he said. “Do you want to hold him?” he asked again extending the blue-striped cocoon towards me.
I still didn’t answer.
Then, if possible, the temperature between the bed sheets dropped even more, plummeting to sub-zero temperatures and the fireworks froze mid-explosion. The trembling changed to tremors of freezing and the fireworks changed to ice, broke, and fell from the sky back to the earth. They landed in icy piles of firework debris, melted, and ran like rivers forming icy pools anywhere my back formed deep canyons in the bed sheets – my shoulder blades, hips, and the calves of my legs. Admist the freezing artic temperatures, a mass of fireworks exploded in rapid succession, like that grand finale of a Fourth of July display. The double-forced shaking became so violent I feared I would bounce right off the bed and shatter upon landing on the hard floor.
“Honey. Do you want to try to feed him?” my husband said.
I don’t know how my body had room for it, but at that question, floods of boiling guilt poured into the icy pools – boiling guilt that somehow made me even colder.
“I cccaaan’t…hhhooold…hhhiiim. I’ll…dddrooop…hhhiiim.”
My baby needed to nurse. Studies show that newborn infants need to lay skin to skin on the warmth of their mothers nest as soon as possible after delivery. If I waited too long to nurse, he would have a harder time learning how to eat.
But my body was so loud, so needy, so demanding, that I couldn’t care for my own baby. I lay helpless, shaking, overflowing with guilt and worthlessness.
This became the title track for the next chapter of my life’s album.
Carrying the cocoon, my husband opened the door to the hallway, “ Can we get another blanket? She’s freezing and she can’t stop shaking.”
“The adrenaline. That’s normal. The shaking will go away gradually,” some nurse said.
I knew my husband was exhausted and I felt bad keeping him here. He placed our son in the crib and tried to get comfortable in the guest chair and we both drifted into restless sleep. About five a.m. he said he’d better go home to relieve the sitter. The sun came up, warming me a bit. I slept off the adrenaline and woke up at seven o’clock an entirely different woman. Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, I felt peppy and ready to go. I showered and put on makeup. If I was feeling good enough, maybe I could run over to my son’s kindergarten graduation while the baby was sleeping.
“You can’t leave the hospital without being released,” the nurse said when I asked.
At the moment that seemed extremely illogical to me.
“But he only graduates from kindergarten once in his whole life.”
I wouldn’t be gone more than an hour and the baby would probably sleep the whole time. I had built-in babysitters (the nurses) and the school was virtually across the street. Heck, I could probably take the baby with me, then come back to finish the tests, oh, and get my free steak and lobster dinner.
What seemed perfectly logical to me was a preposterous suggestion to the hospital staff and even my husband. This would also become a theme of my life over the next several months.
So I sat in the guest chair, fully dressed, shoes on, waiting for the cafeteria lady to deliver breakfast. I had time to think. But a woman’s head after giving birth is a dangerous place to be. I had made it without an epidural, that would save us five hundred dollars off the cost of delivery. I planned to stay twenty-four hours instead of forty-eight to save even more, and I wouldn’t get a prescription for pain meds.