Eight years ago I was in the hospital. Confined two days before, exactly four weeks before my due date, with the second episode of bleeding from my (as it turned out, partial) placenta previa.
The first night I was there, the 8th, I had a roommate. She was about 31 weeks along then, her first pregnancy. Around Christmastime, something like seven weeks earlier, a scan found severe growth restriction in her daughter. Severe as in that 24 week singleton fetus was nowhere near a pound. She was in the hospital that night because the doctors thought she'd might've reached a tipping point on the in vs. out safety scale, and they were going to decide, early in the morning, whether to do the C-section right then.
I wasn't allowed to get up on account of the whole previa thing, and she couldn't or wouldn't, I don't remember anymore. We talked through the so-called privacy curtain that night. In my memory, the lights in the room, or most of them at least, were off. In my memory, we talked in the dark. We talked for hours. So it is not exactly surprising that though I saw her in the light of day the next morning, and though I saw her several times after, it is her voice, her turns of phrase, and not her face that I remember.
I remember how she called one of the doctors in the practice Doogie Howser, because he-- DUH-- looks like the character. I still refer to the doctor by that nickname. I remember how she described the daughter of an acquaintance who was born weeks and weeks early, but only had a few minor challenges, fine motor skills, that type of thing, a few years later. I could tell that was her guiding light, her hope.
I remember her talking about the doctor who became her MFM after that scan at 24 weeks. I knew him too. A very big shot, chief of ultrasonography at the whole place, he showed me an extraordinary human kindness in the early, spooked days of my pregnancy with Monkey. A kindness I sorely needed because this was my second pregnancy, first ending in a miscarriage barely two months prior. For my roommate, he went beyond a kindness. He had her come in for a scan every weekday of those seven weeks. A short respite in each day for her, reassurance of "for now." I remember her talking about how scary the weekends were, having to make it from a Friday scan to a Monday one. I remember her saying that the doctors admitted to her some time earlier that when they first diagnosed the IUGR, they thought the baby wouldn't make it, and they thought that might be the best outcome for the baby. But not anymore, not since she's hung on for so long, not since she's put on that little bit of weight that she did.
I asked if the baby had a name. Nadia Rose, she said. Another trick of memory-- I don't remember my roommate's name anymore, but I remember her daughter's. I asked why she chose that name, and she said she just liked it. She talked about hope too, and I asked her if she knew that Nadia meant hope. She didn't, but she was glad I told her.
In the morning, after a somewhat prolonged back and forth among no less than three doctors, they decided to do the section that morning. I think I thought they would bring her back to our shared room after. But they didn't, and I was still on bedrest. I don't remember if I tried asking the nurses for information, but I know I didn't get any. A couple of days later as they wheeled me down to the clinic for the big ultrasound, my former roommate flagged me down. She was smiling. The surgery went well. The baby was very small, only about a pound. But she was in NICU and doing well. Come visit us sometime, she said.
I was hospitalized one more time that pregnancy, at 37.5 weeks. My MFM came on the floor with the morning shift, and that time his instructions were to get up and walk around. If I didn't start bleeding again by the end of the day, he'd send me home.
So I walked around the floor for a bit, and when nothing dramatic happened, I went to the NICU. Nadia Rose had one of the four glass-enclosed cubicles in the front of NICU. She was tiny and had a whole lot of wires about her. My former roommate was out, but I got to talk with the father for a bit. She has been doing real well, he said, but it is tough. This life, the NICU life, it's hard. And not just emotionally. I remember him talking about parking, and I remember thinking it odd in the moment that this would be what he'd gripe about. Now I think it a very human thing, to gripe about parking after the tubes and the wires and everything else becomes normalized into one's reality. And besides, he had a point-- they had to pay $6 for parking every day. And if they wanted to leave and come back, another $6. And they were looking at months more of this.
So, about that... A few days after I'd had Monkey, and we'd gone home, I had to go back to the hospital to be seen. Let's leave the gross and embarrassing details out of it, and just say that they needed to make sure I was healing appropriately. After they did, I made JD go by the NICU with me. As it turns out, the desk lady only buzzed me in because she thought I was a NICU mother. When she figured out I was trying to see someone else's baby, she focused on getting us out the door. I kept asking for Nadia Rose, explaining that she's my roommate's daughter, but the desk lady wasn't budging. She didn't know who I was talking about, or didn't want to tell me. I got her to let me look into what I thought was the cubicle where she was those couple of weeks earlier, but she wasn't there. Another baby was. After that it was quick work of kicking us out.
Once outside, I thought I looked in the wrong cubicle. But I couldn't be sure. JD, who then didn't know about the lengths of NICU stays, didn't get why I was so upset. I knew, though, and so I had to explain it to him. If she wasn't there in NICU, if I didn't just screw up the cubicle, or if she wasn't moved to the common room in the back where less fragile babies were, then she didn't make it. Then she died. But I didn't know for sure. And I had no way of finding out.
I thought of them, my roommate and her Nadia Rose, through the years. I hoped they made it, but always I didn't know. I still don't. After A died, I thought of them more often. And for some reason I wanted to know enough that at the Cub's anatomical scan appointment, supervised by my former roommate's ultrasound wizard of a doctor, the one who showed me that very human kindness, I blurted out my question. I asked him if he remembered Nadia Rose, baby of a patient from more than six years ago by then. The one he did daily scans for, the one with severe IUGR. What happened to her, I asked. He said that he honestly didn't remember this particular patient. That sadly he has too many patients who match the description. But also, and this I should've known, that even if he knew exactly who I was talking about, he couldn't tell me because of the privacy laws.
This past weekend, at Monkey's gymnastics competition, there was a girl with a name that reminded me again, essentially the same name, but spelled a bit differently. And a hyphenated last name-- not the same child. But thinking back, I realized that it was February when I met her mother. A bit of mental calendar flipping later, and I was sure-- her birthday was coming up. February 9th, somewhat early in the morning.
And this is where I am stuck. I don't know the proper grammar form to use now. She is eight now? She'd be eight now? I hope her mom, my former roommate, is busy with party plans for the coming weekend. But I also know it is very possible that she is walking through her hard season now, her grief season.
I don't really know how to end this. I hesitate to say Happy (belated) Birthday, because I don't know whether it was, whether it can be. So maybe just this then-- Nadia Rose and Nadia's mom, wherever each of you is now, I hope you are both happy.
Tuesday, February 2, 2010
Heading towards the first anniversary, I said we were not the cake and candles type of people. Yeah, go ahead, cue the laugh track. Last year Monkey changed her mind from previously conceived cupcakes to brownies sort of last minut-ish. Specifically so that we wouldn't have to make frosting. This year she insisted on frosting, to write his name with, and the date. And candles. (We didn't buy these candles for the occasion-- they were left from one of Monkey's birthdays. And yet, here it is-- happy birthday on A's cake. Um, actually, Monkey's reaction merits a longer description. I'll be back with that, later in the week.)
The weekend was ok, mostly. I spent some of my alone time with the Cub on Saturday morning asking him who I love the most in the world, and answering with all three of their names. Sometimes just the firsts, but more times the whole nine years-- first, middle, patronimic, last. Rinse, repeat. I think it was the convergence towards the end of the long form names, but the Cub found that hilarious. He laughed and looked at me expectantly. And I did it again, and again. That felt nice. And yet sad. Like maybe I was sneaking this in, being a little furtive.
Brownies came out well. Despite the projected great freeze, the weather was tolerable at the cemetery. I found nice flowers at the store (though as I was standing there considering whether to supplement with a bunch of small off white roses, eventually deciding in favor, a woman doing her own flower shopping proclaimed from behind "yellow and blue-- looks like spring"; apparently she wanted to register her approval of my choices, but sheesh lady, you have no idea; and besides, there was green too, and I thought they looked manly, so there). And did I mention the brownies were yummy?
So yes, the weekend was ok. Until a somewhat profound realization and the attendant complete breakdown Sunday night (actually, the clock said it was Monday by then), the kind that leaves you weak-limbed and exhausted at the end. I realized that besides the familiar missing, which, though bone-deep and abiding, I could almost call civilized, there is a whole other, much more ruthless and savage, side of grief lurking in me. I still want him. And ain't that a bitch, what with him being dead and all.
I am just now coming to, I think. I had grand plans for yesterday, and a list to go with. But in the morning I found myself still wrung out and exhausted, mentally and physically, and not much got done. Instead, I spent the whole day regaining my footing, partially by slowly, slowly, a drop, a word at a time writing about it at Glow. Visit me there too, if you will.
There is a common theme here, see? Surprises. Unexpected things that pop up, still, three years on. And yes, you can totally say that "DUH!" you've been holding in now. I know, I know-- grief is simultaneously about constancy and change. This is why it can get us, years on-- it finds new ways to say the same old thing. I guess I was just due for a refresher.