After spending all night in the emergency room, I’m desperate to shut out the chaos with sleep. But sleep is interrupted almost before it starts with more blood tests. My nurses wheel me up to my hospital room and hang a “Falling Hazard” sign on my room because of how weak and unstable I am.
I’m told I’ll be getting a tube placed in my belly to drain the infection. I cannot eat or drink anything prior to getting the tube in me, so the hospital gives me a bag of bright pink sponges on short sticks. They deceptively look like lollipops and I fall for them. I’m allowed to dip them in water and put them in my mouth. Water sounds amazing.
“Rub them around your mouth when you feel thirsty,” my nurse says.
So I try it.
The sponge holds no actual water, but gives just enough of the illusion of water to make you lose your mind. Never again am I sucking on a fake lollipop sponge.
A transport nurse wheels me off to radiology to get the tube put in me. As I roll down the hallways and through elevators, I watch all the doctors and nurses making their way to patients’ rooms. I watch elderly patients much sicker than me shuffle through the hallways on their mandatory daily walk. I watch family members from the real world on their way to visit loved ones. People look at me with pity. I am in denial that it is actually me they are looking at. This cannot be my life. How did I, a healthy, twenty-eight-year-old with a low risk pregnancy, end up here? It is a question no one answers.
The radiologist gives me papers to sign. He asks me many questions, but his last question stuns me. “Do you want us to do everything we can to resuscitate you if you have problems?”
I stared at him, wide-eyed.
Does this man know I just had a baby? That my family, my husband whom I adore and my precious new baby who gulps my breast milk with gusto, needs me?
I am fully awake for the procedure. I see him put the needle in me. I see the tube being pushed through my soft belly. I see a tiny stream of blood cascading down my postpartum curves. I see him hold the syringe and suction out large quantities of bloody, infected fluid. No amount of prior explanations could prepare me for this.
When it’s over, I see my parents waiting outside the room.
“How is Henry?” I ask.
They assure me that he is doing well and show me pictures to prove it. I’m grateful to have them and my in-laws around to care for him. I hate being away from him.