tomorrow (or technically today), i was supposed to have a nephrology appointment to check and see if my kidneys had been damaged by the pre-eclampsia i developed at the end of my pregnancy. this appointment was made for me nearly three months ago as Froggy and i sat, shellshocked and barely knowing how to breathe anymore, in my hospital room. if i had been able to think at all clearly during that time, i would have immediately insisted that they cancel the appointment, but i was too lost and those were such strange minutes and hours and days
after little sun died, they moved us to the floor of the hospital reserved for pregnant women so we no longer had to endure the cries of other, more fortunate babies or the steady stream of gift bearing friends and relatives that trickled happily through the corridors.
the room was almost identical to the one i’d been in just hours before… the same hospital bed that could never be wrangled into a non-backache-inducing position. the same small flatscreen tv that couldn’t be turned on until you rented a remote from a woman who came around daily with a basket full of them. the same rolling tray table that would come to hold the same array of yogurt, pasta, bread and cheese….left untouched until the next tray came. and Froggy’s folding cot pushed up against the wall right under same three windows that tilted in just enough to let in the frigid air.
the bathroom was the same, too, a huge room with no separation between shower and toilet (a recipe for soggy toilet paper for anyone not on the ball enough to move the roll to the sink), and there was a small hose with what looked like an industrial-sized version of a kitchen sink sprayer. right after we moved from the delivery room to the maternity ward, i somehow figured out that it was meant to wash recently overtaxed perinea (which the dictionary tells me is the plural of perineum), but, unlike the one in the first room, the sprayer in my mourning room was broken, so going to the bathroom was painful and awkward…
painful and awkward…the perfect adjectives to describe the rest of our stay there. i have hardly any friends here in Paris, but little sun’s tati, his dear sweet auntie Tan, came to see us twice. Froggy’s best friend also came many times, and she went with Froggy when she had to announce little sun’s birth. Froggy’s parents came, too. mostly, though, we were alone in a sea of strangers, wanting desperately to hide under the thin yellow blankets or sink into the cold, shiny floor.
my blood pressure was still high after two days, and i was constantly being monitored, poked and checked and constantly being handed another pile of pills. pills for blood pressure, pills for pain, little pots of sickening pink gelatinstuff to kickstart my lethargic intestins and things to put into places that are better left unoccupied. along with nurses, food service folks and cleaners, the room was constantly being invaded by unwanted others…midwives, obstetricians, pediatricians and a psychologist all came to speak to us.
the midwife who handled my delivery and the pediatrician who convinced me that my rocketing blood pressure meant i’d have to give up my dreams of a drug-free birth came to the room together while Froggy was away. they sat as far away from me as they could on Froggy’s cot, and both had stunned, uncomfortable looks on their faces. i have no idea what was said, not because it was all in French, but because i couldn’t find the energy to clap my ears around their words. they flowed past me and over me and i just sat there in the middle of their low voices and stricken stares with my head hung and my arms feeling limp and dessicated. c’est la faute de personne. i told them. it’s nobody’s fault. i still don’t know if that’s true….
the shrink and her apprentice came next. Froggy was still away, and i struggled to produce any kinds of responses to their questions. don’t make me speak this language. that’s what i wanted to shout at them. i couldn’t even approach coherence about the heartache and despair i was feeling in my mother tongue. how could they expect me to bare my soul in a language that i have such a tenuous grasp of?
when they finally left, Tan came back to the room and i told her we were getting the fuck out of there. the shrink had mentioned that my midwife, the one who had done all of my prenatal care for nearly six months, was somewhere nearby and wanting to talk to us. i couldn’t face another round of “share the grief” en français. and so i slid a jacket over my pyjamas, slapped a knit cap over my hospitalbed head and took Tan’s arm.
when we got off the elevator at the first floor, i saw them. pregnant women, women with newborns and women with babies strapped to their chests or sleeping in strollers. i dropped my head quickly, but not quickly enough to miss my midwife looking my way from down the hall. i turned the other way and shuffled with Tan through the lobby that i entered once, sometimes twice, a month during my pregnancy and out the sliding doors that had let me through on so many happy days. we walked down the stairs that gave me so much trouble towards the end…past the flowering square and buildings i’d loved so much on former visits….past more strollers and big bellies…past a woman at least 8 months pregnant smoking a cigarette as she walked out the hospital gate. her baby will live, i thought. both inside and outside of that building, i stopped over and over to catch my breath and stifle the sobs.
when they finally agreed to dismiss me, four days after my little boy was born and three after he died, Froggy went and pulled the car up to the main gate and then the two of stole away from there as quickly as my shaky legs would let us, keeping our eyes downcast as we passed through the emergency waiting room that i knew so well. some benevolent spirit was looking out for us, because for the first time, the chairs which normally held at least a half dozen pregnant women at any given time were now empty and there were no women being wheeled out of delivery with newborns in the arms (the way i was.)
we both sighed when we escaped that place, and i remember thinking that home would finally bring comfort. the empty red and gray car seat mocking me from the rearview mirror said otherwise.
so all of that rambling is a bit of a back story to explain why i won’t be going to that appointment tomorrow after all. for two months i have had a vague dread of that day, but i was so immersed in this worldwarping culture of grief that it felt like some hazy and abstract thing. saturday, as i tried to think my way through monday, as imagined sitting next to blissfully expectant women, receiving the inevitable questions from the nurses who took my urine samples and weighed me once a month, my chest began to shudder and i was seized with sobs so violent that i began to hyperventilate. panic began to swell, and only Froggy’s voice telling me to breathe kept me from flying into a million pieces. “i can’t go. we can’t go,” i told her, and she didn’t argue. i’m not the only one for whom that hospital is an endless minefield.
i can’t talk about the rest of what happened then. it was a true dark night of the soul, and it has left me shaken and shaky.
all i know is that my phone never rings and my doorstep goes undarkened by friends, and i feel more alone than i ever have in my life. i truly have no one, and it’s a bitter pill to swallow.
and now for something completely different:
i know his voice is not for everyone, but i am finding myself more and more enchanted by it. this song is exactly how i’m feeling (and the little blond boy looks something like little sun might have…)