Monday, September 17, 2012

A home away from home.

10 days.  You don't think that's a long time, but in many ways it is.  I spent 10 days laying on my left, and occasionally, my right side while on bed rest at The Brigham and Women's Hospital.  10 days away from my family.  10 days nurturing my beautiful son from the inside out.  10 days being loved and cared for by the nurses, personal care assistants, housekeeping staff, Dr. Mansour and even the people who brought me my food three times a day.

I stared at the same printed border on the wall all day.  I was told I had one of the best views in the building, though I wasn't allowed to sit up to appreciate it.  From my left side I could see the Shapiro Center, blue sky and the occasional butterfly, bird or helicopter.  I would later realize that the butterflies fluttered up from the family garden outside of the NICU.  Friends and family who visited me would tell me what they could see from the window, and I envisioned life bustling about below me.

Sure, parts of those 10 days were terrifying.  But most of them were not.  I remember those days as some of the best of my life.  Mostly because I had Ethan with me.  So much uninterrupted time with my boy.  Friends and family visited me, some of whom I had not seen for years.  It was wonderful.  Even Mavis, from Dr. Mansour's office, came to spend her lunch hour with me -- just visiting with me, so I wasn't alone.  If I haven't said it before, I love her.  I love all of them at that office.

I had my vitals taken and checked the baby's heartbeat at a minimum of every 4 hours.  Day and night.  That's right, if I was sleeping I woke up for it.  No worries though, it was a huge blessing to hear Ethan's heartbeat every time and be reassured that we were both OK at that point.  Every morning I would have a non-stress test, where they checked the baby's movement and made sure I wasn't contracting.  Some days I would have more than one.  Ethan was often tricky on those...switching his baseline heartrate from high to low, making it difficult to read.  He was healthy at that time, just keeping the nurses and Dr. Mansour on their toes is all.  Most nurses guessed that he was going to be a girl, remember we didn't know what we were having.  A higher baseline heartrate usually correlates with a girl, and vice versa.  But they were mistaken this time.

In the morning and at night I would Skype with Josh and the kids.  So they could see that I was OK and we could visit with one another.  The nurses would either come back later, respecting our "family time" or say hi over Skype and let the kids know what they were doing.  One of the nurses let Caroline and Jackson help with the non-stress test when they visited on Mother's Day.  Allowing them to guess where Ethan's heartbeat would be on my belly.  What a beautiful memory that is.  They left that day and my bed/sole place of being was covered in raisins, pretzels, and other snacks.  It was fabulous.  Every time I felt a crunch rolling over in bed that night I thought of my kids...I didn't feel alone.

To those women who changed my sheets daily, who made my bed for me when I was taking my quick shower each morning, who filled my water pitcher, I thank you.  Thank you Deleta for smiling every time you came into my room.  Eileen, thank you for stopping in to see if I needed anything all of those times.  To my countless nurses...Rose, Maiya, Terri, Susan, Marty, Kathy, and many more...thank you for being my family away from home.  I wish I still remembered everyone's name, but names have been another casualty of my grief.

At the beginning of every shift change I would thank each person for caring for me and Ethan.  I wonder if other patients did the same, I hope so.  These loving people came into work, leaving their own families and responsibilities to care for me and my family.  Not only do they excel at their craft, but they define compassion.  There was one day, the day Ethan and I made it to 28 weeks gestation, that I had a good old meltdown.  I awoke that morning thanking God (always) that he had granted us the blessing to make it that far.  28 weeks gestation was the first big milestone.  At that point Ethan had the same statistical odds of surviving, albeit likely with some needs, as a baby born at 40 weeks.  I was elated, and then realized that I needed to set the next "goal" date for myself.  Each hour, day, set of vitals, NST were all of my short-term goals, but I needed something to shoot for.  I was terrified that making the next goal be 29 weeks was aiming too high.  Of course I was all alone in my room, just crying when my nurse Marty walked by and heard me.  She came in and sat with me for over an hour.  Listening, being present with me while I cried.  Allowing me to simultaneously be optimistic and terrified.  Marty assured me that allowing myself to occasionally feel the gravity of what was happening around me would not harm my baby.  What a gift she gave me.  God sent Marty into my room that day I tell you.  She was a direct answer to my prayers.

Rose, my dear Rose.  She was my first nurse on that floor, orienting me to my room and the way things would work from here on out.  She was fabulous, still is I am sure.  Come to find out, she was my friend Courtney's nurse as well a year before.  Rose went on vacation a day or so before I delivered Ethan.  She heard about what happened and called me in my post-partum room, offering to come and be with me.  I thanked her and said no, that vacations are sacred.  Instead of coming to be with me, she went to Church to pray for Ethan.  How are these people so amazing?

By the length of this post you must have guessed that I could go on and on about my time on the ante-partum floor.  I didn't even write about the group session that oriented me to life in the NICU, or about my one outing from my room - when I was transferred on a stretcher for an ultrasound.  Those were big events during those 10 days.  What I have taken home from those 10 days are countless examples of God's love, shown to me and towards Ethan...while in utero.  Every poll is right when they rank The Brigham and Women's Hospital at the top.  They are a place of brilliance, miracles and love - not a bad combo.


  1. Annie.....Your writing is riveting....and I await each new post.....knowing that God will help me to understand better - thanks to your wonderful blog. What a blessing your writing is...and what a testimony to your beloved little baby boy. Thank you.

    1. Thank you Susan. Your words are very unexpected, and so kind. I have never been one for writing, but perhaps there is something to this narrative therapy business. telling my story is healing for me...and somehow helps me believe ethan's short life and death served a greater purpose.