08/17/2008: It seems as though I’m hearing things amplified 1000x what they really are, yet I can’t hear anything at all over the feelings, thoughts and heartache inside. I don’t understand why I feel this way. I hardly know Ruth! And if I feel this way, I can only imagine how Ruth feels.
After a night of restless, exhausted sleep, I drive to the hospital to check on Ruth. On the way, I stop at a grocery store to purchase flowers and a card. I select a bouquet of glorified yellow and pink wildflowers with sprigs of baby’s breath and green leaves. Ruth is basically a stranger and so I have a more difficult time choosing the card. I select one with a simple congratulations and sign it Hugs, Lynn.
I pull into the hospital parking lot. My mind continues to be preoccupied with images of Paige. I decide to visit the neonatal intensive care unit before popping in to see Ruth.
I follow the signs to the NICU. A torrent of memories rush into my mind, triggered by the smell of antiseptic and the sound of heart and lung machines bleeping. Eli stayed here four and a half years earlier because he was born with the umbilical cord wrapped around his neck.
The NICU has not changed a bit. A nursing station sits in an open room with the five NICU rooms spread out like a fan. Each room is categorized by medical severity. I approach the large woman sitting at the nursing station and inquire about Paige.
“Are you on the visitor’s list?” she asks, not unkindly.
“I don’t know…” I trail off. “I was her mother’s birth coach,” I add, as though that entitles me automatic admittance.
The woman doesn’t say anything. A pit wedges itself deep into my stomach. My fear of being denied a visit with Paige comes true when she says, “You’re not on the approved visitors list.” Her eyes soften apologetically. She looks down at the paperwork and explains, “The mother hasn’t filled one out yet.” I see Ruth and Paige’s names are the only ones on the sheet of paper in front of her. “Put your name down and have the mother sign this. Then we’ll let you in with a photo ID.”
I thank her and take the slip of paper she pushes across the counter. My disappointment is out of proportion to the situation. My spirits lift when I realize I can get Ruth’s signature during my visit, and then stop by the NICU to see Paige afterwards.
I arrive in the high-risk postpartum ward. Ruth is recovering here because she lost so much blood. I ask where to find Ruth and the nurse behind the desk points to the end of the hall. “Last door on your left, room 225,” she says.
I stride purposely to her room, flowers clutched in one sweaty hand, card and permission slip in the other. My stomach does a jig prompted by anxiety and excitement.
The room is dark and the television plays softly in the background. She has a shared room. “Ruth?” I call softly to the lump on the bed. I slip quietly into the room when she doesn’t move. Her eyes are closed and her breathing is slow, deep and rhythmic. Disappointed she isn’t awake, I set the flowers and card on her bedside table.
I notice Ruth’s roommate when I turn to leave. She is also asleep and baby-less; however, her table is covered with cards, balloons and bouquets of flowers. I look back at Ruth’s table. My lone card and flowers are the only signs she recently delivered. Even more heartbreaking, they are the only signs anyone cares. A knot of sadness and anger ties itself in my heart. I feel heartsick about her circumstances and I am bitter Carole didn’t even send a token card. I am also furious that David’s poor choices left her alone during this difficult time.
I toss the NICU slip in the garbage can on my way out. She has gone through so much and still has a long, bumpy road ahead. I cannot not ask to visit the baby whose future, along with hers, is so uncertain.