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November 06, 2007



Sorry I missed last week! I had terrible computer woes. I'm back now!

When I walked into the room the young couple was chatting quietly. She was lying on the bed, already dressed in her standard issue hospital gown and he was rummaging through her overnight bag.
“Are you sure you packed it?” He asked her without looking up.
“Of course I’m sure, I wouldn’t forget the camera! I know she’s our second child and parents always take fewer pictures the second time around, but I think we should at least make an effort on her birthday!” She smiled and added, “Check the side pocket.”
She laughed as he opened the side pocket and pulled out the little camera.
“What would you do without me?” She teased.

At that moment they both noticed me and turned to say hello. They were so relaxed I took my time helping them get settled. In this business relaxed patients are a rare treat.
“What time is the procedure due to start?” The mom asked.
“Well, if everything goes as planned and no emergencies crop up, you’ll be heading into the OR at 9am. Before that I’ll have to prep you; just a quick shave.”
“Great! I can’t wait.” She replied with a smile. “Well, whenever we go is fine, we’re not going anywhere!”
“It seems like a quiet morning.” The dad mentioned, gazing at the monitor. “Just a few other moms in labor.”
“Yeah, it’s pretty quiet.” I replied. “It’s nice. It was a busy night, apparently.”

I busied myself getting the room ready while the two of them studied the monitor.
“Oh! Look, she just had a huge contraction. Wow. That looks painful. I sure hope she had her epidural already!”
“Hey, look! You just had a contraction!” He pointed out.
“I did? Didn’t feel a thing.” She laughed. “I guess this little one was ready to come out today one way or another!”

“I’ll tell your doctor that you’re contracting. I’m sure that’s going to influence how many people we send in before you. I know she doesn’t want you laboring on that scar.” I said as I turned to walk away. “I’ll be in, in a bit to prep you. Do you need anything in the meantime?” I didn’t really expect a reply. Both parents were focused on the monitor and each other. I left the room quietly, leaving them to this last moment of peace. Soon enough there would be another little person demanding their attention.

yocheved lindenbaum

Hospitals can be such an ugly place. While his room was clean and large, a room for two, but now changed to be a room for one, it was a cold and clinical place. Wires and tubes created a crosscross from his body to the wall, the oxygen tank, the iv, the blood transfusion bag, the monitors and kept him from laying peacefully. The only color in the room were the photographs and pictures of his children and grandchildren.
The room was a corner room with a large window overlooking the East river and the heliport. Every few hours a helicopter would take off or land, fun to watch for the many children who came to say hello to their grandfather. At first he was awake, and aware that these were his final days. His wife, in her great kindness brought sweets and treats from home so Grandpa could give each of the children a little something before they took leave. This had always been his custom when he visited them and that should be no different on their final visits. Even the grownup grandchildren relished their lollipops and licorice.
Grandpa commented on the children's cute outfits, the pictures they drew for him, the songs they sang. He didn't let on that this might be the last time they would have an earthly conversation. Just acted like Grandpa, with the twinkle in his eye, and the joke on his lips. But as the days went on, his strength dwindled. Only the most mture of the grandchildren visited, and the daughters came more often, forcing the little ones to ask, "where is mommy? why is she always gone?" making them cranky as they had to endure playdate after playdate, babysitter, after babysitter. The little ones sensed that this time was different. They didn't dare ask to be taken to the library, for a different supper, or a treat on Sundays.
As his strength waned, his belly swelled. He spent more time sleeping and less awake and aware, until finally, one miserable day, he slipped into a coma. In the white clinical room with the white clinical sheets and blankets, and nurses and doctors in white coats, there was so little color. There was only the little purple sponge on the edge of a stick, dipped into water and rubbed on his very dry lips. There was the deep yellow of urine, no longer filling the bag at the edge of the bed. There was the dark brown of uneaten mystery meat sitting on a tray.
The room was quiet, it felt like the synagogue on high holy days. Usually on those days, Grandpa led the congregation in a strong voice, which sometimes became a plaintive cry at an emotional moment in the services. Today only the plaintive cries could be heard, as he groaned and moaned. It was assurance that he was still alive, yet also horror that with all the morphine and the coma, he was still in pain.
His wife, slowly mopped his brow, gently stroked his arms, which were still strong. Arms that had so much left to do, so many grandchildren to bounce, balls to throw, checker games to play. So many little jobs to help a daughter or son in law as they puttered around their homes. so many bags of trash to be lugged to the curb, so many checks to write, yet all to be done by others from now on.
One day stretched into another, and the breathing became quieter, more labored, yet the groans were stil there. The few adults surrounding him sang Sabbath melodies, told him stories, wondering if he heard, hoping that he had. These relatives tried to stay awake, for the moment when he would open his eyes and wish all an official goodbye, not knowing then, in their youth, that that only happens in the movies.
And then one morning as the sun blazed over the East river, the breathing stopped, the groaning stopped, the monitors beeped and clanged, and the relatives keeping vigil knew this was the end. They knew that with the end of the groaning, the moaning and the breathing, also came the end of the pain, and they were so grateful for that.
Mother opened a window, and called the Jewish undertakers. The children, young adults, yet learning life's lesson of death for the first time, were surprised later to find out that everything she did was as prescribed by Jewish law. Their father's death was peaceful, his funeral an honor, the days of mourning a testimony to his kindness, his goodness, his love of so many and his wonderful sense of humor.
I have never stopped thanking my mother for being the midwife to my father's soul, as he left this world in the corporeal for the next realm of the spiritual. His journey was perfect, his children and grandchildren left bereft of his presence yet proud of his legacy.

Jennifer Carol

“Guess what? Today, my mommy is going to have a baby! I hope it doesn’t look like our puppies did when they were born. They were all wrinkly and yucky.” Darla looks up at her silver haired grandfather as she speaks. “I want to hold the baby first, okay?” “Darla,” says her grandfather gently, “ you won’t be able to hold the baby until your mommy and daddy say it’s okay. Babies are very delicate and we certainly don’t want to hurt the new baby, now do we?” “No, of course not Grandpa! But I won’t hurt the baby. I just want to hold it.” Darla pleads. “Come on now, sweetie. We’re almost there.”

Darla and her grandfather stand in a dark gray elevator that smelled of bleach. She has never seen so many elevator buttons lined up together. She just wanted to go over and light up each one like a Christmas display. Ding, went the elevator door and swiftly the silver doors opened to show a long white sterile looking hallway. “Let’s go pumpkin,” whispered grandpa as he put his index finger up to his lips to show her that this is a quiet place.

Darla put her finger over her lips and walked down the long white hallway with great determination. As Darla and her grandfather reached their destination, they were met by a tall thin young man with shining, blue eyes and dark brown hair. “ It’s a girl!” he bursts with cheeks as rosy as Santa’s on Christmas morning. “She’s a beautiful baby girl and she’s just at pretty at her big sister.”

“Oh, Daddy, can I see her now?” asked Darla as she jumped up and down. Her little brown ponytails bounced up and down as she jumped. Darla has been anticipating this moment since her mommy and daddy told her she would be getting a new baby. Darla has practiced holding her baby dolls just the right way. Each time her mother would fold a towel for the new baby, Darla would fold one for her baby as well. She new she was ready for this.

Darla’s daddy took her by the hand and walked her through the door of her mother’s room. Today she is dressed in her prettiest yellow sundress and white sandals. Darla’s green eyes shine as she looks at the little package that her mother is holding. A soft, pink blanket is wrapped around the bundle. Peeking out from the blanket is a perfectly round, slightly wrinkled little face. Unable to wait any longer, she runs across the room to her mother and says, “Can I hold the baby? Please mommy, can I hold her?” “Of course you can, sweetie. But, you’ll need your father’s help. Okay?”

“Okay, she says beaming with pride. I’m a big girl now, aren’t I mommy?” Darla walks over to the light blue chair against the wall. The seat it cold under her legs as she sits down. Scooting herself toward the back of the seat she calls, ”I’m ready daddy.” Her daddy walks over to Darla and gently places the baby in her arms. He puts Darla’s elbow under the baby’s head and wrap’s her arm across the top of the baby. “Gently.” He says as he puts his hands under the baby for support. “Oh, Daddy, our baby is so beautiful! I just love her so much.”

FYI: This wasn't an easy topic to write on since I really had to think back a few years. Thanks for the challenge.

Gwendolen Gross

Jessica--welcome back! Such a lovely sense of observation, and wise distance in this piece. Kudos to you!

Yocheved--WOW. Welcome. This piece has an IB Singer quality (this is a compliment)--the sense of family and finality both. The rituals blend with the end of breathing--beautiful work. Glad you've joined us!

Wonderwoman--fun choice of observer! Evocative scents (bleach) and sounds (ding!). Great going for the challenge--keep it up!


Heather @ Desperately Seeking Sanity

WEll, I'm a little late with this. I'm struggling with description and senses, but I'll keep plugging away...

I stood there behind the door of that unwelcoming delivery room. The walls so white, as if a blanket of snow were upon them. The floors so sterile, so bland. And I watched her. I saw the terrified, what have I gotten myself into, look in her eyes and I immediately became scared for her. I was petrified too on this evening. Tonight was my first night on the L&D rotation.

There were so many people, doctors, nurses, family members rushing about and there I stood, hiding, as if I were on the run and attempting to hide from the bad guys. The reality of it is, I was trying to hide. I was in way over my head and I didn’t know what to do, so I simply found a place to stay out of the way.

Although you could see the scared look in her deep brown eyes, she attempted to be upbeat. I could tell just by the way she laid there while her eyes darted around that she was an energetic girl. I say girl because she couldn’t be any older than 18 or so. Determining her age in my mind sent a wave of new thoughts coursing through my mind like “is she married to the man that is here with her? The one that is more interested in watching TV than focusing on her” or “How will the events of tonight affect the rest of her life?” It’s really none of my concern but I wondered and I took a brief moment to say a little prayer for her. Sometimes I think I get to close to the patients and I wonder if that’s going to elevated or stint my career.

She’s not a pain person, it’s obvious. They just inserted a needled the length of the Mississippi River into her arm and she cried out, screaming, asking them to stop. But once it was in, the smile returned to her glowing face and she began telling the nurses how it once took six doctors and her dad to hold her down to draw blood. “But I was only 6 at the time,” she said, with a smile on her face. The nurses all laughed. Yes, she had a way with people, but not with pain.

The nurses began to crowd around the fetal monitors and I could tell they were whispering. The patient at this point in time was on all fours, like a dog. I wondered if she was uncomfortable in that position, feeling embarrassed or vulnerable. She kept asking for food, as she was hungry. She laughed and joked with the people that accompanied her that the “nazi” wouldn’t feed her because they started their trek to the hospital. I wondered who that nazi was, if it was her mother or his, or perhaps a friend. The nazi apparently didn’t make the trip or stick around for the arrival of the life that she was about to bring into this world.

All of a sudden there were doctors in every square inch of that room. They seemed to have come out of nowhere and the head nurse, the bossy one who had no bedside manner what so ever, leaned down to tell her that she needed to start pushing. The pregnant woman looked at her and tried to be as calm as she could be when she replied, “but I don’t know what to do. How do I push? When do I push? I can’t feel anything.”

The epidural had kicked in, numbing her body and releasing her of her pain. A sign of relief came over me when I saw them administer it. She was such a strong girl until pain was involved. I wondered how this had affected her life?

It was then that I overheard Nurse McMeany (which I only named this because I couldn’t read the miniscule ID tags the hospital provided us all with) say to the doctor that she was having trouble finding the heat beat. My heart sank. This child, this life, must be okay. I began to sweat heavily although I’m sure if was because this was all new to me, coupled with the fact that this baby might not be okay.

How would she take it? Would she be heartbroken? Would she be relieved? I wondered why the nurses didn’t relay any of this information to her, but they just kept watching the monitors, barking when a contraction was arriving, and demanding that she push.

The baby. The slimy, greenish, blood covered baby was here. It was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. Relief swept over the girl’s face when she was finally free of the 7lb 9oz human that had taken up residence within her over the last nine months.

There was blood all around, on the floors, on the sheets, everywhere. I knew that they would examine the baby and then move her to another room., one that was a little more homey and inviting.

They left her alone. Everyone, including those in her family were hovering over the new baby leaving her there to wonder what was going on. She was no longer important. She had done her job and now it was all about the baby.

And that was her first experience on how it felt to be a mother.

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