Blink. White lights then nothing. Blink. White lights. No, white walls. People. Noise. Someone is holding my hand, but I can't move. White walls. I can see a television high on the wall. It's off. I can see a crucifix to the right of the television. I must be in a hospital. Good. That's where I should be. But where is my baby? Am I still pregnant? Is he alive? The only thing I am sure of is that I am alive.
My husband is by my side repeating the words, "You're in the hospital. The baby was born. The baby is okay. You are in the hospital the baby is okay... the baby is okay." My mother in-law is here. She was in Indiana on Friday. That's thousands of miles away. What day is it? Where is my older son? Where is my young, too young son? I'm only seven months pregnant. It's too soon.
I see my mother-in-law cautioning my husband. She doesn't want him to tell me something. I see black pads on the side of my bed but think nothing of it as I do not remember anything of how I got where I am. Todd tells me that I have had seizures. His mother is worried that I will have more - but I don't. It explains. I think "That's what that was." Finally, a small part of everything starts to makes sense.
I can't move. I think my arms may be strapped down. Someone removes the straps and I immediately reach for my face. I have an itch. My husband grabs my arm. Let's go. I return my hand to my face. The doctors want to tie them down again. I reach up. I feel something in my mouth. They are afraid that I will pull it out. I realize now that I am on a respirator.
Time passes. I fall in and out of a restless, drugged sleep. It's hard to focus. Someone tells me that it's Sunday. My son was born on Friday. I completely missed Saturday. I completely missed the birth of my son. He's somewhere in this hospital. And I can't go to him. I haven't held him. He doesn't even have a name. I can't move.
The doctors decide I am ready to be taken off the respirator. They pull it out of my mouth. My throat hurts. I can't talk. My tongue hurts. I have bitten it. I want to ask a million questions. I want to ask one question. But I can't. I begin breathing rapidly. My heart is racing. The doctors yell at me to relax. They want to put the tube back in. I try to respond with my eyes - "no, wait - I will get this under control." They are anxious, I can tell. But I am able to bring my breathing down. My heart rate slows. I'm okay.
But even now I'm not out of the woods. My lungs have been through a lot. The fluid levels are not going down. But as far as I'm concerned, I can beat all of that. I have to. My son is in another room and he needs me.
So I'm awake. I'm breathing - at first with the aid of a nasal canula, and then with a bunch of breathing treatments. My lungs are still half-full of fluid. It's inhalation pneumonia - and pulmonary edema. I'm half-drowning in the excess fluids caused by the mixed bag of symptoms that mark HELLP syndrome.
It's the first that I ever remember hearing about HELLP. I didn't have a history of pre-eclampsia. Yet, here I am, recovering from full-blown eclampsia. My blood pressure had climbed dangerously high. Well over 200. Enough to cause seizures. It would also have been enough to put me in a coma.
But HELLP syndrome isn't just high blood pressure. It's a placenta that isn't working. It's blood cells that are breaking down and moving like sludge through my veins. It's a very low platelet count that could have caused me to bleed to death following the c-section. It's liver and kidney failure. Any of these things could have killed me. I am lucky. It happened so fast. Got so bad, so quickly that my organs hadn't shut down completely.
It is Monday. Donovan is still in the same hospital, but someone comes to tell us that he will be moving to a bigger hospital in Burbank, down the highway from our hospital. He needs a PICC line because they can't get adequate access to his veins any other way. They can't do that at my hospital. Before they take him, they wheel his isolette through my room in the ICU. This is the first time I have seen him in person. It is Monday. He is already 3 days old.
I can barely see him through the plastic and wires. He is so small. At this point, he is less than 3 lbs. I am still too weak to do anything but look at him, at his plastic box, the tubes that are keeping him alive.
The visit is brief. I can see now that all of this is real. He is real. I am indeed no longer pregnant. He is a part of the world, separate from me. He is alone. And I am also alone in my own cocoon of wires and tubes, oxygen and fear.
I did not leave him behind in the hospital. He left me. When they come to me and tell me I need a blood transfusion to boost my platelet levels, I don't flinch. I don't think to refuse. I sign the consent. If this is going to help me get up and get to my sons sooner, I will do it. I donate blood myself when I can. I am grateful to be getting it.
My lungs still feel like I'm swimming. I cough, but it hurts to cough. I am beginning to feel that every bone and muscle in my body hurts. My tongue is swollen. My legs hurt. My arms hurt. Everything hurts. My incision hurts. They encourage me to cough to help my lungs to get rid of the fluid. Every cough hurts. The pain is excruciating. And nothing helps.
Our poor, nameless baby is in another hospital. I ache. I ache for him. The nurses bring me a pump to try to get the milk flowing. Of course, this hurts as well. At first, I don't get much. One of the nurses braids my hair. They get me up and have me walk. Using a walker, I can only manage a few, small steps. I almost fall several times. It feels like I'm walking for the first time.
My husband is here often, but he is torn between me, the baby, our older son. People visit. The room slowly fills with flowers. Visitors begin trickling in. Things settle into a routine almost. But it's not a routine that I can stand for long. It doesn't include my kids.
I have pictures. There is a picture of my baby taped to the side of the bed. It's stained, with what I don't know. But it's what I have of him here. It's all I have of him here. He looks like he's asleep. But he doesn't even look real. None of this seems real to me. None of it makes sense.