Things have been quiet on here – and by quiet I mean SILENT for almost a year. I have felt guilty about this knowing that I owed this specific post to the amazing crew at Speare Memorial Hospital (for whom I have an even higher level of love and respect now more than ever). I know I don’t have to give any explanations, but I hit a wall last fall. Not a day has passed that I haven’t thought about missed memories with Isaac, how deeply I miss and love Isaac, Speare, and everything that happened last year. However, there came a time in life after loss Isaac where I needed to find a way forward – to develop routines and traditions that didn’t constantly send me back to July of last summer. This post continued to plague me over the last year. I couldn’t get it just right, so I avoided it entirely. It’s been sitting (substantially in the form you find it below) in my drafts since last year.
As I said in Part I, my experience with the nurses at Speare Memorial Hospital was amazing. I wanted to take some time to recognize a few more of the incredible women who helped me, my husband and my family through what I hope will turn out to be the most difficult hospital stay of my life. So, without further ado, here is Part 2.
I think that anyone who has ever had a hospital stay can relate to this sense of impending doom that you feel when it comes time for shift change. When you like your nurse as much as we did, you end up scared of who will replace him/her for the next 12 hours. Saturday morning was the first point in my stay at which I was coherent enough to be aware of the changing shifts. When Meghan gently exited our room with our baby, Isaac, and did not return, I realized that I had no idea who would pop in next. We had been through hell and back at that point, and I remember thinking that, with my luck, we’d be in for a difficult nurse. I was wrong, and I am so glad that Laurel came through next.
Laurel was the perfect dose of emotional support, structure/practical support and cold hard facts. Aside from being emotionally wrecked that morning, I realized that I had been in my hospital bed for a few days without showering or even brushing my teeth. I had cut my hair a week before ending up in the hospital thinking it would be perfect ponytail length by the time we were supposed to deliver Isaac in September. Having remained untamed for a few days straight, my crazy curls had become a horrifying snarled halo. I realize that this was not a fashion show. No one cared what I looked like, but I desperately needed to feel human again. I was still on full bedrest, but Laurel sensed my discomfort and immediately endeavored to get me cleaned up. She even managed to get the bulk of my hair into a ponytail holder. For that alone, she should be considered a miracle worker. She cleaned me up, changed my linens and made me as comfortable as I possibly could be after three days of not getting out of the bed. She made me feel human.
It will come as no surprise to anyone who knows me that I like to thoroughly research everything. I like facts and statistics and I can always come up with more questions to ask. I knew that Preeclampsia was a dangerous pregnancy-induced condition and of the general signs that I had overlooked, but I did not know much beyond that. Honestly, the day and a half leading up to the morning we met Laurel was so foggy that I, personally, did not even know with any certainty that I had Preeclampsia. I had no idea that I’d had HELLP Syndrome (or what that was). Needless to say, even in my magnesium-induced stupor, I had A LOT of questions. Fortunately, Laurel was training to be a Nurse Practitioner and had both endless patience and answers to my constant questions. Her knowledge brought a feeling of safety to my upturned world and began painting a picture of what had happened.
We actually had Laurel as our nurse for two days, the day immediately following Isaac’s birth and the day after when I was ultimately discharged. When Laurel arrived that last morning, I was pretty darn cranky. My arms throbbed wherever there were IV lines, and something had gone amiss with my catheter (TMI perhaps, but when you have Preeclampsia/HELLP Syndrome and are on full bed rest, you get a catheter until you finish with the Magnesium IV drip). I wanted the IVs out, my catheter out and I desperately wanted to be discharged. Laurel showed up and was supposed to immediately go into a shift change meeting where the last shift briefs the new shift. At this point, I was so dreadfully uncomfortable that waiting out the meeting was completely impossible for me. Laurel left her meeting to come remove the IVs and catheter. She then patiently got me out of bed and to the restroom for a pretty horrifying bathroom experience and, FINALLY, a shower. I remember bargaining with her. I knew she had her meeting to get back to and I felt so bad, but I was also pretty desperate. I told her she could leave me sitting in the bathroom and promised I would not move. Somehow I negotiated my way into the shower and again promised I wouldn’t move. It was perhaps the most I have ever needed a shower in my entire life, and I am so glad she did not make me wait a moment longer. As promised, I remained sitting in the shower until her meeting ended.
Somehow, Laurel was also juggling things behind the scenes. I know she worked with our doctor and my father to arrange for terribly difficult but necessary things, like a funeral home and autopsy. She made sure that our baby boy would be treated with the utmost care and respect. She answered my father’s questions. She brought us the remembrance box with the only mementos of our son we will ever have. She helped us by taking my husband’s and my bracelets from our honeymoon in Thailand and tying them to our baby boy’s wrist so that he would always have something of ours with him. She even gave my family tips on where to find decent food in the area. She was everything that we all needed.
Finally, I feel that I have to share my favorite mental image of Laurel. Thanks to Preeclampsia, I needed my blood pressure checked pretty frequently. Laurel would regularly check my blood pressure an make the funniest scrunched up face when she would see my less than ideal blood pressure readings. I still think of that face every time I get a blood pressure check.
Amy was perhaps the biggest character that we encountered at Speare, but she was not actually my nurse. She was the other nurse on shift with Laurel (and perhaps at some other times). To this day, I imagine that Amy is the kind of nurse who could do her job in the middle of winter, in an isolated log cabin, with no electricity or medical supplies. The woman has chutzpah in the most flattering way possible. She has this traditional New England tough charm that you only get in that part of the country. I have no doubt that Amy did a thousand things for us while we were at Speare, but I have to share the story of the “Amy Maneuver”.
As a brief and incomplete introduction to the biological part of things, when a woman gives birth there are a thousand tiny little changes triggered in the mother’s body. When there is not a squirmy little baby involved postpartum, certain signals that help in recovery go missing. For example, the uterus has just had the stretch of a lifetime and needs to contract back into a tight little ball really quickly to stop bleeding in the mother. In a normal experience, the process of breastfeeding a baby provides a hormonal signal that makes the uterus contract.
After Isaac, my uterus was missing the memo to contract. Thanks to the magnesium drip and a relatively traumatic birth experience, I already felt like I had been hit by a car, and to make things more fun, Laurel had to poke at my uterus regularly. During one such check, she found that my uterus had softened back up again. She paused and then told me she was going to grab Amy, who was “brutal but effective.” Amy came in and proceeded to dig her impressively strong fist into my abdomen before twisting like her life depended on it. Warren reacted by telling me to breathe, which would typically make sense. You’re supposed to breathe through the pain – right? Yet in this one instance, there wasn’t a chance in hell I could have gotten even a gasp of air. Amy turned to Warren with the most serious expression on her face and said, “Telling your wife to breathe right now would be like me grabbing you by your *man bits*, pulling, twisting and then telling you to breathe.” I never thought I’d look back fondly on a memory from such a tragically terrible experience, but this memory still makes me smile.
All I know is that if there is an apocalypse, I want Amy on my team. She is one badass lady (pardon the language, but I speak the truth).
Brenda was our nurse on our final evening at Speare. She was soothing and gentle and tolerated me at my most emotional and miserable points. She’s the one who brought Isaac in for us to say a final heartbreaking goodbye. She’s the one who had to push the bassinet out of the room as I wailed helplessly from my bed. I remember being so impressed by the knowing look in her eye as she comforted me and knew exactly what to say. She didn’t lie about the difficult road ahead or act like this was something I would get over eventually. I didn’t know it at the time, but Brenda was a loss mom herself. If memory serves, she had lost both of her adult sons in a single car accident. My heart still aches at the thought of what she must have gone through. I think it is magical that she continues to help new mothers despite the fact that it must constantly remind her of what she herself has lost. As I mentioned before, I see a grief therapist who specializes in baby loss. Brenda was really my first calm, but firm, introduction to my life as a loss mother. Though I hardly knew her, she will forever remain a role model for the type of person I want to be.
I don’t know how to close this post in any way, but to say THANK YOU a thousand times over to these women. Speare Memorial Hospital has a world-class team of nurses hidden away in the middle of nowhere, and I will never ever forget what they did for me, Warren, Isaac and my whole family.