Tick… tock… tick……….. tooooocckkk ……
Second by second, I focused on the second hand of the hospital room clock. If I looked away from it for the slightest second, it seemed to jump up and down, or the second hand would skip half a minute… I was hallucinating.
I could barely talk at this point, and looked away from the torturous clock to focus my thoughts on my heart beat, which was so unusually loud in my ears, as if someone had turned up the volume.
Bump-bump…. bump-bump…. bummmmp-b-b-b-b-bump………….. bump……… b-bump….
I tried to will each of the beats to go right. But they wouldn’t listen to me.
My IV was useless and they were injecting, injecting, injecting emergency blood pressure meds… nothing, anywhere, seemed to be working… I would breathe calmly to try to make those numbers go down, but they only kept going up.
The team of cardiologists and other resident doctors (their faces are hazy to me) and nurses kept giving long reports to each other while I lay helpless on the other side of the room. I strained to hear their mumbling about all the many things that were wrong with me, but the wall of air between us muffled them, and I knew they were carefully avoiding terms that would have pushed me into further anxiety. So they would point to writing on their paperwork, and random new tests would be done and new people would come into the room, to try to stop my runaway heart rate.
I had had so much hope that after the 24 hours of agony with the magnesium treatment, I would be fine, and I had even said a special prayer that we would all be home Easter morning, celebrating together with our ten other children as we had planned. My daughter was going to make the best Pascha basket ever (a tradition in our Church), and I was going to be home with the newborn baby while they went to church… and when they came back we were all going to celebrate and feast….
What if I had never let them take my baby in the first place, and none of this would have happened, and we would all be celebrating together…..
All of that faded into a gloomy knowledge that perhaps I wasn’t going to leave the hospital. Perhaps this was it.
With the darkness flooding into the room that Holy Saturday night, I in the L&D ICU, and my baby in the NICU, in different sections of the same hospital, my prayers changed…. first, I started bargaining with God. I’ll do anything…. I’ll do anything… just heal this, please. But as the minutes and hours wore on, my prayers changed even more to “If you have to take anyone, Lord, take me. Not him. Please.”
With my erratic heartbeat pounding in my ears, I accepted that I was alone in that room after the nurses left and my husband left again, and I drifted off into a troubled sleep for the first time in days…. about ten minutes…
Even in my sleep, darkness enveloped me. There were no comforting dreams, but odd loud brain noises and zapping sounds and frightful flashing lights, like a real life horror movie. It seemed as if neurons were firing off and nothing made sense, even sleep, but still I let myself sink into the darkness, into the tomb… slip away….
Suddenly it was quiet, actually quiet. My eyes popped open, and I sat up partially (which had been impossible before)… I looked around the room, and looked up at the tall ceiling.
I was not alone.
The sacredness of what happened next is difficult to write… I am naturally a very skeptical person, not one to easily or instantly believe in miracles and signs or anything out of the scientific ordinary until proven to me…. but what happened in that room was other-worldly.
All around me and above me felt like “protection” and peace… there were …. others… in that room (angels?)…. I was aware of my smallness, absolute smallness, and my emptiness and the fact that I was empty yet pure, like a new vessel waiting to be filled. I looked all around, and while I couldn’t see with my actual eyes, the presence was unmistakable and not a hallucination. I could hear in my mind “She’s here…. she’s here….” and a mantle of protection seemed to be spread over the whole hospital room, like I was being guarded from anything evil or harmful.
A massive protective motherly garment, like an impossibly soft yet tough comforter covered the entire room, a shield…
I began to smile, I felt delight, joy….. like everything was ok, that I was ready to die, and that heaven is real.
Even greater was that early that morning, when I saw my husband again, I realized that I had changed. We had been at odds for the past couple of years through a series of never-ending hardships. But when I saw him, even though I had no rational reason to feel this way given that we had grown so distant over the last few years, I saw only love, felt only love for him and for all humanity. I was flooded with love that night, love past all understanding, peace past all understanding, and joy that also made no sense (even when I looked at how miserable I should have been, and should BE, in my life circumstance and in my intense pain.)
I saw that when I was emptied of everything, my baby, my body, my possessions, my very life… that at my core was love.
This has consoled me, as I am oftentimes aware of only my flaws and of all the ways I need to improve.
They wanted to keep me longer for observation, keeping me further and further away from my baby, but after two eternal days in that room, the original nurse I mentioned earlier said she was going to go to the Easter Vigil Mass, and that she would be praying for me. I didn’t even know she was Catholic, here in the middle of a city hospital…. but there she was, planted there at the right place and the right time. The joy I had perceived in her from the beginning, without even knowing her, was indeed real.
And I have a feeling that her prayers, along with those of all of my beautiful friends and family who were also praying for me and for the baby, had something to do with what happened Easter Sunday….
(… to be continued…)