We have put in time there over the last 14 years. Every year, I think of that room at this hot moment of summer as we get ready to celebrate Eleanor's birth.
Our first visit there was for our too early Eleanor. It was my first encounter with the systems of American hospitalization as an adult. I learned that going to the hospital is about telling your story over to ever slightly older and ever slightly more powerful professionals. You start with a first year medical student. Eventually, you see a doctor. You start with a nursing student. Eventually, you tell your story to someone who can start an IV in your arm, to someone who can catheterize you. That room was the first place where someone told us that a thirty-two week baby was going to be just fine, that the baby would be born ready for college if we could just get her to thirty-four weeks. We got her within two days of thirty-two weeks, and I held on to what we had been told for the next two years as we waited for Elly to catch up.
In that room, I learned that being in the hospital is another way of being. Nothing moves quickly. It is meditation and repetition.
Unless things do move quickly and you learn that speed is not what you wanted after all.nIf the tempo picks up in a hospital, that means things are not going well. That room, two years later, was the only place and time that I've ever been afraid of my immediate -- it is coming for me right now -- death. Another baby, but much earlier and the heart had stopped. I was never really in danger of dying, but I defy anyone to hear blood rushing out of their body and not fear for it. If you can hear the blood leaving your body, can hear it like rain or like water rushing through a storm sewer, there is no response but fear.
So when last year, Chris found ourselves in that little room again, we laughed. So we laughed? We laughed hysterically. We were surprised in midlife by pregnancy, like Dante on that road in the dark wood. And I was rattled for weeks, knowing the ins and outs of how a heart beats within you and how sometimes it stops, knowing that this time there was no heart to stop. I knew that, no matter how many sticks someone had me dip into my urine, no matter how many vials of blood drawn, no matter how many professionals told me that I was definitely pregnant. I knew that something was wrong. So after weeks of bleeding, we found ourselves in that little room yet again, and we laughed hysterically. Because what do you when time keeps returning you, bloody, to this one little square, this one table and gown?
You laugh and you scare the nurses, because you have to. This is not in any way a tale of tragedy. This is the story that has happened sometime to most of the women you know. This is just another difficult part of the human condition, and repetition is a cross of the female condition. So what is there to do, but to embrace your history through hysteria and a laugh?