Just because my bed rest sentence was over didn’t mean my life was back to normal. I thought it would be, but the truth was much muddier, leaving me in a state of limbo since the baby’s birth. I didn’t belong in the hospital and I didn’t belong home.
On Wednesday morning, three days after the C-section, my nurse informed me that my insurance company had had enough and I was getting the boot. I thought I would have another day to recover but Blue Cross was like, eff that. The hospital staff reminded me a gazillion times to watch the Shaken Baby Video (and sign a piece of paper verifying that I did). Then the discharge papers were filed. This in itself wouldn’t be bad; I could go home! The only problem was the baby wasn’t going anywhere – he’d have to stay in the NICU for another 3-7 days. I’d be coming back 2-3 times a day to breastfeed him until he was released. I was done being a patient but I was still tethered to the hospital [insert umbilical cord metaphor here, I’m too tired to think of one].
It’s interesting, getting discharged after all this time. Once it happens, the gate slams shut in your face. Or at least it felt that way. After 6+ weeks of having nurses and housekeepers and doctors at my beck and call – sorry, I dropped my fork, could you wipe my ass for me? – when I was dismissed, they were done. In a moment of tearful panic on my first day as a free woman, I went to the night nurses on the antepartum wing for advice and learned they can’t give me any. They were sympathetic but tight-lipped, as if I had just walked in off the street. So where now?
Enter my generous cousin who not only has a palatial apartment one mile from the hospital, she offered it to me until this NICU situation worked itself out. I’ll be honest – as far as being in limbo goes, mine had some first-rate comforts. The biggest help was the proximity; the apartment was a 4-minute cab ride to the hospital. Less important, but nice all the same, was that I was a half block from a Shake Shack and across from the American Museum of Natural History. Not a shabby way to spend my post-partum healing. Ted and Glory stayed over last weekend so we could have one last hurrah as a triad before everything changes. I was crazy blissed out being with my family again and so were they.
And the bliss keeps on coming: Yesterday, baby Linus and I came home.
I’m bad with endings, always have been. Even though I was dying to get to Brooklyn for the first time since June 24, part of me was sad to leave the hospital and all of the people who shepherded the baby and me to this place of health. Food Services aside, I’m grateful to so many. My doctor who visited every single day, the housekeepers who kept the room meticulous, the NICU staff who called me “Mommy” as if it were my given birth name, my friends and family who provided me with much-needed sustenance and support, the Best Roommate Ever and her wonderful husband who kept me laughing and sane for the last 2-3 weeks.
Mostly I have the nurses. Sure, there are some who don’t give a shit and seem like they’re ripped from a booth at the DMV. But on the whole, they’ve been an incredible crew. I’m especially indebted to the ones who were on call when I had the bleeds; their calmness and confidence kept me a) from completely losing it; and b) alive.
Each time I visited Linus this week, the nurses greeted me like an old friend. I was hugged, kissed, asked how I was doing. I’ve never felt so popular in my life! But something was different – the shift in perspective. For almost two months, I was physically lower than everyone as I lay on my bed in hospital gowns and pajamas. Now I’m standing on my own two (pedicured!) feet, wearing – can it be? – a dress! I’m independent and moving around with minimal pain. I haven’t sat in a wheelchair in over a week and I don’t feel like I’m going to break at any moment. Our relationship has changed as well. The nurses with whom I’d love to go have a drink can actually have a drink with me. Not that we’ve made any plans yet.
As Ted and I drove south on 11th Avenue yesterday, tiny Linus buckled in back, I looked up at my old window on the 14th floor.
Finally, we’re on the other side. Of everything.