(This is in response to my own location challenge from last week)
It's not my first time in a room in Labor and Delivery on the 8th floor of the hospital. We're the highest floor in a top medical hospital. Which means that I can hear the choppers landing on the roof right above me, carrying patients that were too complex for smaller hospitals.
I don't hear the choppers now, though. The room is too quiet. Outside, in the hall, I hear nurses talking -- normal chatter, like "Hey, Rach! Did you get the IV in room 6?" I hear deep moans from a mommy getting ready to birth her baby. And most cruel of all, I hear the fetal heartbeat monitor in the next room.
There's no such monitor in our room. Our baby's heart stopped beating a few days before, and no one knows why. Now we're here, hooked up to drugs and monitors, waiting to birth a baby that we don't get to take home.
And that's why it is too quiet.
Something clicks and then a humming sound starts. The blood pressure cuff starts to inflate around the mommy's arm. Numbers click on the monitor as it releases. Then the machine makes a satisfied beep. All is good. Or so it says.
It smells like cleaners in here. And latex. And hand sanitizer. And sweat -- faint but present -- from one of us.
The mommy sits on the hospital bed, covered in white sheets. The side bars that keep her from accidentally rolling off have buttons. The bed can fold into all kinds of positions -- which is cool if you're here for a normal birth. There's a computer on a rollable desk by her bed, and the monitors wrapped around her belly and arm are hooked to a machine under the desk. An IV pole with bulky square pumps has bags hung at the top; and the tubing lines run from the bag, through the pump, and into the mommy's arm. There are two rocking chairs in here -- a nice touch in a sterile room -- and a daybed and a stool. There was a baby-warming tray but they rolled it out of sight.
Sinks and counters. Cabinets. Nice furniture with blankets inside. Trash cans. Biohazard boxes. Trays of equipment. A giant water jug full of ice for the mommy. A little Styrofoam cup of ginger ale for the daddy. A big window.
The walls are pretty and patterned. There are elegant paintings on the wall. At first we don't notice them. Then we ignore them because they can't help our pain. But a stillbirth can be a long process, and after we've sat there for two days, we find ourselves silently staring deep into the paintings and thinking faraway philosophical thoughts. Life. Death. Beauty. Pain. What do they mean?
It's funny what grief does to your senses. It separates you from them, but also makes them stronger. You are surprised to see that everything is far away. You feel it, but it's from a distance. You hear the nurse speaking to you, but it's as if you are not in the room. You stub your toe on the corner of the hospital bed and you look at it curiously as if pain is an interesting sensation. Your finger rubs the smooth wood of the rocking chair, over and over, with an infantile fascination with the smoothness of it. Nothing in the world is so captivating as that smooth feeling.
And this is a hospital room at the birth of a stillborn baby.