I went through a very difficult time in the weeks after my son was born. He was a big baby, born the old fashioned way. And as things worked out, we were sent home less than 24 hours after he was born, on two nights without sleep. Neither grandma lived nearby, and we hadn't arranged to have family there to help right after the birth. Our Lamaze teacher had told us that "we'd want this time alone with our child", and because we were naive, we believed her. We'd arranged to spend the first few weeks alone before any family came to stay with us.
That ended up being a very stupid move.
When my mom showed up three weeks later, I was exhausted, strung out, an emotional wreck and in need of rescue. She took one look at me, told me to give her the baby and go to bed. And I was happy to do it. I woke up hours later to a happy baby boy, an organized house and a plan that would get me healthy again and prepared to care for a newborn. To this day, I don't know what I would have done back then if my mother hadn't been there to pull us out of the deep hole we were drowning in.
Those days came back to me as I spent this last week in the hospital. My first night there was spent on a gurney in the ER. My second night there was--no joke--the most traumatic night of my life. To avoid TMI I will just say it involved their need for stool and urine samples and the devices they gave me to carry that out. It did not go well, and I ended up hysterical in my room surrounded by nurses and aides. I was kept awake the third night by an IV machine that sounded off alarms so loud you'd think the country was being invaded. They kept trying to fix it, then every 30 minutes it would go off again. When the problem was finally solved and I was close to almost dozing off, an idiot orderly waltzed in to take my vitals and then proceed to chat me up like we were two guys in a bar getting to know each other over a beer. He apparently didn't understand the concept that when you've literally shaken someone awake at 3:00 a.m. to take their blood pressure, they aren't real interested in hearing your life story.
That was the night I started crying, and once I started, I couldn't stop. I'd been sick for four days, traumatized by all the tests and samples. I was repeatedly stabbed with needles, fed pills and sour liquids and chalky tablets. I had a tube in my arm 24/7, hooked to a machine that sounded off alarms day and night. I had no appetite and no sleep, and every day that went by, it only got worse. I needed my mom again. I needed her so bad, my heart ached. I needed her to swoop in and fix all this just like she'd done 21 years ago. To rescue me. And through the exhaustion and darkness that is the dead of night, I'd never felt so desolate, alone, helpless and sad.
That following day, I ramped up my communication with the nursing staff. I started telling them very clearly what was and wasn't working for me. I told them I didn't want to see the chatty night kid, that it wasn't acceptable to have a nurse wake me up to give me a pill, then an hour later be woken up again to have my vital signs taken. They needed to start putting some of these things together so I wasn't bugged all night. I told them I was done giving samples unless they could come up with a better way. And I wanted meds to help me sleep.
I didn't realize it at the time, but I was basically doing for myself everything my mother would have done had she been alive and there handling things for me.
I wasn't bitchy or rude. My tone was I'm in trouble and I need you to help me fix this. And the woman who was my night nurse that day responded. Her name is Kelli and she is one of the head nurses in the cancer ward. Kelli changed around my night schedule, bundled things that could be done together, stretched some hours between meds, and talked to my doctors to adjust my plan. She stopped all the "collection" that was going on, and came up with a way to make the real necessities bearable. And thanks to her, that night I got six deep, blissful hours of uninterrupted sleep. When I woke up the next morning, I not only felt rested and healed, but everything about the world and my situation seemed okay.
And then the blueberry pancakes came.
When I was little, our family vacations took the form of road trips, and the tradition was to get on the road early and stop for breakfast. I would always order blueberry pancakes, and insist on having my very own stack. My mom would try to get me to share a meal instead, but I had to have my own blueberry pancakes. And, just like she knew I would, when the plate came, I would take about 4 bites and say I was full.
Blueberry pancakes were a running joke between me and my mom throughout my life. So needless to say, when I opened the lid on my breakfast that morning and saw blueberry pancakes, I burst into tears. Two nights before, I had cried and cried wishing she were there to help me through this. And when I saw those pancakes, I realized she had come. And like I'd needed so badly, she'd rescued me.
I'm not a religious person. I don't know if the spirits of our loved ones who have passed remain literally with us, or if they simply live on through us. Maybe mom didn't rescue me, but I rescued myself through her example of how to handle life in crisis. Maybe the whole thing was just a coincidence. But my heart tells me it was more than that. My heart tells me those pancakes were sent by my mom to let me know she was there, that we got everything fixed now, and that from here on out, I was going to be okay.
And in response, I ate my 4 bites and was full. :)