Last night as I came out of Nassau University Medical Center, the hospital where Adrienne gave birth to Emilio Raphael Barnard at 2:02 a.m. on Sunday, the sky was a bruised purple and mauve. It was dusk and the light of the vast sprawl of Long Island, rising up to meet the storm coming in the low clouds, was throwing off a tinted glow. Paying attention to something like the colors around me helps me move in and out of hospitals. The tiles on the hall floor in the lobby entrance are big multi-colored squares set in a diamond pattern. The fixed, sculpted chairs in the lobby are maroon. The walls of the third floor maternity ward are Pepto Bismol pink and the waiting room chairs there are hard plastic blue. There’s a large patch of white on the walkway leading up to the visitors entrance, where someone threw down salt to melt the ice from the last big storm that hit New York. It’s been crushed to a powder by the constant foot traffic in and out of the entrance.
I’ve had numerous episodes of hospital visits being a routine in my life, and not all of it has ended well. Eric’s death sealed the hospital in and out, back and forth routine as a numbing trauma one for me. This episode has ended gloriously, with a beautiful, robust and sweet grandchild. But the storm that brought my family here was not an easy one to ride through. Adrienne had planned a home birth, but after close to a day of labor, the midwife suggested the hospital — “dilation failure” I heard her say when she called the hospital to say we were coming. There they tried a couple of hours of an epidural with pitocin, to see if the cervix would dilate further, but that was only after over an hour of contractions that were making Adrienne scream and turn gray, as we waited for the blood lab results necessary to give her the epidural. Then as Adrienne and Matt and I tried to rest, another midwife came in the room a couple of times and had Adrienne change positions in the bed, then had her use oxygen. Clearly, all was not well. The baby’s heartbeat was starting to show some fluctuations that weren’t dire, but they weren’t good either. And suddenly Adrienne had a temperature of 100. “It doesn’t take me long to go from A to Z in terms of worry,” a friend who also lost her life partner said to me once. I was trying not to go to Z, have been trying not to imagine Z for weeks. But Z exists and I know that, and I can always feel the rumbles of it beneath me.
After a couple of hours, Adrienne’s midwife came in, checked and found she hadn’t dilated any further, and gently suggested a C-section. We were all more than ready. As we waited in the room Adrienne said to me, “Why do we always have to have trauma be part of what happens to us? I mean I know we’re good at handling it, but it would be nice not to have to.” But here it was. Scary but not tragic and hopefully it was all going to turn out all right.
As Emilio was lifted from Adrienne’s uterus, the reason for the “dilation failure” was clear. Emilio was 10 lbs. 6 oz and had the cord wrapped around his neck. Any attempt for him to navigate the birth canal would not have turned out well at all, and so in the end, everything that happened during the labor was exactly the right thing.
Now I have a grandson and yet another storm has already passed. Adrienne and Matt are at the hospital. I’m alone in their house, their dog Khadijah sleeping at my feet as I drink coffee. The world outside is all white as predicted, but the sky is already clearing, showing blue and pink to the east.
I’ll shovel out the car and drive back to the hospital and hopefully the family will all come home today. I’ll walk along the pink walled corridor to Adrienne’s room and will pack up her and Emilio and walk back out. This hospital routine episode is over and I’m giving it an A.