“I’m still praying for several more pregnant weeks, but I know being here and being prepared is a blessing.”
You might think navigating your daily schedule as a hospital patient constricted to your bed would be easy, but you would be wrong. My husband and I set up a Google calendar strictly to schedule my visitors.
In my entire time in the hospital, there were very few days I went visitor-less, and only once did my husband go home after work instead of coming to the hospital. He needed a night off. If we’re being honest, he probably needed more than just the one night off, but I needed him with me more than he needed nights off.
We navigated, together, the busy schedule of people coming to see me, to keep me company, to pay their respects, to drop off goodies for me, to just be my friend in this time, and then we’d run into days like the 15th of June. On the 15th, I made my fourth trip to the Labor & Delivery floor, and we sent out texts, clearing my calendar of visitors, saying, “Not today.” You see, in addition to working 40 hours from my hospital bed and navigating our visitors, I also had that whole trying-to-keep-my-baby-in thing going on.
My fourth trip to L&D was probably the easiest. No speculums, no mag, no bedpan – just a new IV, no eating and lots of monitoring. I didn’t even ask my husband to leave work right away. We waited to see how things would pan out, but as time dragged on, I needed my comrade more to protect my sanity than in case our baby was born. I was pretty certain I would be returning to the OB Special Care floor. This L&D visit felt superfluous.
As predicted, I made my way back up to OB Special Care around dinner time – a wasted day, but another day pregnant. My husband left shortly after things settled to get his life back in order and to pack a bag for his weekend away in the Medical Mile with me, and my visitors rescheduled for the next day, putting five visits on our calendar.
A lot of people have recently asked how it went with our visitors. Did the people we expected to step up do so? Did anyone surprise us? Did anyone disappoint us? Was it awkward? Did it go well?
Off the top of my head, I can think of 26 different sets of visitors I had during my hospital time (some very repeatedly). In those people, I had both the awkward, I-don’t-know-what-to-say-to-you visits and the visits that brought light in a dark time. Not in those people, were some of the friends and family I would have expected to be there. I don’t hold grudges for this, for I, myself, am not good at navigating crummy situations with people.
I won’t say who’s who, but I will say this: over time, I became increasingly better at navigating visits. In the beginning, people would ask what they could bring me, but I saw my basic needs being met. By the end, my basic needs far surpassed food, shelter and water and became normal. Bring me normal. Please. Normal.
I am so thankful to have people who thought of me and texted, called, coordinated help and/or food or visited, but I’m even more thankful for the people who were real – the ones who let me cry, laugh, freak out, talk and be honest, the ones who were just family and friends, not family and friends dutifuly visiting their invalid.
“I know you’re fine, Mandi, but what do you actually want?”
I wanted things like ice cream and nail polish and donuts from my favorite donut joint. I wanted to just go grab a bite to eat. I wanted to play card games. I wanted to be outside. I wanted to feel the sun on my face and the grass between my toes. I wanted summer. I wanted normal.
As for those who brought even the smallest piece of normal to me, I don’t think they’ll ever know how much good they did. To have my favorite meal, to try a new donut shop, to sit outside and tell stories and laugh, to go grab a cup of coffee at Starbucks (one of four restaurants I could go to), to have baklava from the Grand Rapids Festival of the Arts, to see my dog, to get a stack of books I was genuinely interested in reading… these were the moments that made this time bearable.
Navigating 40 hour work weeks, numerous visitors and remaining pregnant amongst trips to L&D spread out across a long term hospital stay made anything normal ideal because my life was anything but normal.
In the stats:
Gestational Age: 25 weeks, 5 days
Days of blood: 50
Days of bedrest: 71
Pre-Hospital Stay Doctor’s Appointments: 8
Days in the hospital: 21
IV starts: 5 (11 IV pokes)
Magnesium drips: 2
Trips to Labor & Delivery: 4
Sets of visitors: 35
P.S. I hope I’m the better for having gone through this. I hope I’m the person who says, “No, I know you most likely want something, and it might feel petty to you, but it doesn’t feel petty to me. What would make your life even the tiniest better right now?” and then goes and gets the nail polish without judgement, or finds a way to bring melting ice cream from a store to a parking ramp, through a pedestrian bridge, up an elevator and through the halls to a hospital patient.
I hope I don’t project on people what I think they need in their situations, but flat out ask the hard questions instead. “If you could have anything, what would it be? I’m going to get it for you. Do you need a morning visit instead of all your evening visits? I’m going to be there for you. Do you want one less visitor? I can cancel or reschedule for you.”
P.P.S. The picture for this post is a terrible picture of me, but that is me at 25 weeks and 1 day.