I remember the ambulance.
The medics kept telling me to be still as the vehicle’s wheels seemed to hit every bump and pothole on the road. My pants were soaked from my water breaking three months early. It was the end of October with my baby girl not due until February 1st. Fearing what could happen to me or my child or both brought forth a constant stream of tears that nobody seemed to notice.
When I arrived at the hospital, a nurse was waiting with a purple slip of paper. She approached my stretcher and slid the paper underneath me. A few seconds later, she retrieved it, shook her head and sighed.
“Yeah, that’s definitely amniotic fluid.”
I gasped, trying to sit up and look at the paper myself. It was way too soon. The nurse put out her hands and motioned for me to lie back down.
“You can’t move,” she warned. “We want to keep that baby in as long as possible.”
“When can I go home? I have two young sons.”
“After the baby is born.”
The hospital became my home for 32 days. I wasn’t allowed to get up and go to the bathroom or shower. I wasn’t even allowed to sit all the way up in bed. They gave me medication to try to stop the contractions I’d started having, but it had to be stopped because I couldn’t breathe. There was nothing to do but wait.
The baby’s father, Micah, showed up at the hospital about four hours after I got there. He later confessed he’d gotten the call but had been busy chatting on MySpace. Our relationship was already rocky, but I still hoped for our child to grow up in the type of stable and loving family I never had.
Micah made himself at home in my hospital room. He showed up the first Sunday with a crock-pot full of chili and sat down to watch football for the afternoon. He treated the nurses like maids and yelled if they weren’t quick enough. The end of the game couldn’t come fast enough for me. I was already stressed out and Micah was making my anxiety worse.
During that month, my ex-husband took care of our sons full time. I felt nervous he and his family would try to keep them. He was not a fan of Micah and let me know whenever he got the opportunity, but I asked him to give my new family a chance to get settled. Still, my ex didn’t bring the boys to see me in the hospital, saying it would upset them too much to see me like that. I was desperately lonely for them and wanted to hold them close, but I knew I was in no position to force the issue.
The depression started during the second week in bed. I lied there not even watching TV anymore, just staring and insisting I was fine to any nurse who asked. They called in a psychiatrist to talk to me, and I let him know there was nothing I wanted to say. He wrote something in his chart and left me alone.
It was hard to accept things the way they were. I was six months into an unplanned pregnancy that landed me in the hospital and I hadn’t been inside my beautiful townhouse in weeks. The townhouse was a present I bought myself after my divorce, a place for me and the kids to live in. It was brand new, never lived in before, and I had great fun decorating it. I took great pride in it and kept it spotless and pretty.
It was a mistake to let Micah move in with me and the boys. He’d only been there a few months, but I missed the feeling of having my own space. Micah played his music loud and didn’t clean up after himself. Little by little, there were new marks on the walls, a broken door handle, a crack in one window. It was like he was chipping everything away a tiny piece at a time.
One night in the third week of bed rest, a late-night call from Micah woke me up. His voice sounded rushed and excited. He said something about music equipment, but his words came out in a blur.
“It’s everything I need if my friends and I are doing this band thing. I don’t even have to pay for it right away. They only want $100 a month until it’s paid off, no interest or anything. Anyway, you know my credit’s not great. They said I need somebody to cosign for me. Can you find out the fax number at the nurses’ station? I’m going to send the papers right over and you can sign them.”
“Whatever, Micah, I’m going back to sleep.” I yawned.
A nurse woke me up a few minutes later with the papers in her hand. Half-asleep, I signed them without reading them and turned my head away. What did it matter, anyway? My life was already a shit show. Things worked better overall when Micah got his way. At least now I could sleep.
Day 32 was a Sunday. I’d been complaining of cramping to my nurse all morning. She hooked me up to a monitor and watched the paper for a few minutes.
“Well, you’re not having contractions,” she announced.
I guessed I couldn’t really argue with the monitor. Lunch arrived after that. I picked at it, feeling a little nauseous. A few minutes after I finished, I felt my daughter turn inside me. That usually happened after I ate, but this movement felt like it was much… lower. When I pulled the covers off, there was a tiny baby foot. I screamed in panic, and before I knew what was happening I was surrounded by doctors and nurses who wheeled me away for an emergency C-section. When I awoke from anesthesia, Micah was standing over me.
“The baby’s alive, but they don’t know yet if she’ll make it.”
On my way to recovery, the nurse took me past the NICU. I still couldn’t sit up, but caught the first glimpse of my daughter barely visible amongst the tubes and wires covering her little body. “Please God,” I whispered, “don’t let anything bad happen to her.”
We named her Vanessa. Micah wanted to wait until we knew what would happen to her, but I insisted she had to have a name because she existed. I had to stay in the hospital to recover from surgery for four more days, and when I went home I’d be going without Vanessa. She wasn’t strong enough for a regular open incubator, but she was fighting like hell to stay alive. To leave her by herself seemed unthinkable, but I had to come to terms with it.
On the afternoon of my discharge, Micah was late.
“I’m not ready yet,” he protested. “I have to get the house just right for you.”
I told him I didn’t care if the house was clean or not. I just wanted to be home in my own bed.
“Micah, just come get me,” I demanded.
A few more hours passed with no Micah. The staff was getting antsy that I was still occupying the room, and it was almost the early evening. Finally, I made myself call my ex-mother-in-law, who I was still somewhat close with despite the divorce. She didn’t sound happy about the interruption, but she agreed to take me home.
Stepping out of her car, I felt grateful to see my townhouse again. I wasn’t sure if Micah was home, but I didn’t care. I wanted to sleep for a week under my own fluffy comforter. When I opened the door, for a split-second I thought I’d gone into the wrong house. The wall opposite me was lined with giant red speakers. There was a microphone stand, a sound mixer and other equipment I’d never seen before.
My House Was In Shambles
The house was in shambles. Flies buzzed around my kitchen, and there were food stains on my white carpet and burn marks on my counters. I felt my eyes burn with tears. The idea of getting everything back to normal was overwhelming. It would never be the same.
Micah saw the look on my face when he walked into the room. “The equipment came yesterday,” he quickly explained. “It’s so cool! Sit down, I’m going to play you something.”
“Micah, how much did all this cost?”
“Three-thousand,” he admitted. “But it’s gonna pay for itself when the band starts gigging. You have to hear how this sounds. Sit down!”
I sat down, not to listen but to steady myself. I wanted to kick myself for signing those papers without reading them first. How could I have been so stupid?
Micah crawled around the equipment moving wires and plugging things in. A few minutes later, he picked up his guitar and started playing. The sound was so loud the house shook on its foundation. It was horrible and ear-splitting. I imagined my poor neighbors being subjected to this assault while I was gone. I would have to write thank-you notes for sure.
I waved my hands and shook my head at Micah.
“Can you stop? I’m exhausted and want to lie down.”
Micah rolled his eyes at me and turned the speakers off, sitting down to fiddle with the equipment some more. I dragged myself up the stairs feeling defeated. My house wasn’t my house anymore. My infant daughter was 20 miles away from me and I’d never held her once. My sons would have to come home and see the squalor we lived in now.
Trying To Get Rid Of Micah
A few days passed, and I got better and my pain lessened. The boys still stayed with their father as I recovered. As soon as I felt well enough, I went over to my bank and withdrew $1000 cash. When Micah got home from work, I handed him the money and asked him to find another place to live.
“You can’t do that,” he whined. “It’s not fair. I get mail here. I’m a legal resident. You can’t just throw me out.”
He then changed direction. “You can’t handle all this without me. You have two kids and a newborn baby with health problems. You’re not exactly a catch.”
Micah handed me back my money and dug in his heels. There was no way he was leaving without a fight even though he knew I didn’t want him there anymore. I returned the money back to my bank account and hastily made arrangements. When Micah was at work the next day, I packed up everything I could and left him instead. The townhouse was no longer mine, and neither was he.
I moved into a three-bedroom duplex in the next town over. It wasn’t fancy or beautiful, but I was free. The boys came back to live with me, and I had Vanessa’s bedroom made up and ready for her to come home. Like me, she was getting stronger every day, and I wanted to give her the best life possible to make up for her suffering.
It didn’t matter anymore where I lived as long as it was full of people who loved me.
Are there any traumatic events that you had to live through?