This hallway has figured in my dreams for months. I’ve always loved the hospital stay post-baby. Yes, there’s the pain and the constant interruption, the cramped spaces and bleary-eyed exhaustion of post-surgery and new baby. But there’s that sound, of plexiglass cribs on metal frames rat-a-tatting down the hallway. The knock on the door: “Nursery!” in the middle of the night, the snuggling back into four or five pillows and drifting sleepily with my baby nursing in my arms.
I loved this hallway, with its lower-plum and upper-pastel-spangle decor.
I hate this hallway now. I’ve never stayed on it so long. I’ve stayed on it so long this time that I can walk out of the hospital on my own two feet instead of bumping along in a wheelchair to a waiting car. So long that my incision doesn’t even really hurt anymore, unless I try to do too much for too long. So long that I’ve had to go exploring to find where the cafeteria is. So long that two days of sixty degrees have given way to St. Nicholas Day snow. So long that I’ve missed a piano recital and picking the Christmas tree. So long that I’m about out of clothes, and contemplating washing socks and underwear in the sink using, um, shampoo? Bath soap?
And not once have those rat-a-tatting carts bumped over my threshold. They just rattle right on by.
This is not how I would have chosen to end my days in this hospital that has witnessed the birth of all four of my children. But it’s good, in a way, because every irritant, every setback, every nurse- or doctor-conflict, every “I’m so sick of looking at this stupid hallway” that crosses my mind, erases the shimmer of false nostalgia. And heaps upon the mountain of God messages telling me it’s time to stop bearing children and focus on raising them. I still feel guilt over that, like it’s somehow sinful. But it’s not God’s opinion that worries me on this account…it’s other people’s. I’m pretty sure God’s being as clear as He can be without taking out a personal billboard on the interstate on my behalf.
The thing I’ve always loved most about this hospital, and still do, is the overt religious component. People all over the e-verse have been promising me prayers ever since the drama began, but it was last night, when I got ready to leave the NICU and go to bed, when Michael’s nurse bent down and said, “Let’s pray over him,” that I really felt the prayers for the first time. She traced the cross on his forehead and whispered a prayer for healthy lungs, and then together we traced crosses over his chest. And I knew somehow at that moment that in the morning he’d be better.
And he was.
The sign in every room says “fear not, for I am with you.” I love to preach at people about hard times, and how they’re good for the soul, how much soul-stretching helps you grow. I consider myself an expert in this after all the various dramas and traumas of infertility, anxiety, RSV, open heart surgery, pneumonia…our family has known more hospitals than most. But for days, I’ve resisted the words “thy will be done.” “Fear not.” How can I not fear? How can I say “thy will” when I am absolutely NOT okay with “thy will” that is contrary to “my will”?
Tonight, as the city darkens from gloom to murk outside my window, for the first time I see the glimmer of promise at the end of this particular trial. And the fact that I can gripe about being bored and irritable, instead of falling to pieces and weeping, is one of the best signs there is.