"We heard you've been refusing pain medication." She looked down at me stretched on the table.
"Why? Do you have a history of addiction?"
"No. I just would prefer to wait until they are absolutely necessary. And they haven't been yet."
"My name is Emilia."
"No it's not."
"Yes, but I spell mine correctly. You're not Italian, are you?"
"You'll have to take that up with my great aunt. And yes."
"You must be from the south."
"Right. Near Naples."
"Ah. Well my family is from the north, which is why my name is spelled correctly, with an 'E'."
A nice-faced man whose name began with a J came over to put a medical hairnet shower cap thingy on my head while she explained to me precisely what was going to happen with my anesthetization. During a pause, I said "I've never been under before. I'm scared."
She finished explaining and asked if I had any questions. I didn't. I needed to sign a document that verified I understood. I signed.
They wheeled me into the operating room and I shimmied onto the thin table. Some lady with dark skin and ornamental gold earrings said some words to me. I don't remember what they were. I was out.
I woke up three hours later still in the operating room, my head turned to the right, a rubbery oxygen mask poised over my face. I remembered some of the dreams I had, something about being at a kind of festival, amongst many people doing something similar, celebratory.
I remember going into recovery and saying clever things to the nurses and to my dad and the Midge and Luana who fed me ice chips. Glorious ice chips. The nurse boasted, "I always say we have the best ice chips of any hospital." Truer words were never spoken.
As I transitioned from recovery into my room, I was informed that labor and delivery was full, so I'd be in pediatrics. I thought it interesting that I'd be in labor and delivery at all, because I didn't feel as though I'd properly "delivered" anything, but I guess it is a GYN issue so okay. But peds it was.
The nurse, named Tracey, was sweet and reminded me of my mother's sisters. Turns out she lives - yes present tense - in Florida and flies to Massachusetts regularly to work per diem shifts at various hospitals. When she learned that my fiance was on his way from Florida we had an instant bond.
I was transitioned over to the bed, where I noticed that I had cuffs on my calves that were uninflated. I asked Nurse Tracey about the cuffs: would they be inflated? "You don't really need them," she said. "Right." I responded "because I can move my legs and will be getting up relatively soon."
"Do you want them inflated?"
"I guess not."
Luana stood at the foot of my bed and squeezed my toes.
That was the moment that my dream became reality, and I said so. I reminded Luana that I told her about my dream, and Tracey said, "I have goosebumps right now."
I hoped things would turn out well.
I spent the rest of the evening and night doing all I could to remain present and to move gas. Move that gas. That was my sole mission.
I had been leaned back in the bed and Tracey suggested I try for the first time to get up, possibly to use the bathroom. My father, Selah, and Luana stepped out as Tracey began to raise the head of the hospital bed. About 3/4 of the way upright, I was seized by a terrifying, paralyzing pain through my entire front that gripped my breath and froze my body. I moaned and my crazy eyes looked into Tracey's, I could barely mouth the words "pain. I'm in pain." She very skillfully said, "try to breathe deeply, try to relax your body." It was as if my whole abdomen was in charlie horse. I actively relaxed my muscles, snuck in little breaths, and leaned back again. It was terrifying. It was temporary.
We tried again. I moved slowly, breathing deeply, rolling first to my left side in tiny baby movements, giving space and time to the aches that threatened to grip me again. After minutes, I was upright in bed. At the edge of the bed. Weight in my feet. I made it to the bathroom and spent several more minutes waiting for everything below my waist to relax enough to let anything pass.
I returned to bed.
Luana stayed behind and offered me reiki as I lay there and gratefully received her energy and attention. Later the nurses would ask about it, having seen her hovering her hands over my body. We joked about alternative healing methods, as I noticed that Tracey was like my own personal yoga teacher, reminding me to lift my gaze, to take deep breaths in, long breaths out, especially when I didn't want to.
The paralyzing terror grip happened once more during the course of the evening, this time when I was alone. I had the wherewithal to press the call button and heeded Tracey's imaginary advice to relax my body and breathe as deeply as possible. She rushed to the room and coached me through the rest. I was up again, this time for a short walk that ended with me in a sweat almost unconscious. The nurses ushered me into a wheelchair, and suddenly I burped and felt incredibly more comfortable. I asked to sit in the wheelchair for a while, and told them it felt like "being in a hammock." They looked at me like I was crazy and acceded. I sat upright, took sips of water, small bites of a raspberry ice, and burped as I watched fireworks out the window (that is when I had the wherewithal to update my Facebook status). I wound up back in bed but couldn't sleep so I just hovered around consciousness and manipulated my position so that I could keep burping. I realized that humming mobilized the gas that filled my body cavity. I imagined that the process was this: gas from the operation filled my body cavity; it needed to make its way through the membranes of my digestive organs so that it could be processed, either up or down (nothing was happening below the navel at this point); humming helped to vibrate the gas so that it moved more efficiently into the digestive organs, and small sips of water allowed it to transmute; deep breaths into that breathalyzer thing (incentive spirometer) that helped to push the cavity gas around and open up my digestion, so that when I sat upright, I burped! Maybe that makes no sense! Maybe it is scientifically crazy! But you better believe it worked for me and I sat up all night humming, sipping water, breathing deeply, leaning forward, and burping. And that gas moved. And at 4 am I farted. So there.
Gabriel arrived around midnight, after flying most of the day from Miami to Atlanta to Boston via a buddy pass generously provided by the Midge. He walked in, I was sitting in a chair, and I couldn't even look at him, because if I did I would have cried. And my guts could not take a cry. Not physically. Not emotionally. They would have cramped and spilled. So I looked away and just touched his hand, never happier in my life to see him. I knew all along I picked the right one, and having him there over the next few days just confirmed it. He is the most beautiful and brilliant man and I can't even begin to express the heart explosion of gratitude I feel to have him in my life. Not surprisingly, he was an absolute peach (a "Gabe" as my sister would say) for the next four days. I cannot wait to be his wife.
Gabe and I sat up together for many hours, the nurses pulled out one of those chair thingys for him to sleep on, and we both dozed until early morning when the busy-ness began: a visit from the doctor; a visit from the resident; a visit from the phlebotomist with an adorable baby face named Cesar; an offer of clear liquids that I could barely consider; the change of nurse shift again. My temperature was fairly steady, my blood pressure was decent. There was talk of discharge. I was yellow and very puffy from fluids, but sure, I was keen to go home. Wheels were put in motion. I went home around 1:30 pm on Saturday and did my best to rest, but was wobbly and could feel my heart throbbing in my head. I dozed some, ate some, and then around 9:30 pm felt not quite right. Every time I got up to use the bathroom I developed the chills and trembled, and this was during last week's heat wave on the 95 degree day. I took my temperature, it was 100.6. My discharge paperwork said that immediate medical attention was necessary if my temperature exceeded 100.4. Fuck.
[To Be Continued]