46: Visiting Hours

46: Visiting Hours

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Messages from Heaven

Visiting Hours

It is only with the heart that one can see rightly, what is essential is invisible to the eye.

~Antoine de Saint-Exupery

“Everything is going to be all right,” my mom states after the doctor leaves my bedside. “Jaundice is very common in newborns,” she continues. But because there is a blood type mismatch between me and my baby, this case of jaundice is more severe. I know Mom is just trying to allay my worries that I might have to leave the hospital empty-handed after nine months of carrying my baby girl, but it isn’t all right. Instead of the joyful homecoming I’d envisioned, my baby will be lying in a clear plastic box with bright blue lights in the hospital nursery, hooked up to an IV until her bilirubin level decreases.

“Everything is going to be all right,” my husband says as he kisses me goodbye for the night. Hospital visiting hours are over, but they do not really apply to new dads on the maternity floor. Tom stayed with me the first night our Hanna was born. He awkwardly straddled one leg over the arm of the chair and dozed in spurts, but on the second night, he goes home to be with our three-year-old Lucas. I understand why he leaves, but I just don’t want to be alone. When I am alone in the hospital with my fears and worries, I feel weak.

“Everything is going to be all right,” a nightshift nurse reassures me in a voice that sounds like a recorded message. I don’t believe her. She means well though. When I answer her questions, she can tell by the flutter of emotion in my voice that I have been crying. I am still in a lot of pain, and I am disappointed in myself at my slow recovery. As the nurse wheels the baby’s crib out of my room and turns off the light, I am distraught. I want to hold my baby. I want my husband to stay. I want to feel better.

I desperately want to sleep so that I don’t have to think or feel anymore, but I cannot. Every fifteen minutes, a nurse quietly comes into my darkened room to check my monitors. The constant beeps and blinking numbers say everything is all right, but like clockwork, a nurse keeps coming back to check anyway. I close my eyes but cannot turn off my mind as I await the next interruption.

The next time someone comes into my room, I don’t bother opening my eyes in acknowledgement. Check those monitors again, I think. They’re not going to be any different from ten minutes ago. But then, I sense there are two people in the room — one at the foot of my bed and one to the left near my head. I’ve never had two nurses at once. Maybe they see something wrong on the monitors this time. I pretend to sleep for another minute and hope they will leave, but their presence seems stronger now, more intense. Something is definitely different this time and I begin to feel anxious as this visit lasts longer than the others. Unable to wait it out any longer, I open my eyes, hoping to get an explanation. “Am I all right?”

Silence is the only answer. The room is dim, but clearly no one stands before me. I quickly glance behind me to the left. No one. But I felt them there! I was not dreaming. Someone was here. I close my eyes tightly, hoping to get that same feeling back, but it’s not working. I open my eyes again and look around. Emptiness fills the cold hospital room.

I finally shut my eyes again and rest peacefully for the first time all day. In that foggy, weightless place just before sleep, I am no longer confined to this hospital bed. I am sitting on the edge of my mother’s bed, a place I’ve always felt safe. My five cousins sit cross-legged on the country quilt behind me. There’s someone they want to see, too. Their father stands by the bedpost at the foot. It’s been fifteen years since my Uncle Mike has passed, but I’m happy to see him, looking just as I remember. Kind eyes, wispy hair that looks like feathers, and a big grin under a reddish mustache.

I see my grandma standing to my left. She passed away shortly after Lucas was born, and I am sad that she will not get to hold our daughter. I think she is pleased we named Hanna Catherine after her, but it is me she comes to visit tonight. My grandma always had a serene, caring way about her in everything she did. And in seeing her soft smile before me now, I am comforted to know that has not changed.

In the next instant, I feel my body back in the hospital bed, but I strain to keep my eyes closed, desperately wanting to hold on to this precious time I’ve been given with my grandma. I want to tell her about the baby. I want to tell her I feel alone and scared. But she already knows. And I know she is really there when I feel the touch of her kiss on my forehead. I take in a sharp breath and let out a brief sob, acknowledging the rarity of the physical connection we just shared. Before I finally drift off to sleep, she leans over and whispers in my ear, “Everything is going to be all right.” And for the first time, I actually believe that to be true.

~Erin Solej

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