Sunday, October 24, 2010
I was led into this room once before, a waddling 41 weeks pregnant, laughing with the midwife about the falling pressure and the number of women who had been admitted with ruptured membranes that evening. I remember it crystally clear-- walking through the first door, and then the second, swinging myself up onto the bed, the midwife strapping on the monitor. I remember the room vividly, the yellowy-beige walls, the wooden nightstand with the telephone, the door to the bathroom on the left. I remember the window, which was the same as the ones in all the other labor and delivery rooms. But the thing that set this room apart from the other L&D rooms in my mind looking back was its size: it was small. Whereas the other rooms were large, with room for walking, bouncing on a ball, and bringing in an army of family and friends, this one had only a few feet between the end of the bed and the wall. And the wall, which I remember staring at wide eyed after the doctor told me that my baby had died, was smooth and unadorned. Unlike the other rooms, with cabinets, a counter for writing bracelets and collecting specimens, and the warming oven for the baby blankets, this back wall was plain and smooth, blank as could be.
I hold this in my mind so perfectly, this absolutely blank wall that met my stare, as I looked into my empty future. Beside me, my husband cried into his hands, but I just lay there, my huge belly like a weight upon me, and stared dry eyed at the wall in front of me. I have revisited this memory more times than I've cared to over the years. The blank, blank wall, so close to the foot of my bed, my dry eyes haunting me as my ears rung with the doctor's awful words.
Then, last Friday, I was called to come and sit with a family whose baby had just been born still the previous day. They were returning to the hospital to collect some things and wanted to see me. When I arrived, I was told they would be in room one. Chills climbed up and down my spine; I had not walked through those doors in seven and a half years. As I approached the room, I remembered it again, clear as day in my mind, and mused that the couple had probably been placed there to talk to me because it was a smaller, more intimate space to talk.
I expected that the colors that would meet me would be different, as the childbirth center had been repainted several years ago, and indeed it was a soft lavender paired with sage green that met my eyes. But as I opened the door my jaw must have almost hit the floor because this was the thing: the room was huge.
It was HUGE.
The room was almost identical to the other L&D rooms, yes, except it was far bigger. So much bigger, in fact, that it was in this room that they had chosen to put the new birthing tub, and it fit quite easily between the bed and the bathroom door.
This space that I remembered the doctor barely cramming the ultrasound machine, where I remember the doctor and the midwife crowded together, their backs to the bathroom door, faces grave.
And the wall opposite the bed?
Covered with cabinets, and countertops, and just like the other rooms.
Eleven months ago, I had given birth to a baby on the room to the left of this one.
And on the right lay the closet where I keep my Empty Arms materials, and an office where I sometimes have meetings.
The room didn't change one bit.
But somehow, my memory was absolutely erroneous.
I came home, still dizzy and reeling, and wondered aloud to Greg, sharing my memory of the stark, blank wall, and the room which was closing around me.
And he, too, corroborated that the room was in fact not small.
And so, as my life closed in around me, I suppose my memory did as well.