Birth Trauma Survivor and Maternal Health Advocate

“Although she was giddy with exhaustion, sleep was a lover who refused to be touched….” ― Janet Fitch, Paint it Black

I wanted Miss J to lay next to me all night but the night nurse/army sergeant made Bobby put her back in the bassinet. That’s the thing about being a patient–you don’t get to make decisions, especially after a traumatic accident. Everyone not only tells you what to do, but also when and how to do it. You don’t have a choice. Your mind plays tricks on you. Your body tells you the truth. Nothing is the same after trauma. All you can do is be thankful you survived and follow the instructions given to you as best you can.

Bobby rolled the bassinet as close to me as possible. Somehow, Miss J turned her swaddled body towards me and looked directly at me through the clear glass. Her eyes were big, bold and piercing. From that moment, every time she looks at me it is like she is seeing through me. I constantly feel exposed–she knows everything. We stared at each other until she dozed off to sleep.

I don’t know how anyone can sleep in a hospital. If you have ever been able to sleep in a hospital, congratulations. Tell me your secret. A soon as I felt like I might rest, someone interrupted me by changing my catheter, drawing my blood or giving me more medication. The sounds of the night kept me awake. The fear of the pitch black I saw every time I closed my eyes made sleep impossible.

Bobby managed to eventually fall asleep on a cot in my room and Erica sat beside me. I don’t remember if she slept or not, but I know that every time I opened my eyes and looked at her, she was awake. We were still giddy over the Coca-Cola incident.

The night nurse would grunt or sigh at any hint that we might communicate with each other. She loathed Erica’s presence. Erica, having worked in the health care industry for several years, felt comfortable asking questions about my treatment. She demanded to know what exactly happened, the course of treatment and what type and how much medication I was taking. In my Demerol and epidural haze, I found it amusing. Erica’s mom, Saralynn, has a nickname for her: ‘pit bull.’ It is so hilarious and fitting. Erica stands at 5’ 2” but has never backed down from a conflict. She is protective and fights for her friends, but the nurse wasn’t having it. Eventually the two of them came to a truce and started talking about other random things.

During the course of their conversation, Erica mentioned to the nurse that I was a make-up artist. Oh no, I remember thinking. I love my job but one of the curses that comes along with it is that once anyone finds out, they want to ask me a lot of beauty questions. That night was no different. For someone who had insisted on complete quiet, the nurse had a lot of questions. Do you like my highlights? What’s your favorite concealer? What’s the best eye cream?

Every now and then, her inner guilt would persuade the nurse to back off a little, but she couldn’t resist the temptation and it would start all over again. Who is the most famous person you have ever done make-up for?  Who is the bitchiest? Who is a diva?  Disclaimer: I never answer those last two. At one point she excused herself to go get a pen and paper to write down my product recommendations. Bobby and Erica were both irritated and asked me if I wanted them to tell the nurse to shut up. I did, but I told them no, anyway. I let her talk. I couldn’t sleep. I didn’t want to. My brain was working! I was thinking and feeling. It felt good.

The night nurse returned with a huge note pad and a pen.

“I’m so excited!” she said in a loud whisper. “I have never met a real celebrity make-up artist!”

She asked question after question and I answered them all. Within a half hour I had solved all of her issues including flaky scalp, rosacea and how to properly apply foundation. As much as my throat hurt and my voice was barely audible, I was having fun. I answered as many of her questions as I could until my voice was too hoarse to go on. Talking about make-up made me feel somewhat normal. I am a beauty expert.

It was nice to be reminded that something had stayed the same.


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