Birth Trauma Survivor and Maternal Health Advocate

“Don't walk behind me; I may not lead. Don't walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend.” Albert Camus


I was hooked up to so many gadgets. Oxygen under my nose, IV’s in both arms, a catheter (yuck!) and random sticky circles on my chest connected to long cords.

I was still afraid to close my eyes.

Bobby and my best friend, Erica, were waiting in the hallway when I got off the elevator. It wasn’t until she grabbed my hand and squeezed it that I realized I wasn’t hallucinating. I forgot that Erica was coming. We had been texting back and forth earlier that day.

Erica wanted to be there for Miss J’s birth. She braved rush hour traffic on I-495 and drove all the way to New Jersey from Washington, DC. Our relationship reminds me a lot of Christine and Jen’s. I didn’t grow up with any siblings and my friendship with Erica was the closest I had ever come to feeling that type of bond. We became allies quickly when she was the new kid in our ninth grade class. We made an odd couple. The tall, scrawny, black girl and the petite, curvy, porcelain-skinned brunette. She was a rebellious fifteen-year old with a mind of her own, but a heart of gold. I was no angel, but I was not rebellious and I admired that quality in her. We made a perfect and volatile pair. We were good kids but we did receive our fair share of detentions and parent teacher conferences from our antics at school. We often had to be separated from sitting next to each other in class because we talked, passed notes (this was before texting), and made each other laugh. Our friendship has survived breakups, makeups, hookups, and all sorts of other youthful shenanigans. She has been there for everything in my life, all the good and the bad.

Bobby looked like hell. I’ve never seen his face look like that, but I understood it. He was a man who had almost lost everything in an instant and I could relate. I felt that way when my grandmother died. Although I had other family members, Granny gave me stability, a sense of purpose and unconditional love. Bobby gave me a kiss on the cheek. He held my hand and told me he loved me and he was so happy I was okay. I asked him how Miss J was and he said that she was doing great. Erica held my other hand and they both walked alongside my bed while the nurses and Dr. B got me settled into my room. After I was transferred safely into a new clean bed, Dr. B and Bobby went to the nursery to bring Miss J back into my room.

While they were gone, a new nurse marched into my room and like an army drill sergeant and began to bark out orders.

“You’re lucky they let you come up here. You really should be in the ICU. I have some things to tell you and you better listen to me. Now here are my rules. You are not allowed to move any part of your body. Do you understand me? I am serious. Don’t even wiggle your toes. You are in critical condition. Any slight movement can disturb your surgery and you could put your life in jeopardy. You are not to eat or drink anything, not even an ice chip. Don’t talk, don’t laugh and don’t even smile. Just go to sleep and be quiet. I am going to sit in here all night and watch you.”

God damn, this bitch is crazy. I thought. And there was no way I was going to sleep.

Already Erica and I had disobeyed her. Erica started giggling and I couldn’t contain my giggles either. I had been up for two days with no sleep, no food, and barely any water. I was full of drugs. I was delirious and numb to what the Nurse was saying. The Nurse was getting pissed off. We only gained control of ourselves when she threatened to kick Erica out of my room. Somehow the threat of death was not enough to rein us in.

Erica sat beside my bed. We tried not to look at each other so that we wouldn’t start laughing again. We didn’t talk much. There wasn’t much to say. The nurse said she had to go to the bathroom and gave Erica some instructions on what to do if anything happened while she was gone. Before she left she reminded us of her rules.

“Erica, I am so fucking thirsty! You have to get me something to drink.” I whispered, my voice still hoarse.

“Okay, boo boo. We have to hurry though… you know you are not supposed to have anything to drink.”

“Don’t worry, she won’t find out. I need something though. I haven’t had anything to drink since yesterday!”

Erica found a can of Coca Cola, opened it, put a straw in it and held the straw to my lips. I sucked it down vigorously. The bubbles irritated my throat as I swallowed the soda, but I was so happy to finally quench my thirst.

We heard the nurse coming down the hall and Erica quickly disposed of the evidence.

“How are you?” the nurse asked.

“I’m okay. Just tired.” I replied.

“I feel bad for you. I know you must be really hungry and thirsty, but you have to wait until tomorrow to eat and drink. It’s just too risky right now. Try to get some rest.”

“I understand.” I replied.

Five minutes later I vomited brown fluid all over the bed and myself.

“What is that?” the Nurse asked.

Oops.

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