|Laughing, April 2012|
Before Jasper was born, my only association with Children’s Hospital was riding by on my bike about a thousand times - on my way around Lake Washington, or to the hills of Kirkland, or en route for a long rural ride in Snohomish County, what would be a century ride by the time I got back home to ballard (I often did “century,” or 100+ mile rides then). I would pass by the hospital, contemplate it for a moment - pay my respects - then move on as my legs propelled me to the crest of the gentle hill on Sand Point Way. My first time at Children’s was when Jasper was transferred to the NICU as a newborn. I wasn’t yet comfortable with the role of parent, mother... let alone primary caregiver. My mind was spinning with so much information, so many decisions, emotions - so much out of my control. Jasper spent most of his week there in the NICU. Children’s provides limited (and spare) accommodations for parents whose children are in intensive care. Nursing mothers get first priority. So I moved in for what felt much longer than one week. The closet sized rooms are on the fifth floor, above the NICU. There is a common room and a corridor leading to it that affords a distant view of downtown Seattle, and the Space Needle. I remember being there that Saturday night, walking along the corridor to my room and catching a glimpse of the Space Needle. I’m still in Seattle?? I thought. My emotions had been on high since Jasper's birth, and had taken me away. At that point, my life felt utterly unfamiliar. The Space Needle grounded me, brought me back to earth. I had been transported to a new level of adulthood... but I was still in Seattle. After all.
Jasper was at Children’s for a week, though it felt like weeks. One week is nothing compared to stories I have heard from my special mom friends. I remember when I got to the hospital and was given my plastic caregiver identification badge. It was good for one week, from February 17th to February 24th. We will be out of here by then, was my only thought. That was my goal. It happened to work out that way. Jasper spent the first five days in the NICU. His neurologists were trying to control the subclinical seizures that resulted from his stroke. Progress was sketchy - good one day, lousy the next (his seizures were categorized “difficult to control”). After a holiday weekend long AEEG - a continuous EEG, with fewer probes that attach to the scalp with small pins instead of adhesive, meaning I could not hold my newborn for three days - Jasper graduated to the medical floor. Until then, I hadn’t met any other parents and it was there that I met Rob. Rob had noticed Jasper - there weren’t many other babies on the medical floor. I don’t remember the exact details of our meeting, but Rob must have introduced himself and asked about Jasper. He was there with his 15 year old daughter, a few rooms down from ours (at that point, Jasper and I shared a room). Rob had this bright smile and was super positive, he breathed hope. He had been at Children’s with his daughter many times. At one point, feeling sorry for myself, I said, “I never thought I’d be spending our first weeks here...” Rob replied simply, “No one wants to be here.” All at once, I was humbled.
I did not see Rob again after Jasper was discharged. I friended him on facebook and we occasionally said a virtual Hi. Last Tuesday, Jasper and I left our friend’s hospital room at Children’s and walked down the hall to leave. Jasper was laughing especially loud - he has the best laugh, I never hear other kids his age laugh like that - as I pushed his stroller down the hallway. A man was walking toward us and I could see he was smiling at Jasper’s laugh. As soon as we passed, I knew, and turned and said, “Rob??” We both smiled and laughed at meeting each other again so spontaneously. Rob asked about Jasper and that was when it hit me. At first, a lump in my throat that I immediately knew I couldn’t control. “He’s fine...” I said, shaking my head, my throat closing. A few embarrassing tears, attempts to wipe them away. And then overwhelming emotion - sobbing, body shaking. Rob hugged me while I cried. It all came back. My only association with Rob was Jasper’s traumatic beginning. I thought I had healed. Or mostly healed. Seeing Rob again made me realize it is still there. I am still healing.