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Monday, August 30, 2010

Chrysanthemums

One of the occupational hazards of blogging is that I rarely polish my writing. I write, publish, obsess over comments, and move on. 

I started this blog to develop my writing skills, but I'm neglecting the most important part of the process--revision. Thus,  I will periodically  revisit posts from the early days, and revise them. 

Feel free to go along on the ride. I can almost promise these are new to most of you. 

You can click the title to see the original work, if you are so moved. 

Calvert Memorial Hospital  (originally published November 12, 2008)

I picked up a bouquet of chrysanthemums on my way to the hospital. Such happy plants, like a bonfire on a stem. I'm seeing my friend Joanne, and her day-old son. I am returning to Calvert Memorial Hospital.

When Joanne visited me at the hospital, two months earlier, she brought sunflowers. She placed them on the table, told me I looked skinny, and cooed over my newborn son, Joel. This is what best friends do.

She gazed at Joel, sleeping in his isolate. His chest moved up and down, a frenzy of respiration. She paused, selecting each word, "Do you think he's breathing a little quickly?"

I replied, "I think it's newborn stuff. He's just different from his brother. He's so tired. He's not interested in eating, and he seems angry at life." I swallowed, added, "I'm not sure I like him yet. Is that a terrible thing to say?"

She laughed, patted her own pregnant belly, and said, "I'm sure he'll perk up." She gazed again and his sleeping figure, set her mouth into a smile, and kissed me goodbye.

That night, it was determined that Joel was in respiratory distress. He was airlifted to the NICU at Johns Hopkins, where he spent the next eight days of his life. Paul and I loaded up the bouquet of sunflowers, the knitted blankets, and the hospital onesie removed by the nurses.

I smelled that onesie, and knew what it meant to be torn in half.  

A month later, Joanne and I met up at the playground. Owen and her son played, as Joel slept in my sling.

"I knew I should have said something," she said. "I was sure something was wrong." She blinked, once, twice, and sighed deeply. "I am so sorry."

I turned to her, "It is not your fault. There were doctors. Nurses. People saw him all day long. Nobody said anything. Sometimes these things just....happen." I sniffed his soft red hair. "Besides....he's fine now. No problems at all. I even like him a lot these days."

She smiled softly, resting her hand softly on her belly. We watched our big boys play.

And now, I clutch the chrysanthemums, as I  walk down the hallway of Calvert Memorial Hospital. I walk past the nursery, where they placed the C-PAP on Joel's nose and mouth. I walk past the bench where I called my mother at three AM. I smell that soap, and stand in the hallway until I no longer feel the need to cry.

Then, I walk into Joanne's room,  and place the flowers on the table. I tell my friend that she looks skinny and that her son is gorgeous. Because he is. Because she is.

His breathing is normal, and all is well. No ghosts here. Not in this room. Only love. Only beginnings.

I return home, and walk into Joel's nursery. I watch his slow, deep breaths and whisper, "Thank You. Thank You. Thank You."

20 comments:

Aging Mommy said...

The original post is good, but in comparison to the rewrite, night and day, completely and utterly night and day. I loved this. I like the idea of revisiting and rewriting. I've only been blogging since February but it would still be an interesting exercise to do.

I totally feel the same way as you - six months into this blog my love for the written word has taken off completely, but yet finding the time to do more than my blog is proving difficult and honing your skills through reworking posts is a great idea.

Minivan Lover said...

1. Oh. My. God. You are a brave soul and a great friend. I have not gone back to CMH's maternity ward yet.
2. Oh. My. God. You are so brave. I need to edit some of my older (read: all) pieces. I'm just so overwhelmed by it.

Sugar and Salt said...

I haven't read the original yet, but this by itself is a beautiful piece of writing. Thank you for sharing with us...talking about such scary things as this is never easy.

I'm so glad everyone is well. I think you need to take a trip on the zoo train soon. :)

Mommy Wis(h)dom said...

This is a beautiful piece.

What a great idea to go back and edit old pieces. When I look back at some of my earlier "mommy pieces" I cringe. This idea is inspiring. Thanks, for the idea...I promise to give credit for great ideas. : )

noisycolorfullively said...

beautiful. So is Joel. So are you.

Melani said...

This is a wonderfully written post.

My first born was 5 1/2 weeks early and he spent 10 days in the NICU...at a hospital about an hour away. I was 20 when he was born so I didn't know to ask questions...but when they wouldn't bring him to me and they wheeled me in to see him, I cried and cried and cried...I could not see him thru my tears, and made my husband sign the paperwork for him but told him they are not to give him anyone's blood, only ours if he needs a transfusion. I remember asking how I will know he is mine when I get to the NICU the next day and they told me I have a special band on my wrist and he has the same one on his wrist and ankle...his lungs were not developed yet. It has a name but I can't find out how to spell it.

Erin said...

I haven't revisted my girls' NICU since their discharge. Granted they were never in serious danger, but...your piece definitely brings up some emotion and memories for me. I don't like hospitals at all....

mama-face said...

Ah. Nancy, you are just so talented. I am caught up in a lot of memories right now...


(I love that you congratulate each other for being skinny. Now that's what it means to be a good friend). :)

only a movie said...

Gorgeous. xo

Ms. Moon said...

We do not even know where our hearts ARE until we birth our children.

FabuLeslie said...

Tears coming now. Your writing is so moving and powerful. Nice work again!

Gigi said...

I love this post...so beautifully written. Thank you for coming by my blog today so I'd have the pleasure of coming here and reading this. :)

An Imperfect Momma said...

Wow. Great post. I am tearing up here!

The Blue Zoo said...

You are such a good writer.

Beth Zimmerman said...

Revisiting and revising is a grand idea! Thanks for the inspiration!

And this is a wonderful post! I'm so glad Joel was *okay* and that you learned to like him! :)

Organic Motherhood with Cool Whip said...

Wow. That piece totally made me cry. The only word I can think of right now is gratitude. We are all just so lucky and blessed to have these wonderful little people in our lives. You are such an incredibly powerful writer, Nancy. I'm gonna go cry now.

Shell said...

Absolutely beautiful!

Coby said...

I love love love the rewrite. Words fail me somewhat, but it's more "real" than the original. Realer than real, revealing a mom's heart that now knows that "things just...happen," and not necessarily just to someone else. As a fellow member of the NICU alumni group, this really struck me. Ditto to what Organic Motherhood said - I'm gonna go cry now.

Erin said...

That reminded me so much when my 2nd was born. It's scary when they can't breathe! Glad that is all worked out okay!

Jenny said...

Beautiful.

bonfire on a stem

Really evocative.

Thank you.