An Unexpected Turn of Events

It’s a strange thing, to be cooped up in a hospital room when you’re not the patient.

I have always been fascinated with airports, hospitals, and other “hermetically sealed” environments. Such places are entire worlds unto themselves, self-contained microcosms that, once you’ve entered them, cause the outside world to retreat just barely beyond the boundary of your awareness, if not cease to exist altogether.

I start to feel like a Haruki Murakami protagonist whenever I enter one of these places. The hours take on a surreal tone that is lonely, ominous, ambivalent, exhilarating, suspenseful, exhausting, and absurdly funny — all at the same time. Life becomes sharper in some ways, pared down to the barest of necessities, and yet you feel detached from your life because all of its normal trappings and reference points — your house, your job, your routines — are just this far outside of reach.

And all of that stuff feels especially far away right now. Renae has been in the hospital for a week now, thanks to a lovely case of pregnancy-induced hypertension. We went in last Friday thinking that they would run some tests, prescribe some meds, and tell us to come back in a few days. Well, Renae hasn’t left yet, nor does it look like she’ll be leaving anytime soon

In the “best” case scenario, she’ll be in her hospital room, on total bed-rest, for about five more weeks, at which point the baby will be fully baked and ready to come out of the oven. And in the “worst” case, she’ll be here for two more weeks. Or rather, we’ll be here.

It’s a strange thing, to be cooped up in a hospital room when you’re not the patient — when you’re not the one hooked up to monitors and put on strict orders to stay in bed all day. You enter into an almost entirely observational state, simply watching and waiting. Everything else becomes a distraction, whether it’s running home to shower and change, going down to the cafeteria for a quick bite to eat, or going into the office for an otherwise normal eight-hour workday.

Under different circumstances, it’s not necessarily a bad way to go through life. You become sharper, clearer, more attentive to what’s going on. Of course, when the circumstances involve a pregnant wife who hasn’t had the best of pregnancies and your unborn son, it’s far from the ideal. It’s tiring and makes one prone to irrational outbursts of frustration and anger, times when you can’t help but wonder if it’s really worth all of this.

Thankfully, there are always anchors, even during a time like this. One thing that has helped me considerably throughout this pregnancy — which, as I hinted at before — has been far from rosy, is the knowledge that we will not be raising this child alone. We may be his parents, but we are not the only folks looking after him (or us, for that matter).

I’ve been incredibly humbled by the outpouring of support over the last week: family members who come in from out of town to spend the day running errands; friends and neighbors who spend an evening making our house spotless; co-workers who work around a rather erratic schedule.

I’d love to wrap this up with something nice and pithy, or advice to those who may be following us into this adventure. But right now, I’m too tired, my back hurts from sitting on hard hospital furniture, I have no idea when I’m going to shower next, I’ve been swearing under my breath too much, and most of all, I know that my wife lies in bed all day, doing her best to stave off the side effects of cabin fever, anxiety, and blood pressure medication. And so I have no real insight, no advice — just plenty of exhaustion and pain.

And maybe a wee little bit of promise that someday, we’ll look back on this as one of those times in our lives — when the “reality” of this world was peeled back a little, and we got to see what is really Real, what is truly True. But God so help me, I’m having a little trouble seeing that right now.

And suffice to say, if you’re the praying type, prayers would be most appreciated.