Eight and a Half Weeks

When each day matters.

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I sat and looked at the steak and champagne before me and wiped my face with a paper napkin.  Just like everything around me, it tasted sterile.  Bland.  Lifeless.   A tear ran down my face as I looked at the tray in front of my own, untouched.  I had called everywhere I could think of, and no one knew where he was.  What’s more, they felt pity for me; something I detested.

“I’m sure he will show up any minute now, honey.” His mother said in her sweet Virginia accent.  Yet, I could hear that uncertainty in her voice.  She knew her son better than anyone; and even though she loved him, she knew he probably wasn’t going to show up.  I wondered if it was really pity I heard in her voice for me, or disappointment in her son.   Maybe she felt as though the fact he was so unreliable was somehow her fault.

I accepted her reassurance with the same amount of doubt.   He was already two hours late.  It’s not like he didn’t know about it.  I had reminded him the night before.

The nurse came in and checked my vitals, looked at my stitches and asked if I wanted her to take the trays away.  No, I said.  He’s just running late.

“Ok.” she said, trying to hide the pity she obviously felt as well.  “Would you like some more pain meds to help you sleep?”

I did not refuse them this time.   After waiting up as long as I possibly could, I finally drifted off into a fitful sleep.

He never came.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way, you know?  The doctor said that it wasn’t supposed to happen until July.  It was only April 27th, and we had just finished celebrating my dad’s 41st birthday.

It was a simple family affair.   Me and my husband, Bob, with my parents.  A few gifts, and cake and ice cream.  We were in the living room with the TV on, because that’s how my parents lived.  My mom would have the TV on in the house even if she was in the other room cleaning, “just for noise” she would say.  But it was pretty much always on.  If they were up, it was on, whether anyone watched it or not.  And everything happened in the living room in front of the TV, even meals.  The only meals eaten at the table as a family were holidays and at restaurants; or maybe if we had guests.

My husband, Bob and I, had just settled in for the night in my parents dark and only partially finished basement.  We had taken up residence there because my wonderful husband had just been kicked out of the Marines for smoking pot….and I was pregnant.  So, we left California, where we had been the past couple years, and went back to our home town in Lander, Wyoming.  My parents agreed to let us stay with them, and Bob’s parents agreed to feed us.

Well, mainly his mom.  His dad was an alcoholic, and not around much. Every night we went down the street to eat dinner with Bob’s mom, Georgia. She was an amazing cook and made things I had never even had before.  I blame her for a lot of the weight I put on when I was pregnant!  (Even though it’s not really true. But I did eat for two…more like four!)   She was from Virginia, and even though she had been in Wyoming longer than I was old, she still spoke with her southern accent.  She was the cutest thing, standing at only 4 foot 11, and always had a smile on her face.  I rarely saw her in a sour mood.   Though I am sure she had plenty.  Must have been that “Southern Charm” people talked about.

His dad looked a bit like the crypt keeper.  He had so many wrinkles and his skin was like leather.  He would sometimes come out into the living room without a shirt on and you could see all the scars from the burns.  He was in a fire…but no one gave any more details than that.  I don’t remember ever seeing him smile.  Maybe once or twice.  I was scared of him.

Bob also had three older brothers.  Troy, Adam, and Justin.  Justin had died in a boating accident outside of town.  It was before my time.  Bob was only eight when it happened, and he was three years older than me.  We had been married about a year before he even spoke of it to me.  I knew Justin had drowned from talk around the town, but nothing else.  Apparently he and some friends were up the lake and partying and a storm came up.  One of the boys Justin was with had fallen out of the boat and Justin had tried to save him.  Justin succeeded in helping his friend, but he did not make it.  Bob said he hid behind the door when the police officer came to the house and told his parents what had happened.  He was not supposed to be listening, but he did.  Bob said his dad was never the same again.

Justin was the oldest, he was popular, and an athlete.   They even had a memorial track meet at the high school in his name every year.  I heard recently they were talking about doing away with it.   I don’t know if they did or not.   Even though Bob never said it, it was clear to me that day, as tears rolled down his face, that he would never speak of this to me again.  He never did.

Bob and I have been married almost two years now, and I was just nineteen.   As I stated before, (in former blogs) I was a stubborn girl who had finished school early and  who managed to talk my parents into letting me get married young….real young.  Sometimes, I think they just didn’t want to have to deal with me any more.  Everything was a fight.  I wasn’t allowed to do anything.  No dances, no movies, no concerts, DEFINITELY no dating….the list goes on.

I would spend hours arguing with my dad about how unreasonable he was.  To no avail, of course.  Most of the things I did, were done behind his back.  Sometimes with my mother’s permission, (and a whisper, “don’t tell your dad.”) sometimes, without.    This kind of thing happened a lot, and to hear my parents tell it?  I was a horrible child who was always giving them problems.

Anyway, my parents said they let me marry Bob because they were afraid I would run away with him and they decided they would rather know where I was and be part of my life than for me to run away and not know where I was.  Like I would ever do that!  Ha!  I didn’t really have the balls for that!  I guess we will never know though.

Bob had lain beside me sleeping, and I would lie there awake with worry.  He had not been able to find a job, and I was six months pregnant.  The baby was due in July, and since Bob was no longer a Marine, that meant we no longer had insurance for the coming birth of our child.  We were sent paperwork for COBRA insurance, but we couldn’t afford it.  Who the hell can afford that, anyway?  Does anyone actually buy it?!   Didn’t matter.  We didn’t even have two red cents to rub together.  We couldn’t pay for insurance even if it only costs a dollar.

My mom had found Bob a job where she worked for a short while.   The owner had decided he wanted the building painted and so Bob and one or two other guys were doing it.  As the place of business was downtown on main street and it’s a small town, Bob apparently spent far more time talking to passers-by than working.  So, when the owner chose someone to stay on and do more work for him, Bob was not chosen.  I could not argue this, as I had driven by on my way to other places and seen him leaning into a couple car windows myself.  Bob, of course, would shrug and say he didn’t know why the owner didn’t choose to keep him on.

I remembered the day I realized he was smoking pot.  I was so disappointed.  I couldn’t believe he would do such a thing, especially when he knew he could be subject to a piss test at any time.  Although, I knew he did it before we got married.  I was dumb enough to believe him when he said he would stop.  He hid it from me rather well for quite some time.  I suspected, but when I would ask why his eyes looked the way he did, he always had some excuse I was all too willing to believe.

He had the roach hidden in a book he had brought home from work.  I had found it odd that he had this book, because this guy was not the type to pick up a book and read.  But, he was working nights and said that it was so mind-numbing and he had to stay awake somehow, so he decided to read.  Who was I to tell him he couldn’t read?

Never should have married the fool, I thought to myself.  After all we had already gone through, it wasn’t the first time I had had this thought.  The drugs, the drinking, the cheating, the time he hit me so hard I fell onto the edge of the night stand and was unconscious….or he kicked the marble coffee table so hard he actually broke it.  The time I had called my folks telling them I wanted them to come to California and get me and him standing above me with his fist clenched and ready to blow…bloody lip…screaming…

That’s another story…when I’m ready to tell it…

No, tonight I had other worries on my mind.  My stomach was doing weird things.  I could lie there and see it rise a little and could feel the muscles inside me slowly become more and more tight.  Little by little my insides became more and more hard.  It was the oddest sensation I could imagine.

It occurred to me I was having contractions.  It’s probably those Braxton Hicks contractions they talked about in Lamaze class.  It’s nothing to worry about.  It will go away.  I just need to think about something else.   My mind flashes back to Lamaze class and the slutty blonde nurse who was supposed to be teaching us the Lamaze technique, but seemed to be more interested in sharing a “technique” with my husband, and made it pretty obvious, right in front of me and the whole class, instead.

“How many of you ladies do your Kegel exercises?”  She had asked.  “How many of you can make your vagina get tighter little by little as you do these?”  She then asked.   “I can.”  She said with a little grin on her face while she looked my husband directly in the eyes and tried not to smile.  Everyone in the class knew what she was doing.  EVERYONE.  The looks of shock and pity for me on everyone’s faces told me so.  She’s got a lot of nerve, the effing whore!  

This wasn’t anything new.  I had watched a grown ass woman over 50 basically THROW herself at my husband once.  Right in front of me!  It was like I wasn’t even there!  Literally!  The woman never even acknowledged my presence even though I was right there next to him and had spoken to her!  It was the most blatant outright flirting I had ever seen and I was right there watching it all happen!  I think Bob was actually just as shocked as I was, thank God. It was obvious he  wasn’t interested in “slutty grandma.”  But not so much with little nurse “slutty pants.”  She was actually closer to our age and cute.  I rolled my eyes and tried to think of something else.  I fell asleep and had the same nightmare I had been having for quite some time.  I have caught him cheating and I am crying and screaming and pounding on his chest.  He just stands there laughing at me.

I wake up in the middle of the night, wanting to cry, as I do every time I have this dream. But now, I am more worried about the fact that I am still having contractions.

The contractions did not stop.  In fact they got worse and closer together.  Off to the hospital I go and they put me on this Gawd awful medicine called Brethine.  The way the nurse explained it to me, is it’s a smooth muscle relaxer.  It will relax muscles like your lungs and even the uterus.    It also gave me the most ridiculous back-ache ever.   I was completely miserable.   It was hard to talk, and it took a lot of energy.  But when I did talk?  I was bitching about how miserable this stuff made me feel.

Sometime mid-day, they thought the Brethine was working well and the contractions had stopped enough  that they would start to wean me down to pills and then take me off of them and see how I do.  They also took blood and did some other random tests.  I was scared and basically a mess.  When we had arrived , they had trouble starting the IV and my mother was letting me hold her hand.  I had dug my nails into her so deeply that it drew blood, and she never made a peep.  I only knew because I saw her look down and followed her gaze.    I told her I was sorry and she told me not to worry.   But now that they were taking me off the medicine and the contractions had almost stopped, I finally felt like I could breathe a little easier and everything was going to be ok.

I was wrong.

The contractions began to come again and it did not appear that they were going to be able to stop them.  Discussions of putting me on life flight to Denver, or Salt Lake City were being made.  It was safer for the baby to travel with me in-utero than for them to try and deliver in Lander where the hospital just was not really equipped for such things.   A lot of this was being done in whispers with family members, but I could hear enough to know that things weren’t looking very good.

They wouldn’t let me eat dinner (or supper, as I like to think of it) and sometime around 6:30-7:00, the gynecologist rushed in saying that he was looking at the blood work and my cell count was too high.  It was obvious I was bleeding internally and they needed to do something right away.  He said they could make no guarantees about the baby, and while they hoped to save us both, if they could not, they wanted to be able to save me.  I could always have more babies.  I was numb and it wasn’t from any anesthesia.

I was rolling down the hall on the way to the OR faster than Richard Petty made a lap around the track.  I was told to lie on my left side and stared at all the odd utensils they must use for something in the OR, until my eyes grew so heavy they slammed shut.

I was awakened by a lady telling talking to me.  “Wake up!  You have a baby girl!”  She said.  It took me a few seconds to understand what she was saying and what had just happened.   She told me that she would give me a bit to gather my senses and the doctors would come talk to me.

Giovanna was born at approximately 7:30 pm  on April 28th.  She was born eight and a half weeks too early, by their figures.  She weighed just four lbs. four oz.  She still did not have a suck reflex and her lungs were still too wet.  Now days, they can give medicine that helps a baby’s lungs develop more quickly if it’s going to be born early, but back then, we didn’t have that luxury.  This meant that she could not eat or breathe on her own. They would be flying her to Salt Lake City where she would be admitted to the U of U Medical Center in the Newborn ICU.   She was wheeled in on top of a gurney inside what they called an isolette that sat upon it.  She had a ventilator strapped to her face and looked so tiny and helpless.  A cotton ball sat next to her tiny foot with a small splatter of what I could only assume was her blood on it.  Her foot was barely bigger than the cotton ball.  I was not allowed to hold her or touch her.  She was there for one short minute and then she was whisked away while  a nurse insisted I tell her how I wanted to spell her name for the birth certificate; but I was still a bit out of it from the surgery, and I could not recall.

“There’s a way you spell it.”  I said.  “The correct way.  That’s how I want to spell it.”    I was met with blank looks.   “Do you want to spell it with an IE at the end?” she asked sweetly.  “You can always change it later,” she adds.

“Fine, just spell it with an IE at the end, and then it can be changed later.”  Good grief.  I was annoyed that no one around me seemed to know how to spell a simple name.  Ok, maybe it wasn’t so simple.

The doctors said that my placenta was detaching, and had they put me on a flight somewhere; they would have lost the baby and me both.  Mom said that dad turned green when the doctor told them this.  They had done an emergency C-section and they considered it a success.  The incision on my stomach did not hurt so much, but since they had cut through some major muscles in my abdomen, I could barely sit up, walk, or sit back down again. They wanted me to try this thing where electricity would go through these electrode thingies attached to my staples, and it was supposed to help the pain.  I found it to be of no help at all, and it was in fact uncomfortable and just plain weird to me.  I told them I didn’t like it and wanted it off.  I was given an elastic wrap to put around me and Velcro shut and it did seem to help; but it would be months before I could even do a single sit-up again.  Getting the staples out?  THAT’S what freakin’ hurts!

I was finally well enough to go home and the nurses tried to cheer me up with the congratulatory “steak dinner for two” all couples were given the night before the mother was sent home.  Her eyes lit up and got big with awe as she explained how exciting this would be to Bob and I both.  She told us dinner would be at 6:00 the following day and I would go home the morning after that.

But, the next day, six-o’clock came and went with no Bob.  In fact, I had not seen Bob all day.  I had not heard from him either.  I thought it was very weird.  I called the house and asked my dad if he was there and he didn’t know where he was.  I called his mom’s house and got the same thing.  The nurse also came and went, and I sat there alone trying to force down my cold, dry steak.  It was supposed to be a dinner for Bob and I, so my parents had stayed away.  I had no one.  No parents.  No Bob.  No friends.  No baby.   I welcomed sleep with open arms as I fought back tears.

The next day I was going to be discharged and in walked Debbie Downer.  She had the “hots” for Bob in high school and I knew they had hooked up more than once.  I had gotten a job at one of the local clothing stores in town where she also  worked for a short time.  She was down right, out loud, horrible to me!  So, why was she here bringing me gifts?!?!  Oh, so you’re the one screwing my husband!  Thanks so much for your gifts of guilt.  Bye bye now.    I faked gratitude and answered her 20 questions as simply as I could without encouraging her to stay any longer than necessary.  I may have hinted at being rather tired, I just can’t be sure.

Bob finally arrived and gave me some story that he had been up the sinks caving and drinking with his friends and he “forgot” about the steak dinner.   I didn’t even have the energy to fight with him about it.   He asked where the gifts came from and I told him, and how I thought it was weird that a woman I knew hated me was bringing me gifts.  He reassured me that she was just trying to be nice.  Ok.  Whatever.

I am discharged and back to my parent’s house we go. Only this time, mom has set up a bed in a room upstairs so it would be easier for me.  I was drained completely just getting into the house and to the bed, and thought she was sweet to have had the insight to know the stairs would be too much for me.

We were given an 800 number to the hospital where Giovanna was staying so we could check up on her as often as we wanted.  They said she was doing really well and that she would probably get to come home in about a week.  They asked us if we would be coming to visit her, and we explained that we didn’t have the money, and if she would be coming home quickly, that would probably be the only trip we could make.   And that was the plan…until the call came.

It was after 10:00 at night, so we couldn’t even fathom who would be calling that late.  Then we were told it was one of the doctors from the hospital and Giovanna wasn’t doing well.  She had contracted an infection in her intestines and they thought we should come immediately, because they could not guarantee she would even make it through the night. When we explained it was about a six hour drive, they tried to sound more reassuring that Giovanna was going to be ok, but that we should come as soon as we could.  But they didn’t want us risking the drive in snowy weather during the night.  Bright and early the next morning, Bob and I loaded up my parents car (they thought I would be more comfortable in their car) and he helped me get in and we started our journey to Salt Lake City.  I did not know it at the time, but I would not be back.  Not for four months.

I was too afraid to think too much of what we might find there.  I was lying down trying to get comfortable and rest…AND not think about it.  At one point, Bob lost control of the car on the ice and gave me a play by play as we slid along.  “We almost hit a truck.  We almost hit a truck.  We’re headed for the ditch.  We’re headed for the ditch.”  I did not move or say anything.

We found our way to the U of U medical center and to the Newborn ICU.  It was scary to be told we had to scrub up and put on a gown and mask.  But I would become an expert at this in no time.  I was more concerned about seeing my baby.   I only had one brief moment to see her before she was whisked away. What would she look like?  What color would her hair be?  What color were her eyes?  I had so many questions.  I had a couple of Polaroid’s, but it just wasn’t the same. I wanted to see my baby for real now.

What I saw….broke my heart.  I was shocked and immediately tried to hold back tears.  The nurses explained to me that they ran out of places to keep her IV because her tiny veins kept “blowing”, so they had to shave her hair and put them in her head.  They explained that the thing stuck to her chest with wires was monitoring her heart-beat and the  device on her little hand, her oxygen levels; and that the thing in her mouth was called a ventilator and it was helping her breathe.  Her stomach was distended and stuck out like she was pregnant herself.  It was completely black and blue.  She lie there naked on top of a diaper and they had made marks with a felt tip pen on her belly where the measuring tape should go in order to make sure the measurements of changes in her abdomen growth would be accurate.

The doctors came around later and explained that Giovanna had contracted something called Necrotizing Enterocolitis, or commonly called NEC.  They said they didn’t know how she got it or even really know a lot about it, except that it affects premature babies, and it can be quite devastating.  They wanted to schedule surgery for her as soon as possible.

I stayed up all night with Giovanna that night before her surgery, as I did with all the other surgeries that would be to come.  I read the Bible to her and sang a song I knew by this group of kids called The Behrmans.  I have done numerous searches for this group of kids and their song from my childhood, and cannot find it anywhere.  I only know how the song goes.

Thank you Jesus, For this sooooong.  It won’t take looonng.  And right now, I just want to praise you,  I just want to raise, my hands, to the skyyyy.  And sing Alle, allelujah.   Praise unto ya.  My God.   He’s my savior.  Life’s creator.  There’s no greater than, my Loooooord. 

One might ask why I would sing a song of praise to the Father in such a time of trouble, and I can only tell you this.  I was young, but I was smart enough to know that our sacrifice to God is praise, even in the midst of trouble.  It’s easy to praise God and give him the credit for something when things are going well and we are happy.  But that is no sacrifice, and God does expect this from us.   This song was one that stuck with me through the whole ordeal.  Not only because I was praising the Father, but because he WAS life’s creator, and I was reminding him of the life he had created right in front of me.  Would he please complete the work in her?  Let her live and have a full and happy life?   Only he could make this happen.  I had no control over it.

After her first surgery, Giovanna returned with gauze wrapped around her tiny distended belly and these rather large tubes with bulbs at the end of them sticking out of her tummy.  It was later explained to me that she has extensive damage, but there is so much swelling, and adhesions (sticking together of the bowel walls) that they didn’t want to try and do too much until she was stronger.  For now, they were doing damage control and using the tubes with suction bulbs to flush saline through her stomach cavity.  Her bowels had most likely perforated, or torn, in at least one place and this was to help cleanse her peritoneum of the fecal matter and hopefully prevent any further complications.

I would sit by Giovanna’s isolette for hours and hours just talking to her and singing to her.  It was heart wrenching to sit and watch her cry in pain, and know there was absolutely nothing I could do for her.  Her little face would turn red and you could tell she was upset and screaming…but there was no sound.  The ventilator kept any sound from coming through.  It was such an odd feeling to be a mother who did not know the sound of her baby’s cry.  Not that I wanted my baby to cry.  I wanted to know her cry though.  And I did not.    She almost never opened her eyes, and I didn’t know what color they were either.  When she did try to open them, I would get as close as I could in hopes that she could see me when she did.   So that she could see me, and know I was there.   Later, we would see that her eyes were big and bright blue.  She was dubbed “Missy Peepers” by my dad when she was about four months old, and we still call her that to this day.

Giovanna would be around two months old before I would even get to hold her briefly with all her tubes and wires going everywhere.  I was so happy, even though I was not allowed to rock her or anything, and it was only for a minute.  She would be even older before I would ever hear her cry.  I smiled, not because she was suffering, but because I finally knew my babies voice.  She would go on to have two more major surgeries and several small ones for putting IVs into larger veins and arteries and removing 90% of her colon.  And this would be an ordeal that would last four months, almost to the day.

When we first got to Salt Lake, my brother knew someone who had a father who lived not far away and was willing to let us stay with him.  Bob was stealing from this gentleman who was nice enough to let us stay with him, and making a lot of long distance calls to God knows who…so he took us out to a nice restaurant and fed us a nice dinner one evening, and kindly asked us to leave.  Bob just hung his head in shame.  He knew there was nothing he could say to make it better.  I was so embarrassed and I had no idea what I was going to do.  I knew I was not leaving my little girl!

Bob decided he was going to go back to Lander and try to work.  He reassured me he would come to visit on the weekends.  I stayed with the baby in Salt Lake.

This meant many a night of sleeping on the floor or on couches in various hospital lounges.   You see, there were times I was not the only one who had no place to stay, and so I wasn’t always lucky enough to get a couch, and had to sleep on the floor.  The McDonald house was ALWAYS full or reserved for families of kids with Cancer, or something like that.  I never saw the inside of one, or even knew where it was.  A few of the nurses were really nice and would take me to an empty room where I could shower once in a while.  The hospital social worker gave me a lunch card where I could get $5.00 off a day to eat.  I lost the baby weight rather quickly.  No Problem!  While this was meant to help me with the cost of meals at the hospital, I had no money, at all.  So, I lived on $5.00 a day.   Often only having a salad and something else small to eat for supper later.  Supper at the hospital was even more expensive than their lunch food they were so proud of, and there was nothing I could get for five dollars.

It’s all a blur in some ways, really.  I honestly don’t know how I managed to survive for so long, but I did.  I made friends with one gal who’s daughter had the same thing as Giovanna, but not as badly.  They let me crash at their house for a little while too.  My aunt and uncle came from Kansas with my grandmother to visit us and see the baby.  My uncle gave me a hundred bucks before they left. That went a long ways with food for me.  Once in a while Bob would have some money and give me some, but not real often.  But , I was almost always able to find a place to crash, and I made it work.  I got to be where my daughter was.  Goal met.  I was satisfied.

Then one day Bob called the hospital and gave me this song and dance about how he didn’t know if he could come visit Giovanna that weekend.  I asked him why and he didn’t really have a reason.  I found this odd. The weather and the roads were fine.  He didn’t have to work.  He was not ill.   Finally he said that he needed to do some work on the car and my dad was helping him.  He would call me later to let me know how it was going.  He called a little later and was still hemming and hawing around as to why he had not left yet.  I could tell something wasn’t right, but I didn’t know what.  I finally told him that his daughter was lying in a hospital bed getting ready to have another surgery, and he needed to get his ass up there to see her.  He showed up around 9:00 that night wearing a sweater and dressed nicer than he normally did.  I told him he looked nice and went to hug him and then I knew why he had chosen that sweater.  It was the only thing he could find to try and hide the hickey on his neck.

I hugged him and asked him the details of what was wrong with the car.  Turned out, absolutely nothing.  He said he needed to tell me something.

We found a small lounge where we could have some privacy and he told me that he had gone out the night before with some of his friends and they were playing softball.  That he was really sorry,  because they had brought beer and he had gotten drunk after he had told me he wouldn’t drink anymore.  Then he stopped talking and just sat there.

“That’s it?”  I asked.  “That’s all you have to say to me?”

“Yes.”  He said.  “I am really sorry.”

“And what about that f*@cking hickey you have on your neck?  You’re going to act like I don’t even see it?  ‘Cuz I do.”

“It’s not a hickey.”  He retorts. “I was hit in the neck with a softball.”

“Oh my God!” I said to him incredulously.  “You really think I’m an idiot, don’t you!”

“No.  I don’t.  It’s really not a hickey.”  He said eyes wide, hoping I would believe him.

“Get out of my face!”  I said.  Rising quickly and turning to leave the room.

“Your dad said not to come…” He trailed off.

“My dad said what?”  I sat back down.  “He knows about this?”

“He didn’t say anything.”  He starts back pedaling.

I pick up the phone and call my dad. And he confirmed my greatest nightmare.

“I didn’t tell him to hide it from you,” my dad says, imploring me to calm down.  “I just said that you already had a lot on your mind and you didn’t need to have to deal with this now too.”

I hung up the phone and looked at Bob a minute.  He sat there fidgeting and unwilling to make eye contact.

“Are you still going to keep telling me that you got hit in the neck with a softball?”  I ask him.

“No.”  He says looking down.

“Who was it?” I asked.

“No one.  Just a fat Indian chick I met there at the fields.”

I took a deep breath and made a decision.

“You know, my dad is right.  I have enough to worry about without having to worry about you too.  Our daughter is lying in a hospital bed and fighting for her life every day, and I am doing the best I can to be there for her.  But you?   You only want to go out and party with your friends.  That’s all you care about and all you have ever cared about.   You can treat me like shit, and that’s one thing.  But you are not going to treat that little girl in there like that.”  I motioned to the NBICU down the hall.

“I am done here Bob.  When she is well enough to go home, you will not be coming home with me.   I want a divorce.”   He remained seated in his chair, knowing I meant business, and I got up and left the room.

I did not shed a tear for him or the loss of our marriage that day, or ever.  I stopped and wondered why, at one time.  I decided it must be  because I had cried enough the whole time we were married, so I had just run out of tears.  I supposed I had just hardened myself to the point I no longer could cry, I guess.  He didn’t argue or fight with me about it, and in a few short weeks, we loaded up our little Corolla to the gills with IV pumps and paraphernalia and there was barely even room for the baby!  When we pulled back into Lander, the baby and I were dropped off at my parents’, place and he went back to his parents’ place.  By Thanksgiving time the divorce would be final.  I told myself it was really appropriate to be rid of him that time of year and truly something to be grateful for.

Not long after that, Bob’s mom would come to see me and ask if we could talk a minute.  I let her hold Giovanna as we sat upon my second hand couch, and she began.

“You know.  I tried to leave Bob’s dad more than once.   There were times I had the boys all bundled up and in the car and left.  But I always thought I should stay because of the kids.  Now I realize I should have left for them.  I want you to know you are doing the right thing.  He’s my son, and I God knows I love him.  But I want you to know I don’t blame you one bit for leaving him.”   I told her that I appreciated her coming and telling me that.  I let her know that I had struggled with what to do for so long, but I just could not let him treat that baby the way he had treated me.   She nodded with understanding, and we hugged.

In time, I would get the assistance I needed in place and move with Giovanna into our own apartment.  She would be considered disabled, and I had my work cut out for me in order to take care of her.  Giovanna would have to be hooked up to IV’s every night, and unhooked each morning.   She had a Broviac Line in her chest, and they had worked diligently to teach me the proper care of her equipment and how to clean it in hopes of avoiding an infection in the line.   This line went straight into her heart, so it was very serious, especially if it were to become infected.  She had an ileostomy, and a little bag attached to her side, where her bowels were brought to her stomach wall in order to dispel her waste.  I was taught how to change the bag and empty it, and how to clean her stoma and take care of and change the wafer around it.  She also had an NG tube that went down her little nose into her stomach, and would be hooked to a small pump that would feed her a special formula that was already pre-digested for her, drip by drip, throughout the day.  She was on fourteen different medications that had to be given to her every three hours in some cases, so I got little sleep.   Every Wednesday, she went to the pediatrician’s office and her blood was drawn to see what her needs were.  The results were sent to Salt Lake, and every Monday, UPS arrived with boxes full of IV bags and bottles of intralipids for the following week.  There wasn’t much room in the fridge for food.  Which was fine.  I didn’t eat much anyway.   I was very busy keeping things going for my little girl.  There were bags and diapers to change, because the bag would always leak.  Sometimes, her little finger would get caught in between the tube in her tiny nostril and the adhesive holding it in place, and she would pull it out.  I hated those days.  It was bad enough that I had to change it once a week…watching her gasp for air and choke and writhe away from me as I try to get it down her nose as quickly as possible without hurting her too much was horrendous for me.   But I did it because I knew it was necessary in order to keep her alive.  Sometimes, I just sat and cried with her.  It was so hard.

Over time, Giovanna and I would adjust to our new lives.  It was a new adventure.  I was happy she was there with me, even though some days were difficult. Her dad would sell the Corolla for a one way ticket to Georgia, and would make very little contact after that.  She would go back to Salt Lake when she was about a year old and they would re-connect her intestines to her descending colon and no longer have to wear the bag.  She could go to the restroom like most other people do after that, and they worked on getting her to where she could actually eat solid foods.  She would get off of all the medications and only require one or two, and then, in her twenties, a simple vitamin B shot every so often.  She would go on to be a very normal, (although skinny) girl and lead a very normal life.  She went to school, I taught her how to drive a stick shift, she went to college, and I watched her get married.

Now, she and her husband are trying to have a baby of their own.  She doesn’t know how much I worry about that.  She doesn’t know how afraid I am for her to try.  She doesn’t remember though…what we went through…she and I.   She looks at having babies just like I did when I was young.  You get pregnant, and you carry a baby for nine months and then you go to the hospital and have the baby and then you go home.  Then everyone lives happily ever after.

Sometimes, it’s not that simple.  Not all of us are that lucky.  Some of us have to fight a little more for our lives.  Like my baby girl, who only weighed four-four.

My dad will tell people that I WILLED  her to live.  I really doubt that what he said was true.  Though, I never once entertained the thought of her not making it.  Not even once.  I stayed with her, I read to her, I sang to her, I ran my finger along her skin to let her know that I was there.  But I didn’t really do all that much.  In fact, I did very little.  I just did what any mom would do for her child.  The real work was not done by me, but by someone else.  My little girl, with some help from up above..she did all the real work.

 

Note:  To the staff at U of U Med Center, we are eternally grateful.   Especially to doctor Hall, and nurse Mince, and nurse Calvin.  Thank you for your kindness and making such a difficult thing more bearable.  God bless you always.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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