It was 5 years ago, the last time I stepped foot into a downtown St. Paul hospital. I was there to see my grandmother after they had placed several stints in her heart. Trooper she was, her cadence and wit remained just as sharp after she went under the knife than before. Although Carol’s socialite skills always impressed, it was her unflappable confidence to take stake in her loved ones that awe struck me most throughout her time on earth. Sprawled out on a table after heart surgery, she still was able to reprimand me for being at odds with my mother and not having a place of my own yet. One can care, but to express that feeling under duress falls into the realms of unconditional.
I remember sitting in the waiting room, watching Good Morning America, half asleep. The other half of me couldn’t shake the idea that this might be it- this could be the end of the road for Carol and a long life of family, Irish Catholicism and compassion. In that moment, I wanted to curse the wallpaper for being such a drab color, blame the rug for not holding a more hypnotic pattern to trap my attention- everything in the room spoke to me… and all it would whisper was “Deal with this”.
In a hospital, there is no room for escapism. Only reminders of why you’re here, how you handle grief, and our undeniable mortality. Waiting to see Carol, I flash grinned at a passing thought of hospitals reminding us we’re human.
Now, entering the atrium, Carol is almost a year passed away- there is never a day that goes by that I don’t think about her- and I am entering, yet again, a hospital in downtown St. Paul. Under quite the contrary of circumstances, a new life in our family has blossomed. To what degree of joy and happiness the new life has brought us all, the moment is also accompanied by a complication and reminder that we are fragile as ever.
Barring details to my reasons for visiting- Entering prenatal care is something I never imagined I’d have to do in my lifetime.
Curvy stars, of different colors and sizes, speckle the path to the next door after I receive my badge to pass thru the first entrance. Something of a yellow brick road, the walls and windows of the hospital entertain the eye as anything & everything in a children’s museum. Unlike the whispers of the waiting room five years ago, this building is cordially smiling and attempting to empathize with its visitors.
Passing the first colorful hallway, entering the 2nd entrance, the room goes cold and pastel. Chairs line the walls. A woman at a desk asks me a few questions, checks my badge, asks me a few more questions… and then gives me an elevator look. The security in any prenatal care is triplicated beyond any standard hospital, due to the potential circumstance of infants being stolen. I can’t imagine the pathology that runs behind such an act, but apparently it’s a thing. The woman at the desk gives me the go ahead and points me toward a hallway vividly opposite the last I passed thru.
Double doors open and spill me into a world humbling my senses to taking a deep breath just to make it to my new family member’s room. Doors ajar or partially creaked open reveal glass cases containing newborns. Machines, producing high-pitched beeps and low-toned pumps of air, breathe in and out of the cases. I struggle to keep it all in.
Turning a corner, I panic that the room number, the woman at the desk gave me, isn’t here. I’m lost. I stumble by a family, crowded around a room, in thick focus. I could spin a thousand stories from the picture of them. My imagination unravels.
Finally, arriving at my new family member’s room, there he is: A beautiful child and miracle in his own right. It is at this moment, in this place, betwixt the joy of life and woe of potential untimely tragedy that Carol finds my heart to remind me a family does not decrease in size, but grows in compassion.
Cedar, welcome to the family.
May this world offer you every opportunity and joy it has to give.