California Octobers have the kind of weather that our colder northern neighbors would most likely envy. Most days the temperature sits around 80 with a warm breeze. But those warm breezes can also bring disaster. This October, there have been wind-blown wildfires that have destroyed beautiful hills and homes. When I took this picture, I remembered the last time I saw the sky like this – it was last October, and I was being driven to the hospital while fires burned in the hills and valleys of LA. The smoke in the air and the setting sun made it look like the sky was on fire, too.
I’ve been so busy lately that I haven’t thought much about the events of last October. I was still on bed rest, only allowed to stand up long enough to use the toilet or take a five-minute shower. I never knew what the days or nights would bring. Every time Maddie kicked in my belly, I had anxiety. Every time she didn’t kick, I had anxiety. I could only sleep for an hour or two at a time. I would watch fire coverage on TV at 3 am and I’d see the looks of fear and anxiety on the faces of the residents whose houses were dangerously close to being enveloped by flames. I knew that look. It was the same one I would carefully cover with a positive expression during the daylight hours.
I entered the hospital on October 24th, my mom’s birthday. I’d been throwing up and had stomach tenderness and a growing fever. I went to the hospital for overnight IV fluids, and I didn’t leave until 36 hours after Madeline was born. Some people would think entering the hospital would be the worst part of the pregnancy. It wasn’t. Every time I’d see my OB or specialists and they didn’t admit me to the hospital, THAT was the worst part. It was like being one of those residents with a house about to go up in flames. It’s scary, but if there’s a fire crew down the street you know they’ll be there with the hoses to put out any fires. I longed to have my emergency crew nearby – I wanted skilled doctors and nurses right outside my door.
Reading through the archives of my hospital stay, I surprised myself when tears came to my eyes. I was transported back to those days and all the things I didn’t say. The seagull that used to sit at my window reminded me of how it comforted me when I was alone with my thoughts. The three-day massive migraine that my nurses and doctors feared could be a sign of Pre-Eclampsia, something I kept to myself. That being diagnosed with gestational diabetes scared me more than anything, because I honestly didn’t know how I would manage to eat my required 2,500 daily calories without ice cream and apples – literally the only things I could manage more than two bites of before I’d get nauseous. I didn’t write any of this stuff down, and I’m trying to remember WHY. Was I protecting my worried friends and family? Was I in denial? Or was I too afraid to document the volatile emotions that swirled inside me like sparks in a firestorm, unsure of the damage they could cause?
I’m supposed to see a therapist to help me with my postpartum issues. I have the number of three Doctors who specialize in PPD, but I have yet to call any of them. I haven’t wanted to delve into my pregnancy. I haven’t wanted to relive all those feelings. Even though it’s been a year, I just need more distance before I can go back to the scarred terrain of October 2007. The grass and trees are starting to grow again, and I’m rebuilding, but it’s a slow process.