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The subject was celery

“Are you a patient in this hospital?” my husband asked.

I couldn’t answer, which was answer enough.

Throughout Archie’s stay in the NICU, I tried to stay by his side at all times. I felt guilty for leaving to eat, sleep, shower, or otherwise care for myself.

My husband’s question caused me to confront the reality that I needed to be kind to myself, too. I was a patient in the hospital. I had three wristbands, pajamas, a bill that grew by the minute, and a room of my own to prove it.

For the strong majority of those five days, I was alone. My husband went back and forth between the hospital and home. The baby wasn’t with me. When I was in room #2226, it was just me.

I ate my meals by myself. Oatmeal, chicken salad, linguini, a brownie, a blueberry muffin, roast beef sandwich, breakfast burrito, apple pie, decaf coffee, regular coffee, 2% milk, peaches I didn’t order, grilled cheese, and a cookie—delivered on trays three times a day. I’d sit on the edge of the bed with the rolling table a few inches too high. I’d eat without conversation.

I never turned the on the TV. I read my breast pad box, noting that it was spelled Lan-si-noh, not Lan-ih-soh. Oh. Been pronouncing it wrong for years and years and years of breastfeeding. I chewed and considered the ingredients in Large Hospital’s chicken salad. Too much celery, chicken diced to a manageable size, overall decent.

And then, if I allowed myself to go there, I’d think about other times in my life when I was utterly and inescapably lonely.

I was lonely, and that is very hard to admit.

I had a beautiful baby around a corner, up a ramp, through a big door. I had a huge family waiting for us at home, numerous people praying for us. I had wonderful nurses who were sweet and caring and competent. I had flowers for color and cheer.

Still, those things weren’t enough at times. My well was dry and I had nothing to offer myself other than small thoughts over small things: The subject was celery. I couldn’t even be a serviceable companion for myself during those times in my room.

It hasn’t been terribly long since I shared a meal with a lavender Lansinoh box and yellow roses, but I am in a much better place. Loneliness is uncomfortable, not terrible. It was confirmation that I am ultimately responsible for my beliefs, thoughts, actions, words.

I knew that, but sometimes it takes a little forced solitude to embrace that truth. Those days in the hospital are precious to me and will forever mark my days as a turning point of sorts.

Loneliness is a matchmaker, introducing me to myself.

Sometimes, we lose touch.

18 comments to The subject was celery

  • My heart breaks for you in this post. I’m so glad there’s a happy ending.

    kaitlyn’s last blog post..momentous.

  • We’ve been discussing loneliness around here of late. My number 4 is in a very lonely place after arriving at her new dorm room on Saturday. I was told it was the worst night of her entire life she felt so alone.

    My oldest shared that even after she’d gone to college and lived here with us again, that moving was lonely. She said it is hard to go from a home full of bustling people to being by yourself, even with her son.

    So glad you are back to a busy, happy, full home.

    Joanne’s last blog post..Maybe I’m Slow

  • What a beautiful post. I’m so glad you shared that.

    Bonnie’s last blog post..Did You Feel the Excitement?

  • Oh, teary. And in my world there is never too much celery. Thinking of you!


    Adventures In Babywearing’s last blog post..You Were There

  • I spent a week after birth while my son was treated for jaundice…the only time I’ve ever been away from my family. Totally alone, totally lonely.

    It makes coming home so much sweeter, doesn’t it?

    Meredith from Merchant Ships’s last blog post..How not to wear pants with heels

  • Moms are hardly ever alone, but often lonely, I think. I have never (before having my first child) felt so lonely.

    Minnesotamom’s last blog post..I’m the Apple of His Eye

  • I always feel lonely in the hospital too. Must be because we’re used to so much noise and commotion at home.

    Robin’s last blog post..I’m still around

  • So, so true.

    I think this explains why the blog phenomenon is such a big one, you know? You get to know someone’s heart – or a part of it.

    I had trouble being alone during Lucy’s first surgery. I remember it so vividly – waiting for the phone call and just staring at the wall. Sometimes the solitude is what we need.

    Thanks for sharing, G!

    Rach’s last blog drill

  • Thanks for sharing this, Gretchen. I hated being alone in the hospital — even though neither of my boys was in NICU, they both had mandatory nursery stays during our time there. I guess sometimes we need the time to think our own thoughts and, as you said, reconnect with ourselves.

    Shayne’s last blog post..Changing of the Guard

  • As always, so profound.

    And now I think I’ll probably always think of you, on some level, when I see a lavender Lansinoh box.

    Megan@SortaCrunchy’s last blog post..Managing Your Monthly

  • Sounds like it was a special time, even though it might not have seemed like it in the moment.

    Heth’s last blog post..Confession

  • amy

    I understand this, in many ways, that quiet strength and serenity of managing a situation (be it traveling, how to fill your days, the NICU) by yourself. I look back fondly at some of the lonelinest times in my life for what they taught me about myself. I’m grateful for those times.

    Also, I realized while reading your post that I’ve been saying “lanilosh,” which is TOTALLY wrong.

  • Amy

    I think we’ve all been there at one time or another. Mine was right before my wedding. I sat in the room for the bride and bridesmaids, all made up and ready to go while all my bridesmaids were in the bathroom getting ready. All I wanted at that moment was to have my friends around me.

    I’m so glad you’re home now.

    Amy’s last blog post..25 Random Things About Me

  • Beautiful, and so true.

    Jenni’s last blog post..the G word

  • Thank you for sharing your stories with us, Gretchen. I’m sure you’ve heard it a thousand times before, but you have a gift for breathing life into whatever it is you are writing about; you have such a wonderfully gentle and honest style, it’s impossible not to identify with the thoughts and emotions you are trying to convey. This post is no exception.

    I hope you’re saving all of your blog entries in a printed format of some sort, because they will be worth so much to your children some day. I’d also like to know when you’ll be publishing your first book. 🙂

    Jamie’s last blog post..Wild-eyed, Crazy-haired, Snaggle-tooth Monster

  • Theresa

    I found your posts quite by accident and was immediately hooked. I think I will be spending time here with all of you.

    First of all, let me congratulate you on your new arrival.

    My daughter was born almost 30 years ago two months premature weighing 3lbs 4oz. She was taken twenty minutes after birth to the children’s hospital across town. I was placed in a room by myself at the end of a hall, far away from all the other babies and mothers. Lonely was being in that room for four days, then lonley was coming home without her.

    She was in NICU for six weeks. We weren’t allowed to hold her for four weeks. At that time, parents couldn’t stay at the hospital, but you could visit anytime.

    In October, she gave birth to my first grandchild, a very healthy girl weighing 8lbs 10oz.

    Best of luck to you, Archie and the whole family! I’ll be watching for updates!

  • Thanks for sharing that. Your son is so handsome, and you have such a lovely family.

    Sunny’s last blog post..Rat Lung Worm Alert!

  • Julana

    Our son spent early Sat AM through Tues afternoon in the NICU, eleven years ago. I was a patient the first 24 or 48 hrs. After that, they let me keep the room as long as no one else needed it–but no meals or linen changes–because I was nursing him.
    I know what you mean about that sense of isolation. It was tough. It’s a new experience, and everyone is expecting happy news, and you’re running to the NICU around the clock to nurse, hold, watch shots, maybe a supplemental tube feeding. Not what you expected. The nights were long. I was fortunate to be in a Catholic hospital. A nurse would come in to chat for a short while each night, and encourage me.

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