The hours slowly ticked by. No-one outside of that operating room knew what was going on. I grew more and more restless and began pacing the hallways looking for answers. It was hard for the nurses to calm me down when they knew the reality of the risks as much as me; Perhaps even more so. I returned to the room and flopped back down in the chair, mentally and spiritually exhausted. I waited and waited some more. Finally, after eight hours in surgery a nurse came to me to let me know that my wife was being prepped for transfer to the recovery room where I was. Another half hour went by and the gurney was wheeled into the room with my wife lying on top. Some nurses transferred her to the recovery bed and got her comfortable. My wife was still recovering from the anesthesia.
It would be awhile before my wife was coherent enough and had enough strength to begin talking again. The surgery was intense and had taken its toll on her. She ended up having 20% of her bladder removed and she needed to have a hysterectomy because of the placenta previa. Her main doctor came in to tell us what had happened with our son. He had lived for twenty-two minutes but the medical complications were too much to overcome. Arrangements were being made for my wife to see him as soon as she was feeling a bit better. A social worker was being dispatched to help us with the funeral arrangements.
While I was waiting for my wife to recover I had made some phone calls. I was making arrangements to have the children cared for an extra day given how long things went at the hospital. In addition, I was letting those who were supporting us know what had happened. A friend of mine who lived on the ranch an hour’s drive in the opposite direction of the valley city we called home indicated to me that he was going to drive down to offer his support in person.
The phone rang and a nurse came and summoned me. Taking the call I was surprised to hear the stern voice of my non pastor island pastor on the other end of the line. He proceeded to chastise me for indirectly referencing some information regarding his wife to the island group when they were at the hospital praying with me just over a day earlier. He didn’t ask about my wife. Nor did he ask about our baby. He was more concerned that my speaking indirectly about his wife’s past journey – something I thought was public knowledge – was harmful, and required my immediate repentance of. He referenced just how hurt she was by my actions and my words, in spite of how much she had sacrificed for my family over the last several weeks. This one-sided conversation went on for several minutes. I must have told him that I was sorry a dozen different times but it was not enough. I had broken some sort of behavioral code and there was going to be consequences now for my sinful behavior.
All I could think about was that my wife was in a fucking recovery room after having life-threatening surgery and giving birth to our child who consequently died. And, I was now being invited to repent for some words that I shared during a heart-wrenching time – in prayer – just before my wife went into surgery?
And yet I did feel bad. I felt more horrible in that moment for disobeying this man then I did for my present circumstances.
Thoroughly chastised, I returned to my wife’s side. Not much time had passed when I was required to take another phone call. This time it was from my aunt who lived at the coast. Earlier that year she had made the very public family decision to leave her husband after thirty years of marriage and continue her relationship with another woman who she had met in the care home where my aunt’s and my father’s mother was living. The family was still trying to come to terms with what had happened and although I would occasionally see my aunt – perhaps once a year – I hadn’t seen my uncle in years and years and I didn’t feel particularly close to either of them.
My aunt had been informed about our news in the same way that campfire stories happen and because she lived in this area she felt compelled to come and show her support. However, there was this perceived awkward new reality that was a stumbling block for her, thus the reason for the phone call. She was in tears on the phone telling me how much she loved my wife and I, however now that she had come out as a lesbian she was not sure if we would love her back, given our association with all things religious. Although I told her that her coming to the hospital was not necessary, I also took several minutes to reassure her that her sexual orientation was of no consequence to us and that we still loved her.
I got off the phone now thoroughly disgusted. How the hell was it possible that two people could feel that their ‘thing’ was more important then what my wife and I were going through? And, more importantly – even if they did feel that way – which obviously they did – why the hell did they think it was important enough to seek us out in the recovery room of the hospital, only hours after we lost our child?
And yet, I was again being invited to feel bad about it. And I did.