Ben is on an operating table at this moment. Maybe the same one that held Liam? Maybe.
Down here on the third floor faces seem vaguely familiar, scents and industry and stacks of johnny shirts, blankets. Vacant cribs and ventilators lined up in rows through the hallways, draped in ethereal plastic that swishes as you walk past. The pre-op nurse shows me around and as she does I feign freshman appreciation like I need to know, like I didn't live here for two months.
This place is full of ghosts and heartbreak. Passing an occupied room my eyes accidentally wander inside to see a child all spindly, bent arms and legs tucked into a motorized wheelchair so enormous he looks like a doll atop a robot. He gazes into nothing, mouth open, his mother staring similarly at his face. I think of Liam with guilt and horrible relief.
Two hernia repairs, that's all. We wait with a pager. The chances of anything going wrong are remote but TTTS was remote too, and so we are rattled.
"They'll probably put the I.V. in his hand or foot, not in his scalp," the nurse tells me. Thank god to avoid the look of it. The last scalp I.V. delivered Liam's comfort on the night he died, bumping up against my chin and cheek with every last nuzzle.
Died. I still can't say it without my stomach turning so I substitute lost as applies to an iPod or wallet or sense of humour.
"Do you have any questions?" the pre-op nurse asked me early this morning as Ben wailed, denied of milk since midnight last night.
"Not really," I replied. "It's just hard to be back here after everything that happened. They say it's routine but bad things happened to us before, similarly remote bad things."
"There was this lady," she interjects. "Her nine-year-old daughter died getting her tonsils out. She came in last month for her son to get his tonsils out, and she couldn't even go downstairs to the O.R. with him. She was so freaked out, we had to take him down."
"Oh," I said out loud, and finished to myself So glad to hear, as you take my son away to be cut, that yes indeed, babies can die of the most ordinary things.
He's so beautiful. I remember taking joy in Evan, of course. But the joy of being Ben's mama... it eclipses every sleepless night, every inconvenience. His smile, so broad. It heals me, and all of us. We wait for it.