The next morning I woke early again. Looking around, I remembered where I was. The television was back in the corner. The walls were still bare and I was still sore and confused and scared.
The nurse suggested I get up and go to the bathroom. She was obviously out of her mind. My middle had been sliced open and a baby, plus a large liver looking thing had been cut out of my body. I was sewn up with heavy green thread, the kind you see on an old rugged pillow. The doctor tied a bow at the end of my incision.
My catheter was removed so I no longer had a choice. I could either wet myself or get up.
I was moved downstairs across from the nursery. It was like an apple dangled out in front of me. I was just across the hall from my daughter. By day two I was up and moving, painfully, slowly.
My mother had applied for her passport with the intent to come to Ukraine to help with the new baby. After she heard of the early arrival, bags were packed and without hesitation she boarded a plane for the sake of her daughter.
The first time I took a shower in my hospital room was three days after my c-section. My mother and the nurses where in some sort of cosmic agreement, although they could not communicate, that I needed a shower. It was in the afternoon, the first actual day of my mother’s experience in Ukraine. She had flown in late the night before.
My mom’s remedy for most things in life is cleanliness. Baths, showers, cleaning, generally anything hygienic is good for the soul. One time when I was a kid, I was complaining to her about a particularly hard day. Her advice to me was, “go shit in the tub.” And unsurprisingly, I felt better after a half hour of uncontrollable laughter at her slip of the tongue.
She helped me lug my wobbly body, donned with one enormous Always maxi pad that was supposed to catch buckets of blood while stuck to a flimsy pair of gauze underwear. From just under my rib cage down past my unmentionables, my body felt like a horrible nagging tooth ache every time I moved. I clumsily undressed and my mom helped me step up into the shower. At thirty-one, I am sure that my body had expanded and changed quite a bit since she last saw me in this light.
The hospital was similar to a hotel in the States. It was like all of this was happening at a Best Western. Little bottles of shampoo and conditioner and soap lined up on the shower wall ledge waiting to wash my body.
As a missionary I have not had a good relationship with travel size toiletries. Supporters of our foreign work think we either cannot afford our own products or that the country itself does not sell soap. People took it upon themselves to save up shampoo, lotion, conditioner and soap from their hotel stays and ship them to us in care packages. Good friends of ours working in Mexico received already used tea bags that were still “good” for a second time around. When I’d get care packages like this, I’d throw it all in my bathroom closet and walk down to the supermarket. There I would get a big bottle of Dove shampoo, some Pringles chips and a couple candy bars.
My body ached as I attempted to get clean in the shower. It felt like there were little flecks of sand in the water, but I just assumed I was mistaken by my own filth. The worst pain was trying to lift my hands up to wash my hair. That motion localized and climaxed the pain of my incision. After doing the best I could, I tenderly stepped out of the shower. Drying was going to have to be an air thing as I reached for my fresh pair of queen size gauze underwear with the Always maxi pad, compliments of the hospital.
By the time I was in my new throw-away underwear and fresh night gown I felt like a wilted flower that had been pounded on by a harsh rain. I was clean, but nearly wiped out. Hoisting my thick lifeless belly up onto the bed I commented to my mother about the little pebbles of dirt that were all over the shower. “That’s what surgery will do to you,” my mom said in all her wisdom.
As soon as I was on the bed I was asleep. I don’t remember getting from the shower to the bed. Later we found out that the hospital did have a problem with dirt in the water for a few days. By the end of the first week the dirt was gone.