My water broke at 5:50 AM on Tuesday, August 14. I was only a little surprised. The day before, I'd had a non-stress test at my midwives' office, and the baby wasn't having any of it. She didn't do any of her usual tricks. "Maybe she'll move if I tickle her head," Lynn had said. She'd checked me and stripped my membranes. I was 2 cm dilated and barely effaced, with a baby was at -2 station, where she'd been hanging out for a while.
"You know," I said to my belly, "we don't have to do these tests anymore if you come out and see us."
I'd had a hunch about August 14, but since labor didn't seem imminent the day before and my previous hunches had all been wrong, I didn't put much stock in my intuition.
I had just woken up when my water broke. I lay in bed for a few minutes, waiting to see if the little gush would become a river. It didn't. I got up, used the bathroom (as far as I could tell, the fluid was clear), and got back in bed beside Rob. I tried to rest and go back to sleep, but it wasn't happening. Rob woke up a few minutes later, and I told him I was leaking fluid.
"Is that something we should page the midwives about?" he asked.
"I don't know. Probably?"
Rob got the When To Call form off the side of the fridge. "Leaking fluid from your vagina," he read. "Do you want me to page?"
"No, I'll page."
Anne, who was just ending her shift as the on-call midwife, told me to come in to the clinic that morning to make sure it really was my water breaking and not just cervical fluid. She asked if I was having any contractions.
I'd felt maybe two little squeezes since noticing the fluid gush, but nothing "contraction-y." I was already imagining the castor oil milkshake I'd have to blend up later to jump-start my labor. I'd have to buy some chocolate ice cream. But there was plenty of time for that. I had 24 hours to get into active labor—but only an hour to get to the clinic.
Rob and I had relocated to the living room, and we were discussing the game plan a little too loudly. Westley suddenly came charging down the hall, a little bleary-eyed but all smiles. "Is it Baby Day?" he asked, beaming.
"Probably. Or maybe tomorrow."
"I think it's today!" he insisted with the certainty only a four-year-old can muster.
We flew around the house getting ready. All three of us were fed, dressed, and buckled into the car in record time. That's when I started getting uncomfortable. Concentrating on the music (Lady Gaga, Born This Way—what else?) helped a little. As we were going over the floating bridge into Seattle, I started having contractions. Sitting in the car was the worst position imaginable. When the contraction got intense, I would raise up on my toes and lift my butt off the seat and inch or two. It didn't really help. As soon as the car was in Park in front of the clinic, I bolted out of my seat. Standing up felt incredible.
Lynn checked me, and sure enough, my water had broken. Lynn was on call for the next two days, meaning she'd almost certainly be the midwife attending the birth. That seemed fine, though I had trouble wrapping my mind around the idea that there would actually be a birth in the next couple of days.
We took the scenic route home. I ate a second breakfast and tried not to be too anxious and excited as I waited for labor to start. Rob called Kerri, our doula, and let her know what was going on. Westley and I watched the second half of Aladdin.
Before too long, I was having semi-regular 30-second contractions. I got in the shower, and ended up resting my right foot up on the edge of the tub and leaning forward to relieve some of the pressure in my low back. My back felt tender and heavy, but I didn't think I was really in labor—though I did call Rob in to laugh with me at my ridiculous position. We were both in a fantastic mood.
When Westley had learned a few months earlier that mothers often make a lot of noise as they're pushing babies out, he decided that he'd rather spend the birth at Grandma's house (where there is Wii Fit Plus, among other things). Rob packed a bag for him. He made it an overnight bag, just in case, but we were both pretty sure Westley wouldn't need it. Based on how I was feeling, I suggested that Rob's mom pick Westley up around lunchtime, but she finished up her morning work, stopped at the natural foods co-op for gluten-free zucchini bread, and arrived at our house around 10:00 AM. Westley was thrilled to see Grandma. I didn't even get a chance to hug him goodbye.
Once Westley was out of the house, things started to relax a little. Rob and I put together a shopping list and planned to head out to the market as a means of distracting me before things got really heavy-duty. But by the time the list was assembled and Rob was ready to go, the store—with its florescent lights, aggressive air conditioning, and other people—seemed like a terrible idea. "I really don't want to go," I told Rob. He seemed just a touch reluctant to leave me alone, but volunteered to go alone, and bring me home a morale-boosting decaf Frappuccino.
Distracting myself turned out to be challenging. I tried watching "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" while Rob was gone, but it started to annoy me. I turned off the TV and just rested on the couch. I knew watching my body's every tiny twinge wasn't in my best interest, but I couldn't find anything else to do. Fortunately, my contractions picked up in intensity shortly after Rob returned home. They still weren't very long, though. At their peaks, I definitely had to concentrate on breathing through the sensation, but the peaks only lasted a few seconds.
Lynn called around noon to check on how things were going. (I feel the need to mention that our phone almost never rings. We rarely use it. But on the 14th, we received more calls than we had in weeks. Several of them were for me, and Rob got to tell the caller, "Sorry, she's in labor.") I described my contraction (non-)pattern to Lynn, and she said it sounded like the baby was trying to get into a good position. She recommended that I lie down in an exaggerated Sims position, basically a supported side-lying lunge. Bottom leg straight, top leg bent and propped up on enough pillows that you can sort of roll forward onto your front. She also stressed the importance of eating some lunch. Rob cut me off a piece of zucchini bread (which was made with rice milk, and smelled like I remembered breast milk smelling), and I ate it, along with some watermelon, but I didn't have much appetite.
I got in bed, and Rob helped me arrange about fifteen pillows around myself. I put on the Hypnobabies "Come Out, Baby" recording, which I'd been listening to daily for almost a week already. I had some strong but still short contractions while lying in bed, and I think that's when it hit me that this was the real deal. I really was going to open up and let this baby out. Today. Rob called Kerri to come be with us, and then got in bed with me. We cuddled and joked around, and basically had a good time between contractions.
We were still camped out in the bedroom when Kerri arrived. She got me set up with a TENS unit—which felt amazing—and started massaging my feet. It was wonderful to have two people helping me relax. I was still up in my head though, and after a while I suggested Rob and Kerri move the dining room table and inflate the birth pool so it would be ready to fill. The sound of the compressors wasn't nearly as irritating as I expected it would be. When the pool was inflated, I got up to check it (Rob thought it might be a little under-inflated, but we determined that it wouldn't seem so saggy once there was water in it). I nibbled on some more bread and watermelon, used the bathroom, and paced the house, trying to get comfortable. At one point, I went out on the back deck and got hit by a contraction when I had nothing and no one to hold onto. That one truly sucked. The pain was odd. I felt it mostly in my hips, radiating down the the outsides of my legs. The tension in my legs made it hard to relax even when I wasn't having a contraction.
The only truly comfortable position was propped up on pillows in bed. Rob and Kerri came with me back to the bedroom. I had to breathe deeply and loudly through contractions, and Rob breathed with me. Keeping my eyes open and concentrating on his face made the sensations more bearable. Between contractions, we cracked jokes, made out, and Rob played silly music on one of his iDevices. I pictured my cervix dilating, the muscles around the baby relaxing. "Open" became one of my mantras. "Ooooopen."
Around 2:00 PM, Lynn called to check in. Contractions seemed more regular Rob told her (I was done talking on the phone at this point), but they didn't seem longer, stronger, or down-to-get-the-friction-on-ger. Of course, we'd timed exactly one of them, and it was 37 seconds long. Lynn mentioned that we were getting into the time of day when traffic out of Seattle becomes an issue, and proposed that she, Beth, and Sara (the student midwife) come over.
I had mixed feelings about the midwives coming to the house. I was still waiting for labor to "pick up." Contractions weren't any fun, but I felt like I was staying on top of them really well, and truly relaxing in between. Rob and Kerri kept me hydrated with coconut water and fruit punch flavored Recharge (one of our grocery items from that morning—oh God, had it really just been that morning?). I felt like I was doing fine, but I thought—and expected—that hours could pass before the baby was born. On the other hand, I was overjoyed that Beth would be assisting at the birth. She cared for me all through my pregnancy with Westley, and would have been on call that day except that she had a family emergency come up. So when I found out that Beth would get to be there with me while I had this baby, I said a prayer of thanks to the Universe.
Lynn and Sara arrived at the house around 3:00 PM, after getting lost. Apparently the "NE" part had been left off our address. I wandered out of the bedroom to say hello and use the bathroom. I was very conscious of drinking frequently and keeping my bladder empty this time around. It was a little labor goal I'd set for myself, along with keeping my eyes open as much as possible and not getting sucked under by fear. Beth arrived a few minutes later. Suddenly our little living room area felt ridiculously crowded. And with six adults, the midwives' equipment, and the dining table occupying the entry way, I suppose it was. Sara listened to the baby, who sounded great, while I explained that everything in the linen closet was fair game to get dirty. (It's true. Our nicest towels are seven years old and the color of dust.) Beth wiped the gel off my belly with a washcloth. "It's a girl, so we'll use pink," she joked.
People were talking to and around me, and I felt the sudden need to explain where everything was. I suggested we use a couple of big plastic trash cans from the garage for laundry and garbage instead of paper grocery bags, which we didn't have. I heard Sara ask Rob for a cookie sheet. Lynn asked whether I was planning to deliver on the bed. I said I didn't know, and then realized out loud that I really wanted to have the baby in the birth pool, if at all possible. That was the cue to get the pool filling. It was also about as much conversation as I could handle. I headed back to the quiet dark of the bedroom, but not before hanging on to edge of the dining room table and chanting through a contraction.
Kerri came with me to the bedroom. She'd been looking at my Goddess Oracle earlier, so I decided to do a quick one-card reading. The card I pulled was Isis ("Mothering"). I started to laugh, and held the card out for Kerri to see. "No way!" she said, apparently having flipped to the corresponding page in the oracle's accompanying book half a second earlier.
The pool was filling slowly (I could hear the water running in the kitchen), so Rob and the midwives joined us in the bedroom. "Why don't I check you," Lynn suggested, "and then you can get in the pool if you're ready."
I whined (or maybe just thought) "Do I have to lie on my back?"
Unfortunately, I did. It was excruciating. I started to cry.
"Are you having a contraction?" someone-not-Rob asked.
"No," I managed. "It's just...my back..."
I rolled onto my side and began to sob. The exam had been painful—more painful than I'd expected—but I was also so flooded with emotions and I think I'd been holding some of them in for hours. It felt vulnerable but very good to cry.
When I calmed down a little, Lynn said, "Well, you're seven centimeters dilated and fully effaced." I was both surprised and relieved. "Baby's at about 0 station." We were going to meet our little one soon.
Rob put his arm around me and gave me a big kiss. That helped, and I relaxed a little.
"More of that," Beth encouraged. Then she suggested, "Why don't we leave you two alone for a while?"
That seemed like a good idea. Kerri and the midwives left the bedroom and closed the door.
"Now that they're gone, let's talk about them!" Rob said. In the moment, it was the funniest thing I'd ever heard. We both cracked up until the next contraction hit.
This was a not-messing-around contraction. There was a bunch of downward pressure in my pelvis that hadn't been there a minute ago. My back was on fire. The TENS unit wasn't helping anymore, and turning it up seemed to make the pain more intense, not less. I had been breathing deeply through contractions, chanting occasionally, reminding myself to relax and open. With this contraction, all of that disappeared and I started complaining. I bellowed, rolling onto my hands and knees. My eyes squeezed shut. No, no, no. This was not doable anymore.
"This sucks and I hate it!" I told Rob when the contraction ended. We both laughed, though I wasn't really joking. Sara came in quietly and listened to the baby's heartbeat. It sounded great. Someone suggested I get in the pool, and Sara left Rob and me alone again.
Rob asked if I wanted him to change into swim trunks so he could get in the pool with me. I didn't know what I wanted anymore, but said sure, and asked him to bring me my bikini top. It took him a couple of tries to find it. I made it through another awful contraction, and changed into my swim top. I got up and headed to the bathroom. Rob stayed with me; I didn't really want to be by myself, even on the toilet. I really wanted to avoid pooping in the birth pool, if at all possible, and I felt like I might have to go. But I'd actually gotten cleaned out in early labor; the pressure in my bottom was all baby. I had another contraction while sitting on the toilet, and it sucked even more than the ones I'd had in the car. Sitting was not my friend. I looked into Rob's eyes: "I'm the only one who can have this baby, huh?"
He smiled and nodded.
I took off my mouse pelvis necklace (snapping the chain in the process), and cleaned the makeup smears from under my eyes. That made Rob laugh and me a little defensive. I waddled out to the pool. Kerri took the TENS unit off my back, and I realized just how much it had been helping with my back labor. I slipped off my skirt and let someone help me into the water.
My memory of the pool during Westley's birth is that it was cool and my wishing it were warmer. This time, the temperature was perfect. It was also one of the warmest days of the summer. I noticed two big pots of water steaming on the stove. Sara checked the water temperature, and Beth wanted it just a bit warmer for when the baby emerged. (That's right, I remembered. There's a real live baby in there.) She brought one of the pots over.
"Careful—hot." I pulled my legs away and several hands reached in to stir the pool water while Beth poured.
Soon after, I got hit with another contraction and I started to cry again. "No, no, no..." I tired to turn it into "Open, ooopen," but fear was making me tense. "I'm scared." I looked up at Rob. "I'm scared, I'm scared—"
"What are you scared of, honey?" Beth asked.
"I don't know." I couldn't stop crying. "It's just so...big."
I think everyone thought I meant the baby's head, which was putting some serious pressure on me. But I was feeling overwhelmed by the hugeness of birth itself. Which was coming for me whether I was ready or not.
The next contraction took me over. It was like being pulled into the ocean by a powerful wave, but from somewhere inside my body. Halfway through, my stomach lurched and I thought I would vomit. But the force was down, not up. I made a strained grunting noise.
When the contraction subsided Beth said, "That was a push."
Oh shit, it was, I thought. I think I said "no" again.
Someone asked if I wanted Rob to get in the pool with me. I couldn't decide. My mind was racing. I wanted everyone to be there, but also for everyone to leave. I was up in my head, but I couldn't think at all. My body had been possessed by something ten times its size. Or maybe a flood or an earthquake. Rob stepped into the pool and settled down behind me just in time for another tectonic-plate contraction. I pressed into his torso with my shoulder, trying to escape the pain. My leg muscles tensed, and I started yelling.
I sounded awful to myself, and I said so. I hated the noises I was making, but I couldn't get on top of them to change them. Someone suggested I try saying "yes" instead of "no," and I tried, but the sensation in my body was too intense. It was more than I could agree with.
"It's her head," someone said as the contraction ended. I reached down and felt nothing. "Can you feel it?"
"No," I said, reaching inside a few inches. There was a soft-hard bulge. "Okay, yes."
The next contraction felt like a tidal wave crashing through my body. It spun me onto my back. I braced myself against Rob, as though I could back away from the downward force and stinging pain. I started to scream.
"Try not to scream," Lynn said gently but firmly.
The part of my mind that was still my mind as I know it thought, Fuck. I'm one of those women who screams. "It hurts!"
"That's her head stretching you."
"I don't want her stretching me, I just want her out!"
There were hands between my legs pressing against the stinging, splitting feeling. I could feel the roundish weight of baby head, still inside my body, but just barely.
Lynn encouraged me to push. I did, tentatively. There was no "ring of fire," just the sense that my body would split in two, up to my navel. Pushing weakly wasn't going to make the stinging stop, so I really put some force behind it. I looked down in the water and saw a long, slender body appear as I felt it leave me: shoulders, tummy, legs, feet.
My hands found her easily, and I pulled a baby up and onto my chest. She was pink and perfect.
I kissed her over and over.
"Welcome, Ivy! You got born! You're here!"
Sara swooped in with warm baby blankets. I was ecstatic—absolutely high—and overwhelmed by the circle of love around me. It was 4:18 PM, only about an hour after the midwives had arrived.
After a minute it occurred to me that I hadn't actually seen whether the baby was, in fact, a girl. "Are you really Ivy?" I asked. I tried to look and see, but there was wet cloth in the way. I felt around, confirmed that yes, she was a girl, and discovered that her little bottom was absolutely covered with vernix, though the rest of her was not.
When the cord stopped pulsing, Rob cut it. Ivy had let out one pretty good squawk, but wasn't interested in crying after that. She was blowing some bubbles. Beth took her for a minute and gently laid her on the kitchen counter to suction out her mouth and nose. Once her airways were a little clearer, Ivy hollered loudly and everyone celebrated: "There we go! That's what we like to hear!"
Rob was out of the pool already. Lynn explained that they were going to have me get out too to deliver the placenta. It was easier to assess bleeding that way. I didn't really want to move, but I was looking forward to taking a shower, putting on clean pajamas, and getting tucked into bed with my guy and our new little girl. Getting out of the pool was the first step in that process too, so I got out.
Kerri, Sara, and Lynn helped me up and out onto a birth stool. A metal bowl that I'd bought at thrift only a few days earlier was poised underneath, a perfect landing spot for the placenta.
We waited. I didn't feel anything except soreness from stretching. I wasn't worried, but I asked, "How long do we wait?"
"Well, if it's not out in an hour..." someone said in a but that won't happen tone of voice.
Lynn suggested I give a little push. I tried, but didn't feel like anything was moving. Lynn had a hold of the cord, and then there was a terrible clattering noise as something bumped the metal bowl.
"Shit!" The cord had snapped. There was a little gush of blood.
The midwives moved so fast, it wasn't even a whole second later that I was lying on the floor. My head was supported by something firm and warm (I thought it might be Rob's extra-firm memory foam pillow, but it turned out to be Kerri) and Beth was kneeling between my legs. I don't know if she told me what she was about to do—I'm sure she did, but either way, I knew what was about to happen—and she apologized. My placenta was not coming out. Beth was going to reach in and get it.
I was afraid that the pain would be worse than the birth had been, but I knew I had no choice.
"Call 911," Beth said over her shoulder. Lynn was already on the front porch, phone to her ear. Beth worked inside my uterus. "Push," she told me firmly. I did, and watched my belly rise up like a volcano.
"It's shredding," Beth said. And then, "We need them here now," as though our collective will could make the paramedics to arrive faster.
Everything seemed very quiet and still. Beth looked me in the eyes, hard. "Don't bleed."
I won't, I thought, imagining all the blood moving away from my uterus. I felt bound by those words. They were magic. I think I said, "Okay."
Somewhere in all of this, Beth had told Sara to give me a shot of Pitocin. I barely felt the needle go into my left leg.
I heard sirens and asked, almost jovially, "Is that for me?"
"Yes," someone answered.
I wasn't bleeding, and the paramedics were on there way. Beth assessed the situation. "Well," she said, "you didn't tear at all."
"You're intact, lady."
Well, awesome. That was one less thing to worry about. Though, strangely, I didn't feel especially worried. I knew Rob would be, though.
I was vaguely aware of Kerri somewhere above my head. "Kerri, would you go comfort Rob?" She seemed a little reluctant to leave me (that's when I discovered that the supportive pillow under me was actually Kerri's leg) but she got up and disappeared into the hall where Rob was standing.
Someone asked if I wanted clothes, since there were about to be firefighters and paramedics in my house, and I directed them to the robe in the bathroom. Someone placed it over me like a blanket.
The firefighters looked very capable, but a little bewildered by the scene. The midwives explained what had happened, first to the firefighters, then to the paramedics. Meanwhile, I was starting to feel tiny gushes of blood every once in a while and calling out each one, just in case this information meant we needed to hurry things along even more.
Some of the men negotiated moving the dining table into the living room to make space for the gurney. There was some discussion of the baby. Beth explained that the baby was fine, that the newborn exam would be done at home. I was glad to hear that. I didn't want Ivy to be admitted to the hospital. One of the firefighters knelt down by my head, congratulated me on the birth, and explained that they would be lifting me onto the gurney. I was concerned about being lifted, but I couldn't really say why. Decisions were being made all around me, and I tired to participate. "Evergreen," I chimed in when there was a brief discussion of hospitals.
We would be going to Evergreen, which was five minutes from the house. I remembered my backpack in the closet (which had my wallet with my ID and insurance card) and asked Lynn to get it. Lynn would go with me to the hospital. Beth and Sara would do Ivy's newborn exam at home, then Rob and the baby would join me.
As the paramedics wheeled me out the door and down over the front lawn, the sky overhead was pure clear baby blue. The treetops looked impossibly green. "It's a beautiful day to have a baby," I said.
"It is," Lynn agreed.
I brought my hands together in front of my heart. My eyes filled with tears. I missed my baby.
I knew this was a medical emergency—I'd known since the metal bowl clattered so horribly—but I felt extremely calm, peaceful, and lucid. I'd had the wherewithal to remember my backpack. I spoke calmly and clearly with the (very paternalistic) paramedic who at first told Lynn she couldn't ride in the back with me and then changed his mind. He was slightly suspicious of us for leaving the baby behind; I said, "She's in good hands." He explained that we were going directly to Labor and Delivery. They were expecting us, and we didn't have to go through Emergency. That felt like good news.
He placed an IV port in my right arm. I still wasn't worried. I smiled at Lynn, and then looked up at the inside of the ambulance. Along with medical supplies, there was a cabinet labeled "Teddy Bears." I could see the toys inside, dark brown with red ribbons around their necks. I imagined that they were for children who had to take ambulance rides, either as patients or as the family members of patients. Somehow, the latter seemed more terrible when I imagined it. Then I thought of Westley for the first time in hours. I was so glad he hadn't been at the house for any of what had just happened. I wish I'd thought to ask for a teddy bear.
When we arrived at the Family Maternity Center, the paramedics wheeled me past two women having an everyday conversation (This is an ordinary day for most people, I remembered, and briefly got caught up in how strange that idea seemed) and almost past the front desk. A woman in purple scrubs stopped us and wrote down my information on a Post-It note. A doctor introduced herself to me, and then got the information about the situation from one of the paramedics. He wasn't even there! I thought, and wished someone would talk to Lynn or me. Instead, I listened as hospital staff played a game of medical "Telephone" about my situation down the hall to the OR.
Lynn couldn't go in to the Operating Room with me. I knew this was coming, but I still felt a little dread creep in at the idea of being separated from all of my birth team. Lynn said, "Let me give her a kiss first."
I love midwives.
In the OR, it seemed like chaos. I didn't have a patient ID bracelet. At first, it seemed like they weren't sure who they had on the table or why. The OB in charge explained the procedure, and introduced me to the doctor who would be assisting by running an ultrasound machine to make sure they got the entire placenta out. Beth had mentioned that they would probably put me under for the procedure, but the anesthesiologist was talking about a spinal block.
"No," I said. "General. I don't want a spinal."
He asked what I was concerned about with the spinal.
I was concerned about having to sit up, about being awake for what I imagined would be a horrible experience even with pain relief... "I don't want a spinal headache," I said.
"Oh, we rarely get those here."
Fortunately, the OB was pretty adamant that they use general anesthesia. I felt the worry dissolve. Thank you, doctor! The anesthesiologist was not happy about this decision, and asked me when I'd eaten last (maybe around 4:00 PM?) and what (a little zucchini bread and an energy drink...no, sports drink). He looked disappointed in me.
Someone stuck something in my left arm. Someone else came around my left side with an oxygen mask. He said something about my polka dots—I was still wearing my damp bathing suit top—and told me to take some deep breaths. There was a mask over my nose and mouth. Two deep breaths later, I was asleep.
* * *
When I woke up, I felt like I had been dreaming, but I couldn't remember about what. I could see the clock on the wall opposite me. I recognized the position of the hands, but I couldn't make sense out of them at first. "What time is it?"
"Six-thirty in the evening," a nurse answered.
I felt clammy in my wet bathing suit top. "My throat hurts."
A nurse with gray hair and a sweet face introduced herself as Sarah. The younger nurse who'd answered my question about the time brought me some ice chips for my throat. She explained that I'd been intubated during surgery.
Everything was foggy. I think I asked about my husband, and was told he was here, at the hospital, waiting in my room.
After what seemed like an eternity, I was wheeled back to the room in which I would spend the next two days. My first question for the doctor was if I could go home. She was polite and professional enough not to laugh at me, and explained that no, I'd lost a lot of blood—about 60% of my total blood volume.
Sixty percent. Holy shit.
There was a long discussion between the doctor and a nurse about how I would absolutely need a transfusion, but couldn't consent because I'd just been under general anesthesia. I wanted to say, "My husband is here somewhere. Can't he sign for me?" In the end, I think they settled on my verbal consent being sufficient under the circumstances. The doctor was clearly in a hurry to get some blood back into me.
Finally—finally!—my team filtered into the room: Kerri, the midwives, Rob holding Ivy. He immediately placed her next to me on the hospital bed. I couldn't really hold her, but was such a relief just to be next to her. Ivy relaxed too.
Kerri helped me out of my swimsuit, and I tried to breastfeed Ivy. Nurses buzzed around us, checking various tubes and monitors—there were about nine things attached to me—but I didn't care. I had my baby with me again.
* * *[ED: The story of my hospital stay can be found here.]