My first night home, I arrived after bedtime with five medications. Bear set his phone alarm according to my medication schedule, which meant that we were up almost every hour taking one of the following:
1. A narcotic pain pill.
2. An allergy pill, because in the hospital I started scratching my skin so fervently that people were covering me with lotion once every few hours to try and calm down the reaction.
3. A prescription-strength headache pill. The headaches were yet another reaction to the narcotics, as well as to that total-body trauma I experienced 4 days prior.
4. Aspirin as a blood thinner.
5. A muscle relaxer.
It was reminiscent of two new parents’ first night home with their baby. Bear tripped all over the room in the dark every time the alarm went off, searching by phone-light for which medication he was supposed to administer. In my doped up state, I whined and rolled in every direction trying to find the least painful way to get myself up enough to swallow the pill. There’s something to be said for hospitals: people are paid to ensure you get your medication around the clock (and they’re awake when they do it), not to mention the beds electronically lift you up if you can’t sit up of your own accord. Oh, and my bed wasn’t at the top of a flight of stairs at the hospital.
The next morning, I woke up in so much pain that I just laid in bed and cried. I was so frustrated not just by the pain but by my complete inability to do anything. And I was so doped up that I didn’t feel like I could even think let alone communicate what I needed. I got all the way down the stairs just in time to stop and cry at the bottom step while Bear stood in front of me in case I fell. (He couldn’t even carry me because my ribs were broken.)
Once Bear got me to the bathroom, fed me breakfast, and got me back into bed, someone administered my muscle relaxer. This was a shining moment for me. Within about 20 minutes, I slurred my words and eventually just fell forward from a seated position. It was the only position that felt ok.
Every time I needed to walk, to sit, to eat, the stutter-pee…I needed Bear for all of it. His chest became a landing pad for my face anytime I needed to stand up. His arms under mine to lower me down onto the toilet. His hands behind my neck everytime I needed to sit up in bed, which was incredibly painful because I’d been using my neck muscles to sit up since my abs were currently out of business, attached to my ribs and all. There was absolutely nothing I could do without assistance except watch TV or sleep, and even then there was always someone coming in to check on me and ensure my leg was elevated and my ice packs were cold. It was depressing and humiliating. And I was so high. Not the fun high.
So high, in fact, that I began responding in song. That second night in sheer desperation for pain relief, I spread out all my arms and legs on the bed. Bear and Marybeth worked carefully to get my ready for bed while I laid there bemoaning my own pathetic-ness. Like a well-oiled machine they cleaned me and dressed me and tidied up the room, learning to tune out my whines and cries. That is, until, Bear (a sing-to-himself kind of guy) hummed this little favorite aloud:
(Click to hear it) Do-do doo-doo-doo
Without warning, and an event I have ZERO memory of, I responded.
(Click to hear it) Mana mana
(Click here to sing along!) Marybeth and Bear thought this was so funny that they apparently sang that song with me for the better part of 10 minutes while finishing the details of getting me to bed. I became a parrot, a party trick for their amusement and, full-disclosure, they said it appeared I was having a really good time, too.
Let’s be clear I was very glad to be home, but there were so many obstacles. For example, the toilets were all different heights. Marybeth had to go around the house collecting the proper-sized books to prop my foot up on while I stutter-peed (yes, I was still stutter-peeing). The Best Opera Librettos did the job in the downstairs bathroom and William Shakespeare’s Complete Works sufficed upstairs.
Showering required a plastic garbage bag taped around my leg, a shower chair, a new shower head (which Bear ran out and purchased/installed for me), and about 45 minutes. Oh, and a friend. Let’s keep the humiliation coming, shall we?
I couldn’t sleep on my side or stomach. Flat on my back with my leg us was the only option. Without the hospital bed, there were NO variations on this. My friend Robin donated a few big pillows to me so my bed turned into a giant marshmallow cloud, which you’d think would make up for it. It didn’t. Also, when is the last time you got to bed and realized you forgot to brush your teeth? You begrudgingly get up and walk to the bathroom, right? Well, it took me 20 minutes just to get IN to the bed, let alone back out. So my mom bought me a bunch of these little throw-away toothbrushes, just in case.
It went on and on. Being home was hard. But if I was going to get better, all these obstacles were good for me. I had to learn how to function in the real world because without any form of independence, I couldn’t have my son. He’d been with my ex for almost a week and I desperately wanted him back. So that became my motivation. Operation: Be a Mom Again. Come hell or high water, I was going to give my son his mama back.