Todd had been out of the picture for several days with a wicked cold and 13-hour work-days in the lab. I was already in auto-pilot mode, which means I put on a perfunctory patient face and go through the motions of maintaining a semblance of order around the house.
After battling various viruses (virii?) for four weeks, the kids and I seemed to be coming out of the clouds when Miriam, the 4-year-old, was again enveloped. A triple infection--eyes, ears, and sinuses--put us in the car to the pediatrician's office.
Isabella, the 21-month-old, hates all strange men (especially men with needles) with a passion. She screamed, cried, and jumped on her little sister-in-utero the entire visit. It didn't help that she'd been up over an hour early that morning.
That's when I started having contractions. Real contractions. Every four minutes. I'm only at 22 weeks, so this was not good.
I grabbed the prescription with a heartfelt "Thank you" to the doctor, who was laughing at the toddler, paid the receptionist, and threw the weeping children into the car. (I was very proud of myself for that "Thank you"!) At least Miriam was weeping for joy, "Oh, Mummy! I'm crying because I'm SO HAPPY the doctor will make me BETTER!" The contractions kept coming.
The OB told me to come in right away without children (since they may have to hook me up to monitors). Haha. At this point, I started crying. Miriam thought I, too, wept for joy: "Oh, Mummy! Are you crying because in heaven I won't be sick anymore?" No. I'm crying because I'm done. I can't take anymore. Heaven sounds good right now. "No," I snapped at her, "Just be quiet, will you?" Yuck.
I drove to the hospital, unable to get in touch with anyone over the phone to take the kids. In a last-ditch attempt, I drove through our neighborhood and found a home-schooling friend who was actually home. I pulled in, knocked on her door, and--a weeping mess--said, "I have an emergency. Can you take the kids while I go to the hospital?" God bless her: She just said yes. Out go the children, quite bewildered at this point. Off I go.
On the way to Labor and Delivery, I was a wreck. All those feelings of deep peace were gone. No peace, no assurance, nothing. I told God I couldn't even formulate a prayer. I had lots of demands: Heal Todd, heal Miriam, stop the contractions, save the baby. But even my demands were automatic, forced. I couldn't find a Rosary in the car: Fine, I don't want to pray your stupid Rosary anyway. There was no anger, just exhaustion. And no Presence. Where are you? Even the saints, who usually stay with me in my desolations, were gone as if preoccupied. I was alone.
In the waiting room, I sat and tried to breath slowly. After about 30 minutes, I rummaged in the purse for some more Kleenex and found an old prayer book. I rolled my eyes--yeah, right--and opened it randomly. There was the Te Deum, the Church's traditional hymn of thanksgiving. Oh, right. In all circumstances give thanks. So, I started to read without praying:
There I stopped, because I was surprised. I had been praying, throwing the words of praise out into the void, out towards the heaven Miriam talks so much about. It was all still dark and silent, but it was the silence of a starry night when the world is at rest. Evil and despair stalk at night, but so do the prayers of countless of the faithful. Calling out to God.
I still felt alone. I was still exhausted. But somehow, it didn't matter anymore.
The contractions slowed down during the next hour, and the good news was that I wasn't dilated at all. The OB sent me home to rest (haha) and drink lots of water and eat more food.
I picked up the napless children, and we went about our long day. The prescriptions were picked up, frozen pizza was served, more tears were shed, and a friend came over to watch the children while I went to Adoration.
In the chapel, late at night, there was still nothing. No feeling of his Presence, no comfort. But the words of the Te Deum still echoed in my head: The white-robed army of martyrs praises you...
A little white martyrdom day. May I acquit myself with more grace next time. But if not... Praise You.