It was dark in the room except for a small light above the nurse’s station in the corner of the room. Aspen was crying in the crib, and Mel had her arms across her chest, hands on her shoulders. She was trying to sit up, but each time she did, she flinched in pain because of her incision.
“I’ve been calling you for awhile, but you wouldn’t wake up. I need the nurse.”
She said all of this through loud whispers, and there were long gaps between words as she breathed in irregular breaths.
This was one of the things I was worried about. My anti anxiety medication causes me to sleep deeply.
I was terrified. I’d never seen her in this much pain. Mel doesn’t complain much when it comes to pain. I’m the one who bitches about things. I’m the one who says things like, “I’m dying,” every time I get a cold or the flu. Not Mel though. She’s the strong one.
I called the nurse, and then I picked up Aspen.
We waited for the nurse, and as we did, Mel squirmed, and breathed heavy, in an attempt to ease the pain.
“It’s that stupid air. It hurts so bad,” she said.
I hate moments like this. I so badly wanted to do something for my wife, but I didn’t know what I could do outside of hold the baby, and try to give Mel comfort.
I said things like, “The nurse is coming. It’s going to be okay.”
I asked her if I could try rubbing her shoulders, or something. I asked if I could help her sit up. “Would that help?”
To most of what I said, she didn’t respond. She just cried. And when she did respond, it was always, “no.”
The nurse came in. She was an older woman, probably in her early 50s, short, with thick-lensed glasses.
She told Mel what we already knew, that she was having pain because of the air in her body. “It’s nothing to be too worried about, but it is uncomfortable.”
I never thought air inside a person could cause pain, but honestly, it’s never something I’ve thought much about. I’ve never considered that there are parts of the body that regularly have air in them, and parts that don’t, and when you mess with that equation, you can end up in serious pain.
The nurse told us that she couldn’t give Mel additional pain medication for a few more hours. I can’t recall the exact amount of time, but I recall that Mel looked at me like the nurse had told her she couldn’t give it to her for eternity.
Now keep in mind that I was a little out of it during all this because of the medication I’d taken. Some of the details are a bit foggy. I can’t recall if the nurse said she’d talk to one of the doctors, or if she said Mel was just going to have to wait. But what I do recall was feeling like there was not much that could be done, and Mel was just going to have to tough it out.
It was getting close to 3AM when Mel asked if I’d give her a priesthood blessing. This is a Mormon ordinance for the sick and afflicted. To perform a priesthood blessing for the sick, I needed consecrated oil. Luckly I placed some in my bag before we left. It just seemed like a good idea. But it also required two elders from the church. One to seal the oil, and another to perform the blessing. I was an elder, but I had no idea where I’d find another at 3AM in a Salem Oregon Hospital. Most men in the church over the age of 18 are ordained elders. It’s not like finding a priest or anything. But we also weren’t in Utah anymore, where the majority of the population is Mormon.
I know that readers outside the church might see something like this as doing nothing, and that’s fine. I get it. But Mormonism is something that I believe in, and Mel believes in. I think that there is power in a priesthood blessing, and the thought of giving her a blessing helped me to feel like I could do something for her. That I was serving some purpose, where before I was just standing there, watching her suffer.
I walked into the hallway and found the nurse. I asked her if she knew anyone working that was Mormon.
“Yes,” she said. “Sally is Mormon… I think.”
“Would you mind telling her that I’d like to give my wife a blessing, and I need another person to help with that? She’ll know what I’m talking about.”
In about 20 minutes, someone knocked on the door. It was a stocky, smiling man in his early 20s named Brandon. He said that he worked in a lab somewhere on the floor below us. He was a member of the Mormon Church, and was told by his sister (a nurse on this floor) that someone needed a priesthood blessing.
I gave Brandon my bottle of consecrated oil (olive oil that has been consecrated by elders in the church). He sealed the anointing by placing a drop of oil on Mel’s head, laying his hands on her scalp, and performing the ordinance. Then together we placed our hands on her head, and I blessed Mel to have a speedy recovery. I blessed that the pain in her body would subside, and that she would be strong enough to endure what pain she had left.
I said amen, and Brandon left.
I can’t say that the pain left Mel’s body in an instant. She was still clearly in pain. But what I can say is that she fell asleep a short time later, and once she woke up, it was because the nurse woke her, and offered her more pain medication.
Whether or not Mormonism is true, or if what I did for my wife were simply words and olive oil, is not the point of me telling you this. For me, once she fell asleep, I felt a deep level of satisfaction. I felt like I’d done something to help her. There was a comfort in giving Mel a blessing that helped her grapple with the pain, and helped me feel useful. There was something really cool and beautiful about a stranger and myself coming together to do something for Mel that could bring her so much relief. It was an interesting kind of intimacy to share with someone I didn’t know.
By the next morning, Mel was up and walking around the room. Between my medication and the excitement of the night, I didn’t have the chance to get anxious. I was grateful for that. But more so, I was grateful that I’d not left, and that I’d taken the opportunity to stay with my wife, and given her the comfort and support she needed.
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Clint Edwards was blessed with a charming and spitfire wife, a video game obsessed little boy, and a snarky little girl in a Cinderella play dress. When Clint was 9-years-old his father left. With no example of fatherhood, he had to learn how to be a father and husband through trial and error. His essays on parenting and marriage have been featured in New York Times, The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, Scary Mommy, The Good Men Project, and elsewhere. He lives in Oregon. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.
Photo by Lucinda Higley