DAY FIVE – GOING HOME
When I woke up on Tuesday morning, I felt a great deal of excitement. I knew that Charlie and Isabel were at home getting ready to come to the rod dome to pick us up. Natasha (who’d visited me almost every day since my arrival along with Charlie) was coming to translate for us during discharge. Liza (who’d taken time off of work and had spent hours with Isabel in the last few days) was coming to sit with Isa in the waiting room downstairs while Charlie and Natasha assisted me and Jasper.
Also on this day, I was allowed to take a shower! One of the great benefits of the restrictions that were in place regarding visitors to the rod dome was the freedom it allowed the mothers to get up and be out of their rooms for eating, going to the restroom, etc. So when the time came for my shower, I nursed Jasper, thanked God as he fell back to sleep, grabbed my shampoo, my deodorant, my hair dryer (being careful not to forget my converter so I could plug it in), slid into Charlie’s plastic slippers and my robe and headed for the showers. Despite my likeness to Frankenstein as I slowly hobbled down the hallway (it took a few weeks for the pain in my abdomen to clear completely), I knew that I must have been glowing from my excitement!
The shower room consisted of 4 open stalls with a plastic chair in front of each. When I arrived there was already another lady, also being discharged on this day, in the first stall showering. She and I smiled at each other as I walked by her to the second stall and undressed for my shower. Despite the dampness on the old tiled walls and the mildew on the floors (thank the Lord for Charlie’s plastic slippers!), I decided that this must have been one of the happiest rooms in the building. If you made it in here, that meant you were going home!
Later that morning, after the pediatrician confirmed that Jasper was also free to go home, Charlie showed up in my room carrying two large bags full of gifts for the staff of the rod dome. The art of gift giving in Russia is one that I’m only beginning to learn, but with the advice of a couple of our Russian friends (Natasha even asked her mom what we should get the doctor), we decided on a bottle of wine for the doctor and midwife, and boxes of chocolates for the nursing staff.
While handing out the gifts, all of the staff asked me, “So was it different here than when your daughter was born in the states?” I kind of smiled and just answered a simple, “Da.”
“Was it better or worse?” one nurse asked. I thought for a minute, and then answered honestly, “Really both – of course some things would have been easier for me in the states, but there were somethings here that I’ve really loved.”
They all laughed, and then they told me to please come back to rod dome for my next delivery.
I was not allowed to get dressed out of my robe into my street clothes until I’d gone back down off of the rod dome floor to first floor. So the nurse escorting us out picked up Jasper, I picked up my clothes (which were required to be in a plastic bag), Natasha and Charlie picked up our bags (which were also covered in plastic per rod dome rules), and we all walked down the stairs to the first floor. When we arrived at the first floor, Charlie and Natasha were required to go out to the waiting room, while Jasper and I went to a dressing room to get changed.
When we walked in, there was another lady already there with her baby who was dressed and about to walk out into the waiting room where her family was waiting to greet her and meet the new baby. I remembered seeing this lady in the rod dome on prior days, looking like the rest of us, walking slowly through that hall in her robe and slippers, very beaten down and weary. However, at that moment she had her hair fixed and her make-up on. As the door opened and she walked out into the waiting room, I watched her face transform. You could almost see the weight of the rod dome lift off of her as she walked through that door.
After I’d gotten dressed, the nurse dressing Jasper asked me, “Where’s his hat?” “Oh no!” I thought. “Charlie’s got the hat!” She said, “I can’t let you take him out of this room until he has on his hat.” So I opened the door and called to Natasha, “Tell Charlie to get his hat!” Natasha ran outside where Charlie was putting in our bags and said, “Jasper needs a hat!” I watched through the window as Charlie pulled the bag back out of the trunk, and searched frantically through it for a hat for Jasper. The expression on his face as he handed a hat to Natasha to run back inside to us said so much. I could almost hear his prayer through the window, “Dear God, please just let us get home.”
And that was it. We walked through the door to find Natasha, Liza, Isabel and Charlie all smiling and waiting. I held Isabel tightly, who felt as though she’d gained 10 pounds in the past 5 days. We all hugged joyfully, took lots of pictures, and then spent 10 minutes getting Jasper in the car seat in the rental car outside. As the rental car was so small, there was not enough room for all 6 of us. So in their final act of service to our family in those 5 days, Liza and Natasha waved goodbye as we drove away and left them in the snow to walk to the metro and get themselves home.
BEING HOME, RECOVERY, FINAL REMARKS
I wish I could say that all was well after our time in the rod dome – that all was forgiven, healed, made whole, etc. But anyone who’s ever had a baby or ever moved to a foreign country or ever done both at the same time knows that I can not honestly say that.
From the moment we first walked into the apartment after Isabel and Charlie picked us up from rod dome, I was amazed at how easy everything seemed! I’d never experienced that place and felt so good before! I was also very impressed at how well Isabel and Charlie both seemed to be doing. Isabel was so happy we were home and was so gentle with Jasper. Charlie was so patient with us and seemed so at ease.
But after only a couple of nights at home, the exhaustion, grief, and anger from what we’d all experienced those days began to come out. I was still feeling a lot of pain, and of course being home was finding it much more difficult to rest as I had at rod dome. Also, it seemed that Isabel may have had one of the hardest struggles while we were in rod dome. She began being very rude to me – at times not even speaking at all. She also began to wake up at night with bad dreams. Between her and Jasper, there were several nights in those first weeks home that Charlie and I hardly slept at all.
Then, unexpectedly for both us, on our third night home Charlie and I had one of the biggest fights we’ve ever had. We had known that the time in rod dome was not going to be easy. But we were still amazed at how difficult it had been. We both had so much anger, but for different reasons. Charlie felt angry about how much control he felt he’d lost over my and Jasper’s welfare. His having to leave us there night after night left him feeling helpless and very guilty.
I felt anger about the way that rod dome had left me feeling – both physically and spiritually. I continued to struggle with the sense of shame and embarrassment after I’d returned home. Charlie slowly tried to get me to talk about it, but for the first few weeks, any attempt to talk about things would only make me cry. I finally told him that I was embarrassed to share so many of the things that had happened there with him.
After about a month, we decided to get out and go with a friend who’d invited us to visit his church. It was one of our first outings together as a family of four. Being early in February, it was still very cold in St. Petersburg at that time. But we knew we needed to get out, so we bundled up, loaded up in the rental car and headed to the church.
At church we were blessed to be able to spend some time together in praise and worship of our Lord through music, dance, and prayer. I had Jasper in his carrier, which I was wearing on my chest. So I was able to close my eyes, sing aloud, and lift my hands freely in praise to God.
It was truly an amazing time in the Lord’s presence. I immediately began to feel Him ministering to me. His presence washed over me like water. It actually reminded me of how that shower at rod dome had felt that day. It was like layers and layers of shame and grief and anger were just washing away.
Then I felt the Lord ask me about Jasper, which was a topic I realized I’d avoided discussing with Him. I just put my hand on Jasper, who was sleeping on my chest, and I started crying.
I said, “God, why did You want him to be born in such a place as that? We truly felt that the best thing was to deliver him here, but there was so much shame and grief filling that rod dome. I can’t help but to wonder how much of that he is now going to carry with him.”
Then I felt the Lord’s simple answer in my spirit. “Miki, you forget that you have given your children to me, so they are Mine. Nothing can touch what is Mine.”
One of the pleasures of my first year in St. Petersburg, Russia was going with friends to visit the grave of Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Another was having the opportunity as I laid in that bed for those months to read his novel, Crime and Punishment, which was also set in St. Petersburg. So for closing remarks, I think I’ll take the liberty of borrowing his:
But that is the beginning of a new story – the story of the gradual renewal of a man, the story of his gradual regeneration, of his passing from one world into another, of his initiation into a new unknown life. That might be the subject of a new story, but our present story is ended.
Love and blessings in Christ always be with you.