I woke up in the pale light, feeling disoriented. What had woken me? Something important was happening.

“Avi?”

Wait, maybe I was overreacting. I took a deep breath, tried to calm down.

Help, I couldn’t breathe deeply. My pulse raced.

“Avi!”

The years between my last pregnancy and my new pregnancy vanished. I was suddenly in the same place, same situation, waking up and something was wrong. Only this time I knew what it was.

“Avi, I think it’s—” I tried to breathe deeply, but on the exhale I moaned. “I think it’s happening again.”

The staircase was right outside my bedroom. I sat down on the landing to rest, then took the stairs as quickly as I could. I made it. I held onto furniture and then collapsed on the recliner.

Avi raced down behind me. “I called my sister. She’s coming.”

I stared up the staircase. What I really wanted to do was run back up, prepare everyone’s clothes, pack everyone’s bags, set the table for breakfast.

I knew I couldn’t do it.

My sister-in-law arrived. “I’m so sorry, I feel so bad,” I babbled.

“Go, go!”

I sucked in another breath, somehow I walked to the car. By the time we got to the hospital I could no longer walk. My husband ran in, came back out with a wheelchair.

The doctors and nurses assembled around my bed. I closed my eyes. Not this, I hate this.

“Start her on six milligrams.”

My husband smiled encouragingly from behind the crowd. Burning. Burning. I moaned.

“Try it again. Twelve this time.”

Burning. Racing.

“What did they do for her last time?”

My husband shook his head. “It didn’t work last time, either.”

They wheeled me into a room. I felt a little better. Just being in the hospital, hooked up to machines, being monitored. If something went wrong someone would know. Someone would come help.

If something went wrong? Something was wrong. Were they helping me?

A new doctor came in, hair like Einstein. He had a slow drawl, all intelligence and no social grace. “We’re going to put you on a drug. It will help slow your heart rate.” With his finger, he drew a diagram on the bedsheet like the zigzag on the EKG. “We call it the PQRS wave.” He pointed to the screen, demonstrating how the wave resembled a script P, Q, R, and S.

“Now, your heart rate has the P in the wrong place.” Cool, now I could read an EKG. I always wondered what those ups and downs mean. After he left I watched the screen the entire time, waiting for the P to change to the correct place. I want to get out of here already, please get me out of here. (Excerpted from Family First, Issue 573)