How can so few words bring back so many bad preemie-parent memories?

I was at Swedish Hospital today for follow-up appointments with Gabriel. While we were at the snack bar, three chimes followed by this announcement came across the PA system:

“Neonatal code blue, fifth southwest.”

I happen to know exactly what that means. The nine most difficult days of our family’s life were spent on fifth southwest, that is, the antepartum wing. That’s where mothers are stabilized in hopes they can keep the baby in for longer while the baby reaches a higher gestational age. A baby wouldn’t be delivered there, usually, rather, the mother would be taken to Labor & Delivery. This would mean the baby was delivered suddenly, and came out with such bad vital signs that a resuscitation team was needed to save the baby’s life before he or she could be taken to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, where we then spent five months.

Every muscle in my body tensed even though I had my baby in the stroller. My efforts to decide on a sandwich to buy deteriorated as I mumbled gibberish. I motioned for the lady behind me to go ahead.

I sent a text to my wife. The above two paragraphs could be omitted. I just wrote, “Neonatal code blue, fifth southwest. Freaking out. Please call to tell me I am not a crazy person.”

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