As I staggered back to the maternity floor from the NICU at 1am one night, I stopped at the nurse's station, where I found Helen playing a game of solitaire on her computer.
"I'm going to try to get some sleep now," I told Helen. "Do you need anything from me before I head to my room?"
My question was met with a blank stare, so I clarified my request.
"Do you need to take my temperature or look at my vagina?" I asked.
Helen said that both my privates and my vital signs could go unsupervised until morning.
"Perfect," I said, "See you later."
I woke up to a flashlight shining in my face. The clock read 1:15am.
"I need to take your blood pressure and your temperature after all," giggled Helen.
I opened my mouth and stuck out my arm.
At 2:45am Helen remembered that she also had to draw some blood.
"I'm not very happy about this," I told her.
Helen apologized and asked where I wanted the tourniquet.
I pointed to my favorite vein, but Helen "didn't like the look of it" and selected one in my wrist instead. After digging around for five minutes, she decided that my suggestion wasn't a bad one after all.
At 4:37am, Helen brought in a large Styrofoam cup of ice. She woke me up to ask me where I wanted her to put it.
"I don't want it!" I screamed nicely.
Helen said she was sorry for trying to make me more comfortable. She left the light on and the door open on her way out. I counted to 10. Ten times.
Helen's shift ended at 7:00am. At exactly 6:58am, I buzzed the nurse's station.
"Yes?" said Helen, poking her head around the door.
"Before you go," I said, "Could you get me a drink of water and a handful of saltines....and a towel and two washcloths please?"
I could hear Helen's leg scraping down the hall to to the ice machine. I tried not to smile, but it was hard.