How Does It Feel to Be Alone?


It’s So Empty

Where are the people?

The waiting room is totally empty and it’s already 8:30 a.m. It’s only me and signs that say, “PLEASE DO NOT SIT HERE” on every two out of three chairs.

I choose the seat closest to the electrical outlet to keep my phone charged. I don’t want to run out of juice.

I’m expecting a very important call. It will come from the other side of the heavy door that separates this Labor and Delivery waiting room from the actual Labor and Delivery birthing room.

My baby girl is in there. Jenna is having her first baby. My first grandson.

But I’m out here alone.

In the Old Days . . . 

It’s not supposed to be this way. Our big family has a tradition of piling into waiting rooms whenever a new baby is on the way.

We take up every available seat, crowding the chairs together to keep the party going as we await news of the pending birth. We have snacks. We laugh. We visit. Way back in the day, we sometimes even gathered in the hospital hallway with our ears to the delivery room door, waiting to hear the first cry of a niece or nephew.

But there’s no big party today.

This is birth in the pandemic age.

The Designated Visitor

The clock ticks on. It’s now 11 a.m.

Only one lucky visitor will be allowed to see the baby after he arrives. As the mother’s mother, Jenna picked me to be the “designated visitor.” The previous night I’d reported in with the hospital doorman. He wrote my name on the list and gave me a name tag.

This morning they tell me that my husband Jeff can join me at least in the waiting room.

I’m waiting for him now.

He’s caught in heavy traffic and torrential rains somewhere between Birmingham and here. We hadn’t expected baby Henry to come three weeks early. We thought we had plenty of time. But the clock is ticking quickly now. 

I look at my phone again. I want it to ring.

But I want the first ring to be from Jeff, saying he’s in the parking lot, not from Trey saying his son Henry has just been born.

I want Jeff to be with me when we get the good news. It doesn’t feel right to hear it alone.

Who Will Call First?

Someone opens the Labor & Delivery door from the inside. I turn. It’s 11:45 a.m.

It’s a hospital worker, but she has no news for me.

She asks if I’m waiting for a birth. She asks how it feels to be a grandmother. She says she is excited for me.

Her name is Annie. She’s 40ish, looks me in the eye when she talks, and has a Canadian accent. It’s been several months since I’ve had a long conversation with a stranger, even through our masks. It feels oddly normal in this abnormal time. 

Annie leaves.

I return to my solitary waiting. It’s 12:43 p.m. Will Jeff make it on time?

My phone buzzes. I look at the screen.

It’s not Jeff.

It’s Trey. It’s a picture of my new grandson. He’s beautiful. Henry is here!

I cry. I’m happy!

But I’m also sad. Jeff didn’t make it in time. We miss this first moment together.

Behind the Next Door

The hospital sound system is playing its 30-second lullaby chime, a signal to everyone in the hospital that a new life has just entered our world.

I feel even more alone.

Until I hear footsteps. I look up.

It’s Annie. She’d heard the chimes, too, and knew they were mine. She congratulates me. I show her my new phone photo of our glorious baby Henry. She hands me tissues. She stays. 

Silly me. I was never all alone. There is always a Designated Visitor behind the next door, even if it’s not who I expect. Thank you, God.

And thank you, Annie. I’ll always remember you, my new special friend who celebrated with me on the day Henry was born.

When have you felt alone during the pandemic? When have you felt community?

Share your thoughts in the comments.

The rest of the story . . . Jeff rushed into the waiting room at 1:06 p.m. and together we rejoiced that our new grandson Henry was here and healthy and that Jenna was fine. Jeff didn’t get to go back to see Henry when I did at 2:23 p.m., but he did go to Chick-fil-A and bought us all chicken sandwiches, for which we were extremely grateful. (He got to meet Henry two days later when Jenna and Trey made it home.)

19 thoughts on “How Does It Feel to Be Alone?

  1. Pam Ecrement

    Great story of what life has been like for so many of us in the past year+. For me this past year has been waiting alone in hospitals while my husband was facing a procedure or surgery or once had just been transported by ambulance. These were times of uncertainty and being without another person to wait and wonder was difficult even though I knew the Lord was with me.

    It reminded me of the difficult season in 1995 when both my parents were hospitalized and we were trying to manage that and my younger brother who was mentally handicapped in multiple ways. My husband and I worked in different cities from each other or the hospital and often I was alone trying to handle decisions as my dad was taken into ICU and my mother emotionally checked out in a hospital room on another floor.

    Being alone in a hospital whether for a joyous occasion or a difficult one is never easy. I cannot imagine how those without Jesus manage it.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Oh, Pam, you’ve known what it was like to wait alone from a long while back. 🙁 Your 1995 and 2020 sound like such difficult circumstances. I agree that having Jesus with us is a comfort; we know we are never truly alone. I had a conversation or two with him myself while waiting on Henry to be born. 🙂

  2. Barbara Harper

    How sweet of Annie to come back and share your good news! Love the video of you with him.

    I don’t remember such chimes when Timothy was born–it’s neat Jenna’s hospital did that. Oddly, when Timothy was born 7 years ago, the waiting room was empty, too–and there were papers on the floor. I remember that really bugging me, maybe because my nerves were already frayed since he was so early. None of us got to see him for long because he was so early and sent, not just to NICU, but to a completely different hospital.

    When my husband had surgery for his cancerous kidney, I told the pastor I’d rather be alone in the waiting room, and I’d read a book to keep myself occupied. I felt like trying to keep up a conversation would be too much for me. He did come up and stayed with us before Jim went in, and it was good to see him. Then he left, and my sons and d-i-l came. It ended up being a comfort that they were there, even though we each read or used or devices quietly. Just having them there helped.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Our Huntsville hospitals don’t play the chimes, but the Madison hospital does. It’s a nice little touch to hear, wherever you are in the hospital, that life is beginning for someone! I understand your desire to not want to keep up conversation when you’re waiting. Last week was one of the rare times that I actually was able to read my book in the waiting room because usually people are around and I never get to my books. ha. But I’ll take people over books in that situation. Maybe next time I have to wait there will be others waiting with me. 🙂

  3. Laurie

    Awww…congratulations on your new grandson, Lisa! I am sorry Jeff wasn’t there with you when you got the news. I am glad baby and mother are fine and Jeff finally got to hold him when they got home. We have a little grandson named Henry too! 🙂

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Aren’t we blessed to have little Henry’s in our life? I saw something online just today that Henry is the #9 most popular name for little boys born in 2020, the first time to crack the top ten since 1910. 🙂

  4. Maryleigh

    We couldn’t even be in the waiting room last year when our Henry was born. I delivered brunch at the door – because if our son left the hospital, he wouldn’t be able to go back. I missed the waiting, the family, the gathering. My in-laws were there for every delivery for every child and grandchild (except for the 3rd one – he beat them there). You are right – we are never alone. During the pandemic – when have I felt alone? Thankfully – not at all. However, sometimes as a boys-only mom – I can feel alone. I am so happy for your family! Congratulations! ~ Maryleigh

  5. Martha J Orlando

    Welcome to the world, Henry!!! Yes, little one, these are crazy times you were born into, but there’s also lots of love for you to experience with your family.
    Congrats to you and everyone, Lisa!

  6. Ashley Rowland | HISsparrowBlog

    Congratulations, Lisa! What a story. I waited alone while my husband had surgery at the beginning of the pandemic, and it wasn’t fun. I can’t imagine waiting like that for my daughter to have her child. Love the encouragement that we are never really alone. It’s so true.

  7. Donna

    Lisa, such a beautiful post of your experience welcoming little Henry! I rejoice with you over this new life. Things now aren’t always as we wish, but God’s Will was accomplished and you enjoyed those special moments. Though I have experienced many moments of feeling alone during the pandemic, I feel most alone and helpless when I am unable to offer a hug to someone in distress either at my office or when meeting patients and families, somehow the warmth of physical contact is so comforting, even more so than words at times.

  8. Lynn

    A very sweet story even though there was some sadness in being alone for the occasion. But also seeing the gift that we are never truly alone! I realize I have much more energy when I have had my ‘people’ time. So low energy has been my state I’ve needed to battle during this pandemic! Congratulations on your new grandson!

  9. Theresa Boedeker

    Congrats Lisa. And loved your story with pictures of the seats and doors and what you were talking about. made me feel I was there. This has been such a different year, even for having a baby. When I heard you couldn’t have even the father in the delivery room where we lived, it made me so thankful that I delivered in different times. In so many ways this last year has made me appreciate the things I took for granted.

  10. April Harris

    Your post made me cry, Lisa! Thank you for sharing this precious moment in your family’s life, and the important lesson that we never are truly alone. I’m grateful for your support of the Hearth and Soul Link Party. Congratulations to you all on the birth of this beautiful new little member of your family.

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