Death is something that I both fear and do not fear. I fear it now because I fear being without my daughter and I fear her being alone. But I also do not fear it because I have faced it and was completely ready to die. I’m actually not sure that I was meant to live. Its hard to go through life questioning whether or not your time came and you cheated death.
I have always been a strong believer that in order for birth to be a welcome event, death must occur. I have been sad upon the death of loved ones because I miss their presence. But I have never been sad for them. Death is a reality that we must all accept. I believe most of us fear it because we do not know it and fear the unknown. We also fear that we have not yet had enough time.
But when I was on the edge of death, I did not worry about if I’d had enough time or not. I was not afraid that I was missing out on the rest of my life. I did not think, but I’m so young, not even 25 years old, I can’t die now. Instead, I found myself praying to God to forgive my sins, to protect my newborn daughter, and to thank him for my newfound peace. I was grateful to be dying.
Afterwards, I was informed that this is an effect of shock. That it was a physiological response to my body’s stress in order to relax me and keep me alive longer. At least that is what the doctors told me. I had just given birth and my poorly trained midwife that insurance covered (the experienced midwives weren’t covered by insurance) did not recognize my wounds and actually inflicted more wounds due to her inexperience. These mistakes resulted in a loss of four pints of blood by the time I was transferred to an emergency room and the bleeding stopped. The adult human body holds between 6 and 8 pints of blood depending on size, gender, and age. My doctors later informed me that they believed that I lost four of my 6.3 pints. This means that I lost about 2/3 of my blood supply.
As I was transferred from where I gave birth to the emergency room, the thing I remember most was how vibrant everything appeared. I was taken outside on a stretcher and I can clearly recall the most beautiful blue sky.The leaves seemed to glow in the sunlight, like they had a light of their own. The birds were singing. I felt uplifted by their song and asked the EMT to leave me in the grass. I begged him to put me down and let me feel the cool dirt and listen to the birds and watch the clouds. I remember telling him that I didn’t need to go to the hospital, that I was ready to die. He told me to be quiet. I remember telling him that he didn’t need to be afraid of dying. I remember an inner peace filling me with these words. Almost as if I was hearing someone tell me the same things I was telling this EMT. He had very blue eyes and I remember noticing that they were as blue and bright as the sky.
I told him that I wasn’t afraid, that I knew it was time for my to die. I remember feeling that I had done what I was meant to do and that my daughter would be okay. My husband wouldn’t come with me, but my best friend who held me hand through labor was with me. She kept trying to quiet me and I looked at her and told her she was beautiful and that she needed to help take care of the baby because my husband wouldn’t know what to do. I told her my mother’s phone number and asked her to call and tell my mother not to be sad. Once I arrived at the hospital I was overcome with anger and pain. I remember ripping IVs out of my arms and telling the nurses not to save me that they needed to take me outside to be with God. At some point, they sedated me.
It truly is a wonder I survived. I’ve read about blood loss and learned that I was given about a 5% chance of recovery. Basically, my husband had been told that within a week, I would more than likely be dead. The hospital even checked me out to go home to be at peace. I barely remember the first two days, the only thing I do remember is driving my newborn and myself to my husband’s job and being told by their on staff nurse that I needed to be taken to the hospital again or I would definitely die.
The hospital reluctantly checked me back in, only to check me back out again. I developed a 105.5 degree fever that night, now two days after birth and drove myself and the newborn back to the ER because my husband refused to get out of bed again. He was convinced that they would just say I was okay and send me home again. This time I refused to leave and was checked in. The hospital finally agreed to do a blood transfusion but would only agree to three pints. Their problem was that I had not saved blood ahead of time and they claimed that I had rejected a blood transfusion. It is possible, but I am foggy on much about these days of running on only 1/3 blood supply. In retrospect, I know I should not have been driving a car.
It was on this third day that I finally stayed in the hospital and remained there for an additional twelve days. I had been breastfeeding this whole time and the nurses kept telling me that I needed to start a bottle because no one in my condition could possibly produce milk. I didn’t care and although I still believed that I was still destined to die, I wanted my daughter to have as much milk as she could before I passed. My milk came in and she was doing fine. Something that the nurses, doctor, and pediatrician were shocked by.
By the fourth day, I had become so weak that I couldn’t sit up, let alone stand or walk. I was still ready to die and not afraid. I told my husband that when I died he needed to give our daughter over to my mother and he agreed. It was on the sixth day that I received the blood transfusions. The doctors actually lowered my survival to a 3% chance on this day. My fever was holding at about 104 degrees. I was always cold because they would not let me have blankets. I was nude most of the time because I was told that my skin was so hot it could raise the baby’s temperature. I developed a headache on the 7th or 8th day and the hospital would only give me strong narcotics and refused regular medications like ibprofen or tylenol. After about a week in the hospital, I accepted the fact that I was not going to die. I was almost sad that I realized I was going to stay alive. It was during this time that the bright glow that embraced everything around me faded.
The last few days in the hospital were the hardest part of the journey. My fever was down and the nausea brought on by the foreign blood was gone. I still had a terrible headache and was feeling very tired. I felt broken. I was disappointed. I’d felt so much relief in knowing that I was going to die, I’d let go of so much worry and pain. When I realized that I was going to live, anxiety and sadness entered me and weighed me down. I felt guilt that I was being spared. I pleaded with God, I told him that I was ready to die, that I didn’t need to live. I told him I knew that people died every day that deserved to live more than I did. I begged him to spare someone still attached to their life and take me. The doctors were surprised by my recovery and on the day that I was released home was given a 25% chance of survival. To most people this still sounds like a death sentence. I felt like they had damned me to life.
I started feeling better after I was returned home. I was grateful for being with my daughter. Every day I looked at her, I was happy to be in her presence, I was glad that I was her mother. But I still felt like someone had been cheated. I felt regret that someone lost their life that should have lived and that I was given a life I shouldn’t have had. These feelings have never truly subsided.
I no longer regret living, I am thankful that I have been blessed this way. But I long for the peace being near death brings. I know that when I do die, it will be a good thing to be welcomed. I know that it is a state of happiness and euphoria, a state without fear and anxiety. But it is not a place for me anymore. Not for a long time. I will always feel like I broke a rule of life, that I cheated death, that I have an undeserved privilege, but I will continue being grateful for the experience. I don’t know why I was spared death. So, now I pray, dear God let me accomplish what it was that you spared me for, and when the time comes, let me remain fearless of death.