Today is an interesting day and provokes interesting thoughts. I have samples of strawberry flavored Nordic Naturals’ artic cod liver oil and an opportunity to write about their product and tell you about a contest they are having. To enter the contest, all you need to do is like them on Facebook or visit the contest page HERE. What’s in it for your effort?
- Grand Prize: A trip for two to Santa Cruz with all the trimmings; e.g. per diem, airfare, car rental, hotel and product (one winner)
- Second Prize: One Canon Vixia HF M400 camcorder and a year’s supply of product (six winners)
- Third Prize: One year’s supply of product (twelve winners)
They want to know what you think is “essential” and they want to hear your story. I already knew what I was going to write about for this post which will also be entered in their contest. Then, last week the terrible news that an Australian mother died in an illegal homebirth, see HERE. Then I was convicted.
It was painful to read about and shook me to the core. Homebirths are often very safe, very successful and very satisfying for all involved. But not always because no birth is perfectly safe. The sad truth is that this lovely woman died and left behind her husband and two daughters, one of whom will never remember her. My thoughts wandered all day as I thought about those children, and especially about that baby. I would be working in the kitchen and I would think about just what the husband of this woman and the father of her children, just what he might be doing at that very moment—maybe he would be feeding the baby, changing her, maybe even weeping. I tried to get a handle on my thoughts and not let the children be aware of my deep sadness and profound anxiety. One of my children was ready to start memorizing a new poem and he selected “The Village Blacksmith” by Longfellow. His innocent choice cut me like a knife.
…He goes on Sunday to the church,
And sits among his boys;
He hears the parson pray and preach,
He hears his daughter’s voice
Singing in the village choir,
And it makes his heart rejoice.
It sounds to him like her mother's voice,
Singing in Paradise!
He needs think of her once more,
How in the grave she lies;
And with his hard, rough hand he wipes
A tear out of his eyes…
I almost made him choose something else. My hands were shaking so much when he gave me the paper, I placed it on the table and placed my hands in my lap under it while we read it together. “How in the grave she lies,” I had reason to shake, something which has taken a year to really get a psychological grip on. 17 months ago I nearly died in childbirth and my husband rationally and logically was planning how to care for ten children, including an hours old baby, with me dead and buried. He was waiting for me to come out of surgery and nurses were trying to console him. Five hours had ticked by since I first went in and four and half since they had sent for the level one trauma team from the emergency department—experts in gunshot wounds who were hoped to find a way to stem my massive bleeding. He had given me up for dead and started to plan how to move on with his life.
Toiling, rejoicing, sorrowing,
Onward through life he goes;
Each evening sees it close;
Has earned a night's repose.
Five hours after a c-section, I suffered terrible pain in my belly and continued to be lightheaded. I began to bleed out through my incision and my oxygen and blood pressure dropped as if off the side of a cliff. Nurses were screaming and yelling and running with me. My husband took the baby to the nursery where a nurse was screaming in to a phone that she needed blood and needed now. In the operating room, a nurse came in with two bags of blood and said she didn’t know how to enter non-cross-matched blood, “We don’t do this in OB!” I was afraid, if they were using non-matched blood I must be in serious condition. The anesthesiologist took over for the frantic nurse which only frightened me more. But not for long, soon I was unconscious. The obstetricians were in over their heads and called for the trauma team. I bleed so much I depleted my clotting factors and they were unable to tie off bleeders so they dumped not one but two rounds of Factor VII in my blood stream to clot my blood. Five hours and almost two gallons (yes, fifteen units) of blood later I was wheeled in to ICU where my husband was allowed to see me. I was unconscious and on a ventilator which breathed for me. My husband says they told him it was to give my lungs a rest. He couldn’t imagine how it could be restful.
My memories of those first weeks are clouded by pain and severe blood loss and what I do remember is foggy as I see it through the lens of medication. I remember one morning in particular as I woke to excruciating pain and with ninety minutes to wait before my next dose of meds. I cried. Not delicate weeping, but sobbing which hurt my wracked body even more. To open my eyes without pain beyond my threshold is all I wanted. I did not know at the time that just four weeks and one day after the birth of my baby, I would back in the hospital with a massive number of blood clots in both lungs, “large volume of bi-lateral pulmonary emboli.” More pain. Shooting pain across my chest when I tried to breathe and the sense that when I breathed nothing happened, no oxygen entered my blood. So much anxiety but faster breathing meant more shallow breathing and even less oxygen.
What is essential to me? Exactly what I have now. To wake and open my eyes and breathe deeply without pain. It is essential, necessary and sufficient. I can do all else I must. The coping with the fear of dying has been hard but I take myself back to that one day of waking and sobbing in pain. I am not there, I am here and now. Even then I told myself, “Someday this will all be a bad memory. This is just a bad memory.” And it is very bad, but also just a memory. How do I move through each day and continue to put this very bad memory behind me? Interestingly enough, much like Longfellow’s blacksmith.
Thanks, thanks to thee, my worthy friend,
For the lesson thou hast taught!
Thus at the flaming forge of life
Our fortunes must be wrought;
Thus on its sounding anvil shaped
Each burning deed and thought!
All I want each day is to wake up and take a breath. That’s all I need. I wake my children, give them cod liver oil (yes, for real), feed them a nourishing breakfast, home school, and write a little almost every day. I cook and clean and run to dance class. I just start each day with work to do and then I do it. I find the strength to do it because I have what’s essential. I wake up every day and very consciously take a deep breath. There is no pain. Everything else is gravy.