Unforeseen complications arose after I had my daughter, back in March of 1998.
The labor was long, but the delivery was quick and bloody. I was on heparin shots, 3 times daily during my pregnancy. So after I gave birth, I started hemorrhaging. Presumably because my blood was still thin. The doctors stopped it with a shot of Vitamin K, which is the antidote to blood thinners. I don’t remember, I only recall hearing the gory details from my mother and my ex-husband. I was too busy trying to deliver a placenta and trying even harder to get a look at my new baby to even notice some extra blood.
I stayed in the hospital longer than normal for a vaginal birth. The doctors were trying to get me off of heparin and completely onto coumadin before I went home. I delivered on Monday. I was scheduled to go home that Friday.
Someone had alternate plans for me.
I woke up sometime in the middle of the night, my hospital bed and gown covered in blood. I was soaking through 2 pads every 15-20 minutes. Clots the size of watermelons were dropping out of me as I stumbled to the bathroom.
I was dying. I had just had my darling little girl and I wasn’t going to be able to watch her and her big brother grow up. I’m an eternal optimist.
By early morning, after a trans-vaginal ultrasound and a lot of head scratching, no answers were found. The only thing the doctors knew was I was bleeding profusely and there was no apparent reason for it.
So they went in…twice.
The first time I came out of surgery, the doctors felt they had controlled the bleeding…until I started gushing all over the recovery bed.
By then, I was 100% sure. Positive. That I was dying. Because I saw my life flash before my eyes. And that expression…it’s true. Life really does flash before you, like a slide show.
I remember asking the doctor if I was going to make it and she responded by looking at me so strangely. The only thing she said was that I may wake up without a uterus if they couldn’t stop the problem.
I woke up with a uterus. Stuffed full of gauze. And a catheter. Oh yeah, and a blood transfusion. My hemoglobin had dropped to 4.3. Slightly dangerous.
But I was alive. And it was looking very much like I would stay that way.
When I was stable enough, I was moved to a regular room. The hospital allowed my new daughter to remain in the hospital with me because I was almost exclusively nursing. Although, with the trauma my body suffered, milk wasn’t plentiful and I had to bottle supplement.
Flash forward a couple of days…
It was early morning. The sun streamed through the window, the warmth caressing my cheek. The baby had spent the night in the nursery so that I could get some real sleep, and considering I was in a hospital where nurses and aids pester you for blood and stats all night, I did the best I could.
It must have been feeding time because a nurse came in with my daughters bassinet.
She was short and chubby. So sweet looking with a halo of white hair and a strawberry complexion. She was dressed all in white. She bounced when she walked.
She smiled at me, and picked the crying bundle up. In a lovely singsong voice, she began reciting a poem by Emily Dickinson, one that I had heard before but don’t remember anymore. Ironically, my daughter is named Emily. And when this ethereal nurse started speaking, Emily stopped crying and watched her, fully alert and awake.
The nurse finished the poem, smiled at my baby and me and handed her over to be fed.
I never saw that nurse the 10 days I had already been at the hospital and I never saw her again for the remaining 4 or 5 days.
The other nurses never knew who I was talking about when I asked them about her.
I had hoped for her to visit again before I left. But that never happened. Her presence, even for that short time, had been so calming and reassuring.
Whether or not she was a leftover piece of a dream or just a part time nurse that no one recognized, that moment stayed with me. And here I am, almost exactly 12 years later, wondering, remembering. And very grateful.