So I mentioned earlier (well, a few days ago I suppose) that there had been one single event that had changed my life in the recent past. And this is what I will write about here. It doesn't matter if you're a man or a woman - young or old or anything else - if you don't read the following, then everything else on this blog will make a whole hell of a lot less sense, I expect - at the very least. So here we go - and please, keep in mind that this is just the beginning - and it's not the beginning of a path into the depths either - it's the beginning of a different life altogether.
The beginning of 2008 brought us an unexpected surprise. I found myself pregnant and we were really overjoyed about it. The beginning of new life was a welcome exchange for the rather serious difficulties we'd had in our lives in the last few years, so we welcomed our "rocket bean" as we called her, before we knew she was a girl.
The rest of the year passed in a haze of picnics, fishing trips, long, languorous days in the sun and much love. My belly grew fat and full of kicking as I carried my girl - my "jumping Josie" along with me every day. She had a mischievous personality...sometimes I'd catch her laughing in her own little way at things I'd say, especially when I felt amused myself. We journeyed together every day - my job took me on the road and we saw many things, from the inner cities to beautiful winding stretches of river and big lakes full of waterfowl and skies containing eagles and red winged hawks.
She saw everything I saw and it became a part of her somehow. Shaping and molding, on she went, living her little life in utero and sleeping happily at night with me. She never woke me up kicking - not once in the whole time we were together. We would speed together through the day and I would talk to her all the time.
We liked listening to music together. Josie would react and give me a little kick if she liked something. Certain music made her very excited - like ACDC - she seemed to like that quite a lot and would dance around in the car. Fleetwood Mac and Stevie Nicks relaxed her and Kate Bush always sent her to a peaceful slumber no matter what. She laughed at Peter Gabriel in total joy, and became passionate whenever I played any kind of Celtic music - Clannad, for example. She liked that music a lot. Two days before she was born, we had a bath listening to Clannad for two staight hours. That was a nice time.
She was my baby and my love. She opened up my life and my mind to something enormous. Had she stayed around here, I have no doubt that my path would have changed profoundly anyway. However, as the following will tell, she couldn't stay around after all.
She was meant to be born at home, in the water, with our lovely midwife and everyone around her. I had no problems with pain, or my body - trusted everything completely.
Now, in hindsight, my problems started at work. While life at home was lovely, my job became more and more and more stressful, until it reached an insane peak in August after I returned (at over 30 weeks I believe) from a conference. Sometimes I'd leave the house at 6am and get back at 11pm. I spent my last week working before maternity leave on my hands and knees on the floor (and doing other things I shouldn't have been, being that pregnant). So in a nutshell, the last couple of months of my pregnancy were insanely stressful - stressful enough that I lost my mucus plug at 35 weeks. I do attribute what happened later to the stress, because it was extreme and I can't imagine any other reason for it, really.
So two weeks after I left on maternity leave (to the day) I woke up at about 1.15am - very sleepy - to what I assumed was a contraction. Having had no experience of labor before and a very high pain threshold, I tried to sleep through it. Finally at 1.45 I got out of bed and sat on the toilet for...gosh...a couple of hours. It was like one big, long contraction. I called my midwife at 4am and got H out of bed. Our midwife arrived at about 5 or so, and checked Josie's heartbeat, which was lovely, strong and steady. We filled the birth tub and I got in - immense pain relief! Again, strong and steady. There I sat for just over an hour, in the birth zone. I was bleeding sightly every now and again - nothing large which we attributed to the cervix dilating. The contraction had peaks, and everyone labors differently, so what I felt wasn't considered out of the realms of normal by any means.
Then at about seven or so, I got out of the tub and said I was overheating and had to take a cold shower. I got to the bathroom, sat on the toilet and passed out all of a sudden. Midwife checked Josie's heartbeat which had dropped to about 80beats per minute all of a sudden. We decided to go into the hospital and did one more check before leaving, and Josie's heartbeat had come back up again to normal. We felt her head, which was very low and decided to monitor more frequently but that the heart rate dip had probably been normal. I jumped in the shower for five minutes and then my midwife checked me. By this time I was being sick and felt shaky, so we assumed I was probably in transition. But then my cervix turned out only to be about 3.5-4cm dilated. We checked for the heartbeat again and midwife thought she could still hear it...but all I heard was feedback...
We raced to the hospital at high speed - got there about 18 minutes later. I felt a kick on the way. The sun was rising ahead of the car and the sky was pink; red; orange and purple in a yellow liquid balm. The sunrise was bittersweet, because I knew that at the same time, something was ending. My midwife called ahead, and they were ready when I arrived.
I walked into the ER and thought my water had broken...but looked down and saw blood everywhere and realized very quickly what had been going on. I was ushered through the double doors and put on a gurney, wheeled into the OR and then everything went to hell. Nobody could find Josie's heartbeat - feedback was all I heard on the doppler and the ultrasound...I knew she'd gone, but nobody would tell me. There were people everywhere. Someone took my pants off and my OB gave my the most painful internal exam ever. At the same time there were two people - one on the left, one on the right, simultaneously trying to get veins and not having any luck. My blood pressure was down and the IV finally went into the left side at the elbow, blood came out of the right. The anesthetist was telling me to suck in the oxygen - that it would be good for me and the baby. I kept asking about my baby. They wanted me to keep still and decided to put me under general. They put the meds in my IV and down I went.
I woke up about an hour later. Everything was hazy as hell - I had no idea of anything except "where is my baby - is she okay?" and no-one would tell me. Finally I saw H, and he was crying. My midwife was also crying and she let me know in so many words that Josie had died.
My word just exploded at that moment into a million pieces - I kind of tilted my head back and just lost it. I asked what heppened and they said "a placental abruption". I wanted to know why, and they said nobody knew but if I'd been doing cocaine, that would have caused it! Of course I said "WHAT?" and just looked completely flabbergasted that anyone could ever think that, but the comment was hastily followed by "oh - oh no I didn't mean you - just that that would be one of the circumstances under which the risk would increase". Amazing what they'll say at a time like that...
They asked if we wanted to see her. I was so high on post-meds and morphine I said "wait..." - just had to take the situation in. Time passed so quickly. I was saying sorry over and over to Harry for letting our baby die...of course he was crying and holding my hand and saying it wasn't my fault. After what I thought was ten minutes but was actually 40, I wanted to see my baby ad suddenly it occurred to me that she was alone and cold all by herself somewhere.
Josie was brought to us, and she was the most gorgeous thing I'd ever seen in my life. God - she was so beautiful. I took her and held her sitting there in bed...she was 19.5 inches long and 6lb 6oz of perfection, born at 37 weeks and 4 days on October 10th at 7.54am... She was wrapped in hat actually looked like a bar towel - with green stripes along the edges. Se had a little pink hat on. She was still a little pink - just looked like she was sleeping. Had a little band aid on her hand where they'd tried to get in with an IV and had managed it, trying to revive her for twenty minutes. She had hair like a monk - short on top, long around the sides and so, so black. I opened her eyes an they were so dark, looking at me. She had long feet and pretty hands - toes almost identical to mine only tiny. Her little nose..her little mouth....just faint little eyebrows...chest...teeny butt...I looked at every single part of her and she was just amazing. Miraculous. Beautiful as the most beautiful sunrise I ever saw. And that's when she was born - just after sunrise.
We held her, undressed her, rocked her, kissed her, stroked her little head...H held her, my lovely midwife (who I just adore) held her later on, and then came the family. My gorgeous stepdaughter A held her (she is seven) and her brother, the handsome and strong D (aged five) touched her but didn't want to hold her - he was so very sad. Grandma held her. Auntie B held her. The phone calls started just after I came out of the operating room. My family called from England - my mother, my father, my sister, my brother...everyone. I was so sorry she'd died and apologize to everyone over and over again. Of course they all soothed me and shushed me... Local people called - people I'd never even met...my friends and family...
They took Josie for pictures at about 10.30am or so. They cut a lock of her hair; took her hand and feet and cast them for us (we received the casts about seven days later - perfect little replicas of her hands and feet). Later we got a memory box full of lovely things. We got her back again a little while later.
What I didn't know was that the crash cart was parked outside my hospital room all the way through the day and half of the next. I had no idea that the monitors were anything more than normal after a cesarean, but they had essentially moved life support into the maternity ward and had me hooked to all the intensive care machines. They were very unsure if I would survive. Josie's placenta had come off completely and the bleeding had been hidden until the very last moment. They told me that had I been laboring in hospital, they were unsure if the outcome would have been any different - they said she probably would have died anyway. But, the feeling I had been feeling, like a peak contraction all that time, had been the placenta coming away and me essentially hemorrhaging to death. I'd lost half or more of my blood volume. Nothing could have foreseen any of it, but the people were all there to make sure that if I died, they'd had the chance to say goodbye - but also, to try to keep me from losing hope and give me reasons to continue living.
I had no intention of dying or giving up! I knew that - I didn't want to die. I didn't know what they were assuming though, so didn't tell anyone I didn't want to die! I ended up with two blood transfusions - one on the first day, one on the second.
I held Josie and had her with me overnight as well. Just me, and her, and the morphine which I could pump twice in ten minutes and which would knock me out for about two hours. That's how I got through the first night - I just kept on with the morphine and held my baby in my left arm, snuggled against my body. They wanted me to get up and walk and I managed to get up, but them immediately hemorrhaged all over the floor again, so they nervously laid me on my left side and didn't let me move for a few hours. Finally, at 10.30am the next morning, the funeral home (a lovely man who almost couldn't hold it together) came and took her. I asked the man to take good care of her, and he cradled her like a living newborn and said that he would. His face was all concentrated and I could tell he was finding it hard to compose himself. He wore a suit. They were very kind to us - they charged us $100 for everything - not the thousands they would for a normal funeral.
I went home on the Sunday (12th) - they released me because I'd come up very quickly after the first day and a half and they didn't want me being in a place that reminded me of losing her. She was buried on the 13th, at 4pm. They'd put makeup on her in the funeral home of course, and though she was still so pretty, she was gone - I'd said goodbye to her in the hospital. I did give her a kiss though. H carried the little white box to the grave site, from the car - I never respected someone so much in my life as I did him, at that moment. I remember a casket like that when my baby brother died - also, ironically, from a placental abruption at 34 weeks back in 1986.
And so my Josie was born. And my life changed completely. You'd think perhaps life would have ended, but it didn't - it went on. My choices then were all to dow with how it went on. Did I want to let go of everything completely, or did I want to continue living? These choices were huge and had to be made immediately and every day for many days afterward.
So that is how it started. And here I sit, just a little over two months later - still alive; still creating and loving and seeing the future more clearly every day.
And here is my baby girl...