This post has been sitting in my Drafts folder for almost exactly two months. Guess what? I have *SO* not wanted to think about this. More than I realized. But two months is enough, and I’ve been feeling really great recently, so here goes.
So I got there, to the secular hospital. Short ambulance ride, husband driving separately. Funny how I don’t even remember him not being there.
The OB nurse made some comment to another nurse about how they sent me over with an inch-thick pile of paper records in a rubber band. Like, how else were they supposed to send the records? On a microchip? Then she started checking me in, as if we were pre-registering for a birth. Really, you’re asking me RIGHT THIS MINUTE about circumcision? We have a long way to go before we get to that decision, if we even need to make it.
This hospital doesn’t automatically go for the stirrups for every exam; just butterfly your knees, and they tilt the head of the bed up. So that’s what they did, to a degree that seemed dangerously steep after all that time on my back. Someone, maybe a new nurse or a med student, she seemed really young, tried to get a look; there were a lot of clots. Tried again, said something to the other woman nearby, left the room.
And then like magic there were a dozen people in the room doing things to me. Later, my husband said there were plastic parts flying all over the place. They changed out my IVs (still had two, one on each arm), put an oxygen mask on me, asked what I’d had for breakfast, how much I weighed. They gave me suppositories to make my cervix dilate.
I bled so much so fast I felt lightheaded and thought I was going to throw up. (I didn’t.) I remember saying so, and someone holding a basin in front of my mouth.
I tried to stay calm and breathe and relax. In some ways, I think it worked; I don’t remember any pain when they were changing my IVs. I didn’t panic. I don’t even know if I was crying. I was just so busy trying to breathe.
I remember telling the resident that I didn’t want to have to make the decision about whether to terminate or not. I was just not capable of making that choice, not when there wasn’t an emergency.
The whole thing was kind of surreal.
Then I was, apparently, stable; the one OB in my part of the state who is qualified to do second trimester terminations came in to talk to me. The resident told her then what I’d said, about not wanting to be the one to decide to terminate. “It looks like we’re heading that way,” she said to me.
They said “dad” (a.k.a. my husband, who, like me, has no children) could come say goodbye. He was so calm. At least he looked that way to me. He smiled, or at least I like to imagine he did. (I mean, he’d just watched me NOT DIE, so I guess he had a good reason to smile.) He told me to think of this little silly thing our dog does when he’s happy; it made me laugh. And I did think of it, until I was mercifully unconscious, and it did help. Somehow. I guess because our dog is wonderful and it kept me from having to think of anything else.
And then we went to the OR. Someone held my hand on the way there; it helped. They lifted me off of the bed to a table. I vaguely remember how cold I was. The OR had crazy-bright lights that someone apologized for, and I was shivering. Like, my entire body was shaking. I kept thinking, they know I’m cold, I told them, they can see me, they’ll do something as soon as they can. And then I was out.
I found out later that it wasn’t an easy procedure. It took about an hour, about twice as long as it would under normal circumstances–“normal” meaning non-emergency, no hemorrhage, and a couple of days of cervical dilation. I got 4 units of blood transfused during the procedure. Then I had two more units after the surgery before my numbers were up to what they should be and I could make enough of my own blood again. For reference, people have about 12 units in their body at any time. So yes, that day, that hour, I lost half the blood in my body. Crap.
It’s been two years. I went into the first hospital a few days after the earthquake in Haiti, so of course it was all over the news then, and it’s been in the news a lot this week, too. I couldn’t stand to watch it then–I needed distraction, not disaster. And I can’t take it now, either, because it sends me right back to where I was two years ago.
Where my mind goes is, “I almost died.” And it’s true, if some little things had happened a little differently, I probably would have. But that’s not the important part. It’s where my mind wants to go, but it’s not where I want my mind to stay.
The important part, the place I have to keep taking myself to, is that I didn’t die. I’m alive right now. I didn’t die. Even as I’m sitting here typing this, I have to keep saying, “It’s OK. I didn’t die.”
And as dramatic an ending as that last sentence would be, I do have to say that most of the time I don’t think about it. I don’t want to give the impression that I spend my life in this place, because I don’t. Just once in a while, like when I’m writing about it.