The ambulance siren wailed through the still night air. I lay helpless inside, my lungs straining to breathe. My mind raced through the events leading to my placement in this speeding vehicle. Less than an hour prior I had given birth to my first child, a plump, healthy boy. I should have been coddling him in my arms, examining his precious new body, and nourishing him with my milk. Instead, I was being taken seventy miles away from him and begging God to let me live long enough for him to meet his mommy.
My pregnancy carried me into the dog days of summer. The night air was oppressive the evening I went into labor. Emotions were running high as my husband and I anticipated the imminent joyful event. I intended to have a natural childbirth. My husband and I attended Lamaze classes together and were determined to ease our child into the world drug-free. I desired to nurse and caress my newborn immediately after birth. Much to my dismay, this not possible. My son’s head was large, and my pushing and straining were not enough to present him to the world. The anesthesiologist was called, and I was rendered unconscious. The doctor then used forceps to pull my child into the world. My husband was thrilled to have a son. He departed shortly after that to express the joyous news to friends and family. I, still unconscious, was taken to recovery.
When I awoke from my unconscious state, I immediately began to vomit. I felt disoriented and was having difficulty breathing. A nurse entered the room and immediately rang for assistance. Several years later this same nurse told me I was the color of a pair of new blue jeans. They rushed me to x-ray where it was discovered I had aspirated vomitus into my lungs during the birth of my son. At this juncture, events took place rapidly. I felt as though I was spiraling in the fast-forward mode of a drama with no end. My body went through the motions of breathing, but the oxygen was not entering my bloodstream. The doctor and my husband were immediately called back to the hospital. The staff worked at a frantic pace plying my body with IV’s, heart monitor, and an oxygen mask. I was being prepared for transportation to a hospital equipped to handle respiratory distress.
I remember the ambulance ride so vividly; perhaps too vividly. I frantically tried to breathe, only to have each breath rejected by my body. I was drowning on dry land. The nurse gave me concentrated oxygen once a minute or so. I pleaded for more, but for medical reasons, she could not comply. Thoughts raced rampant through my mind. I had been told that I had a healthy baby boy. Was he really healthy? Would I ever see him? Would he ever meet his mommy? Was I going to die? The realization struck me that yes, I very possibly was going to die. This was not the time to die. Not now. Not before I met my son. Not before I held him to my breast. As I gasped for breath and begged for oxygen, my mind struggled with the task of asking God for forgiveness of my sins. I felt on the threshold of death and knew my soul must be cleansed. However, I was afraid if I asked for forgiveness, it would be construed by God as an act of submission – a request for death. I chose not to ask for forgiveness, but instead to focus all my energy on surviving.
The medical team moved swiftly once I arrived at the hospital. I was rushed to the operating room where a tube was forced into my lungs. My body convulsed on the table. I felt as if every strand of hair on my body was standing on end. An intense heat overcame me – then peace. My last conscious thought being, ‘so this is what it feels like to die.’ For a brief time, I was captured in the wings of the angel of death.
I was in critical condition for several days. Despite the respirator, medication, and careful monitoring of my blood gases via a heart catheter, I was only given a ten percent chance for survival. For brief periods I was conscious. I expressed a desire to communicate and was given paper and pen. I could not speak due to the respirator. I repeatedly asked to see my son. This was not possible. I had aspiration pneumonia and was still quite ill. I yearned to see my baby. My whole body ached with my need for him. My husband assured me he was fine, and he taped polaroid snapshots of him eye level of my bed. My mother had flown down to care for him in my absence, so my husband could be with me as much as possible.
Finally the day arrived when I was no longer on the respirator. One of the first things I did was tell the doctors and nurses I wanted to breastfeed my son once I returned home. They gently told me this in all likelihood was not possible, and certainly not advisable as my recovery would be long and arduous. My milk had come in, and the doctors wanted to administer medication to dry them up. I emphatically refused. I had a baby at home – a fresh new life which I had created, yet he had not met his mommy. How was he to know I was his mommy once we met unless I could offer him my milk – the milk my body prepared for him during the months of his growth within my womb. I was determined to keep my milk flowing. My husband spoke with a nurse who was supportive of my decision. She obtained a breast pump and instructed my husband how to use it. This was in the days before electric breast pumps. Every four hours he pumped my breasts. When he was absent, a nurse pumped them. Once I became stronger, I was able to do the procedure myself. My heart ached for my now three-week-old son. I laid in my bed staring longingly at his pictures.
The day of my release finally arrived. My body was free of toxins, and my breasts were full. Several nurses came to speak with me before I departed. They gently expressed their doubts about my son nursing. He was now almost a month old and was used to a bottle and formula. They were afraid my breasts would be rejected by him and wanted to soften the blow. I dismissed their concerns and listened to my heart. I was his mommy. He would know.
It was a special, tender moment when I first held my son to my breast. We gazed at each other as the milk flowed freely from my breast to his cheek. He nuzzled against my warmth and found my teat. As he suckled on my breast, tears of joy streamed from my eyes. Mommy’s home sweet baby, Mommy’s home
The top three pictures are some of the polaroids that were in my hospital room.
Bottom left is my son, Garrett, and I a week or so after I came home from the hospital.
Bottom right was taken of Garrett in October, 2018 after he placed fourth in the World Championship Highland Games.