This is a shocking post. It’s a hard post to write, and it has been 7 years in the making. This is the story of the day I died and what happened when I did.
On August 14, 2005, I died.
That was the day my son was born. That was the day that I died. Let me tell you how I died then and how I can be here today, over 7 years later writing this post.
He was my first baby. I was a career woman prior to getting pregnant. I was a career woman lost in a corporate path, alienating people and forever climbing the ladder. I knew I wanted children, it was something else to tick off the box, but in the latter stages of 2003/4 I actually wanted children because I wanted children, it was no longer a box to tick. My husband and I lived in London, when we became pregnant we had been living there for three years. It was time to come home. It was time to come home to New Zealand. We gave our notice, and we spent the next four months preparing and learning about pregnancy. Well, I did. Learning about pregnancy and birth. Because that’s what you do isn’t it? Especially when you work in a bookshop and have access to what the top selling parenting books are.
I was armed. My bible swiftly became “What to Expect When you Are Expecting”. I lapped it all up. I read it like a bible.
We returned to New Zealand, I was mid way through my pregnancy. I was armed with my books and my hospital notes and found myself a good doctor to help. Yes, a doctor was best, wasn’t it? I mean, this was my first baby, and I would be “safer” in a doctor’s hands than a midwife’s. Surely. I rested. I did not get a job, I had 4 months to go, and there was no way an employer was going to take me on so close to being a parent. I mean, laws are one thing, but in reality I knew that I wouldn’t get a look in for a job interview. So, I sat and brooded at home with my books.
I thought. And I brooded. Didn’t I think in the past that a homebirth would be amazing? Didn’t my Women’s Studies degree teach me to know my body. I quietly questioned people. Homebirth? No they said. No,
definitely not for a first time mother. Maybe for a second, but definitely not for a first. I put those niggles away. I told them to be quiet. What did they know?
I knew a lot about pregnancy. I knew a lot about childbirth. I knew a lot before our Childbirth Education classes. I felt like a star pupil. I knew a lot of answers. I was planning to go as natural as possible. Didn’t want a C-section, didn’t want an epidural, certainly didn’t want pethidine. Absolutely I wanted to breastfeed. Vague niggles about Nestle bubbled up from my Women’s Studies degree, yes, I definitely wanted to breastfeed. For six month, of course, then don’t all babies go onto solids?
I was prepared. I had my bags packed. I had wee speakers to play my favourite music into the delivery room. Yes the delivery room.
The labour started, it went beautifully, it was short, I had a wee bit of gas, he was born vaginally, I had a perfectly healthy baby boy, and I was perfectly healthy.
Except I wasn’t. I died that day.
My labour was fast. My doctor could not come to the hospital. She was sick. I got stuck with whoever was on duty at the time.
I was labouring in the water. Couldn’t I have a water birth? I felt like I needed to push. The midwife told me that wasn’t possible. I couldn’t be ready yet. I was. I involuntarily pushed again.
She whipped me out of the bath, flat on my back, to examine me.
I wanted to get back into the pool. She wouldn’t let me. She strapped a foetal montior on my belly. I snarled at her “Is that necessary?” She said “yes”.
People started doing things to me. I had to stop one to ask their name, because they hadn’t told me, they hadn’t bothered to introduce themselves.
The obstetrician came in. He asked me if I would like to be cut. I asked why. He said because it would “speed things up”. He did not say anything else. I was already upset. I wanted this over. I felt myself losing my grip on reality. My body was no longer my own, I was dying. I said yes.
He cut me.
My beautiful baby son was born. He was lifted onto me. I looked at him. Who was he? I didn’t know this person, this wailing, crying blood covered thing. Was I meant to? Who was I? Where was I?
The obstetrician proudly announced that I was great. That all first time mothers should be this fast.
I felt like a slab of meat. I was drowning. Fast. I was dying.
I started to shake. My own death rattle. It started in my heart, and it radiated outwards.
I shook, and shook and shook. I was back. I was 16 again. I was in hospital after downing 16 Nuelin Slow Release asthma pills and my stomach had been pumped. My body was in shock, the effects of the Nuelin were taking control and my body was shaking so hard that the bed was rattling. I couldn’t stop the bed rattling. I was 16 and 31 simultaneously. I had tried to die then, I had tried to kill myself. This time I was dying.
I could not stop shaking. I was in pain. I was holding my son, I tried to breastfeed him. I couldn’t. Who was he? Who was I?
It took 5 hours before I had the Anti D medication that I required before being allowed to transfer to the birthing unit where I could recuperate. I couldn’t urinate. My body was dying. The midwife inserted a catheter. My body was not my own anymore. Cups and cups of urine gushed forth. I was still shaking.
I was placed onto a wheelchair and wheeled to the car. I could not sit. My wounds were raw. On the way a midwife snarled at me to sit down or else I would heal all wrong down there. I sunk down. Remember, I was dying, my body was not my own.
My husband bundled me and our son into the car to take us the five minute drive to where I could recover. Our son was asleep.
We got there. I couldn’t sit up. I was floating away. They came to get me from the car.
I got inside, I couldn’t move. I couldn’t help myself. I didn’t see my son. I was still shaking.
There was another doctor, he came to see me. He pronounced that I had to go back to the Hospital, they didn’t know what was wrong with me. I knew. I was dying.
I got back to the hospital, in the ambulance. Separated from my husband and son. They told me I was in shock. I wasn’t in shock. By then I had died.
The woman that I knew was gone. She had been brutalised. Treated like a slab of meat, butchered.
My normal birth was anything but.
I had died that day. This was the day that “I” died. This was the day that “I” was born again, with my son. We were both thrown wailing back into the world. Because that day I died. I died. Because “I” became “we”.
But it took me months to mourn the loss of “I”. I had died. And I wanted me back. No one told me that I might not love my son. No one told me that I might actually actively not like him. No one told me that there is a MYTH of the instant bond. No one told me that there is a myth about natural instincts taking over. No one told me that I might die.
I was born again. Born into the shroud of Postnatal Depression. Because I didn’t want to acknowledge that I had died. Like a lover mourning her dead lover, I was in shock. I was in deep grief. I wanted her back.
Because “What to Expect When You are Expecting” never told me this:
“… with the first childbirth the old status of non-mother is annihilated because of the central importance of ‘mother’ in relation to female identity and the ideological symmetry between ‘woman’ and ‘mother’. This makes it more difficult for women to experience the loss of their old self in a way conducive to their peace of mind. They are not permitted to grieve or mourn, as with other change. So strong is the taboo that women themselves frequently fail to admit their sense of loss in a conscious way.” Paula Nicolson
** Please note, I will continue this post, with a follow on piece about the grief process, about the mourning, and about the rebirth.
Please click here for Part Two: The Funeral