Several years ago, after giving birth to her second child, Megan experienced complications after delivery that threatened her life. Doctors saved her, but it took a long time for her to heal — in both body and spirit. Here, she writes about the role gratitude played in her journey to a new and different life.
April 5, 2015 was a Sunday — Easter Sunday, in fact. It was also the day I almost died.
My husband and I had just joyfully welcomed our second child ten days ago, and while our 18-month-old daughter and newborn son took afternoon naps, I relaxed on the couch. Having just given birth days before, I was tired and my body needed the rest. My relaxation was short-lived, though, as I began to experience a postpartum hemorrhage.
I wasn’t exactly sure what was happening, but I knew that something wasn’t right. After a quick call to my doctor, we decided to meet him in the emergency room. There was no doubt that I was hemorrhaging, but the reason it was happening was not readily apparent. He explained to me that he was going to do a minor exploratory procedure under general anesthesia, and I hastily signed on the dotted line to give my consent. I waved to my parents, kissed my husband, and was wheeled into the operating room.
I awoke several hours later to the news that I had had a hysterectomy. My husband, tears streaming down his face, had the agonizing task of telling me that at 28 years old, I would no longer carry a child within me. That door had been firmly and irrevocably closed.
Apparently, I had developed an incredibly rare and often fatal pregnancy complication called placenta accreta. Once my doctor discovered this, he told my husband and parents that without surgical intervention, my organs would begin to fail. I had lost half of my body’s blood volume and would die if I continued to lose more.
My husband begged my doctor to wake me up so that I could be the one to make this decision, but there was simply no time. While I lay unconscious down the hallway, my husband did the right thing, the best thing, the only thing that could have been done in that moment. He gave his consent. He saved my life.
Recovery was hard. The physical toll that childbirth and (in short order) abdominal surgery had taken on me was brutal. I had lost so much blood that I required two blood transfusions, and I was so weak that I fainted the first time I tried to get out of the hospital bed. I could not bathe myself, I could not walk without the assistance of a walker, and I was told that I could not pick up either of my children for six to eight weeks. I was a new mother who could not care for her children, one who could barely care for herself.
The physicality of recovery was difficult, yes, but it paled in comparison to the mental and emotional healing that lay ahead of me. I simply could not believe that I would never again carry a child in my womb. I had no womb. It was a choice that had been taken away from me, one for which I had no time to prepare. Granted, there was no viable alternative, and I am eternally grateful to my husband for what he did, but I struggled mightily with this reality — until I was hit with the shocking and terrible reality that my children had been moments away from losing their mother.
Few things shake you like being confronted with your own mortality. I had been so busy focusing on what had been taken from me that I neglected to appreciate all the things I had. I may not have been able to hold my daughter on my hip, but I was able to hold her hand. I wasn’t able to lift my son, but snuggling next to him certainly lifted my spirits. I couldn’t cook, but a steady stream of friends delivered meals for weeks.
As for cleaning the house, doing the laundry, and changing the diapers? Well, I couldn’t do any of that either, but my mom could, and she did. My mother, the most thoughtful and selfless person I know, cleared her calendar for eight weeks to show up at our house every day and do all of the things I couldn’t. If that’s not something to be grateful for, then I don’t know what is.
Of all the changes this experience brought, the greatest was the shift in my perspective. No, my children will not have any more siblings, but they have each other. I won’t have any more babies, but my kids have me. Now, instead of thinking about all the things I have to do, I think of all the things I get to do.
I’ll admit that I’m the first person to get overwhelmed by a lengthy to-do list, but things like driving to swim lessons and shopping for Christmas gifts look a whole lot different to me than they did before. I don’t have to shuttle my kids back and forth to the pool; I get to watch them have fun while they learn new skills. I don’t have to cross names off my gift list; I get to shop for the people I love. It sounds silly, but changing one word from “have” to “get” really can change your whole day. This might just sound like semantics to some, but it is everything to me.
As Christians, we know that Easter is the day that changes everything. We move out of the depths of darkness into the warmth of the light. No longer captive to the clutches of despair, we are buoyed by the promise of a new hope. Having experienced this trauma on Easter Sunday, these axioms ring especially true for me. For while Easter may be the day I almost died, it is also the day I discovered how full and beautiful life can be when I meet each day with a grateful heart.