Overnight tonight is the Cancer New Moon. It’s a time to birth new things (ideas, services, products, relationships), so I thought it would be the perfect time to continue the story of my daughter’s birth, that I started telling at Mother’s Day this year. Check it out here. Remember that I decided not to step off the trolley of Life because I really wanted to see her face.
I made it through that first night against all odds, and was shipped up to the state capital so that Anne-Charlotte and I could get the care we needed, and boy, did we need it! I was locked in a body that was shutting down, and she was in there, too: liver and kidneys failing, blood cells splitting apart, and zero clotting ability. You know how blood is thicker than water? Yeah. Mine wasn’t. It was going to make for a tricky C-section when the time came.
For five days I was lying in that hospital bed, bloated with an extra 30 lbs of fluid, unable to breathe because of a flu so massive that it masked all the alarming symptoms of pre-eclampsia, even for medical staff, unable to watch TV or go online because screens could send me into seizure. I couldn’t even read books or do crosswords, sudoku, or puzzles of any kind because the anti-seizure meds prevented my eyes from focusing.
And it was all okay. I lay there like a beached whale, lips cracked and bleeding, full of the knowledge that the little one I was carrying would be all right.
With HELLP Syndrome, the idea is to keep the baby in the ideal incubator (mom) until she’s juuuuust about dead, then to swoop in and grab the baby. My only focus was keeping her inside me as long as possible, and frankly, I didn’t much care if I didn’t ultimately make it, as long as I got to see her face. I had certain knowledge that she was going to be fine.
On Day 5, they decided that the time was right. The C-section was scheduled for 8:30 a.m.; I was frustrated because they told me I couldn’t be awake for it—with so few platelets, it wasn’t safe—so I was going to miss out on the biggest moment of my life so far.
That was the plan. That’s not how it went down.
About an hour before the scheduled surgery, when the nursing shift changed, the new nurse couldn’t find Anne-Charlotte on the monitor. Either her pulse had slowed by half, or she just wasn’t there at all. It was go time!
She hit the phone with her fist and caught it in mid-air to tell the OR we were on our way; it was seriously like something out of an old TV crime series. They cranked up my bed, and ran me down as fast as they could; the last thing I remember was the bump-bump onto the elevator.
I woke up 8 hours later with a hip-to-hip scar and no more baby in me. (Years later, Thomas—who was by my side watching the entire thing—told me that I didn’t have any anesthesia at all. The doctors were sure that I would never come back if I went down any deeper.) The operation had lasted 45 minutes instead of the usual 10, because they counted 5 sponges going in, but only 4 coming out—over and over. Turns out that my blood was so thin that 2 were stuck together and they couldn’t tell.
I still don’t count this as Near-Death Experience #4, probably because I was unconscious. That one 18 hours came later.
When I finally came to that afternoon, the nurses told me Anne-Charlotte was doing well for all her 1 lb 10 oz (the date was also 1/10, incidentally) but that I was too sick to go into the NICU to see her: I might spread my nasty bug to the sick babies.
Now, if you’re a woman who’s given birth to a baby, you’re probably thinking: “What?! You didn’t get to see her or hold her?” It was another 2 1/2 days before I got to see her (they judged that the danger of failure to connect and thrive was greater than the danger of a major illness at that point), and a whole 3 weeks before I got to hold her, actually. I still feel a pang when I see pictures of newborns in the arms of their mothers.
NDE #4 came that night, as I was sleeping. I was having intensely powerful dreams those days. Thomas was chalking it up to the morphine, but powerful dreams are powerful dreams, no matter what their cause.
One was about the thinness of the veil between living and dead. It looked like the thick plastic curtains with long slits in them used to keep cold places cold without a door. There were Guides that would help people make the transition through the veil. One was Morgan Freeman, and another was a friend and colleague; chair of the Art department at my university. There was a bank of old-time school desks with big bells on them manned by elves who would field calls, as in a tel-a-thon, and then assign a Guide.
There was another one where I was lying on my back on a green shag carpet in a low-ceilinged room with dark wood paneling—like a cheap 70’s rec room. I mean, that ceiling was really LOW! Right above my face; later I realized it was like a coffin. I was listening to my husband announce the birth to his parents in Asia and grandparents in Europe. (Do me a favor: please don’t analyze the state of my marriage based on this dream.)
But by far the most telling and potent dream was sandwiched in the middle. This was NDE #4.
In my dream, I was sitting in a kind of drab exam room, on an exam table, but the only thing besides the beige walls was an open closet next to me, full of empty hangers. There was that disembodied voice again, but this time, instead of telling me I could choose to stay or leave, it told me that I was dead.
I was livid. Just 5 days prior, I had chosen to stay so that I could see her face. I still hadn’t seen her face, not even in a picture.
That voice set me straight.
It told me that the Omphalos was the Center of the Universe (“Omphalos” is Greek for navel, and, incidentally, also a stone at Delphi where the Oracle would channel Truths—and as such, the Center of the Universe). At the time, I understood this to mean that giving birth was at the heart of all Life Force, and that, as such, my work was pretty much complete.
It taught me the true nature of time, and that all life on Planet Earth is the exactly perfect length, and shouldn’t be second-guessed. It taught me that time, which doesn’t “really” exist, functions like an accordion—it can seem longer or shorter as necessary. Just like when you’re sleeping: you can feel like you’ve been asleep for hours, but it’s only been a few minutes, really, and vice versa.
I learned that when people die, even babies, it’s always been the perfect amount of time. On a soul level, they’re never sad to die; the only ones who are sad are those left behind, because they’ve forgotten that “life” is just a temporary thing, and certainly not the end-all and be-all that most humans believe it is.
And therefore that dying shouldn’t be something to rail against as in the Dylan Thomas poem, but something to be embraced and celebrated.
That voice convinced me. “Okay,” I said.
All of a sudden, I was no longer in the beige room with the empty closet and disembodied voice, but in dark, empty space, all alone, with a door outlined in flame in the distance.
I walked up and knocked—it seemed like the only thing to do—but nobody answered.
At this point I turned around to address the voice, but it had already gone. I was mad: this whole dying thing was NOT my idea, after all.
Since I was all alone with just the door, what could I do but knock again? Still, no answer. Now I was really pissed off: why wasn’t anyone going to answer the damn door?! Again, this was not my idea, and not what I wanted.
So I knocked a third time. Third time’s the charm, right? Well, it did start to open: I could see light starting to flood through as it opened…
…and then I was back in my hospital bed, and the door to my room—which I could not see because the bathroom was blocking my line of sight—was being opened by the nurse.
In that moment, I seriously thought she was an angel. And maybe she was. Lisa Nelson was her name, and I never saw her before or since, in my 11 days at the hospital.
If you’re wondering why I had to knock 3 times: my dear holistic therapist (whom I called my enlightenment coach) suggested that it was a test. I needed to surrender three times to Divine Will before being returned to my life, which was never to be the same.
That, Dear One, is what I consider Near-Death Experience #4. Not the little thing about being split wide open for three quarters of an hour, sans anesthesia, without flinching earlier that same day.
So, here’s a thing about Near-Death Experiences: most humans never have one. Those people who do have one are cracking open the door marked “fear of death,” helping humanity to feel less skittish at the idea of leaving the Earth “for good.” (Ha! That’s a good one.)
Only a tiny handful have more than one NDE, and I’ve had 4, starting when I was a toddler. (But that’s a ghost story for another day.) As such, I am called to open the door very wide and help humanity walk through the flaps of that clear plastic curtain with more ease and grace.
It’s part of my Oracle Powers: healing others around death. That story I referred to last time, when I helped the mother find her son: I don’t tell it often (in part because I don’t want to be know as “the lady who finds dead people”), but I’m hearing that there are readers out there who need to know that help and healing around death fears or sorrows is available.
Maybe it’s you, or someone you know. You don’t have to live in the pain of loss, or the fear of it. Shoot me an email, and we’ll set up a time to talk.
Also, if this story moved you in some way, please comment below, and share the link on your favorite social media site.