When I think of my son, I feel love and pure joy. That wasn't always the case.
When I was 20 weeks pregnant with my second child, Jacob, I was diagnosed with placenta previa — a condition in which the placenta grows on top of the cervix. This condition is not that uncommon (1 in 200 pregnancies), but doctors recommend that women who suffer from it take it easy because the bleeding it causes can be dangerous to both you and the baby. It's scary, but it's manageable.
But from 20 weeks on, I started having detailed visions that I would hemorrhage and die on the operating table right after giving birth to my son. They were scary. They felt real. And I was absolutely convinced they were going to come true.
I sought help from anyone who would listen. I shared my overwhelming sense of foreboding with nurses and doctors in the hopes that they could tell me that what I was feeling was “normal,” but I continued to hit a brick wall. Doctors brushed my premonitions off to normal pregnancy jitters, friends avoided the discussion, and my husband, Jonathan, thought I was going off the deep end.
Whenever someone asked how my pregnancy was going, I would blurt out, “I’m going to die.” I wrote goodbye letters, I sent them out, and I waited for D-Day — my delivery and death day — to arrive.
At 32 weeks pregnant, I had a consultation with an anesthesiologist who, unbeknownst to me, took my premonitions seriously. She stocked up the operating room with extra blood, monitors, and a crash cart, in the off chance I would need them. Ultimately, this was what saved my life.
A week before my scheduled C-section, I started to bleed heavily and immediately rushed to check into Northwestern Memorial Hospital. My 2-year-old, Adina, was with me, as was our family friend, Tessie. My husband was on a plane and on his way.
I was texting with him when my doctor came in to tell me it was time. I quickly typed, “I love you with all of my heart and, no matter what happens, you have made me the happiest woman in the world.”
My stoic and very straightforward husband, never wanting to give in to the idea he could lose me, said, “Where do I meet you?”
I answered “eighth floor recovery… hopefully.”
I kissed Adina a million times, convinced it would be the last time I would see her.
Desperate, I prepared myself to give birth and die.
The last thing I remember is looking up at the nurses putting soap on my belly and the doctors preparing to start the procedure.
My son Jacob was delivered without any issues, but seconds later my premonitions came true — I died.
I had a heart attack, acute kidney failure, collapsed lungs, and an emergency hysterectomy. I learned later that I had suffered an amniotic fluid embolism — a rare complication that occurs when amniotic cells get into a mother's bloodstream and cause anaphylactic shock.
My doctors thought my survival was nothing short of a miracle. One doctor even went as far as saying, “There’s no medical reason you should’ve survived. I’d go spiritual on this one.”
Once they stabilized me, I was put in a medically induced coma and relocated to the ICU. That’s where my husband ultimately met me. I had flat-lined for 37 seconds. Six days later, I woke up and was told what happened. I hadn't met my son yet, and a part of me was scared of him.
I knew that children can sense when they are not safe and secure. I did not want my son to feel anything but love from me, and I wasn’t ready to give it. I was shell-shocked. I knew he was safe but I, on the other hand, was fighting for my life. I didn’t want my selfishness to be miscommunicated as apathy.
This experience has changed me. My son and I will always share a unique bond, and I love him with every cell in my body and beyond. I feel more deeply toward everything and everyone I encounter. I have a greater sense of empathy for human beings and their struggles, as small or significant as they may seem, because they are a big deal to them.
I live life in the moment, and those moments mean much more than they did before.
I no longer believe in coincidence. And finally, I believe we must all listen to our intuition. If you sense it, say it.
It could save your life — it saved mine.
Read more about the story of my second birth in my new book, 37 Seconds: Dying Revealed Heaven's Help — A Mother's Journey.
Photo Credit: iStock