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It took me 8 years to get over my death, by Michelle Matthews

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“I eat bread and I write things.” MFA ’19. Find out more @ www.michellematthewswrites.com

 

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Me expertly cropped out of the photo, I.V. lines hidden by receiving blankets, and one happy baby.

I never thought I would reach this point. After the first year, I was still filled with so much anger and self-loathing that I figured I would always live my life this way.

I settled into it, wrapped my blanket of abhorrence around me, and succumbed to it. It was easier than dealing with all the issues that surrounded it.

I guess the old cliché is true, time does heal all wounds, even large anchor shaped ones.

May 29, 2010

My regular doctor was on vacation when I went in for not feeling well. I was eight months pregnant with twin boys and not feeling well could mean any number of things. Something was just off, I could feel it, and I didn’t like the sensation. It made me nervous. They took me in straight away and set me up on the monitor. My blood pressure was high, too high. They observed me for several hours before deciding to operate.

It was 5 am on May 29th, when they finally prepped me for surgery. I went through the motions unafraid because I had been here before. My first c-section two years prior barely left a scar and I was up and moving about in two days. I wasn’t afraid when the agent of my death introduced himself to me, and I was wheeled into surgery.

I watched the surgeon as he washed up. I remember him saying, “I only have an hour before I have to leave. My daughter has a Girl Scout event first thing in the morning.” It’s the last thing my brain would hold onto for a full year. My memories of their birth from that point on until their first birthday become the stories told to me and the pictures I replay in my mind. My memories, never formed.

What They Told Me.

The C-Section was smooth sailing. Each boy came out screaming their heads off. I was able to see them before they were taken away to be cleaned up. The doctor finished up with me and then sent me into the recovery room.

I asked for my cell phone. I wanted to call my brother who lived three hours away to tell him that his nephews had arrived. We were the only family we had left, and this was a big deal. I don’t remember talking to him. I was told that I did. I think I remember saying that I was tired. I was told the phone dropped out of my hand just before the line on my heart monitor went flat.

Everything had happened so quickly. I was in pain I remember that much and then suddenly the pain stopped. I thought one of the nurses had given me some magic balm through the I.V. that was how quick it was. I was in tremendous pain and then I wasn’t. Everything went bright white and then I was gone.

My son’s father told me the nurse hit the blue button, and people poured in from everywhere just like in the movies. They didn’t even waste time ushering him out of the room. There was such a commotion they didn’t even notice he was there. They did chest compressions and then pulled out the paddles. For two years I would carry the scars the paddles left behind, the tattoo that reminded me that yes, even my heart could break.

One of the male nurses, climbed on top of me to do chest compressions as they wheeled me back down the hallway and into the room for surgery.

I had a different surgeon this time. She wasted no time cutting me open from chest to my C-Section scar revealing the awful truth. I had hemorrhaged to the extent that my organs were dying. Bag upon bag of blood was ordered and pumped back into my veins, but they couldn’t stop the bleeding.

Eventually, they would induce a coma and have to perform a vacuum-assisted closure to help me stop bleeding. It took two days and many blood transfusions.

The doctors prepared my family for the worst. They didn’t know if I would wake up or what state I would be in when I did. I lost my uterus, my ovary, and eventually my gallbladder. I was without oxygen to my brain for longer than they would have liked. And if that wasn’t enough, I had a bad reaction to one of the transfusions and went into anaphylaxis. My body was broken and stitched back together like Frankenstein’s monster. They didn’t bother doing a good job because they didn’t think I’d make it.

What I Remember (vaguely)

I heard a disconnected voice say, “Cough.” I obliged, and I felt this pressure in my throat that made me almost want to gag, but I kept doing what the voice said. I was confused. I thought I had just taken a nap and yet my brother and other extended relations were all standing around me. It never dawned on me to wonder how they got there so fast. It didn’t feel like three days had passed me by only a few hours.

I knew by the looks on their faces. It was their solemnity they look people have when something is not quite right. I tried to talk but it was barely audible, and they couldn’t understand what I was saying. I made the hand gestures to write. I wanted to know if my children were okay. I tried to write it down, but when they took the note, they couldn’t read it.

I remember distinctly that to me it looked like my handwriting, but when my brother showed me the note later, it looked like lines scribbled on a piece of paper. I pointed to my face to ask for my glasses, and he put them on my face, but I still couldn’t see. I kept pointing to my face, and he kept telling me that my glasses were on my face.

I couldn’t talk.

I couldn’t see.

I couldn’t walk.

My body was strapped down to the bed, and I was wrapped up like an Egyptian mummy. My pain which I imagine would have been immense if not for the constant drip of my best friend, Mr. Dilaudid, was my constant companion.

I was in I.C.U. and after twenty-four hours without incident, my doctor came in to tell me about my condition. He rattled off the series of events that led to my current state. I couldn’t ask questions. I couldn’t scream. All I could do was cry.

The nurses were great, they took pictures of my babies and set them up beside my bed so I could see their little faces. They would be two weeks old before I would see them again. In those two weeks, I was plagued with fevers and several infections.

I spent my days and most evenings alone. Everyone had to go back to work, and the doctors said it would be a long hospital stay. I didn’t watch TV, and sometimes I tried to read, but mostly I just stared at the wall, lost. The doctors brought in a priest, the hospital social worker, and a psychologist. Nothing helped, some wounds just run too deep to close up completely.

You see what they didn’t know and what I would never tell them is that for one moment when I died, I was at peace. In the three years before the births of my children, I had lost the entirety of my family except for my brother. Grief and anger were the only two emotions I had room to feel. When I died, those few minutes where I was neither here nor there, I was the happiest I had felt in years. I wanted it back.

But I have a family. Two babies who depended on me to get better and a third who didn’t understand why she hadn’t seen her Momma in almost a month. As I lie in that hospital bed, staring at the crème colored walls, I was wrestling with all my demons. That internal war would take years to complete.

By the end of week two, when the fevers finally subsided, the nurses brought me one of my sons. They propped my arms up with pillows, wrapped my arms in blankets so the tubes coming out of them wouldn’t hurt his head, and raised the head of my bed a little bit. With one nurse on one side of me and one on the other, they laid the youngest twin in my arms. I remember wanting to smell the top of his head, but I couldn’t lean over.

There’s a picture of us like that. I’m expertly cropped out of it because as I told the nurses, I didn’t want my sons to see me in such bad shape. I’ve never told them the story of their birth and I never will. I never want them to think that it’s their fault. It’s the one secret that my entire family has kept and will keep.

At week three, they cleared me for walking therapy. I wasn’t prepared. The first day, I stood up and promptly sat back down. Even the pain medication on an I.V. drip didn’t curb the pain. The therapist pushed me anyway. I stood up, cursed God, cried for my mother, and then laid back down.

Every day I took a step farther to the door. By the end of the week, I was able to walk with a walker to the nursery and NICU. I could see both of my sons whenever I wanted now.

A bag of pills later and a few organs lighter I left the hospital. The last twenty-four hours I would spend there was an emotional roller coaster of visitors. All of my doctors, nurses, and technicians wanted to say goodbye. The one I remember most vividly, these eight years later was the E.R. nurse. The one who sat on my chest as they wheeled me into surgery.

I told him, “Thank you for keeping me alive.”

That’s when he broke down and began weeping at my bedside. This grown man who had seen his fair share of death and life having worked in the emergency room for as long as he had, wept.

Instead, he thanked me for giving him back his belief in God.

He said I was his miracle. He told me there was no medical reason for me to be sitting across from him, talking, completely whole (almost) other than God. He told me the code was thrown at the start of his shift and that he had barely had time to change before he ran into the recovery room. His only thoughts were of how he didn’t want to start his shift losing a mother who has twin boys. He told me how he prayed with every compression on my chest. And here I was, his miracle.

I think his words will stay with me the rest of my life. They were the words I would hear in my head whenever life got too much to bear. Whenever my depression tells me lies, I think. I am someone’s miracle.

In more ways than one, he is mine.

Eight Years Later

I spent the first four years of my sons’ life just bogged down with the everyday activities that come with caring for twins. I’ve been angry. I’ve looked at my scar in disgust. I’ve hated myself for not being there for them when they needed me the most, even though it was out of my control.

But every year the scar fades a little more and so does my anger. I used to hate the surgeon, the one whose mistake almost cost me everything. I’ve wished that his life was as insufferable as mine was. I wished for his family to know the pain that comes with wanting another child but not being able to have one. I’ve wished for many things that I’ll never know if karma brought to pass.

There comes a time, and it did for me, that I didn’t care anymore. I didn’t know it when that moment arrived, but it did. I realized that doctor didn’t matter to me anymore. My scar once so gross that I would never let anyone see me unclothed is now a faded line.

I’ve moved on.

Maybe one day when my boys are older I’ll tell them the story of their birth. For right now all they need to know is what they already do.

That they were in my belly and the doctor took them out one by one. That I loved them, kissed them, and promised them that I would do anything for them, even come back from the dead.

Source: Medium Daily Digest

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