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Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Meaning of Love

I decided to enter the following essay into Real Simple's "When did you first understand the meaning of love?" contest. Read it to kids this morning and guess what? They both cried. :)

On June 6, 1997, I decided to live.

Before a helicopter whisked me away to an Intensive Care Unit in the city, I held my newborn girl for merely minutes. Oh, those cheeks. So kissable. And as I fell deeply, deeply in love with that little butterball of a soul, they took her from my arms and assured me she’d be well-cared for. To be separated from our firstborn child so quickly after her birth was not in our carefully-constructed plans.

I had just survived an amniotic embolism, which is a fairly precarious situation. During labor, I recalled one horrific contraction. Not that any are fun, as any mother who has gone through delivery knows. But there was this one particular shot of pain that took my breath away, literally. My doctor abruptly stopped the labor to perform an emergency C-section. The baby was born and all appeared to be well. But things were not well. The bleeding didn’t stop.  It was realized that the unforgivable contraction was the embolism. And when I didn’t stop bleeding, a condition called DIC, or disseminated intravascular coagulation, occurred. (While the technical term sounds intimidating enough, I found on the Internet that an alternate interpretation of the acronym is “Death is Coming.”) Anyway, I was in pretty bad shape. 

My doctor had the state troopers deliver blood which he siphoned by way into my jugular. Nurses were standing me on my head. My husband was told to call my parents in – not to share in the joy of the new grandbaby, but to, perhaps, say goodbye to their only daughter…just in case. Chaos prevailed in that recovery room, but my thoughts? I want to hold my baby. I want to hold my baby. When I overheard that I was soon to be life-flighted, my heart broke.

I know love. I grew up in an adoring household and was the center of my parent’s world as an only child. And I when I met my husband? It was all over. I fell head over heels in love as if I was the star in a Meg Ryan romantic comedy. But this love I felt for the stranger that had erupted from my womb was overwhelmingly different. For the first time, I didn’t think about what this person was going to do for me. It felt so, so...unselfish. But how could I love her, if I was going to be swept away to the city? The only thing I could do, for now, was not die.

As I lay in the ICU at Clarkson Hospital in Omaha, Nebraksa, my husband sweetly brought in a videotape. “I think you’ll like this.” Friends of ours had videotaped Alexandria Grace while she was rocked, fed and loved by others in the OB ward of our little town - all while I inched my way back to non-critical status. I watched that tape over and over again, with tears rolling down my face. “Will my baby know me when we finally meet?” I thought to myself. I had to get better. And fast. In three days, I was moved out of the ICU into the maternity ward, with a wonderful surprise in tow.

My doctor had arranged to have our daughter waiting for me in the room. And as long as my own mother would stay with me, Alex could stay as well. What a gift! My recovery accelerated at Mach speed as I held and stared at the precious bundle that I had already pledged to protect and love with all my might. One week later, my husband and I buckled our baby in the car seat and headed home.

When I became pregnant with my second child three years later, one thought consumed me. “How am I gonna love this child as much as my first?”  After the wonderful, uneventful birth of our son Cole Douglas, a moment of clarity hit. You can never give enough love. The more you love, the more you love. One kid. Two kids. Ten kids. Sure, like every other family, we have anxious moments, ego flare-ups and a few tantrums. But mostly, we see through those trivial things. Because at the end of the night and at the start of each day, we have lots and lots of love for each other.

While every birthday is special in our household, Alex’s resonates with me. On June 6, I made the decision to live. And thank goodness. I would have never learned how much one’s love can grow.

Alex, me and Cole - after a peaceful delivery 10 years ago.


Rubi J said...

That time will never leave your Dad and me. Like he said "How can a person feel joy and horror at the same time?" We are lucky people. Love you all.

Alishyamcstay said...

This is lovely, so nice :)