The hardest and best day of my life

I woke up this morning cuddling my daughter in the crook of my arm, drawing in her sweet scent of strawberry shampoo from her hair.

My husband was hugging us both.

Everything was right with the world.

It made me remember a little story I wrote inspired by the day she was born.  It’s partial fact and partial fiction and I decided to share it with you below.


A halo of light surrounds me.  Faces appear and disappear above mine, none I recognize, their eyes reflecting some grim vision they share.  Mouths open and close, their jaws flex.  They’re shouting, but the voices echo in my ears, distorted and meaningless.  I try to see what frightens them, but find nothing but strangers in a frigid room filled with the scent of alcohol and sickness.

My body jerks.  A piteous scream pours unbidden from my lips.  Cold prickles dance along my skin as I wonder why everyone is moving so fast and why the pain doesn’t relent.  Today is supposed to be a good day, a day of transformation, of new beginnings.  How did I come to this hell?

A weight presses on my stomach with such ferocity my spine creeks.  “Please stop!” I scream, writhing on an icy table, but none acknowledge my pleas.  Hands of strangers hold me down as the torture continues.

“Call for an OR,” shouts a man in green scrubs.

“What’s happening?”  My hoarse voice is barely audible.  When the only response is the man’s creased brow and tightness around his eyes as he pushes down on my abdomen, my breath quickens along with my pulse.

A woman speaks in a low voice.  A phone receiver clicks down.  “There aren’t any available, Dr. Reed,” she says.

He utters something low and sharp.  I don’t need to hear the word to know he’s cursing.  “Bring me the longest syringe we have, and someone take my place.”

A nurse takes over my assault as the doctor snatches the syringe from a red-haired woman wearing a purple flowered nursing outfit.  He presses his thumb against the plunger, flicking the plastic barrel to dislodge the tiny bubbles.  Clear liquid dribbles from the end of the needle as long as my forearm and glistens in the blazing light over my head.

“Don’t,” I plea, but once again, nobody looks at me.  Do they hear me?  Does my voice not come out of my mouth?  Tears well at the corners of my eyes and my teeth commence a violent, uncontrollable chatter.

My muscles contract as the doctor stands over me, orders the nurses away and rubs my skin with something cold.  I cry out as he plunges the point into my belly and injects the burning liquid.

The relentless pressure on my abdomen increases along with the urgency in the doctor’s voice.  Warmth and wetness spreads beneath me.  My face flushes hot.  Have I wet myself?  Weakness overtakes me, sucking me down to a dark place with the promise of sleep.  I know then, what I feel is blood, my life gushing from my body.  I can’t feel afraid, only grateful the pain will end soon.  My eyelids droop.  The light dims as the room fades to shades of black and white.

Someone cries on the far side of the room, halting my descent into the abyss.  My eyes open wide as I search for the owner of the haunting sound.  Beyond the sea of nurses, my sister paces in front of a dark window, a clenched fist pressed against her lips.  Tears form a silent river down her cheeks.  I continue my search, catching a glimpse of my husband in the doorway.  His skin is a mottled mixture of pallid white and pale green.  He holds a hand over his mouth, the way he does when he’s trying not to vomit.

The crying continues, but my torturers close the gap around me, blocking my vision.  Their voices dwindle to murmurs and the sound of my blood roaring through my veins rises above everything.  The agony finally ebbs to a steady burning ache.  Am I dead?  A sob bursts from my dry, cracked lips.  I don’t want to die.  I want to comfort the one who calls out to me.

A nurse places a warm hand on my forehead, smiles down at me with pink glossed lips.  “Everything’s okay now,” she says, dabbing my tears with a tissue.  “The doctor’s just finishing up and then we’ll get you cleaned up.”

I blink at her.  What does that mean?  Am I—alive?  I raise my trembling hand and marvel when it obeys me.  My other one is strapped to a board, one needle taped to the back of my hand and another in the crease of my elbow.  The red-haired nurse helps roll me over as another applies warm clothes to my backside.  Shivers wrack my body as they move me, in a choreographed move, to a soft bed in the corner and drape heated blankets over me.

All but one nurse disappears from the room, leaving a steady rhythm of blips and beeps from the monitors connected to me.  My sister sits down beside my bed.  Her chin quivers and her fingers grip my blanket, but my eyes look past her for the one I need to see, the one who can convince me I’m not dreaming.

The remaining nurse sets a wriggling bundle of blankets in the crook of my arm.  “She’s beautiful,” she says.  “Congratulations.”

I gaze down at the pink cocoon in my arms, at the tiny face poking out the top.  Her mouth opens in a continuous wail.  I caress her cheek with my fingertips and sing the lullaby I’ve been singing to her for months.  She opens her little blue eyes and peers up at me in silence.

For months I’d been terrified of this moment.  How could I possibly know everything a mother should know?  How could I deal with the responsibility of a new life when I could barely take care of myself?  How could I give her a name she’d bear forever, to keep her safe, to know what to do when she’s sick?  As I stare into the mirror of my own eyes, all doubt fades away, replaced by a sudden peace, a knowledge that I’ll do anything for this little one in my arms.  The mother bear in me is born, and she’s fierce and sure.

My husband sits on the bed and looks at his daughter, the same bright joy radiating from his eyes as I’m sure must be in mine.

“I almost died, didn’t I?” I ask.

My sister stands beside the bed.  She nods.  “The doctor said he’s never seen anyone survive a hemorrhage that bad.”  She smiles through tears.  “I thought we’d lost you.”

I smile and draw my baby closer so I can kiss her soft forehead.  “I heard her calling for me.  She saved me.”

I’ve never been a believer in miracles, but holding this new little person who’d grown inside my body, of my flesh, of my bone, of my blood—I believe.

Tell me about a profound moment in your life.  I’d love to hear your stories.

Check out the interview appearing on Aimee Laine’s blog this morning.


6 thoughts on “The hardest and best day of my life

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