Welcome back for part 2 of my 3-part series. Last time we met I introduced you to my dream. Let’s see what happens next.
My dream shattered on a hot summer day in August of 1990. It was Wednesday the 8th, shortly after 8:00 p.m.
The tragic events crashed down on me with brutal force and I thought I was going to die. It took twelve hours. Twelve hours to rip out my heart and my child out of my body. To tear up my belly and leave me scarred and wounded for the rest of my life.
Like sand in an hourglass
My daughter was born four months early by emergency C-section. She weighed 881 g (1 pound and 15 oz.) and had a slim chance to survive the night.
I remember it like it was yesterday. Like sand in an hourglass, I could fill these pages with details about how all hell broke loose in our lives.
The night before we celebrated our second anniversary. I finally had a belly to show. To top the 24/7 bliss mode I was in, the baby started kicking! We were ecstatic! My always present yes to life left no room for worries. I knew with absolute certainty this time we would have a living child.
When my water broke in the early morning hours, I went into another sphere. I drifted off, breathing myself into the warmth of my husband’s body still sleeping next to me. But it failed to soothe me.
Reality sets in
My body knew the distress before I allowed it to enter my mind; my heart was beating so hard it seemed to pop out of my throat. My husband felt my distress and turned towards me. His dark eyes met mine: “Just rest, I’ll call Nancy.” Nancy was my gynecologist and new friend who lived nearby. My husband repeated what she said, “bring her to the hospital immediately. I will meet you there. Slowly, please. Don’t let her move too much.”
I remember the silent ride. Twenty minutes of trying to get a grip on what was happening. It was a little after 8:00 am when I stepped out of the car. I held my belly and smelled the summer air. For a split second, like a cloud passing by I thought, summertime.
The dream shatters
In my fantasies, I always planned for a summer child, swimming in the lake, and picnics for the birthday parties. I was born in January, and as a child, I thought something went wrong with my birth. Why was I born in the middle of winter? I always craved summer.
We met Nancy in the examining room. The intense look on her face destroyed any hope we had that she could fix what was broken. She hugged me, “It’s a girl.” She knew from an earlier test, but we didn’t want to know. We wanted a surprise.
No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t prevent what was happening.
“Lay still. Don’t let anybody examine you,” she gently touched my head. She knew how much we wanted this child. Her eyes welled up, “Maybe we can keep the baby safe inside. Even a day will help.”
I found myself in a small room across from the nurse’s station. With an IV in my arm and probes attached to my belly. A monitor was documenting my baby’s heartbeat. I was not left alone for longer than a few minutes.
We met Dr. Perlstein, the Neonatologist on call. There was a knowing in his eyes that I only understood later. “It looks like your daughter will weigh about 750 g (1 pound and 10.5 ounces.). Do you have a name? She has about a 50/50 chance to survive. If she does, she will most likely have handicaps. Babies below 1000 g are high-risk preemies. She will have to stay in the hospital for a very long time.”
How do you deal with this kind of information? His words dropped like bombs into our lives. And no, we didn’t have a name. We had several. I was afraid to think about it. My husband put his head close to mine and together we fell into heart-wrenching sobs followed by an unnerving silence.
I couldn’t explain to myself why I never came across information about high-risk births especially with my background. I did have some words floating around in my head but no reference to them.
In my studio in Germany, I had offered Natural Childbirth classes. I supported couples on their path to parenthood. I am a certified childbirth educator, after all, and loved working with pregnant women. Why did I not have information on high-risk childbirths?
The first live birth I attended as a coach left me deeply moved. I felt I witnessed an ecstatic life-changing adventure where raw emotions and deep joy existed side by side. I thought to myself: “becoming a mother is like a crowning ceremony. I will experience this too.”
Now I was not only in a foreign country with a language that was not mine, but everything that was unfolding around me was unknown and frightening.
What to do when pushed over the edge and all we can do is hang on the cliff with only the tiniest thread of hope left? When we know deep down we are losing because the ground has dropped out from under our feet?
We lost control. We were falling into a situation where we didn’t know what to do anymore, and we had no idea of what was happening. We were on foreign ground with no way to escape; there was nowhere to hide.
Much later I understood that our ordinary lives offer no tools to deal with tragedies. The few useless things I had learned about how to be with fear were to hide it, sweeten it up, have a glass of wine, or take a pill if you must. But by all means, push through it, make it go away. And don’t say a word about it.
At 8:00 pm my baby’s heart stopped beating. Alarms went off and suddenly chaos engulfed my small room. Someone said, “We have to get the baby out.”
I can still feel the stretcher flying through the hospital aisle. My body was violently shaking. I caught my husband’s eyes; he was running by my side. I saw his fear, “Will I lose both my wife and my child?”
I heard shouting telling me to breathe for my baby, it felt like a punishment to me, and a split second I saw myself fail. How many women had I taught how to breathe through this moment? Eventually, the pain of labor steals any romantic illusion on how to easily master this challenge.
But this was a different reality. I had learned nothing about emergency C-Sections, nothing about when things go wrong at birth.
The scalpel cut me open before they knocked me out. There was no time to lose. The sharp pain I felt from the cut was only topped by the terrible choking when I woke up. I was desperate to ask one thing, but I had no air to speak. When they suctioned my throat, so I could breathe again, I heard what I needed to know. It was my husband’s voice who whispered: “Sie lebt – She is alive.”
Join me next week as we take a look at broken dreams and inner healing.
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Self-Care True Stories with guest Manuela Rohr: How a Phoenix Rises
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Overcoming unimaginable challenges through self-care and transformation, wellness leaders from The Wellness Universe share their inspiring stories with you to help you live your best life.
Manuela is the caregiver to her 30-year-old autistic daughter who was born four months premature. In this episode, Manuela shares her story and how she inspires the planet to live in peace and harmony.