Facing Death and Finding Hope
On a beautiful day in March 1992 I was admitted to a small hospital in country New South Wales, Australia. I had two beautiful daughters, Danielle aged six and Brodie two, and I had chosen to complete our family with a third child. I was admitted on Tuesday evening to prepare for the caesarean early the following morning due to a very complicated and dangerous birth with Danielle. Brodie had been a caesarean delivery that was uncomplicated and safe, so our third birth was, presumably, going to be equally stress free. My parents came down to stay with my daughters and support my husband while I was in hospital.
I went into theatre at 9 a.m. on Wednesday morning with a very excited family awaiting the birth of our third daughter. Taylor was brought to me by a nurse as soon as the anesthetic had worn off and I was conscious, to hold her tiny, precious body. She was perfect in all ways, from head to toes. I kissed her tiny face and held her close to my heart, filled with so much gratitude and joy that I had once again been given such an amazing and beautiful gift of life.
“[her] tiny presence was pristine and pure, untainted by the world, seamlessly perfect and innocent.”
The operation had been successful and we were both healthy and our family was very happy. Our third precious baby daughter Taylor was welcomed into the world on a beautiful, sunny day by her father, big sisters, and grandparents; we were all filled with the love and joy that a newborn soul brings into the world. Once again we were blessed by such a precious little angel whose tiny presence was pristine and pure, untainted by the world, seamlessly perfect and innocent. Her big sisters marveled at her little hands and feet, kissing and patting her soft head, adoring their beautiful, petite sister who was an unconditional bundle of love. Together we bathed her, fed her, and fussed over her as she gazed with her beautiful, deep dark blue eyes at the movement around her. Our family was now complete.
Because we had decided to complete our family with three children, I had also organized for my tubes to be cut and fused in order to not conceive again. This was carried out after Taylor’s birth to save another hospital visit in the future. There were no apparent problems and everything was all normal.
In the early morning hours of the next day, Thursday, the nurses came in to tell me that they were putting Taylor into a humidicrib to assist her with breathing, but they said it was nothing to worry about. I nursed her before they put her into the humidicrib and then I went back to my room to sleep. I was later awoken to be told that the nurses had given her a small dose of penicillin because they believed that she may have an infection in her chest, due to a small amount of fluid that may not have been sucked out fully at the time of her birth. Once again there seemed to be no cause for alarm and we continued on normally. At 6 a.m. I was told that the nurses were very concerned with her progress and had called in a helicopter emergency care flight to transport Taylor to the closest city hospital where she would receive higher pediatric care. There seemed to be a lot of anxiety in the air and the nurses were acting strangely.
My husband was called in to the hospital to travel with Taylor to the city where I was supposed to join her later that day. One nurse came into me with photos of Taylor that she had taken on an instamatic camera, which at the time I thought a bit weird. If there is nothing to worry about, why take photos of my baby? The nurse reassured me that it was only so that I had photos of Taylor and could be comforted while waiting to be transferred later that afternoon. I was later told the true reason she took the photos was because she doubted Taylor was going to survive.
Before I knew it, there was again high stress in the maternity ward with nurses and doctors rushing around in a state of emergency. As the doctors transferred Taylor from the hospital humidicrib to the ambulance humidicrib and then to the helicopter that was waiting for them at the local aerodrome, her lungs collapsed and her life was in critical danger. Because I was recovering from a caesarean and was under the influence of high pain medication, I was slightly vague with what was really occurring. The nurses and my husband came to tell me that Taylor had been rushed to surgery as she needed assistance to help her breathe, due to her weak lungs.
Once again, helpless and not fully understanding the depth of crisis that was occurring, I quietly dozed off to sleep to rest my body. It had been a long, long night (and early morning) and I was awoken at 9 a.m. with my doctor standing at my bedside with a face I will remember forever. Something was wrong.
With tears rolling down his cheek he said sadly, “I’m so sorry; we did everything we could to save her.” He then added, “Although this is no consolation, I normally cut and burn fallopian tubes when I conduct a tubal ligation but, for the first time in my life, and I don’t know why, I didn’t burn them. I only tied them. Therefore, we may be able to re-join them for you in the future if you choose to have another child.” He was right. At that painful moment, it was no consolation.
Unable to speak anymore, he turned and walked away, comforted by the hospital’s Head of Nurses, his head bowed and in tears, his body weak from his own trauma and helplessness. They left me alone with my husband and mother who had already received the shocking news and who were waiting, prepared, to hold me in my space of excruciating, heart-wrenching pain.
Only a parent who has lost a child can know the shock and horror that, when confronted with the facts, race through the body and linger like a tumultuous black cloud. Little did I know that this black cloud wasn’t in a hurry to leave me and that life would never ever be the same. It was like a double blow to my head. Not only was there the loss of my baby, but also the fact was I had made the stupid choice for a tubal ligation, not thinking that something like this could happen. The pain was indescribable. All I could do was put my head in a pillow and scream my heart’s own death, consciously knowing on each side of my room there were other new mothers who were about to also drown in the surreal split second of facing the moment that no parent ever wants to face.
“The day that little Taylor died was the moment that she not only left me, but my entire life did also.”
The day that little Taylor died was the moment that she not only left me, but my entire life did also. It was like the whole of my existence died with her, every part of me, and my reasons for living and the reason for life itself. The nursing staff quickly transferred me to the other side of the hospital into a private room where the beginning of a new life for me began. Unfortunately, it was not the new life I went in there thinking I was going to experience.
Although I was visited often by crisis and trauma counselors, grief and loss counselors, and church clergy, the emotional and mental pain was like a ten foot steel wall around me. I was unable to rationalize or make sense of anything. I was completely numb. Life was surreal. I was in an altered state knowing that I was still in the world but was not a part of it—a separation and an empty void that was unbearable. There was no one who could join me there because no one who had come to me, at that time, had experienced this state themselves to know how I truly felt.
Two days later I was home, with empty arms and an empty heart. When I walked in my house, I was overwhelmed by the amount of flowers and food that the beautiful, caring community had brought to my family to help in dealing with such a crisis. My heart cried because of the goodness of humanity.
I was home for one day and I remember a strange lady visited bearing a homemade apple pie. When I met her at the door, she acknowledged that we had never met but she wanted to share something. In the short time she was with me, she told me that she was now sixty-five years old and that forty years ago her baby daughter had also died when only a few weeks old. She said she came to give me, besides the apple pie, the gift of hope. She came to show me that I can survive, just like she did, and that life does go on even with all the pain and suffering. She said that she found a gift of love in the death of her daughter that no one could ever know—except me. She didn’t tell me what to do or how to do it; she simply offered her presence as a gift of hope. Her visit was ultimately to be the most powerful, priceless, and profound gift, more than any counselor, psychologist or minister could ever have given me. But it was to be a while until I realized the value of her gift and could really under why this tragedy has happened.
Many times I questioned: Why did this happen to me? Why did she die? Who am I? Why am I here? What on earth is life all about? These are usually the first questions asked by all seekers in an attempt to find reasons, truth, and clarity for life when a crisis such as death of a loved one occurs. I endured twelve months of excruciating mental, emotional, and physical pain filled with anger, depression, and grief before I could finally hold my head up and start to think clearly again. Until then my world had stopped still in a deep, dark empty void. I understood why people who face such an empty world that has no meaning for them would choose to take their lives through suicide, rather than hang around waiting for the answers to come. If nobody appears with a message of hope that makes sense, it is easier to give in and leave.
It seemed so much easier to die than to live with the pain. Suicidal thoughts were an everyday occurrence, but I stayed alive for my two other beautiful girls. I had to live for them and them only because absolutely nothing else in the world mattered anymore. I quickly began disassociating from the excruciating pain of the death of my daughter through using drugs and alcohol. These helped numb the empty, dark, and lonely void. Life was lived in the moment, one day at a time, because my body and mind were incapable of doing anything more. I revisited the words of the doctor to me, over and over. I recalled the day he gave me the double dose of bad news, that of my baby’s death and that he had tied my tubes. Knowing he had tied the tubes and not burned them, making it possible for them to be reconstructed so we could try again to have another child, didn’t register as a sign of hope at that stage. Just the thought of having a tubal ligation reconstruction was another drain on my mind and body as I felt far too weak to go through another hospital ordeal.
My interpretation of life and death at this time caused even more pain, suffering, confusion, and fear of the unknown. The healing was yet to come and it was going to take a while…