Long, long ago, on November 4, 2005, I published my first post on this site (although at the time A Spirited Mind was called Catherine Wheels (here’s why) and was hosted on Blogger). Five years after that I moved the site to WordPress and lost all of the comments, which is really sad because there were some good ones.
Over the past ten years (TEN YEARS!) the blog has shifted from being random musings (early topics included chickens, banjo babies, and the superpowers of dolphins) to a mommy blog, to being primarily about books. I’ve poured a lot of time into A Spirited Mind over the decade, even though it’s not how I make my living or achieve my impact, and it’s not even read by that many people. Rather, the blog has been a good side outlet, a record of how my thinking has changed by what I read, and a vehicle for connecting with some wonderful readers I would not otherwise know. Ten years in, I’m ok with A Spirited Mind being what it is, and I’m grateful for the kind and thoughtful readers who have sharpened my thinking and kept reading through all the changes.
So, to celebrate the tenth birthday of A Spirited Mind, I went ahead and had another baby (see previous birth stories for Hannah, Jack, Sarah, Eliza), but in a big, dramatic, emergency fireworks fashion completely appropriate for a last hurrah.
At 36 weeks 4 days pregnant, I started having an aching pain in my abdomen that then gave me a weird popping feeling I described to doctors as being like something had broken (badly) inside of my stomach, but not like water breaking. Unbeknownst to me, or to the doctors, I had just ruptured my uterus. Apparently Margaret’s head, thankfully already down, plugged the hole pretty well and saved my life. Instead of an immediate hemorrhage, I began bleeding internally and my digestive system started shutting down. I was in excruciating pain, but wasn’t sure why, and when I called a friend over she called the ambulance because I couldn’t even sit up to ride in the car.
Over the next couple of days I was in the hospital in incredible pain and subjected to lots of tests, CT scans, MRIs, and so forth. Because I wasn’t presenting with normal uterine rupture characteristics, everyone just noticed the digestive system problem and a specialist kept admonishing my OB to just put me through more and more preps, which I couldn’t even swallow. Finally, mercifully, my OB decided to induce me at 37 weeks 1 day.
On Sunday October 25 my OB induced labor and I had an epidural because I was so weak and hadn’t eaten anything in days and they were pretty sure they might have to handle some emergency. The birth went very fast, I think in under four hours, but when I started pushing I was in agony in spite of the epidural. I didn’t even know it was possible to feel so much pain, and I’ve had other unmedicated labors. This was, in hindsight, Margaret disengaging from the rupture and the rupture becoming worse. She was born easily, the doctor announced no rips or tears, but the baby was not breathing and pure white and so the NICU team had her for a while. I was still in so much pain I felt I couldn’t breathe. The doctor kept checking for why and suspected cervical damage, so I was taken back to the operating room.
I was awake for the first surgery, which was very strange. They had music playing, and the anesthesiologist told me most surgeons operate to music. It was one of those random rock/pop type mixes, whatever had been on when we came crashing in. My doctor found a tear in my cervix, which she stitched up, and everyone thought maybe that was that. But I was feeling awful and apparently very pale, and again, unbeknownst to anyone, was bleeding heavily internally from the rupture.
I got back to my room after the first surgery and Margaret had perked up so our doula brought her over to help me try to nurse. I barely remember this because I felt so horrible. Someone was supposed to do a post-op check in fifteen minutes but the doctor did one after only a few minutes because I didn’t look good. Thank goodness she did because I was hemorrhaging seriously. I wouldn’t have lived to the fifteen minute check.
Things moved fast. Someone handed the baby to Josh. My OB told him she would try to save my life and pulled a curtain around me so he couldn’t see all the blood. They ran me to the OR and had a mask on my face before the bed stopped rolling. I felt oddly peaceful the whole time, although I registered that something serious was happening.
While I was unconscious, they found the rupture and all the bleeding. The backup doctor in the OR happened to be the top expert at hysterectomy, which was fortuitous because they couldn’t save my uterus and it had to come out fast. They also pulled out all of my intestines to check carefully for damage and did find damage to one kidney. The other surgeon my OB called in–who turned out to be a Christian and incredibly kind and personable, especially for a surgeon!–checked the rest of the abdominal cavity and worked with my OB to finish the surgery. During the surgery I stopped breathing, had my lungs collapse, and had to have 80% of my blood volume transfused. Apparently this was very touch-and-go the entire time and my OB was worried I would die on the table.
But God was gracious and I pulled through eventually and woke up in the ICU. I was in a lot of pain, but asked that the nurses help me pump so the baby could eat. Thankfully she only had to have one feeding of formula because my milk came in right away–I’m not sure how great the quality of the milk was after all that trauma and such a low hemoglobin level and no food, but I wanted to nurse and figured I should pump. They brought Margaret back to me in an isolette so she wouldn’t catch any germs from the ICU but I could see her now and then. I still had very little idea how much danger I was in and continued to feel very peaceful and hopeful. That’s odd for me, which is why I mention it. I know a lot of people were praying for me.
After a few days I went back to my room in the labor and delivery unit, and had to have two more blood transfusions over the next couple of days, so now all of my blood has been transfused at least once! We were still pumping for bottle feeding because Margaret dropped nearly 18% of her birth weight, which is not good. I had been without solid food for a week and had been through a lot of trauma, so maybe that was also a factor. She was also very jaundiced so wound up on a combination of bilirubin lights and blankets at different times.
About a week post-delivery, I had a third surgery to try to correct the damage to my kidney/urethra, which was kinked and torn. I have a stint in place like a scaffold to encourage healing, and in mid-December will find out if further surgery is required. I’m praying not, and would appreciate your prayers too!
The pain was terrible, and I went over a week without reading or writing a THING (this is how you know I was really in a bad way – I haven’t missed that much reading and writing since I learned how!) but I did continue to improve, and eventually I was able to get out of bed (barely) and was finally released from all of the tubes and wires and allowed to come home with Margaret 15 days later.
Now I’m recuperating at home with lots (and lots) of restrictions on activity and still in pain, but it’s good to be home. I will be recovering for 4-6 weeks and hopefully will be somewhat back to normal by mid-December if I don’t wind up needing more surgery.
Margaret is still having some growth issues so we are back in the pediatrician’s office every day to check her. I’m trying to balance nursing with pumped bottles because she has to use a lot of calories to nurse versus the easier bottle feeding, but I don’t want her to lose the ability to nurse entirely. We could use prayers for this.
November is a month for giving thanks–all months are, of course, but this one in particular for me, especially this year. I’m overwhelmed with gratitude that God spared my life, gave wisdom to my doctors at the right times, and brought me home to my family. It so easily could have gone another direction at so many points.
I can see in hindsight how God was preparing me for this in advance. Throughout my married life I have never understood the feeling of “done” that many of my friends described about having children, but from the start of this pregnancy I had a deep sense that this was our last baby. God completely changed my mind on that topic, including some deep-seated feelings about femininity and age and leaving options open. So the thought that my womb is not just closed but gone entirely is a strange one, but not depressing or sad to me. I’m so grateful for my five healthy children (it’s not that I wanted more per se but the thought of not having more full stop would have been hard for me to handle a year ago) and don’t necessarily have to act like a middle-aged woman just because my child-bearing phase of life is over now.
Life always changes when you add a new member to the family. I had prepared in advance to take a long break from school for maternity leave. We may have some half days and lots of reading aloud and some light school work over this holiday term, just for a little structure. I hope to make time to have one-on-one reading and discussion with each of the big kids while I’m recuperating and can’t do much–I’m hoping that will be fruitful for learning but also for our parent-child relationships. We all need grace now to adjust. It’s hard for Eliza (2) to understand why Mama can’t pick her up or hold her on the lap and why I’m in bed. It’s hard for the big kids to have their routines disrupted and see me so not myself and not quite understand what happened. It’s hard for me to see things I normally handle and not be able to do them. But thankfully, amazingly, I am here. A near-death emergency does have a way of putting a new perspective on things.
And so we have a little growing up to do. This year I have been focused on cutting back and zeroing in, to giving my best to my core callings and letting the rest go. I need to do that now more than ever. This has implications for my work and homeschooling and family life and other writing, as well as for A Spirited Mind.
You may have noticed I’ve cut back on posting recently. I want the articles I write to be the most thoughtful ones, not just a post for every book. The time I take to write here is time I take away from my work writing and school and real life, so I want it to count. I’ll probably post just once a week or so–some on books that really get me thinking, some on parenting or homeschooling in a reading-focused way that hopefully helps whether you homeschool or not, and some round-up posts to catch the other books I’m reading, suggest titles for read-alouds and kids independent reading, bookmarked life posts, and the like. I’ll hopefully keep up the newsletter, as I think that’s a good spot for links and other odds and ends of the literary life. And, as always, I welcome comments, questions, or discussion, which you can leave on posts or email me directly.
As I reflect on the past ten years and the past month in particular, I’m struck by what a great privilege it is to have such a crazy, wonderful, exciting, challenging life. Thank you for reading along with me here!