Today, I am grateful for being not dead.
Today marks two years (almost to the minute as I type) since I popped out to my routine 24 week midwife appointment, with getting some decent heartburn medication on the top of my list of priorities.
Two years ago today I discovered that my heartburn was actually my liver on the verge of rupture. The weight I had been gaining was actually fluid retained because my kidneys were in difficulty. The strange can’t-put-my-finger-on-it-to-say-what-it-is feeling was actually blood pressure that was so high I was at risk of a stroke and seizures.
I had HELLP syndrome and preeclampsia.
I remember the day after Hugo was born being in my maternity high dependency room. One of the anaesthetists who had cared for me during the surgery came to visit me to see how I was, and to remove my central line. The removal of the central line didn’t necessarily require an anaesthetist, so the visit was on account of my illness being the wrong kind of special, and on account of the anaesthetist being a great guy. While so many memories of those days is hazy, I remember him remarking about how cheerful I was.
I can remember replying that I was happy because my baby had been born alive when it was feared he would be stillborn. I was happy that I had seen, touched, spoken to Hugo. I was happy there was hope.
Oxytocin, that happiness hormone that kicks in at birth was probably a factor too. Oh, and I was flying high on lovely lovely morphine.
While it took me quite a while for the severity and cause of the illness to really dawn on me and sink in, I must have realised at some primal and subconscious level because I also said I was:
Happy to be alive.
There is so much that has happened between that day and today that is utterly, unspeakably awful. So much I wish had not happened, and that I dearly wish could be changed.
Hugo being born way too early, and dying 35 days later are the main two things I wish had never ever happened.
These two events are so inextricably intertwined with my illness – Hugo had to be born when he was to save my life, and to give him a fighting chance – I so often feel guilty not just for feeling grateful for being alive but for simply being alive.
Me being alive when my son is not is against the natural order of the world. Or how the world should be, at least.
Life, as I know all too well, does not always play fair.
I try to remember there is little point in raging about what is fair and what is not fair.
To accept what is.
And this is a fact:
I could be dead.
And I am not.
Other women who had HELLP syndrome were not as fortunate. Women like Leila, who suffered a seizure, and went in to a coma. She had a bleed on her brain, and never woke up. Women like Andrea, who died of multiple organ failure after her twins were born. Women like Brittany, who had a seizure after pushing out the placenta; sadly tests revealed she was brain dead. Women like Joan, who died of post-partum pre-eclampsia. Women like Sally, who died of a brain haemorrhage. Women like Lauren, and Christie who died of liver failure.
So, here I am, alive and feeling grateful to be here.
Putting aside fantasies about sacrificing my life for my son’s, realistically I know that if I wasn’t admitted to hospital when I was we both would have been dead within a couple of days.
One significant point of gratitude is that if I was dead, I would not be able to honour Hugo’s memory through his legacy.
So while grief and the emotional difficulties that come with PTSD is not something I can switch off, I can find a way to make those feelings coexist with gratitude.
I feel like I have to.
What’s the point, otherwise?
Saturday is Hugo’s second birthday. Last year, for Hugo’s first birthday #HugosLegacy trended on Twitter – it was incredible!
Hugo’s daddy and I have been talking about how to mark the occasion this year.
We’re going for gratitude, for the reasons outlined above, as well as the 35 precious days we had with Hugo.
We’d love if you would join in over the next few days, and on Saturday in particular as a celebration of Hugo’s life. Let us know what you are grateful for.
You might like to say what you are grateful for in a comment on this post, or on social media (please use #HugosLegacy so we can find them easily).
What you are grateful for might be none of my or anyone else’s business, so you might like to think about it privately. That’s fine too!
I am grateful for many things, mainly being not dead.