Monday, June 04, 2007

The Nature of Life

I debated posting this now, or waiting until after my Manhattan Retrospective. I need to do it now. I needed to do it Wednesday. There has been a bit of death in this blog and in my life of late, from the dog to Kristie and Lynda's fathers, and Now This. On Wednesday morning as I was preparing to leave for New York, I received a call from an old friend. It was a teary message and I knew immediately. She was calling about her daughter Olivia. And she was calling to tell me something horrible. She was calling to tell me Olivia was dead.
1988 was really a great year for me. My daughter was born and I rejoiced and celebrated. I adored Megan from the moment of her conception. Even though I sensed my marriage was ending, I had peace about it. I had been depressed a little before Meg was born and a little after, but in my heart I knew we were in the final countdown to freedom and it felt safe and good and strong. Lisa and her husband had gone to Florida, and she'd returned with her son Brandyn in tow, pregnant and unsure of how she felt about that. Her husband rejected Olivia long before she was born. It's something I can't understand or relate to. I can bond with an unborn child and take it into my heart just on the basis of faith in it's presence. Men are able somehow to discard children they've never met long before they're even born. Maybe, right now, I envy them.
Lisa and Brandyn moved in with us. Quite a household with me and my two kids, my soon-to-be-ex, and Lisa with Brandyn and a growing bump. We laughed a lot. We made cookies. We cried a lot, too. She asked me to be with her when the baby was born, and I agreed. I love labor and delivery, and at the time my sole goal in life was to be a midwife (and how I ended up a knitting teacher and designer and author with a nursing degree is utterly and completely beyond my comprehension). This would be my first birth, and I was very excited. We discussed drugs, episiotomies, and labor practices. Lisa wanted what I call a 'tech-y' birth. She wanted drugs. She did not care if they cut her, in fact she wanted a 'pis. She wanted me there for support, and to ensure that she got her way. Although I am a huge proponent of natural childbirth, I am there to make sure a woman gets what she wants, to support and encourage. We talked about names. Jacqueline. Paige. Olivia. It was like we were having a baby, this all-girl band; as if these two straight girls decided to get pregnant and have a baby of their own. We joked about how I could have given birth to all four kids, since they were all at least 9 months apart. I was The Mommy then, big into being a mom, breastfeeding, into natural foods as much as I could be on a too-tight budget. I took the whole thing rather seriously, and would nurture anything that came my way.
When Lisa began to complain of upper abdominal pain we all dismissed it as "no big deal". But the pain did not resolve. Lisa was admitted to the local hospital with HELLP Syndrome. Briefly, it's believed to be a cousin of preeclampsia and causes a series of very scary things in pregnant women - clotting factors are inhibited, certain blood cells are destroyed. It can be lethal if untreated and requires immediate delivery of the baby, as delivery is the only thing that will stop the relentless destruction of maternal blood cells and the eventual seizures that accompany the syndrome. We spent the evening in a labor room in Springfield with two beds. A series of women in varying stages of labor passed through the other bed in a haze. It was the first time I'd experienced the difference in cultural birth practices, and I admit to a bit of envy. A Hispanic woman will scream things at her husband that most woman only get away with in transition, and then only for a few minutes. One woman came in at 3 centimeters, screaming, calling this man every name in the book, threatening him with a long dry season, dismemberment if he made any attempts, and death if he succeeded. She screamed for over an hour, until they transferred her to a birthing room. "Dios Mio! You ba%$#rd!! Do you see what you do to me?? You are NEVER touching me again! NEVER!! If you touch me I will kill you!! OH!! AYI, AYI, AYI!!" and the muttered reply "I am sorry, baby. I am so sorry. I promise. I will not, no, never again...." (Sure, right. We believe you, dude. Never again. Uh-huh...). I'd have given anything to scream at my husband like that for even ten seconds. It was comical. Lisa being told by her doctors to relax, be calm, and us in this room surrounded by women screaming their heads off all night long.
Lisa was put on a Mag drip. Magnesium sulfate is used in toxemia to halt the seizures that can kill. Understanding that delivery needed to be imminent, we were frustrated that things weren't moving. Get the baby out, everyone lives, we all go home. There was a debate as to how to proceed. With toxemia, cesearean delivery of the baby stops the syndrome and the mother is managed and the baby is fine and life's a big old party. With HELLP, incisions are the last thing you want to create, since a woman will bleed out between the first cut and the time you get the baby free. I will never forget the look on Lisa's face when the doctor gave her the "good" news. No drugs, no episiotomy, no C-section, just one little line for fluids and meds. She signed heavily and looked at me and said, "I hope you're happy. You get your way after all." We were wheeled into a surgical delivery room. It was very cold, sterile, bright and white. It was essential, in case Things did not go As Planned. But things went just as well as one could hope for. A smooth labor, no episiotomy, a bit of pushing and yelling and there she was, this wonderful if decidedly blue girl child. The baby was alive, and would be fine, but as a result of the mag she had an APGAR that would make anyone suck air and not believe she'd still be with us at noon. She looked for all intents and purposes about to die. But she didn't. And wouldn't for another 18 years. And neither did Lisa, who lived to experience the day every mother dreads.
I remember this most vividly of all. I held her for her mother to see, and the doctor said to Lisa "What are you going to name her?" She looked at me and said, "I don't know. I can't pick. You name her." So I did. "Olivia Paige" I said. Olivia Paige Boske. And so she was. So now you know how she came to be here. You have heard how she was born, how she entered the world. You have not heard how she lived. And really, I am not sure it matters. I could wax poetic about how children should not die before their mothers. About the waste of a human life caused by one moment of recklessness. I could talk about how she wanted to be a lawyer and how she wanted a baby. It doesn't matter to me right now. Only one thing matters to me.
On Tuesday, May 29th at around 7:00pm two cars met in the middle of Route 2. Four people were involved, three in a Saturn and one in a Honda. None of that really matters either. Only one thing matters to me. The Saturn contained a life just 18 years short, and that life ended abruptly and without warning. And I loved her. And it hurts. And right now, that's really all that matters to me.
I keep seeing this picture in my head, from when Lisa and I took the kids to Maine for the day, and as I stare at it in my mind, she ever so slowly erases from her feet to the top of her little blond head, just disappears from the photo, leaving the other three on the beach. It haunted me all weekend.

5 comments:

Yarnhog said...

I am so terribly sorry for your loss. Several acquaintances have lost loved ones recently, and I've always been able to say something comforting for the loss of a parent, a sibling, or a friend who lived a full life. There is nothing comforting I can think of to say about the loss of a girl who was just barely starting out, except that I am so very sorry. It shouldn't be that way.

Melissa said...

posting a comment to my own blog, I stole this from Girl's Myspace...

I saw a flower wilting in the sun
The soil around was red,
Cracked and dry
I ran to get some water
But it all had turned to sand
Useless,

I stood back and watched each petal fall

A final startling wind
That came from nowhere
Sent the flower down to dirt

Why must something with so much promise die?
While brambles choke
And barbs scar
And we are left behind


*****************
I'll always remember and love you Olivia.
R.I.P, sis.

Chicken Betty said...

What do I say
You have my hugs and tears to help cleanse the greif and reveal the shining memories and love underneath.
My heart is with you all

ikkinlala said...

I am so, so sorry for your loss.

mary alice baker said...

Oh Melissa, What a heart wrenching loss in the midst of so much.

I am praying for you and all Olivia's family.