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The gift of Breath in my Lungs

I have wanted to sit and write this story out the last year, and here we are a year later. I think for many reasons I couldn’t sit with this experience and reopen the trauma. To relive the night to write it out felt too hard. But this night has impacted my entire year in deep ways that I don’t want to forget the night I walked into the hospital with a 1 week old baby thinking I was getting some blood pressure medicine, only to learn I was on the brink of seizures, organ failure, stroke and even losing my life. 

The week after Kezia was born I knew to be on the lookout for postpartum preeclampsia issues. I had it with the twins and this was the reason Kezia came at 37 weeks, due to unsafe climbing blood pressures. 

I was prepared at home; blood pressure cuff and oxygen monitor. I checked in daily, but I was in denial. I didn’t want to be known as the hypochondriac because I was self conscious for all the times I called in when I was pregnant with Kezia. I wanted to experience normal postpartum life at home, so I kept moving on with the days. 

Over the weekend at night I started feeling like I couldn’t breathe. I would pace around the bedroom trying to figure if it was just postpartum anxiety or if I really couldn’t breathe. When I would grab the oxygen meter my pulse would be in the 30’s and 40’s. I am no nurse or doctor, but this felt off to me. I would lay in bed crying, shaking with fear, I felt so scared… BUT I still wouldn’t do anything because I was paralyzed with fear that it led to indecision. When I began checking my blood pressures they were very high– but I still believed maybe my cuff was just reading them high. Some of the readings would come back 190- 200s/110-130s

By Monday morning, one week after delivering I decided to stop gambling with my health and call my OB office. I left two messages over the day because I hadn’t heard back and I was getting nervous, my swelling was increasing over my body and my heart rate was still low. The nurse finally called back and scheduled me an appointment the next day…. honestly I am not sure I would be here today if that plan was left in place.

Around 5:00 that evening I checked my phone and I saw several missing phone calls from my OB office. I was a little baffled why all the phone calls and when I returned their call, the nurse, with concern in her voice said,”I found your doctor and you need to head to the hospital immediately. He is concerned with your low heart rate and blood pressures.”

I immediately ran around frantically trying to get my house in order, calling Branden to rush home from work and meeting my mom to take the twins. I remember the sun setting as we drove to the hospital, with beautiful colors bouncing in through my sunglasses as I wiped the steady flow of tears down my face.  I clenched Branden’s hand tightly, nerves overtaking me, yet I still thought it would be nothing and I would be sent home with the label, “ hypochondriac postpartum mom.” I truly thought they would give me some blood pressure meds and send me on my way… I was in for a surprise.

I walked right in and everything flipped in an instant. They took three readings and then all of a sudden a storm of nurses came rushing in telling me to hand little Kezia, who was sleeping on my chest, over to Branden. They began handing me pills to swallow and hooking me up to machines. The flurry of activity sent me into a panic attack as they began explaining to me what was going on and that I was being admitted to the hospital.

They explained I was in severe danger and I began weeping, repeatedly asking… okaying maybe even screaming,if I was going to die. I remember quickly grabbing my phone from Branden as they pushed me out of the triage room down the hall. As they were pushing me in the bed I started texting a friend to pray for me because the heaviness was closing in, fear was crouching, and I felt the angst of death sitting on my chest. It was a dark hour. I felt the fight of life in this hour and spiritually speaking, it marked my soul. 

They told me they were giving me anxiety medication because I couldn’t calm down even though I begged them not to. It was true I was freaking out on them but I didn’t want drugs. The whirlwind happened SO fast that I couldn’t even process it, all I could do was shake uncontrollably and weep. I cried out to God to spare my life, the thought of leaving 3 precious daughters for my husband to raise was too much to hold in that moment.

I knew exactly the danger I was in because I had researched this after I had the twins — Preeclampsia is the leading cause of maternal mortality, with 75% of these maternal deaths occurring after delivery. I knew this wasn’t a little blood pressure issue, as much as I was wanting to believe that.

They handed me a little 12oz cup of water and let me know that this was all I could drink for the next 24 hours, “sip tiny sips,” they said. I was put on magnesium and if you have never experienced this hell let me tell you it is just that, hell. The nurses were so consumed with my treatment and care…but as a new mama to a 7 day old baby I kept thinking of my Kezia. How will she eat if I can’t drink or eat? How will I feed her if I am shaking with an intense migraine? As my body was fighting my mind was consumed with Kezia, the burden weighing on me. That night I saw in myself, the mama bear fight is fierce. I finally spoke up, my baby needs to eat, how is this going to happen? Branden would carry her to me and shaking in pain, covered in cords, heating packs over my head,  I would hold her close, attempting to keep her fed. It was soon in those days following in the hospital that my body couldn’t keep up both jobs, keeping me alive and feeding my baby.

After five days in the hospital and due to my relentless begging to go home, they finally let me out on a lot of medication. 

Reentering home I went through some deep grief, trauma counseling, and endless conversations with God. My entire pregnancy with Kezia I would hear God whisper, “do you trust me?” It was the overarching theme of my pregnancy, usually as I slept on bathroom floors next to the toilet or laid in infusion centers getting fluids… not knowing those 4 words were preparing me for this moment.

I even wrote this blog on trust,  a few weeks after the hospital stay, they were words flowing from this experience that night.

“Even though He would Kill me, yet I will trust in Him.” is it true of me, to speak like Job, Even if, even if I don’t ever know why, you are good God.

As soon as I was home from the hospital the world shut down which meant I had a lot of time to reflect and meditate on this experience. That night they strolled me down the hall and I felt the spiritual war of life and death on my chest and it changed the way I live. When you are at death’s door, the year following could only hold joy.

In all my years reading scripture I rejoiced in life and wrestled with God allowing death… especially when my Aunt passed. As if when death on earth happens, that is the ultimate shock or unfairness of life. 

BUT this year that changed for me. Every breath in my lungs is a gift. Moment by moment I am alive, all a miracle. I see life, the breath filling my lungs on earth as nothing but a sheer miracle. 

Life is the unexpected blessing.

I think for so long I took life for granted and death felt like the robber. 

For most of us, we live everyday as if life is granted to us and then death is the unfair reality check. We like to go into denial that we shouldn’t ever have to experience it or know it’s gut-wrenching pain. 

But what if we live as if death is the daily expectancy and each day we get the chance to live is actually the miracle?

The shock isn’t in deaths occurrence, but rather the shock is LIFE, “I GET TO LIVE TODAY?! WOW!”

We live out of this awe, this place of gratitude. 

I am not guaranteed one day on earth, not one. Every day is all grace upon grace. Living as if I won’t ever die is a lie or stuffing it and pretending it won’t happen doesn’t help us live with eternity in our hearts.

When I flipped the script, awakened each day with awe that I got another chance to live on earth and kiss my babies, see a pink-hued sunset or enjoy a quiet walk by the river with my best friend, it changed everything for me. JOY returned to my bones when every part of my day became a lived out miracle.

I hope you hear my heart, I don’t want to downplay others’ suffering in this season… I’ve walked 10 years of wilderness suffering, I know the pain of the dark pit well. I weep with those who weep. By God’s grace he’s sustained and carried me and I can honestly say in the depth of my soul, I have tasted and seen the Lord is good, despite external circumstances. 

But for me I have come to appreciate this verse is psalms 90:12, Teach us to realize the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom.

My heart can only worship and that worship for the Creator of my life looks a little different as I sing out of these lungs with gratitude. I was given one more year to snuggle my babies, raise a family, smell a flower, see a sunset, walk on beach, hold my husband’s hand, and inhale breath. How can I not weep that God has given me one more day, one more year?

 It’s all a gift. 

And not if, but when the shadow of death passes over myself or someone I love, I’ll remember, life was never a guarantee. Eternity etched in our hearts, this was never our home. We are just passing through. For those in Christ, death isn’t permanent, just the bridge over to eternity, the bridge to Heaven, the bridge to Jesus.

That bridge, that’s a gift too. The bridge is the cross. Something I don’t deserve either. But the consuming love of Jesus created that bridge for you and I by taking the blow of death and conquering it 3 days later!

I live today, I live tomorrow, I will get the free gift to live forever…. because he died and conquered death itself.

I write this to remember. To come back and remember, the hour death tried knocking at my door. When apathy or ungratefulness starts creeping in, I will come back to these words and remember the year I was given another chance to live, the year I experienced joy deeper, worshipped louder, prayed out of conviction, loved intentionally, and lived with gratitude. 

Man is like a breath; his days are like a passing shadow. Ps. 144:4


 


 

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  1. Carole says:

    Oh Katie I knew the fear I felt during all of this but to read the depth of your fear is so hard to do! I praise the Lord that he did choose for you to live to raise these precious girls and to write words like this affirming Gods love for you and all who seek it! I am forever grateful to our Lord!

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