The Greatest Challenge? Let me go.

 

This month's question for the group of international bloggers who like to chat on a given topic, is somewhat of a challenge in itself. The gem was to discuss a challenge which has changed you, from which you have grown. I can think of a thousand challenges we face every day, as modern women trying to balance great expectations in work and relationships and motherhood and sanity. Balancing our insane expectations of perfection in everything we touch...wanting to fit so much in to every day... and keeping it all together for those who depend on us.

But when I read Marsha's words, talking of something personal which has been the greatest challenge, for me there was only one memory, one thought, which shined so clearly through the mire of ideas. It was the challenge of holding onto life, when it would be easier to let it go.

But first, I need to take you back....14 years ago... to explain...

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When my third child was born, there were complications. Not for him. But for me. His body was full of life. Mine had other ideas.

First, there was a fever which wouldn't respond to antibiotics. 11 of them. There is a new one, they said, only in the US... if we can keep you alive, we can fly it in. So they put me in an ice bath, with a huge industrial fan blowing over the shards of coldness, to bring my temperature down until the plane could land with the promise of a miracle medicine. My husband, bewildered, held my iced hand, his own so very warm and full of love.

It worked. The fever broke. We thought it was over. We could now focus on our week old baby son. So the doctors performed a D & C just to be sure. And then I contracted Septicaemia.

In and out of consciousness, the world floated around me. My mother, who was a midwife before becoming a farmer, recognised the signs. I heard her voice echoing around the room, talking with the doctors, but I was strangely detached...this was not me.. this was out of control...the body which shook uncontrollably in the bed was not me...

More antibiotics, more drips, more machines, more wires, more rushing through hospital corridors to better care, to better machines, to better medicines. Hushed voices...in and out of reality...we are going to lose her...we can't...

It worked. The fever broke. But still I wasn't well. My body did not want to want to get on with life. I was growing weaker.

Our son was now 4 weeks old, and he was still in hospital, getting to know the wonderful nursing staff better than his own mother, who was deteriorating rapidly, too weak to move by herself, too frail to even sit up in the hospital bed. Another operation, just to be sure. And then a third, just to be sure. Just in case things would work out. Then more complications. Deep Vein Thrombosis - you know, something you may get when flying? Or when you spend 5 weeks in hospital.

So now the doctors were caught....too risky to operate with the chance of a DVT causing a stroke or heart attack. Too risky not to operate, with the patient slowly haemorrhaging to death. Held in suspension...another week passed...the vital blood transfusions dripping life into me...drop by drop I watched it flow into my arms...never had I realised how generous a gift blood donation is... how one person's kind gesture is another person's chance at life...

But mathematics was against me. My veins, now so weak, collapsed. A simple equation: I was haemorrhaging faster than the gift of blood could be pumped back in. "Let me go..." I whispered to the doctor...."please just let me go..."I could fight for life no longer...too much pain...too much exhaustion...as if my body had turned to immovable stone...

...there was simply nothing left to give...

"Just wait, promise me you will wait till I come back?" she said. The look in her eyes, filled with tears, held me to the promise. I fixated on the promise...thinking only a few more minutes... then I can let go...close my eyes forever...no more fighting for life...

She returned with a quickly snapped photograph of my baby son (obliviously happy in the nursery upstairs), a walking frame, a texta and a roll of surgical tape. She scribbled something on the photo, taped it to the frame, and placed the arrangement over my wasted body, centimetres from my face, so that I could just read the words she had written...

"You are a Mother. You must not let go."

And as I took in the words, the doctor, a young anaesthetist, spoke...

"You are a designer, a professional, a wife, a friend....these things are all your choice and you have chosen them to be who you are. But first, and forever, you are now a mother, and that is not a choice. You must fight for life, you must not let go, you are a mother." Were there ever greater words of encouragement or wisdom spoken by a doctor to her patient?

I needed them, because in the next moment the room was filled with medical staff. What's happening....who are all these people...

My surgeon leant over and whispered..."I have just done the maths...we have to move fast.. you have 3 hours left to live if we do nothing...and a 50% percent chance of surviving this operation...so say goodbye to your husband and your parents, they are here...and remember the anaesthetist's words..."

The challenge of holding onto life, when sometimes it is easier to let go. I had read of it in books, before I understood it, before I realised just how almost impossibly difficult it can be...to hold on mentally when the body has given up...

For me, the doctor's words were the key to winning the challenge. After the final surgery, a hysterectomy, my surgeon told me they didn't think I could survive it, ..couldn't understand how, with all the odds against me, I was still alive.

But the answer, ever so simple, was in those words...

"you are a mother, you must not let go"...

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To read their interpretation of their greatest challenge, do be sure to visit Marsha here, to see how everybody else in the group reflected on this task.