As I write this I am pregnant with my second child, a daughter, and am having a beautiful pregnancy just as I did 3 years ago with my son. However, the ease and comfort that I have experienced with both of my pregnancies is very ironic considering the fact that my own mother did not survive childbirth when she had me 29 years ago. She died of eclampsia.
Regarding the details of her death, the information that I have is somewhat clouded - by time, by ignorance, by trauma, etc. I just have little bits of information from people who were there - my dad, aunts, grandmothers, her friends, etc. It seems to me though that many of these people were misinformed about the circumstances surrounding her death.
My father, who was obviously very traumatized by her death, always told me that she had a "brain aneurysm." And while I had heard other family members use terms like "toxemia" and "preeclampsia," it wasn't until I was a married adult that I got my hands on her autopsy report in which the first line reads "diffuse bleeding phenomena (eclampsia)". By this point, the early Internet age was upon us, so I did some research, to satisfy my own obsessions with her death, and I also tried to explain the condition to my dad (who still doesn't understand and continues to tell people his first wife died of a brain aneurysm during childbirth). His confusion/denial, I think, stemmed from years of believing that's what had happened. There was no way to research it back then, and we're from a small town, so he trusted the doctor and didn't want to believe that ANYONE was at fault. For me though, understanding the symptoms helped me make sense of many of the little details I had pieced together over the years. Here's what I know about her death:
She knew she had high blood pressure and was actually hospitalized for it a couple of weeks before I was born. She and my dad were in the process of moving though, and she begged her doctor to let her go home, promising she would take it easy. He let her.
I know that on the night she went to the hospital, my dad was sleeping, and she was sewing. She woke him up and told him that something was wrong. He doesn't remember exactly what she said, but from the research I've done, I bet she had a terrible headache, blurred vision, and if she was sewing, maybe she was starting to lose slight control of her fine motor skills. At that point, my dad took her to the ER, which was just a few minutes away. I know that the doctor started to talk to her while they were still sitting in the waiting area, and she wasn't making any sense - my dad said she was talking about a Christmas present that her brother had gotten her years earlier - the doctor knew something was terribly wrong, and that they had to get me out fast. A short time later, she had slipped into a coma. They performed an emergency C-section, got me out, and luckily I was fine. They took her off the respirators the next day, and that's it - she was gone. It was 1977.
Luckily, I grew up surrounded by people who loved me and who kept her memory alive for me every single day - my dad being at the top of that list. To me he's my dad - kind, gentle, fun-loving, but there is this sadness to him, that only people who knew him before can understand. Anyone who's been effected by this disease knows that what is supposed to be the happiest day of your life, quickly turns into the most unimaginable nightmare. As for me, I feel like a total spectator in the matter - not the center of it that I actually am. I just listen to/think about all of these details and feel so bad for this young woman who died, her young husband, their family, and their baby - unable to really comprehend that it's ME and MY mom, dad, and family.
Her death has just been a constant, normal part of my life - something I've been effected by both negatively and positively every day of my life. If you are reading this, and are the parent, grandparent, or other relative a baby who has been orphaned by this disease, please know that your baby will be fine - like I said, it's just been a normal part of my life, and I while there is a definite void because of her absence, I've always felt loved and adored by the family members who were left to raise me.
Thank you for the opportunity to share my mother's story and continue to keep her memory alive. There is a strange comfort knowing that people who don't even know who she was will read this and think about her 30 years after her death.
She was 25, incredibly beautiful, and her name was Becky.