Life, with all of its twists and turns, is a constant learning process. The trick is to be open to receiving and interpreting its lessons and figuring out what to do with them.
The spiritual side of me believes that we choose the path our life is meant to take long before we set out on our journey through it. At certain points we feel uncomfortable, uneasy, stressed, etc., but are unable to pinpoint the source of unease, so we continue to carry on, even as that uneasiness grows and creates more turmoil in our lives. If we are in touch with ourselves enough, we will recognize that the negative feelings associated with living our lives at times like these, are a direct result of going down a path we were not supposed to step on. I realize this will sound a bit convoluted to some people, but to me it makes perfect sense. In a nutshell, if we choose a path to follow through life and we end up feeling restless, unhappy, and confused about where we are going, I believe we are going the wrong way.
Recently, I was plagued by this feeling of traveling the wrong path. It haunted me and built up for months and, even though I knew exactly which path I wasn’t meant to be traveling down, I stubbornly persisted because I couldn’t allow myself to let go and make a change. For months I fought against my instinct to change my course and, for months, I became more and more unhappy and disgruntled in the current situation until things blew up and I was basically forced to change my path because I just couldn’t handle staying my course any longer. So, I forced myself to turn my feet in another direction and walk away from something that I’d been pouring my heart and soul into for a long time.
It was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make and, at first, it hurt so much that I couldn’t think about it without getting choked up and feeling a huge sense of loss. However, even though I was plagued by that sense of loss, the act of letting go – of negative feelings (that I’d been harboring for so long) and of control – had an almost instant effect on my psyche. Suddenly, the sense of unease and discomfort and turmoil that I’d been feeling for a long time about the situation, just evaporated and, for the first time in over a year, I sensed that I was back on the correct path again.
Yesterday, as I was discussing this with one of my friends, I realized how good it felt to know that I’d finally let go and changed course and I giggled at myself because it was funny how long it had taken me to do it and how long I had fought against the inevitable.
Life always gives us the answers and solutions we need, the problem is that we have to be open to seeing what it is trying to show us.
Here I am again, learning a life lesson from myself and giggling at my perpetual stubborn streak. I think that, in this case, life was trying to tell me that, sometimes, letting go is the easiest way of regaining my balance and finding my way back to my true path.
Which brings me to the reason for my post today. I am, again, feeling unbalanced.
Last month, on a whim, I sent all of Cora’s health records and her autopsy report to a Neonatologist at SickKids with a letter outlining everything that had happened throughout my pregnancy and leading up to her death. I requested that a neonatologist there review all of the information if time permitted and then send me a bill for his or her time. I explained my concerns about the apparent problems in the timeline of her care, about the medical people here telling us that they had never seen anything like her sickness before (even though it turned out to be nosocomial pneumonia – one of the most common infections to plague premie babies when they pick up bacteria from instruments or equipment in the NICU) and about my concerns that no one had ever told Greg and I that there was not a certified Neonatologist working at RIH (even though I had been in the hospital, on and off, for close to three months before she was born), and I asked that the doctor there look at all of the material and form an opinion about whether or not there was medical negligence involved in the death of our daughter.
Surprisingly, yesterday I received a call from a Neonatologist at SickKids and we had an hour long conversation about Cora’s short life. It was difficult. I found myself losing my breath at times and unable to speak because it felt as though I was back at Children’s Hospital and the doctors were once again telling us that they had exhausted their resources and our daughter was not going to survive. In a nutshell, this doctor, after reviewing Cora’s and my medical records and then listening to my story, explained that, in his medical and professional opinion, he couldn’t say whether or not the actions taken by the medical staff were in any way negligent or led to her death because they did the best they could with what resources they had once she was born and leading up to the point where she was transferred down to Children’s on the plane. What he did say, however, was that both Greg and I should have been informed, well before she was born, that there was no certified Neonatologist in our hospital and, again, in his professional opinion, I should have been sent to Children’s hospital long before she was born, regardless of whether I wanted to go there or not (Back story: At one point, when I was around 28 weeks along, our OBGYN had suggested I think about going down to Vancouver to Children’s hospital for my own peace of mind. At that point, I had been in bed (mostly in the Labour & Delivery ward at the hospital) for two months, I was a wreck from lack of exercise, too much stress from pregnancy complications, being in the hospital all the time, etc. and the thought of leaving Greg and everyone else for a couple months was more than I could handle. BUT, the fact that we had been reassured, so many times, by medical staff here that babies born after 30 weeks were in good hands and they usually just had to get a little help breathing and then grow and learn to eat, left us feeling confident that Cora would be just fine if she was born prematurely here. We knew we were in for a long ride once she arrived, but we had total confidence that the medical staff was qualified to take fantastic care of her. Had they said, at any point, “Oh, btw, we don’t have a doctor who is certified to work on premature babies here,” I would have hauled ass to Vancouver and camped out with relatives without a second’s hesitation. Not once did anyone ever mention this to us and, in my heart, I think this was a death sentence of sorts for our baby girl.) His recommendation was that I take action against our health authority because, clearly, if our hospital is going to accept babies who are born prematurely from 30 weeks onward, it needs to have doctors who are qualified to handle babies who are born at that point. By qualified, I mean certified Neonatologists, not pediatricians who work on premies and then call down to Children’s hospital for advice on how to proceed with a premie’s care if they run into a speedbump or the baby starts to completely crash with seemingly no cause.
When I sent the records to SickKids, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, only that I needed someone’s unbiased professional opinion about our daughter’s care and subsequent death, especially since her autopsy showed that she was born perfectly healthy with fully developed lungs and other organs and that the likely cause of her death was a nosocomial infection acquired after birth. I’m fairly sure I knew that it would be impossible to prove negligence, especially because I actually believe the staff here did everything they knew how to do in caring for her, and I was relieved to hear that because suing for negligence isn’t a good way to solve this problem and it certainly won’t bring back our daughter. And why fault the medical professionals who tried to so hard to save her? They couldn’t help the fact that Interior Health is too cheap to hire a certified NICU doctor. They did their best and they care about the babies in their care. Punishing them doesn’t solve anything.
So, once again, I am at a crossroads of sorts and I find my feet hovering over two distinctly different paths. Do I take this information and do something with it – namely, take steps to ensure that Interior Health changes its practices and either stops accepting babies from 30 weeks and up or hires full-time qualified NICU doctors – or do I take this as reassurance and closure of sorts and just let it go. Do I continue battling this constant weight of grief that presses down on my shoulders every day by prolonging it in a fight to bring about change or do I allow myself to accept that life just really fucks with some of us and make the conscious choice to just let this all go and try to get on with being happy and hope this weight eventually lifts and sets me free?
I have the choice to walk down the path that will lead me to a fight for change, in my daughter’s memory and also to prevent more parents from ever having to go through this kind of hell. Or, on the other side of it, I’m exhausted and feel as though her death has beat me down enough in the last two years that I could just set my feet upon this other path that won’t bring about change, but will allow me to concentrate on moving on. The hard part, with either choice, is letting go. Letting go of my wish for justice and to prevent others from ever feeling this way or letting go of my wish to cast off the weight of this grief with complete acceptance.
I think that, once again, life is trying to tell me that, sometimes, letting go is the easiest way of regaining my balance and finding my way back to my true path…the question is, which one do I let go of, especially when neither path feels welcoming to me at this point.