101: Birth and Death

101: Birth and Death

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Dreams and the Unexplainable

Birth and Death

Love knows no limit to its endurance, no end to its trust, no fading of its hope; it can outlast anything.

Love still stands when all else has fallen.

~Blaise Pascal

She wore a white, cotton robe covered in tiny pink-and-green roses. Her short auburn hair was curled neatly, with a hint of gray showing at the edges, just as I remembered. We were in a house. I’m not sure whose house, but it was familiar and comforting to be there and to be with her. She walked, and I followed.

Although it felt odd that my Granny Miller was with me, since she passed away when I was a teenager, I was elated to be with her. We spent a long while just talking, being in one another’s presence and catching up on the years of my adulthood we had been unable to spend together. Immediately before she left, she turned to face me and said in a confident, soothing tone, “Your daddy is going to die, but it will be all right.”

At that moment, I awoke to the sound of my dog barking, signaling she wanted to go outside. I lay confused in bed for a few moments, listening to the dog. What a strange, vivid dream. My Granny Miller was my father’s mother. Although I loved her very much, it had been many years since her passing and I didn’t think about her very often.

I decided the dream was the result of my overactive emotions and hormones because I was twenty-eight weeks pregnant with our first child. All was well in my safe, full world, and I was happily awaiting the baby. I got up from bed and headed toward the dog, but as I stood, I felt something warm and wet running down my legs.

I went to the hospital for evaluation by my obstetrician. My amniotic fluid had indeed broken, and by that afternoon I was in active labor. I was rushed to a hospital with a Level 1 neonatal intensive care unit ninety miles away from home. Three days later, my husband and I were the shocked, terrified parents of a new baby girl. Jordan Abigail was born weighing one pound, twelve ounces, and was fourteen and a half inches long. All of the expert healthcare professionals caring for her were optimistic and told us she was extraordinarily healthy. The hospital staff prepared us to expect that Jordan would remain in the neonatal intensive care unit until her due date, which was twelve weeks away.

For the first week after Jordan was born, I got absolutely no sleep. I blamed myself for her premature birth and could not stop thinking about what I did to cause my body to experience early labor. I was, after all, a registered nurse and should have been able to prevent what happened.

I kept thinking about that dream. It frightened me because I convinced myself that my grandmother had said my baby was going to die, not my father. Daddy was strong and healthy and took care of the entire family. Obviously, the dream was meant to warn me of an extreme complication that would take this tiny, precious being from our lives.

Largely as a result of the encounter with my grandmother, every possible moment was dedicated to soaking in Jordan’s cries, her smell, the touch of her paper-thin skin, looking at every inch of her fragile, little body. I rarely left her side. Both our families were consumed with her wellbeing.

After six weeks she reached a milestone of three pounds, and we were all relieved. I decided the dream didn’t mean anything.

A couple of weeks later, my mother reported that my father wasn’t feeling well. His symptoms were vague. He reported he was weak and couldn’t put his finger on exactly how he felt. I encouraged him to go to the doctor. Several days later, my mother called me and said she was taking him to the emergency room. He had been taking a bath and was so weak she could hardly get him out of the bathtub. At that point, I knew something was seriously wrong. My father avoided going to the doctor and had never been to the emergency room that I could recall. I asked Mother if she needed me to come home. Daddy told me to stay where I was needed — with Jordan.

My father ended up being rushed to a cardiac specialty hospital adjacent to where Jordan was hospitalized. I was able to visit him and my baby. Three days after that, he died as a result of heart failure caused by a heart attack.

I have always been comforted that my grandmother prepared me for the most difficult time in my life and also confirmed that she was with her son during his life transition. Sixteen years later, I watch my daughters, Jordan and Jessie, grow into the amazing human beings they were destined to be, and I feel my father’s presence in our lives. Granny Miller was correct: It has been all right.

~Judy Ann Mitchell

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