101: A Rose Without a Thorn

101: A Rose Without a Thorn

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Touched by an Angel

A Rose Without a Thorn

I believe we are free, within limits, and yet there is an unseen hand, a guiding angel, that somehow, like a submerged propeller, drives us on.

~Rabindranath Tagore

I wish I had known that I had the world in the palm of my hand when I was a kid. Such confidence deserted me amid childhood bullying and the robbery of my self-esteem every time someone slayed me with an insult, mockery, or a racial slur. I survived it somehow. And when a knight in rusty armor came along and promised me the world, I believed him. I was thrilled that a half-handsome guy saw me as more than a punch line for a joke.

I was cowed by his temper from day one, and I obeyed his commands. I believed him when he told me no one else would want me because I was so unattractive and boring. I did what he wanted and became a mother before I graduated high school. While everyone else squealed about college plans and graduation parties, I was home, bedridden in pre-term labor, swollen from head to toe. Teen pregnancy was taboo in the 1990s and we didn’t have our own reality show yet. My family was mortified and my friends abandoned me. I still managed to earn my diploma, thanks to a sympathetic school counselor who brought my final exams home to me in bed.

At eighteen years old, I went into labor. I screamed and writhed, and rightfully so. It was too late for anesthesia, and this child was in a hurry! I had never experienced such horrid pain. I felt as though my childhood was literally being ripped out of me with every excruciating push. With every second of agony, I lost faith in myself, in life, in humanity. I felt like I was being punished for the pain my foolish irresponsibility had caused my parents, and I secretly hoped for death during the ordeal. My selfish thoughts were sharply interrupted by my baby’s first cry.

I did the “right” thing by marrying Mr. Wrong. I was introduced to a worse form of bullying called spousal abuse. I never imagined I’d have even more of a reason to loathe living until the first slap burned my face like fire. Four tearful years later, I had son number two, again after pre-term labor. By that time, abuse was joined by infidelity. I carried on.

In September 1998, I was six months pregnant with my third son. Despite my inner angst, I was elated to be carrying another gift from God. My children were the last string of hope I had left to separate me from my cruel reality. My faith in anything holy had dwindled to almost nothing but a mother’s love. I believed God was mad at me but gave me these darlings as a way of saying, “Here, be a good mom, prove yourself worthy, and I will eventually forgive your misdeeds.” Another sweet little baby would be there to coo and celebrate the mere sight of my face. I couldn’t wait to meet him.

My newfound bliss was slaughtered by a jolt of pain at 2 a.m. that sent me to the bathroom only to hemorrhage. I ended up in an ambulance headed to the nearest emergency room. I was placed behind a dirty, stained curtain on a bed with no pillow. I was bleeding so much that it somehow ended up in my hair. The room was spinning, and voices sounded muffled. My parents came and got my older son, and our baby stayed with my husband at the hospital. I was comforted by the sounds of his happy gurgling and humming, totally oblivious to the life-and-death situation of his mom and younger brother. Before I knew it, everything in front of me went black.

I woke up in a trauma room, drifting in and out of consciousness. I kept hearing voices shouting that I was losing too much blood and my blood pressure was dropping dangerously low. I could still hear the happy sounds of my baby boy somewhere in the room. I had the worst headache of my life. I could think of almost nothing else but the jackhammer inside my skull. Then, all of a sudden, the pain stopped.

I felt a cool, soft touch against the sides of my head. I was suddenly able to hear and think clearly. I opened my eyes and saw a nurse hovering over me from behind. She appeared upside down from that angle.

“Hello, Neesha. My name is Rose. I want you to try and relax, okay? I am right here, and I’m going to do everything I can to help you.” Her voice was so comforting.

She even paid me a random compliment that I found quite odd, considering the circumstances. “You have such a pretty face,” she said. I wrote it off as a tactic to keep me calm and appreciated the effort. She held my hand and talked me through the delivery as I pushed and pushed a baby that was already gone.

When the doctor delivered the news that my son was stillborn, I demanded to see him, yelling that it wasn’t true. They brought him to my bedside lying lifeless on a towel. I’ll never forget his lovely face. I closed my eyes and cried until the rest of the world was drowned out by my grief. After a blood transfusion, I was cleaned up and placed in a private room to recover. When I saw my doctor again, I asked her if I could please speak to Rose, the nurse who was at my bedside. I wanted to thank her for all she did to keep me calm and comfortable during the horror.

The doctor looked at me puzzled and said, “I’m sorry, there is no Rose on the staff that I know of.” She called out a few other names, but none sounded even close. I told her I specifically remember that she wore lavender scrubs, my favorite color. But my doctor told me the staff color in the ER was green. I just stared at her blankly before insisting this amazing person was there with me and deserved a proper show of appreciation. The doctor suggested I had hallucinated after such tremendous blood loss and trauma.

I beg to differ. I know I had a personal encounter with an angel. And my faith in life and all things good was restored. I carried on until I built up enough courage to leave my abuser and start a new life with my two sons and the memory of the third. I went from a hopeless nobody to single mom to college student to university graduate to professional journalist to the happily remarried woman and mom I am today.

~Neesha Niaz

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