Last night after dinner they were drawing together at their art table, one of their most peaceful pastimes, and all of a sudden I heard Ezra say: “You know, Arayla, that was really too many days for you to be in the hospital. I didn’t like it. It really didn’t work for me.” And Arayla, still focused on her drawing, nodded, responding soberly: “Yeah, I know. It didn’t really work for me either. It was a long time.” And Ezra said: “Yeah. And you know what? I really, really, REALLY missed being with you.” At that Arayla looked up at him and smiled lovingly. Their eyes met. Then she said: “Want me to draw you a picture?” And Ezra said: “YES. A shark and a boat?” Arayla took a new blank sheet of paper out of the stack, and said: “One shark and one boat coming right up, Sir.”
I am a home-birthing, shamanic energy healing, minimal-allopathic-medicine kind of Mama. I lean towards herbal, nutritional and homeopathic remedies whenever possible. We are blessed to have an incredible family doctor I trust deeply who respects my natural approach, and I totally believe in using Western medical check-ups and diagnostic tools alongside a diverse combination of alternative healing practices, intuition, guidance and prayer, as distinct and complimentary aspects of maintaining health on all levels of being.
In the days leading up to Arayla’s emergency hospitalization, it was in truth my own intuition that told me fiercely, relentlessly, at all hours of the night for days on end: that in spite of her blood work and stool samples looking fine, in spite of the absence of fever, and the seeming resemblance to a nasty stomach flu, something was truly not alright with my daughter. I knew there was a dangerous presence of something, something I couldn’t tell what, that actively threatened her life. It was this deep mama-instinct that finally insisted I rush her to the hospital, a place I avoid except in true emergency, where it was confirmed that in fact my daughter had developed a life-threatening secondary infection, HUS, piggy-backing what appeared to have been an E.coli infection; and was told that had I waited even another day to bring her in, it could have been a very different outcome. Our week in the hospital affirmed, humbled and grounded me in the absolute blessing of modern medicine and truly showed me first-hand how progressive medical science works at it’s best, most miraculous, life-saving capacity.
One of the more intense moments for me as Arayla’s mother during her hospital journey was something I never would have anticipated, involving honoring her intuition.
The day before we left the hospital, in spite of continuous signs of steady recovery from the HUS, Arayla’s bloodwork came back showing ongoing decline of hematocrit and hemoglobin, explaining her increasingly painful symptoms of severe anemia including headaches and terrible dizziness. (Her red blood cell count was ½ of what it should be, to give you a sense.) The doctors decided a blood transfusion was in order. She was sleeping when the overseeing doctor~ a lovely, bright-eyed, down-to earth woman~ came in to tell me she really felt a blood transfusion of pure hemoglobin would benefit Arayla greatly.
Of course it wasn’t my favorite idea to give Arayla a blood transfusion, but I consented, after drilling the doctor with hyper-vigilant, fierce-mama-discerning questions. After all, just the day before in the ICU the doctors had told me that blood transfusions are avoided with HUS patients except in emergency situations, as adding more blood to a body that is rapidly destroying its own blood cells can add much more stress than good. This doctor assured me that based on Arayla’s kidneys obvious recovery she felt confident that the HUS was all but complete and yet its damaging effects on her blood supply had gotten to a point that Arayla’s bone marrow was struggling to keep up with red-blood cell production.It seemed like a sound idea to me.
Arayla was just waking up from her nap as 2 nurses and the doctor came in to set the bag of blood up to flow into her IV. I gently explained to Arayla what was happening, and as she began to understand, she sat straight up in bed and fiercely expressed absolute refusal of the blood! It was the first time in the whole ordeal she had expressed any clear resistance, and it was pretty astounding.
She said strongly: “I will NOT take that blood into my body! You don’t even know WHO that blood belonged to?! I have my own blood in my body and my body knows how to make more blood. This is MY body and I am telling you that blood is NOT good for me! I will not allow it and you cannot make me!”
My jaw dropped, and the doctor listened to my daughter, kindly, clearly empathizing, but then said: “I hear you and I’m sorry you feel that way, but as your doctor I must insist upon the transfusion to make your body better.” Arayla burst into tears, looked at me and said: “Mom?! I’m telling you that blood is NOT good for me! Doctors don’t know everything! Blood tests don’t have all the information! Are you going to trust me? Or them?”
I asked the doctors to please pause on the blood transfusion and asked if they would mind leaving the room while I discussed this privately with my daughter. I definitely got a couple of “Crazy Mother~ Are you really going to listen to your 9 year old kid?!?” projection-glances from the nurses, but they respectfully did as I asked.
Once alone, I asked Arayla more questions about her perception. My daughter is a very wise and incredibly intuitive being. She always has been. I trust her senses implicitly. And I am a big believer that we often carry wisdom regarding our own healing process and our bodies that can be contrary to a modern medical approach. There are still huge gaps in allopathic medicine as far as actual healing understanding is concerned. On the other hand, she was clearly suffering in painful ways as a consequence of the anemia, and this doctor, who seemed extremely grounded and perceptive to me as well, felt that a blood transfusion would deeply help my precious girl to heal. Bottom line: I wanted to do the right thing for my beloved child’s health. I just needed to know what that was.
I called her father on the phone for some co-parenting on this issue, and he suggested I ask the doctor if I could give Arayla my blood? Brilliant idea: we both knew, if needed, she would more readily receive blood from my body. I inquired about this with the doctor, who told me mothers can’t give blood to their biological children even of the same blood type because of potential antibodies present. Hmmm…
Arayla continued to tell me that she was absolutely certain the blood was not good for her. I sat with it, inquired deeply and honestly saw that the idea of forcing a substance (especially one as potent as blood) into my daughter to which she felt such a primal aversion, would feel deeply counter-instinctual and unwise to me.
There was another piece involved as well, which I can only see as karmic: I was a kid who had my fair share of hospitalizations due to rare and random severe illness. When I was 19, already on the healer’s path, I had to be hospitalized for the surgical removal of a melon-sized splenic cyst. The doctors wanted to do an experimental surgery that I knew intuitively would be essentially futile, and actually cause my body more harm. I looked inside myself for answers, and then told them exactly what they needed to do, (a more extensive surgery for full removal of the cyst) and that they need not bother doing the exciting, experimental one. But everyone ignored my intuitive wisdom about my own body’s healing in favor of the doctor’s idea of what would best serve me (and their research.). Sure enough, the experimental surgery was absolutely futile, deeply stress-enhancing, and in the end they needed to perform the more extensive surgery I had told them to do from the start. This was one of the most traumatic aspects of the whole experience: how little my intuitive connection to my own body and healing meant inside that realm. How little weight my voice carried in the hospital in regards to my own healing path.
I had an opportunity to find personal resolution around this trauma by honoring my daughter’s intuition about her own body’s healing process. Arayla and I arrived at a compromise: we would respect her inner listening and wisdom and work on building her blood (through acupressure, energy medicine, prayer and drinking bone broth) for the next 12 hours, then re-test her blood and make an informed decision at that time. If her blood levels had dropped even more, then a blood transfusion might be unavoidable.
She agreed to this, and the doctors agreed as well. I could see and feel that Arayla felt truly heard and honored, respected for the wise, clear being that she is. There was a momentary look that passed between our eyes, as the nurse came to take the bag of blood away from the IV stand; a deepened trust and love pulsing between us that was profound medicine for us both.
When her blood was tested the next day, her red blood cell levels had raised significantly, to the point that they told us she could be discharged.
Now that we’ve been home a week, and Arayla is eagerly receiving blood-building iron supplements and herbs, I can see in her face and coloring that her blood-levels are still not what they should be. There’s a thinness and paleness that was masked by days of IV fluids pumping into her.We tested her blood again this past Monday, and while she is still deeply anemic, her levels are only showing steady improvement. It will take some time to re-build and find herself newly strengthened and empowered by this ordeal. But she is active and full of life, and full of appreciation for her own health. She’s been speaking about how the whole experience brought back “a missing piece” to her heart, something she didn’t know she needed, but now that it’s here, she feels so much better.
I am so grateful for all the incredible dedicated medical care she received, for the exquisite showering of healing prayers that blessed and encouraged her soul and body’s journey, for all the healing hands (visible and invisible) that were laid on her body during those days, and for her own exquisite strength, perseverance and clarity of intention to live and thrive. I’m also so grateful I followed my own deep mama-intuition and instinctual wisdom throughout, grateful that Arayla knew to speak her body’s truth about the blood and that I knew enough to listen, and so grateful that her body summoned the ability to heal her own kidneys and grow more blood cells all on its own.
Both illness and healing are truly mysterious and we can’t pretend to understand all the facets they include. But one thing is undeniable: trusting our own intuition as well as our children’s is a sacred, essential part of the process.
(*photo credit: ahrigolden.com)
I felt like together we had just survived a 2 week-long journey through a very hot fire and initiation of motherhood/childhood. She kissed me back, smiling, her beautiful eyes shimmering. I looked into her eyes, this light of her spirit I have loved from the beginning of time, and said, tearfully: “Oh Baby, thank you.” She looked piercingly into my eyes, and said: “For what? Staying alive?”
I felt shy about her naming it. It had been such a scary passage, and at a few points along the way I really wasn’t sure which direction it was going. I returned her piercing gaze, saying: “Well, yes, my love. Thank you so much for staying alive.” She looked at me kindly, hugged me close and said quietly into my ear: “Oh Mama, I was never going to die.”
I was surprised and relieved to hear her state this so assuredly. I asked her: “You weren’t?“ then added, “How did you know?” She replied, matter-of-factly: “Because you’re here, Mom.” Then added, with a humorous tone: “I would never leave you, Lady.“ This made me laugh. I don’t think she’s ever called me “Lady” before. Moved, I kissed her heart again, and said: “I love you.”
What a wild path it is, parenting our beloved babies. How we call them in, from Spirit, and then they arrive, making that glorious, mysterious transition from pure light into matter. And then their souls are here, embodied, and we love them so immensely. And we form deep, vulnerable attachment to these gorgeous, temporary forms their souls inhabit.
That first night, last Saturday, one week ago today, after we were transferred via ambulance to the ICU of California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco, being told that Arayla’s kidneys were shutting down, and they got her all hooked up to the machines, and she began to doze off, the doctors took me outside the door of her room. They circled around me and told me they would do everything they could for my daughter, but I needed to be prepared that sometimes with HUS patients it doesn’t turn out alright. What had started as a seeming violent stomach flu a week prior, (actually an E.coli infection) had evolved into a life-threatening secondary infection, called Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome, a.k.a. HUS. HUS causes the red blood cells to rapidly destroy themselves and toxify the kidneys often to the point of failure.
I didn’t sleep at all that first night. They drew her blood every hour to check how her kidneys were doing, the machines beeped wildly every time her blood pressure dropped or her respiration even slightly altered from course. Most of the night I sat up on the foot of her bed with my thumbs pressing into her Kidney 1 points on the soles of her feet, anchoring her to our world, pulling her roots down, praying fiercely to the Great Mother to please, please have mercy and let me keep my sweet, sweet girl. Praying to Arayla’s huge, amazing spirit please to stay with us here, praying into her little girl body to please find the strength and wisdom with which to navigate this complex challenge.
Life can be so overwhelmingly intense. I asked everyone to generate no fear nor worry in her direction; to only see her well, thriving once again in wholeness. But in my own heart, those first few days, (and actually, the last few days before I took her to the hospital) there were moments I faced sheer panic coursing through me. I cycled from shock, to deep, centered, grounded faith, to panic. Many times. I could feel the tenuous edge; how fine the line truly is between life and death for a body. I had met that edge inside my own body several times in this life. I had also held a grief-stricken mother in my arms only hours after she had laid the body of her child into the Earth. I knew intimately the many different paths which might unfold from this one.
Today, one week later, watching my daughter drawing with her brother at their art table, watching the two of them together again, giggling, squabbling; I bow, humbled by the grace of her health returning so rapidly. We certainly have work ahead of us, to ascertain the best ways to support Arayla’s body and health following this ordeal, but I trust we are through the acute phase of intensity.
Last night as I cuddled her to sleep, she kept saying, repeatedly: “I love you so much Mama. I just love you so much.” She’s been expressing deep appreciation and love in a way I’ve never heard before. Finally I asked her: “Why do you love me so much?” She turned in bed, looking astounded I could ask such a question. She said: “You didn’t leave my side once, the whole time we were in the hospital. You pushed me out of your body 9 ½ years ago. You nursed me for 2 ½ years. You work so hard to create a beautiful life for me and Ezra. What’s not to love?”
Yes. Motherhood is a path of radically showing up and vulnerably giving everything for love. This past week has worked me deeply and truthfully I am exhausted and my nerves are pretty fried. Tomorrow I will take a long hike up into the headlands above our glorious Pacific ocean and pray for restoration of my own nervous system. And then, blessedly, I will receive a long, deep, healing massage.
Crisis comes and goes again. We find a way to integrate and allow the trauma to wisen us, hobbling and honing our intention to cherish it all. Life simply moves on, carrying our strong, earnestly beating hearts along with it. <3
*(photo taken on Day 2 in the ICU)