A Life That Nearly Wasn't

at 11:43 PM
Save ArticleSave Article

Failed to save article

Please try again

This article is more than 6 years old.

We all have significant life passages -- births, deaths, graduations, marriages, divorces, lost jobs, new jobs. The one constant is change.

About 30 years ago my wife was just about to give birth after we successfully completed the Bradley method. We had our midwife and our backup doctor and thought the only decision we had left was what kind of music to listen to while she's relaxing in the bathtub. In short, we were well prepared.

But fate had other things in mind. Unbeknownst to us, my wife had pregnancy toxemia or preeclampsia. This is about the only condition in the modern United States where middle class women can lose their lives while giving birth. Blood pressure of the mother can become dangerously high and in the last month of pregnancy instead of putting on weight the baby is losing it. Not good!

Instead of listening to gentle music and breathing together with the midwife; it was high drama at Marin General Hospital. Surrounded by doctors, nurses and sophisticated medical equipment, I've never been so focused in all my life. The extremely dangerous, skyrocketing blood pressure in my wife was coupled with threatening low oxygen levels in the baby. But thankfully after a relatively quick labor, I welcomed my son into the world. He had swallowed amniotic fluid and his own feces. He was jaundiced, very yellow. He was normal length but nothing but skin and bones. His ribs were sticking out. His cry was weak and plaintive. But we did not care. He was the most beautiful being we had ever seen. And my wife's blood pressure was back to normal.

We brought Hunter home to Muir Beach where to our good fortune a Tibetan high lama happened to be staying at our home. We were spiritual but not particularly religious, so we figured any port in a storm and our son received a special blessing from this holy man. And I guess it worked: Hunter grew into a healthy child and now a strapping young man.


He turned 30 yesterday and he is getting married tomorrow. For his mother and me, this common rite of passage will have special meaning, of a life that nearly wasn't and all the wonderful changes that brought him to this beautiful day.

This is Michael Ellis with a Perspective.

Michael Ellis is a naturalist who leads tours throughout the world. He lives in Santa Rosa.