Being there

There is more than one way of looking at this, I know, but I believe I cheated death when I survived an amniotic fluid embolism during my younger daughter's birth in 1997. These extra 13 years, and counting, seem like a stupendous lagniappe tacked onto the lifetime I was meant to have.

That might be why, every so often, an event comes along that reduces me to a heap of gratitude for the medical advances, the professional competence, the technology — and the luck — that saved me. My older daughter's college graduation last week was one of those events.

Nora's graduation

Nora had just turned 10 when Maeve was born. She had not enjoyed being an only child, and was thrilled about the prospect of welcoming a new baby into our family. I had spent 4 1/2 months on bedrest, punctuated by a couple of terrifying bleeding incidents, which Nora had suffered through along with her dad and me. We were all relieved when the pregnancy reached term, and I went into Prentice Women's Hospital for a scheduled induction.

That fall Friday was a holiday from school, and Nora was off picking apples with friends in a far suburb, hoping that when she came home she would meet her new sister or brother.

She came back instead to a phone call from her dad, telling her about Maeve, who by that time was swaddled up in Prentice's high-risk nursery. Nora wanted to talk with me, but her dad said I had had a rough time and couldn't come to the phone. At the time he was talking with her, he still didn't know if I would live or die.

What if I hadn't survived? Both my girls would have been motherless, but Maeve wouldn't have known anything else. Nora would have suffered a devastating loss.

That didn't happen, of course. Because I have been there these 13 years, I know the scrapes Nora has been through, the joys, the disappointments, the accomplishments. Success in school never came easily to her, but last week, she graduated cum laude from DePaul University in Chicago.

I don't want to take credit for Nora's successes, but I do believe that mothers make a difference in their children's lives. I am proud of the wonderful young woman my daughter has become, and I am grateful that I have been there to see it.