Nancy Smiley, 68, has incredibly vivid memories of her daughter Chareva’s birth, in 1972. But she remembers it so well for a very unusual reason.. she believes she died that day. And for the first time ever, she’s decided to speak publicly about the experience.
The pregnancy had started as perfectly normal, but at six months Nancy began to feel unwell. And within two weeks, she was in bed most of the time.
“I was losing my vision, I was nauseous , I couldn’t keep anything down” Smiley remembers. Her husband “took me to the OB/GYN and he said we need to take this baby out… you’ve developed toxemia.”
Terrified, she was rushed to the hospital with dangerously high blood pressure and she remembers the doctor “pushing on my belly, trying to get the baby to come out.”
Then there was a ” roaring and roaring of sound… and then quiet….. and the next thing I knew, I could see this scene. I was above looking down … and I thought, how sad…. Why are they doing that it’s so unimportant, why were they working so hard to do whatever they were doing to that woman? I didn’t realize it was me, “ she says.
Nancy later learned that at this point, she had begun bleeding to death… ultimately losing eight pints of blood.
Yet she has no memories of physical pain.. instead she says she heard a “sort of throbbing.. maybe it was energy. And I went with it. Up up and away, and the scene was gone and I was just surrounded with light, and it was wonderful. “
But like many who’ve described near death experiences, there came the moment when she felt she “had work to do. Something I had to finish… And it was almost immediate, a feeling of heaviness, of leaving and pulling away… The next thing I knew I was in intensive care.” She was back.
And she describes how, lying in that hospital bed, she had a feeling of being “trapped in this body and stuck. At one point she recalls sobbing, and her husband trying to reassure her, telling her “not to cry, the baby was in intensive care , she was alive.. and I was alive and everything was going to be fine. But he didn’t understand. I think if I’d gotten a second chance to make the choice, I might have changed my mind, because at that point I was feeling pretty miserable.”
But she eventually returned to her life as a new wife and mother….. and the near death experience only came to her at night, in her dreams. She described an intense longing for that feeling of not being afraid, and being “connected to everyone. ..Plato described it as drops of water that eventually go back to rejoin the ocean. And that changed how I related to people.
Nancy says she began to see colors around them. And “I would see someone and know that they were very ill” : and most of all she says she stopped worrying about the little things.
She noticed it first when her baby came home, weighing two and a half pounds. She says she had such a sense of trust, she knew when it was time to leave her baby on her own.. asleep in her crib.. and go to bed herself.
And she says that’s the way it’s been for her in the last forty years . “I’ve had a son go off to the Gulf war, another child going off to blow glass in Australia”, she recounts. And there was ” a third who “graduated from college and said Mom I think I’d like to go to the Peace Corps.. and she went to West Africa.”
Her attitude she says, stemmed from that near death experience. She says it’s clear there’s no need to worry because “if it happens, then that’s what’s supposed to happen. And I may meet them another time around, who knows?” she chuckles.
Being that close to death for Nancy Smiley, untied a knot that she describes as having been “in her stomach all her life. “ She says she doesn’t understand “ the rage some people have when something bad happens, as if they had control over it NOT happening, and somebodz took that control away by force,” she explains. “They never had that control in the first place.”
And so she chooses to live in a place of flexibility, a place where “you couldn’t disappoint me with anything.”