~Number of pregnancies and births: 3 Pregnancies, 2 births
~Children: Two sons, 3.5 and 10 Weeks
My oldest son is three and a half years old. I got pregnant and married right off the bat at 18, and he was born when I was 19. He was an 8 Pound 10 oz miracle, and he blew my mind. He was strong and healthy and amazing. Although I gained 70 pounds, and went up 10 sizes, I eventually went back to normal.
My husband and I originally wanted a very large family, and lots of children. After my first was born I was using Depo for birth control. When we decided to try again we were told the Depo can take a very long time to wear off. As it turned out, it was over 18 months since we decided to try again before we finally got pregnant. A year and a half of tears, frustration, fertility testing and ovulation calendars. During that time I discovered my husband was involved in a long affair with my ‘friend.’ It brought to light a myriad of insecurities I thought I had overcome. Somehow it seemed to justify every self-loathing thought I ever had. It was a very dark time.
We became pregnant this time last year. I was thrilled, I cried, yada yada. I was convinced he was a girl because of how different the pregnancies were. At 20 weeks they told us he was a boy, and I was surprised and pretty relieved. Another boy would be so much easier. They also noticed bright spots of calcium buildup in his heart. These by themselves didn’t mean anything was wrong, but they decided to refer us to a perinatologist just to get a second opinion. That day Rocked my world.
After a long echocardiogram of his heart, the doctor came in to look at some images, and the technician and doctor spoke in a bunch of medical jargon we didn’t understand, and then we had a conference in his office. There we were told our son’s heart was “majorly deformed.” The doctor showed us diagrams, and although it’s been a long time since high-school biology, it was clearly wrong in some obvious ways. He said he could not make the diagnosis himself, but we would have another such exam at the cardiologists office from seattle. I was told I would have to deliver across the state, and if he was born here he would have to be airlifted immediately. He didn’t know how many surgeries he would need, if he would survive infancy, if he would survive childbirth, and what his life would look like if he had some major chromosomal disorder. He outlined some of the conditions associated with a chromosonal problem, including but not limited to physical disability and mental retardation, and said the medical recommendation would be to an amniocentesis. He also delicately explained that the procedure most likely would cause miscarriage, so we needed to know if saving the baby was our priority. He was basically telling us that we could abort him this way. We both said ending the pregnancy was not an option.
In later months we learned he had ‘double outlet right ventricle with transposition of the great arteries and a ventral septal defect.’ Thats a long winded way of saying his plumbing backwards, misplaced, and he has a hole in his heart.
At a future routine checkup, they determined my fluids were dramatically low. They sent me across the street to the hospital to make sure my water was unbroken. I was 36 weeks along. I spent the night in the hospital. During which time, I began strongly and regularly contracting. They established that my water had not broken, and after shots and tranquilizers my labor stopped. They asked me if I would rather be sent home, or flown to Seattle. I of course voted to go home. That night, I went into labor again. I was on procardia to stop contractions, but they just kept coming. When my husband got home from work he drove me to the hospital. I was contracting strong and regularly again, and my plug was gone. They airlifted me to seattle and gave me another shot of hardcore stimulant to relax my uterus. I stopped labor while I was there. I was so frusterated after days of hospital visits and a fucking emergency flight just to be released hours from home. My husband was at home with our preschooler. I was alone that night, and alone when I was discharged. My dad lives in bellevue and drove to pick me up that morning. I stayed with him and my sister who was on leave with the family before her deployment. Two weeks hours from home, in labor on and off, and away from my toddler. I begged my husband to bring him up every chance he got, but the trips were hard on our little guy. My sister took me to appointments, we got to spend a lot of time together, which was a silver lining. At another monitoring appointment the contractions started again. The OB was sure this was the day. She stripped my membranes to save me another night in the hospital for no reason. Later, we went in. I was open 2cm since that afternoon, and admitted. Then, at 3.5 cm, it all just stopped again. My husband drove all night to be there, and my mother in law was in a hotel room with our son. I was sent home, AGAIN, frusterated to tears and in pain. I was 48 hours from 39 weeks, so they would do nothing to progress labor. I was like that for the next 2 days. They broke my water, and I was ready to push in 6 hours. We called my sister to come back, knowing that the delivery room was likely the only place she’d get to meet him before she flew off for deployment just hours later. However, I only pushed 5 minutes maximum. He was COMING, hard and fast. I panicked. Completely panicked. I realized that once they brought him out, he could just die. I was hysterical, but he was coming, and that was that.
…I never got to hold him then. I could hear him screaming, as a panel of neonatal doctors assessed him. They brought him to me for a quick kiss and a glance, then they whisked him into the NICU and that was that. I was exhausted, and devastated. After a few hours they brought me in to see him for a moment before shift change. Then when I was discharged I was able to follow him to Childrens, about 6 hours after I gave birth. As soon as we got to children’s the doctor was on the phone with us, and we had a conversation in the ICU about our son. Loken Mordechai. They said their initial diagnosis was wrong, it wasn’t DORV, but the arteries were transposed and the problem was that the VSD (hole) was not big enough to let his blood mix. Basically, as he breathed, hisbody just kept pumping the same old, oxygenless blood around his body and brain. He was suffocating, essentially. They told me they needed to do an emergency procedure to punch a second hole between chambers, or he would not survive the 10 days until his major repair. Then my husband left. Paniced, basically. Said he needed to be on the road back home for work, but he was running away. His mother was able to stay with me for a while, but I still felt crushingly alone.
In the end, things went great, all things considered. He shows no signs of chromosonal abnormalities. After his first surgery he was doing so well they moved him out of the ICU for a week before his big repair. The people at seattle childrens were incredible. That whole hospital blew my mind with how helpful they could be. They wanted to send him home with a feeding tube, but he was doing so phenomenal at nursing and pulled his own tube out. I’ve never felt so liberated as the day we drove him home. It took us 8hours to make it across the mountains, because we stopped to for every feeding, diaper change and medication, and at the time there was a lot. Eventually they took him off his medications one by one, and finally got his stitches taken out. The cardiologist says to ‘treat him like any other baby.’ It was music to my ears, especially after seeing the other families at the hospital. We were incredibly lucky, and my older son is overjoyed to have a baby brother. He keeps thanking me for him, like he was a gift I brought home just to make him happy.
The whole ordeal was a nightmare. I feel selfish for feeling so ripped off, but I do. I tried for so long, then when the time finally came I was terrified instead of overjoyed. I was alone instead of glowing. I was crying every day, sleeping every night at his bedside. Instead of dreamily doting on him as he slept, I watched his every breath, wondering if it would be his last. Nothing about labor went as it was supposed to. Nothing at all went the way it was supposed too. Now that I’ve come home, I fell changed somehow. Permanently altered in some fundamental, huge way that i can’t identify.
I’ll never be the same.
And I don’t want any more children. I have my two precious gems to hold onto. When my first was born I thought “I want to do this again, I want as many children as I can have! This is so beautiful and magical!” But after the scariest couple months of my life, I never, ever want to do that again. I gained 50 pounds. 30 fell off right away, but then just stopped. They put me on medication for the panic attacks I have now, which I can’t nurse with, so I’m not breastfeeding. I want to, so bad, but I guess it’s just one more thing that won’t be the way I wanted. The nightmares are awful. I hardly eat because of all my anxiety. I have turned to exercise as a comfort though. I always hated exercise before, but now I love it. I feel like a completely different person, and I have to get to know myself all over again. Do I love my body? No. Do I hate my body? No. But I want to make it stronger.
The first three pictures are me 10 weeks post partum with number two. The fourth is a picture of my son at home.The fifth is my two boys. the sixth is my son in the days after surgery: his chest was kept open for five days. The final photo is my son after they closed his chest.