Tuesday, May 29, 2012

One Crazy Story, Part 5: A Glimpse Into Suffering

The previous parts of this story can be viewed by clicking here for part 1, here for part 2, here for part 3, and here for part 4. Whew.

For two weeks, we waited until our appointment for the echocardiogram of Baby Boy's heart. The relief that he didn't have Down's Syndrome was so intense, and the preceding stress from wondering if he did have it didn't leave very much room for more concern about his heart. It was kind of like once you reach bottom, there are no lower depths.

On the day of the echo, we arrived at Stanford with Nate's dad and stepmom. They accompanied us for support, and it could not have been more appreciated. We found the area we were supposed to be in and I was completely unprepared for what I was about to see. We were in a pediatric cardiology unit in a specialized hospital. I should have known.

There was a couple in the waiting area with a newborn baby girl. The dad was holding her like it was for the last time. The mom had that haunted look on her face that only parents who know they are going to face the deepest depths of grief and hell, but don't know exactly when, can have. She knew her baby was going to die. It was piercing, and I could not look away.

Please don't let that be us.

My name was called and we all headed back. The echo commenced and was basically me laying there, with Nate and my in-laws sitting alongside the bed. It went on for about a half an hour, and then suddenly the technician who was performing the echo said that she needed to go get the cardiologist. She instantly saw by the look on my face what her words had done to me - stopped my heart. She explained that she couldn't get a particular image reading and she needed the cardiologist's help. A few minutes later, she returned with the cardiologist, and the cardiologist resumed the echo. A few minutes after that, the cardiologist suddenly blurted out that everything is great. The heart is perfect. So perfect, in fact, that she does not need me to return for the 20-week follow-up echo.

Another bullet dodged. More crushing relief. CAN WE GET SOME CHAMPAGNE, PEOPLE??? Anyone? Ooooh, that's right, I'm pregnant. We left, and on the way out we passed some kind of prenatal unit. I caught a glimpse of a woman who was about 5 or 6 months pregnant sitting in the waiting room, sobbing into her hands. Just sobbing. A man was standing next to her, despair all over his face, hands flopping about ineffectually. Given the hospital, the unit, and her condition, I had no doubt that they had just received devastating news about their baby. It was a total punch to the gut and the heart to witness. Absolutely heartbreaking. The only-Alzheimer's-will-let-me-forget-that-sight kind of heartbreaking. We reached the elevators, and there was a couple in it looking about as forlorn as you can look; the woman had a hospital gown on and was holding a Medela bottle of pumped breast milk. They got off on the floor of the neonatal intensive care unit, holding each other as though one might fall if the other let go. Again, only Alzheimer's....

Jesus God. While we received fantastic news there, it was a place full of despair and heartbreak. I never want to go back. My heart aches for anybody who has to be there.

Four weeks later, an in-depth ultrasound was performed on Baby Boy to look for those other birth defects that the nuchal translucency indicated could be present. About halfway through it, Dr. S told me that he saw a marker for Down's Syndrome, and I about shit myself. He confirmed that the CVS came back negative for DS, then told me that one of the kidneys was enlarged because it wasn't draining urine. Apparently, DS fetuses sometimes don't have properly functioning kidneys. But this was one of those things where maybe the kidney had a blockage that could be problematic or maybe we just happened to catch sight of it just before it drained.

Good God, will it ever end?

He told me not to be concerned, that he would just watch over it for the next couple of months. He said that he rarely sees these types of things not resolve themselves. And then he performed the rest of the ultrasound and declared the fetus otherwise perfect. 

A couple of months later, another ultrasound of the enlarged kidney showed that it had drained. We were set. A couple of months after that, on August 25th, 2010, Nate and I arrived at the hospital, and he took the last photo that will ever be taken of me while pregnant. It's a bit grainy.


And a couple of hours later, after being prepped for the c-section, we heard the cry of Baby Brandon. 

Even though we had been given the all-clear on him, and he was tested every which way possible, somehow, not until he was born did Nate and I know that he was okay. Our emotions had been so strung out over him that it was not until we heard his cries that we knew he was really okay. And we both cried with sheer relief.


I don't know who the hell this mom and baby are, but here's a nice stock c-section aftermath photo for you. Just kidding, it's Brandon and I. I don't know if my eyes are so shiny and bright from tears, happiness, the operating room lights, the fact that I was getting a tubal ligation at that moment, or all of the above, but I think it's safe to say that I was one happy mama.

That night, when people had left and Nate was sleeping, I was holding Brandon and looking at him and I felt absolute euphoria and bone-deep gratitude. After all we had been through, to be holding this little guy that I never expected and thought I was going to lose several times over, I found myself feeling the happiest and most content that I had felt in probably all of my life. It was fleeting, and it was a feeling of such intensity that I know I will never feel it again. 


After introducing Brandon to the world our friends and family, we got many comments about how he's the Second Coming of Christ, The Messiah, or bound for exceptionally great things, given all that he survived and dodged to be here. Maybe they're right, or maybe he's going to work in a gas station all his life and do nothing greater than help little old ladies check their oil. Either way is fine with me. Most days, I'm just glad he's here.


I've also since paid attention to what people have to say about prenatal screening/testing. Many people who had the screening done and received false positives were later really upset at all the stress they had to go through for no reason (understandable), and they actually became anti-prenatal screening because of it. They felt that it wasn't worth it.


I disagree. I feel that it was worth going through the stress because in the end, we had all the knowledge that we possibly could have had. We had no surprises when he was born. It was worth it to go through the angst and have it be for naught than to have had the other result: no screening, have something be wrong with the baby, and not know until he was born. I believe in the screening and testing because I believe that parents have the right to know so they can educate and prepare themselves for what they are about to face. 


So I'm not angry at all we went through. It didn't make me bitter. If anything, it has given me a deeper sense of gratitude and appreciation for Brandon, and for the frailty of life in general. For the first year of his life, every single day, I would feel a brief jolt of deep thankfulness that he was here. I would be holding him or watching him and it would strike me. Thank you, baby, for being here. I'm so happy that you made it. It was an interesting phenomenon because I didn't experience that with the other two boys. Obviously, I'm happy they are here but they didn't inspire that daily feeling like Brandon did. And after Brandon turned a year old and started doing the toddler things that drive me absolutely nuts, and the chaos and insanity amped up quite a bit, the feeling started occurring less and less. Now I'll maybe feel it monthly. It's always there, deep in my heart, but my ability to acknowledge it has waned significantly. It's hard to feel grateful when he's being a little punk. 


And some days, when he's really killing me with his shit, I think to myself, You're lucky we went through all that, or I'd seriously drop-kick you off at the nearest adoption agency right now. I'm not kidding, dude. You're lucky.

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So now, being a family where the kids outnumber the parents, it's crazy as shit. There is a significant difference going from two to three kids. In either the next post or the one after, I'll lay out how it has impacted our family and things to think about, if you are thinking about adding a third child to your family but aren't sure. I'll preface it by saying that my opinion is it's something to think a lot more heavily about than adding a second child.

Thanks for being such awesome readers. I appreciate it.

Here's the link to the last installment: Part 6

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26 comments:

  1. Yay, Baby Brandon. Is it horrible that this story makes me want a Jesus baby after I have my IUD put in on the 22?

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    1. So yes, good job, you did have it all figured out by my "About Me"! And nah, it's not horrible to want to go through all that shit for a Jesus baby! Hahaaa! But remember, even Jesus babies cry....

      Don't worry, I think I took one for the team in this; you're probably safe with your IUD. You're going with the Mirena, I hope?

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    2. Yes, Mirena, even though I had a WHOREndous time with it the first time I tried it. But that was before two babies stretched my uterus to the size of a bounce house.

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    3. I LOVE the WHOREndous! I am so going to use that. Well, good luck with it this time around... and since many people don't get their period with it, I genuinely hope that I don't read a "I Didn't Know I Was Pregnant" post about you giving birth on a toilet. ;-)

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    4. Hahahahaha. I was getting really fat but I thought it was just my thyroid and all the two buck chuck, then...

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    5. ...felt the need to poop, heard the biggest splash EVER...
      And even though I marinated in two buck chuck the entire pregnancy, the baby is perfectly healthy! It's a JESUS BABY!!!

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  2. Ha!! You girls crack me up.
    Those hospital units are hell indeed. I was lucky to only visit, and not be "those people", but I still never want to be back in there. Even visiting that place though, is the reason that makes me pump more than I need to. I donate my excess milk to a newborn/preemie who really needs it (via an organization that screens it, pasteurizes it and distributes it to NICU's around the country).

    Great story - fantastic ending!!

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    1. Pumping sucks, so you are truly awesome for doing it to donate! We've talked about this in the past, like you probably recall, and I'm sure the moms and babies who receive the milk truly appreciate it!

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    2. I think my pumping days are numbered....Mama needs her boobs back. Lol.

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    3. Actually, it might be the husband that wants em back. I quote "when are those going to be mine again?"

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  3. You make me cry at work too often. Why am I still reading your blog? ;) Oh wait, I'm 11 weeks pregnant, I cry at everything.

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    1. Awww! Don't worry, I'm getting back to the regular posts that *shouldn't* make anybody cry... but yeah, since you're pregnant you might still cry! :-)

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  4. I found this story mere days after getting my IUD, and even though I cried like a baby getting it placed (after having our 5th child, another OOPS! baby) I think I might want it out now. :P This is entirely your fault you know.. lol j/k <3

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    1. Heehee! Actually, I think you'll be pretty safe... I took one for the team and so you're all probably good! ;-)
      Did you get the Mirena or Paragard?

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    2. I got Mirena.. the promises of even a CHANCE of not having my period won me over.. after being pregnant for much of the last 5 years I don't deal with a regular period very well.. lol

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    3. I understand that! But like I told I Like Beer And Babies at the top of this comment thread, don't get knocked up, not know it, and give birth to a baby on a toilet! :-)

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    4. LOL, you know you just jinxed us, right? :p

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  5. Blub. A beautiful end to an emotional rollar coaster of a story! I love your blog. In fact, I've just created a blog roll of my fav blogs on my own site and you're on it! If we lived in the same neighbourhood I'd be round with a bottle of wine :-)

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    1. Oh, thank you, Catherine!
      And I'm sure we'd have fun knocking back the wine together! :-)

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  6. Wow, crazy story! Your blog is awesome. Love your humor, you sound just like me most of the time. I went through almost the exact same thing with my 2nd, minus the IUD. Had the same bad NT scan, had an early amnio at 15 wks and during the amnio they saw a "banana sign" in the brain that either indicated spina bifida or some unknown brain deformation. So we had to wait for the amnio results which thankfully came back normal but then had to wait until 19 weeks to see if the brain thing was ok, it was. And then came the wait until 23 weeks to make sure the echo was ok. It was. And to top it all off I was violently ill twice after this and had to be hospitalized. I could literally not believe that my little girl was perfect when she was born. I just kept asking, is she ok, is she ok? The nurses thought I was insane, they are like, yeah, she's fine. I have never found anyone who remotely relates to how hard it was. Anyway, I was so surprised to read this and see the similarities. So glad it all worked out! I, too, have to remind myself of how hard the pregnancy was and how bad I wanted her to be healthy, because now at 2 1/2 she is a real challenge! Looking forward to more hilarious blog posts!

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    1. Oh my gosh, Emily! I am SO glad everything turned out okay for you and your daughter! Thank you for sharing your story with me, too. Yes, it's crazy how a tantruming, whining, screaming kid can make you forget in a heartbeat all that you went through. But it's nice, during the quiet times, to remember and know how close it all came to having a different outcome and to feel the gratitude. Such a trip.

      Good to hear from you, hope to hear from you again in the future! Thank you for your nice compliments!

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  7. Remember that book idea mentioned earlier in the comments (I think it was mentioned Nov or Dec. of 2011). You could write that book on this series ALONE! You, my dear woman, have QUITE a way with words. I was with you for each of those tests, hovering over your doctor's office/hospital room in that weird way that I do when I read a very interesting story and block everything else out. I was near tears when unwanted results were given (even though I already knew the outcome from reading about Brandon in previous posts). I was elated when the "happy" results were given. I felt every heart-pounding, emotionally wrenching second of it. I love that you have the courage to share with us such a tumultuous series of events for yourself and your family. My only question would be how did Ethan and Connor react to this roller-coaster? Kids pick up on shit quick, so surely they must have realized that something was out of the ordinary.

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    1. Thank you so much! Ethan and Connor actually didn't really react to the roller coaster too much, as we tried to keep things under wraps in front of them. They were also really little, so they were pretty absorbed in their own little worlds. Thankfully!

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