And then there were six. Weeks, that is. Six weeks until the 39th week or D-Day. My scheduled C section is for August 8th. As the days comes closer I am finding that sleep is getting more and more difficult to come by. Between the heat, inability to find any position that is comfortable and having to get up to pee, I find myself lying in bed, staring up at the ceiling while wondering what lies in store for us. Some aspects of this hit me harder than others. It changes frequently. Last night it was the difference this pregnancy is from the previous ones.
My first pregnancy was full of wonder , excitement and lots of swelling. My feet became bread loaves and I waddled around Rutland indulging craving after craving. Every little movement brought a smile to my face, and we looked forward to the impending October 21st arrival. She arrived on October 17th at 7:45 am after a 7 hour labor sans pain medications. I am very proud of how I handled her birth, because it showed me a strength I never knew existed and it was an experience I am in awe of to this day. A few hours after birth I remember looking out of the window and all of the foliage had peaked just in time for her arrival. It was beautiful. I held her for hours and looked into her beautiful little face in complete wonder. Being adopted, Elizabeth was my first blood relative that I had ever met and she was all mine. I went home the next day in anticipation of seeing my mom and grandparents and could hardly wait to introduce them to their new grandchild.
My second pregnancy was very different. It had been thirteen years since the previous one and it was quite a shock to my system. I had just lost both of my grandparents, and my mother was unable share my joy making it an emotionally difficult pregnancy. Chris and I were still getting to know each other while preparing for a baby at the same time which was not the most ideal of situations. We made it through and after a few days of “Are these contractions, are they not contractions?”, we went to Jordan Hospital and had a cesarean on her due date. Adeline Sara was born at 2 am after great fanfare and a tense spinal. Because of the c section, my milk was delayed and she was starving. She had trouble latching on and didn’t understand that 3AM was not a good time to be up screaming. I became very depressed at what I perceived to be my ineptness at being a new mom all over again. I felt guilty that I couldn’t spend a lot of time with Liz and tried to find a balance between Addie’s demands and Liz’s needs. It was quite a learning curve, but after her first birthday we felt like we reached a good place and life was good.
My third pregnancy started out great- I was able to run, stay active, did my best not to nap in the afternoon and dealt with the morning sickness just fine. We also didn’t say anything, for superstitious reasons and decided to wait until after our first appointment to tell everyone. I felt great and we were both excited about having another baby to our new family. I had always wanted three children and was very happy that we were ready to make sacrifices to have another one. Soon the day came when we were going to have our ultrasound to see what we were going to have. That morning we were giddy with happiness at the prospect of finally knowing and drove off to Brookline in high spirits. Waiting to be called into the room felt like an eternity, and once called I felt like I was skipping down the hallway. The steps I took to get to the examination room were the same steps that led me away from having a typical pregnancy. I will never forget hearing those words of “I am so sorry to tell you this but your baby will not survive with the heart as it is right now.”
The afternoon was a blur of an amnio, sobbing tears, being escorted down a different hallway so we wouldn’t have to face anyone in the waiting room to speak to our doctor and hundreds of questions. What does this mean? How did this happen? Was it the medication I had been taking that caused the left side to stay undeveloped? What do we do now? How do we tell Liz, we aren’t even going to see her until later that night and she knew we were going to find out the sex today. I called my work to let them know that I wasn’t coming in and I could barely speak between sobbing breaths. We scheduled an appointment at Children’s Hospital Advanced Fetal Medicine department to get an echocardiogram to see what exactly was going on. I woke up the next morning, turned to my husband with tears in my eyes and said “I would give anything to have yesterday morning back. To be in that ignorant bliss, to have that joy back.”
So here we are, 6 weeks out from when Isabelle Faith is to make her appearance. Since then I have reached out to Sisters-by-Heart, Little Hearts, Children’s Heart Foundation and learned that it’s okay to be excited but scared. It’s okay that I couldn’t bring myself to give her a name right away. I learned that this is something that doctors can provide a solution for, that hypoplastic left heart syndrome isn’t the death sentence it used to be. I learned that people sometimes can’t be by your side and to find people who will be. I have learned that family will do everything they can for you because they hurt too and they hurt for us. I have learned that people you work with will provide support without being asked, and some even have walked a similar path. Most importantly, I have learned that my husband, Liz and even Addie are willing to walk this tough road together and we are being held up by each other. Addie provides us with every day joy, Liz gives us pride in her accomplishments and has made it clear that she wants to be there every step of the way. Our parents go their respective places of worship and pray for us, we have been added to prayer circles in a variety of faiths. I have also learned that it is okay to be mad at God, and that it will pass eventually but to have faith that it will pass.
Most importantly, through fellow heart families, I have learned that happy endings are possible and there are gifts that come with having a heart warrior. Today, right now, I am looking forward to meeting our little warrior Isabelle Faith in spite of the circumstances.