My son just turned one year old, and Christmas has come and gone. A lot has happened since my last post in 2013, one that I regret not writing about. I would have been novel to write down my thoughts on my pregnancy, of becoming a mom and all the hopes and dreams and even Pinterest inspirational photos of all things baby. But things never really work out that way, no matter how much you try or want it.
I first discovered I was pregnant around April 2014. It wasn’t a happy accident, but a deliberate choice to try, and one we kept to ourselves since there was no way to tell for certain if I could conceive . We had to set expectations, of possibilities of failing..and what that could mean for us. So you can imagine how delirious we must have been when I got pregnant.
We were ecstatic of course and it didn’t take too long when we did the whole doctor visits, the research, and the shopping…the usual stuff you do to prepare for the baby. But despite all that, my pregnancy had been at best described as difficult.
We almost lost the baby due to hemorrhaging and I was put in strict bedrest in the first six to eight weeks. When that was corrected and I hit my second trimester, it was followed by the unusual swelling that wouldn’t go away. I went through numerous blood tests but everything was normal. The swelling got worse as weeks went by and it got so bad I had difficulty walking, standing or even sitting, much less spending time in front of a PC to type. I saw two nephrologists alongside my oby-gynocologist and still nothing, all my tests were normal.
I was grateful, and also terrified. Eclampsia was a looming issue in my entire pregnancy. And for that entire time I had no one I could feel comfortable, safe to talk to, to share my problems outside of my ever patient and supportive husband. And it was these moments when I realized just how much I miss my mom and she’s not there.
So I shouldered on. 36 weeks in, my doctor’s last ditch effort was for me to be sent to a cardiologist, who then insisted on a 2D Echo of my heart on that same day and had the results rushed to him. That was a Friday and by Sunday evening, I found myself in the Emergency Room. It started innocently enough, my asthma returned a few weeks ago prior and that night my attack was so severe that I decided that a trip to the ER for something to ease it was in order. A routine check up on my blood pressure revealed my BP was dangerously high and I was suddenly wheeled in at the critical care ward.
I was eventually wheeled to the delivery room but they couldn’t just let me give birth, and not without the results of that 2D Echo. That included finding new doctors to address some of my complications that went along my pre-eclampsia, like my asthma and whatever results that would come out of my earlier test. They needed my cardiologist, who insisted that I ALSO needed a cardio surgeon as well. It was becoming apparent that this was not going to be an ordinary delivery.
By this time, I was beginning to be get groggy . I had tubes stuck to both my arms and machines that beeped constantly. Sleep was impossible and I was thirsty. I was too out of it to be scared, my husband though was a different story, was absolutely terrified of what’s been happening. We aren’t morons, and though there had been a lack of information we both knew that whatever was happening to me, was very very bad. My oby-gyne has told me that a natural birth would be impossible because the stress alone would have sent my high-blood pressure rocketing up further. Cesarian was the only choice, one that I didn’t argue with. At that moment, all I cared was for them to deliver the baby safely.
It took a day before I was allowed to give birth. The cause became clear then: pleural effusion, a fancy way of saying you’ve got water up in your heart (and maybe some organs) It shocked us, even as the doctors explained that this kind of thing doesn’t really happen to pre-eclampsia patients and that was the reason for all the caution.
My son was born on Dec 22 in an afternoon. For a cesarean procedure, I was pretty much knocked out and only woke up minutes after my son had been wheeled away to the nursery with my husband. Despite the drugs, I remember being bitterly disappointed about missing my son’s birth and hating myself. At least I was able to see him, if albeit briefly to breast feed in the recovery room.
He was—still is—the most beautiful little thing. I was so surprised seeing him that for a moment I asked the nurse if this beautiful baby was really mine. I remember him opening his eyes and smiling, and I knew then I was smitten. I couldn’t die, no no no. My baby was healthy. I had to pull through. He did his part, now it was my turn.
I wouldn’t see him for a week after that as I was then wheeled to the ICU. Another 2D Echo revealed the water around my heart increased in volume rather than decrease after the birth and surgery was suddenly necessary to drain the fluids around my heart. Those hours that followed were a nightmare, begging just a little comfort to ease my parched lips and throat, not to mention the pain I had to endure from having a hose stuck to my chest to drain the fluid in my heart. What was worse were the nightmares and the paranoia. I almost believed people were lying to me about my baby, that he was gone and they were telling me otherwise just so I don’t kill myself.
I had remained in the hospital recovering for almost ten days or so. It had been difficult: more medication, trying to make my body remember what it was like to walk, to even breath properly (I contracted mild pneumonia when I was at the ICU) and wasn’t able to get to hold my baby for almost a week until my infection finally cleared up. But after those hurdles were past, it was just smooth sailing all the way. We even got to go home just in time for New Years!
The next few days were supposed to be dedicated for my husband and I to get to know our new baby more and get used to the changes of our lives. But that idyllic time too didn’t last. Five days after going home, it was James’ turn to be rushed to the ER. After a day and an evening of seeing our son slowly become unresponsive to the point that he barely ate or cried, and his breathing had suddenly became so shallow, we knew something was very wrong with our baby.
There is absolutely nothing so terrifying to a parent than to see their newborn child, barely responding, cold and if a little blue, as needles were being stuck into his tiny limp arms with nary a whimper. Or look on with terror in your heart as doctors finally put his tiny fragile body into an incubator and take that seemingly long walk to the NICU ward (neonatal intensive care unit), uncertain and afraid of what will happen next.
I was walking in a daze when I did the initial paperwork to confine our baby while my husband watched our son–I couldn’t stand the needles, and they didn’t need me hysterical while they tried to save his life.
It was such a bad time. I was still recovering from the birth and heart surgery, and my husband who had to watch me almost lose my life, and now watch our son in the NICU fighting for his survival, you know something had to give even for him. We both broke down, cried, prayed, and begged to whoever god was listening, to please not take our precious little boy.
The nurses in the pedia ward recognized us, the Nursery after all was in the same area and were in shock to see our son being wheeled into NICU (the room next door). The nurses knew our son a little better than the other babies, since he didn’t do the room-in with me the entire time I was confined, so seeing their little charge affected them too. The nurses would admit later on they too felt afraid and teary eyed when they saw us, and couldn’t approach us immediately. What happened the first time was a miracle in itself, and were so happy in seeing us finally go home, and now this happens, one of their wards was in NICU.
“Late onset (neonatal) sepsis” was the diagnosis. Which is a fancy term of saying “a blood infection.” It would take several days before we’d even find out what specific bacteria was in his system and the possible damage it had left in its wake. Our pediatrician (one of four currently watching over our baby) had explained that the baby was suffering from three different infections running concurrent in his system–a rarity–and had we been lax in waiting until morning to take him to the hospital, his situation would have been much worse.
Luck it seemed was on our side once again. Not only did we got him to the hospital on time, a later test revealed the bacteria didn’t reach his brain. One of the biggest fears in late onset sepsis is meningitis and there was none found. Getting him treated so quickly is what prevented the infection to get any worse. Our baby was going to be okay! This was blessed relief for us.
Our baby was..is our Christmas Miracle, and that experience pretty much taught us just how fragile our happiness was. It gave me the strength to be a full-time mom, I had vacillated if we should employ a nanny but I knew that it wouldn’t be the same. I wanted that experience to be his mom, to be the only person (other than his dad) to know him so well, because I don’t want to live and die regretting on not spending enough time being his mother. The threat on my mortality, on my child’s own mortality highlighted just how fragile, how easily there can never be second chances. It has also brought on a better appreciation of my husband, his strength and devotion to us is a thing of beauty. I certainly wouldn’t be as strong without him as my partner.
We’re a small family, not rich certainly. When everyone was enjoying their noche buenas and out of town trips, we were all recovering from various colds and flu. Christmas was a simple barely there affair, but still a beautiful one, none the less. It was a simple reminder of the previous year and how much we had to be grateful for, and ultimately that’s what the holiday’s all about.