Friday, March 7, 2014

Catching up

Wow, its hard to believe that it has been over a year since we last posted. So much has happened in the past year, both good and bad. Two years ago today, our daughter Katie had successfully made it through her first surgery and was waiting for the swelling in her chest to go down enough to be able to close her back up. It is incredibly hard to see any child like that but even more so when the child is your own.

One of the things that helped us find comfort in those days were the blogs of other heart mommies and daddies and their stories of how their little ones were thriving.  It made it easier to believe that the same would happen for Katie. It was one of the reasons why we starting blogging, in the hopes that other couples in the same situation could find comfort and hope.

When she passed away, I went looking for a different kind of blog. Blogs of the parents who were not quite so fortunate. I was searching for a glimmer of hope. A way to survive what happened. A light at the end of the tunnel. What I found was the blog of a couple whose daughter had also passed away from a very severe heart defect. They had gone on to have a wonderfully healthy baby and were able to find peace and healing. This gave me hope that we could do the same and this is the reason why I am writing again.

But it would be a long struggle for us. Those who haven't been there will never understand how stressful it is to try to get pregnant again after a loss. To carry a baby after a loss. Add onto that some major family drama and the level of stress and fear that we were under was unbearable. I was having panic attacks pretty regularly during this time. It was difficult to even think of telling people when we finally managed to get pregnant again. We waited until I was about 11 weeks along with Lily before starting to announce the pregnancy and due to fear of another loss and a hurtful comment during that stressful announcement, we didn't really spread the word much after that. Many people didn't realize we were were pregnant until I miscarried at 12 weeks 5 days and some not until I posted on Katie's birthday last year.

I will always regret how I let fear and stress suck all of the joy out of my pregnancy with Lily. That was the only time I will ever have with her and I will never get it back. I allowed the fear of losing my baby and the stress to steal the joy of new life. It took me a few months to process this but afterwards, I vowed that if God ever blessed us with another child that I would do my best to enjoy and appreciate each day that I woke up still pregnant, because that might be all we get. We prayed that God would either bless us with healthy living children someday or to help us find contentment and peace without.

When we were ready to start trying again, we found out that some well loved members of our church family were also on a similar journey to expand their families and I cannot begin to describe what a wonderful blessing it was to share this journey with them. We were able to pray for each other and provide a much needed support system for each other during a difficult, yet hopeful, time in all of our lives. I will not share names to protect their privacy but you guys know who you are and we love you!

After a lot of research, I changed my diet and my vitamins and cut out as much stress as I possibly could. Not very many people knew when we became pregnant with our third child. Only if you've lost a child can you understand the excitement and desire to share mixed with the fear that if you do tell, that you will end up having to call those same people back a few weeks later to share another loss. Each day I repeated the mantra, "Today I am pregnant!" Each day we did our best to pray about our many fears instead of worrying about them and to appreciate each day with our baby as though it might be the last.

We had some scares early on. The first time the midwife went to listen to the heart beat, she couldn't find it with the doppler. After an agonizing 10 minutes or so, ultrasound showed a tiny peanut with a steady heartbeat. I sobbed with joy that our baby was still alive.  The first three or four times the midwife tried to use the doppler the same thing happened. I think I cried at every appointment until well after I could feel the baby moving regularly.

We had another scare on Mother's Day of last year. We went for a walk and I had a small bit of bleeding. I thought for sure I was going to miscarry at that point because it was around the same point that I miscarried Lily. But praise the Lord! Ultrasound showed a thriving baby and that the bleeding was probably due to a marginal placenta previa which corrected itself as time went on.

As the weeks rolled by I began to feel little flutters. You know, the ones that stop before you are sure if it is really baby or gas. These developed into reassuring kicks and punches, which assured me on a daily basis that our baby was still alive.

The next big milestone was our 20 week ultrasound where they would look at the development of the baby's anatomy. I was so nervous that morning that I ended up puking in the sink even though morning sickness was long past. When we got to the appointment, it was all we could do to hold each other's hand reassuringly as the ultrasound tech did her job. She carefully examined each structure and we waited and prayed with baited breath as she described each healthy limb and organ. Only after she looked at the heart and reassured us that all four chambers were there did we exhale and break down in tears of joy and relief, praising God for his great mercy and compassion.

Later, a fetal echo and a final ultrasound to more closely examine the heart, brain, and spinal cord would further reassure us. Our baby boy was healthy.

The prayers and pleas did not stop there though. One thing that very rare conditions make you aware of is that the rare catastrophies do happen and they do happen to somebody and that somebody can very well be you. Even healthy babies can get sick. A million and one "could happens" were and will always be on our minds. But from what I understand - this is parenthood. Even parents who have not lost a child worry about the health and happiness of their kids. What a blessing to have a child to worry and pray over!

The day our son was born was the most wonderful blessing. The moment they placed him on my chest and I realized that they were not going to whisk him away from us was amazing. We thank God for hearing us in our time of pain and for giving us the desire of our hearts - a healthy, living child.

This is getting extremely long so I will wrap it up here, but we wanted to finally share our good news and most of all, hopefully provide encouragement to couples who are facing the same struggles that we have. To let them know that the road to healing is a long one with many bumps along the way. It is a road we are still traveling on and will be until the day we are reunited with all of our children in heaven. But it is also a road with many blessings. With happiness and joy. And somehow each bump seems smaller than it once would have and each blessing is more appreciated.

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