Thursday, March 18, 2010

March 18

One year ago today.

At 17 weeks and 3 days pregnant with my third baby, I went to Maternal Fetal Medicine for my second check-up and ultrasound (my 3rd ultrasound at this point). Having already received a very good report at my 7 week and 11 week ultrasounds I was not expecting anything unusual. I was actually thinking, gee why do I even need to be here. I have had two healthy children already and so far there is no indication that this baby is anything but healthy. Kevin went to the appointment with me because we knew there would be a really good chance we could learn the gender of the baby that day. Plus, he liked going to the ultrasound appointments with me so he could "see" the baby too.

I remember exactly what I was wearing and even how I had my hair done. I remember thinking that I would soon need to pull out my transition and maternity clothes because my regular clothes were getting way too tight. I had on a knee length denim skirt, a beige camisole and light green tshirt. I was thinking how silly of me to wear my one green shirt that fit me the day after St. Patrick's day. My hair was short and somewhat blondish looking because of highlights.

I went through the normal routine of being weighed and blood pressure checked. I returned to the waiting room and waited to be called back. When the ultrasound tech was ready we followed her back to the room. The first question she asked us was whether or not we wanted to know the gender of the baby. I was excited and said yes..if she could see it clearly. Kevin was still a little on the fence. We did not find out with the boys and waited until delivery. I was pretty adamant that I wanted to know this time because my biggest worry at that point was that I was going to have three boys and how in the world would I handle three boys.

Amazing how quickly those thoughts become so trivial.

I got on the table and the tech began doing the ultrasound. She checked immediately and told us the baby was a girl. Kevin and I were both speechless. The tech was joking about how it was very easy to see because the baby was sitting with her legs wide open. Kevin joked back that it was okay now, but by the time she was 16 she had better not still be sitting with her legs wide open. I think I even got a little teary. I was thinking, oh my goodness, my mom is going to be so thrilled...she is getting a little granddaughter. How cool is this that we are getting a little girl. She took a few pictures and put "girl" on them, including the picture with her legs spread.

She then proceeded with the ultrasound and I could just tell there was something wrong. She kept looking at the heart. The ultrasound techs are generally not allowed to say anything to you about the health of the baby because that is up to the doctors to do. However, I could sense there was something really not right. Besides looking at the heart over and over and over, she was really quiet. Way too quiet. When she left the room my heart dropped. I felt sick. I knew we were not getting good news. I just kept repeating to Kevin that the tech kept looking at the heart and that cannot be good. Kevin, being the eternal optimist, told me to quit worrying that he was sure it was nothing big.

When the doctor came in I was certain it was bad. The techs do not get the doctors in the middle of the ultrasound unless there is something really, really wrong. The doctor introduced himself and looked with the ultrasound himself. He left the room saying he would be back in a few minutes. When he returned he gave us the most horrific news. The baby we now knew would be our daughter may die even before delivery because the doctor could see several extremely severe defects. Really, really, really scary, lethal heart defects. To say that this doctor has no bedside manner is an understatement. He could not or would not really answer our questions and the only option he really gave us was termination. I literally could not move for a good 10 minutes. I wanted him to take it back. I wanted him to say that is was okay and that our daughter would be fine. Fortunately, Kevin was not as dazed as me and when he heard termination he immediately went into fight mode. There was no way we were going to terminate this pregnancy, this little girl, our daughter. We got the mfm doctor's diagnosis of aortic atresia, vsd and one other defect I can't remember now. Kevin then demanded to know where we could get a second opinion. The mfm doctor gave us the name and number of the man who changed our lives and gave us hope.

The rest of the day and night we were stunned. We honestly did not know what to do or even how to tell people. I just kept praying for it to not be real. For God to heal this tiny baby and that everything would be fine. She would be healthy. I kept thinking the doctor just did not see it correctly. My baby girl was not in the right position, she was squished up against the wall or that they could not really see her heart. However, none of that was true. The mfm doctor did see the problems. Kevin called and got me an appointment the very next week to see the fetal cardiologist in St. Pete.

When we got home we researched what the diagnosis was and realized that aortic atresia is most often lethal. Since everyone knew we had an appointment that day Kevin and I had to try and find a way to start calling people. I knew if my mom did not hear from us soon she would be tracking us down. I tried. I tried to tell her. I could not stop crying long enough to be coherent. Kevin had to tell both of our families and friends.

I remember all these details so specifically.

Over the last year I have learned more about the human heart and development in babies then I ever wanted to know. I have seen more sick babies then I have ever wanted to see. I have seen families devastated by the just delivered news that their child did not make it. I would be lying if I said that everything has been great. I was (and still am) scared pretty much all the time. I get sad every time I see my friends babies who are around the same age as C and realize what a normal healthy baby they have and that C will never be normal. I get sad all over again when I have to explain yet again that there is no cure for C and I see the understanding finally click and then I see the pity. I cannot stand being pitied.

There are days, when I am at my most lowest point, when I wonder if I should have taken the easy road. We did have the option to terminate the pregnancy. I struggled then and I struggle now with knowing that I thought about choosing that easy road. I struggled then and I struggle now with being admired for my strength and character. Most days I do not feel I deserve to be admired by all these wonderful people.

And yet, even knowing I thought about choosing the easy road, I chose to fight for my tiny unborn daughter. I wanted to find the best care, the best doctors, the best surgeon and the best hospital. I resolved to do everything I could to give my daughter the best chance once she was born.

One year ago today.


Lisa said...

Sending you a BIGHUG and peaceful thoughts.

angie said...

Sending happy thoughts to you all & you continue to be in our thoughts + prayers.

Keysgal@QuietWater said...

It has taken me a while to be able to respond with a post. It has indeed been a bittersweet year for all of us. But when I hold our precious little C and she gives me that heartbreaking smile I can't imagine a world without her in it. What a wonderful tribute to the human spirit. To watch her go through all the procedures and scary times with that sweet smile on her face just makes me a stronger person. If that tiny little girl can get through all of this why would I ever complain about anything? You might have mixed emotions about your choice but I am still here to tell you and Kevin I am very proud of you for making the decision to give her a chance at life. You continue to do whatever is necessary to get her the best of care. I know your days are not easy. I can't imagine the fear of losing a child but I admire your strength and courage. Where many would have chosen to do the "easy" thing you didn't. You will never have to have regrets. Much love.

Kristi said...

And, Ashley, I have to add that just because you had those thoughts and doubts, doesn't mean you aren't a strong person. You did choose the hard road, but you and your family will be better for it. It is only human to have those thoughts and doubts - as ANY of us would have had. You and Kevin are terrific parents and you need to keep hearing it. And, we all love that little girl!