This blog really starts in the middle of our story. I have had some requests to tell the “whole story,” and although I would have to write a book in order to do that, I will try to fill in some of the gaps. As Matthew’s first birthday approaches, I find myself reminiscing about “the beginning,” and I do want to write down these memories before I forget any more of the details. (Someday, I just might write that book, so if you have any of your own memories to share or if I leave out something, please share them in a comment!)
Matthew was a surprise from the beginning . . . the very beginning. Aaron and I wanted to have another child in the not-too-distant future, but we were planning on waiting at least a few more months. It seemed like Micah, our 14-month-old, had just started sleeping through the night, and I was enjoying being back in “skinny clothes” for a little while.
I handed Aaron the “positive” pregnancy test with a hesitant smile – not sure what his reaction would be. I don’t remember exactly what he said, but I do know that he grinned from ear to ear, whooped with glee, scooped me up and spun me around the room before carefully putting me down and asking seriously, “Are you feeling alright?”
Aaron was in the middle of his first year of family-practice residency, and it wasn’t easy. He worked long, hard hours, and had to catch up on rest when he did come home. (Micah’s first sentence was, “Dada go bye-bye. Dada go night-night!”) But, we were dreading the second year, as we had been told that it was even more difficult, with even more hours and a few out-of-town rotations. That is one reason we weren’t planning on having #2 just yet, but I remember thinking, “God must want this baby. If we waited a few more months, it wouldn’t be this particular baby. This must be a special baby, a true gift from God.”
However, we had no idea just how difficult that second year of Aaron’s residency would be.
There was nothing unusual about the first part of my pregnancy. With Aaron being a physician and my training as a Physician Assistant, along with this being our second child, we had this thing down. We refused the early screening blood tests, partially because we knew that they are terrible tests (the “quad screen” is falsely positive 95% of the time!), and partially because we would never choose to abort our child, no matter what. We did do our own ultrasound to get a sneak-peek at our baby’s gender, though, and discovered we were having another boy.
The thought that this baby was anything but perfect and healthy never even crossed our minds. It should have, since we are both in the medical profession and see sick babies all the time . . . but it didn’t. Aaron didn’t even come with me to my 20-week ultrasound because he needed to save his sick time for when the baby was born. Besides, I was fine – we’d done this before.
The ultrasonographer didn’t say much at all. I had taken Micah with me to the appointment because my babysitter was busy that morning, and he did great . . . for the first 20 minutes. After that, he got restless and started fussing and complaining a little bit. The tech still didn’t say anything – I thought maybe she was having a bad day . . . and started to wonder if Micah was bothering her. She was sure taking a long time. Pretty soon she left, and returned with a nurse who took Micah by the hand and asked if he wanted some animal cookies. The ultrasonographer continued silently and I thought, “So that was it – she doesn’t like little kids. She is sure in a strange profession then – she looks at little babies all day long! Man, she sure is slow, though.” She left again, and returned with my obstetrician. That’s the first time I thought, “uh-oh.”
Dr. Harrington studied the ultrasound pictures, and was so kind as he explained that they could only see 3 chambers in our little boy’s heart. There were 2 clear bottom chambers, but it looked like only 1 top chamber. But his eyes were so sad, like he knew more than he was telling me. He called Aaron at work to explain the problem, and set us up to see the specialists in Seattle.
I’m not sure why I wasn’t too worried at first. I guess I thought it would be better to wait until we had all the information before we wasted time and energy worrying. But, As Aaron and I talked later, he seemed much more upset and worried than I was. “Maybe she’s just a bad ultrasonographer and couldn’t see the chambers very well. She did say he was really active and squirming around a lot.”
“Maybe it’s just a big ASD. Those sometimes close on their own, and if not, it’s just one surgery to repair it. He still has 20 weeks to grow!”
“We really don’t know anything yet. We’ll find out what’s really going on when we go to Seattle.”
“I know. I just hope it’s just a heart defect.”
“What do you mean, ‘just a heart defect?'” Now he was borrowing trouble and starting to upset me. “They didn’t say anything about anything else – and besides, isn’t a heart defect bad enough?”
“Sorry. I just can’t help thinking about all the things that are associated with these kinds of heart defects.”
“Oh.” I knew that. But, since Dr. Harrington hadn’t said anything about any other problems – he hadn’t mentioned shortened long bones or missing nasal bone, or any other “markers” for anything. Don’t they see those things on the ultrasound? There was that sad look he had on his face, though – like he knew more than he was telling us.
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Chapter 2 will be coming soon