Three years ago I walked into an ultrasound imaging center to get pictures of my baby. She was being a stinker last time so we had to come back to try again. My husband and her big sister were with me in case we couldn’t get a picture we at least got to see her before she made her grand entrance. The previous week I was in Nashville for Blissdom when she flipped from her breech position. The moment the tech rolled over my stomach I knew something was wrong. I’ve seen enough ultrasounds to know what a baby’s heart should look like in utero. It’s the one thing that moves more than anything else, so most people focus on it. You see the chambers opening and closing. You think about how complex the heart really is and how theirs is so tiny.
There was no chamber opening when she grazed over the area and I sat up a little when I noticed it. Then she went back and started clicking fast and fine tuning the machine. She then looked at me and the moment our eyes met I had confirmation. Something was wrong. She asked if my husband should take JaMonkey into the hall.
After that it became a whirlwind and my mind blocked out most of the painful details. I couldn’t talk about it much, to the point that I wrote one single blog post about it to update friends and family and then I didn’t speak of it again until I went to therapy. My birth story gave me PTSD. That sounds crazy right? That something that is supposed to be a special time in your life became so scary and painful that you block it out and when you think about you have a panic attack. The pregnancy itself was terribly hard on me. I suffered from antenatal depression and then an ultrasound tech told me that I should head to a hospital. That it didn’t matter which one, to just go.
I was glad to hear she was wrong about my baby not going to make it. I’m glad they brought the head of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta’s cardiologist team from Sibley Heart Group. No mother wants to hear, I don’t know what is wrong but we need to take her out now to find out. Especially one deathly afraid of needles. I wish I had just passed out, everyones job would have been much easier. Instead I freaked out and the world started crashing down around me.
I saw her for a split second before they took her away. Long enough to see the shock and strain on her face. I imagine if you ripped me out of my warm cocoon into a freezing room, I would be pretty shocked also. The head of cardiology came to tell me about her condition while I was in recovery. He handled me with the utmost care by preparing me for what he was about to say. That it wasn’t a death sentence and that he has lots of patience with the same condition. Regardless, when someone says your baby is in heart failure due to her heart beating too fast, it’s scary.
I didn’t get to see her again for some time after that because I wasn’t able to get out of bed yet. I got pictures sent back to me when my husband went to visit with her. She didn’t even have a name for four days. She spent a little over a month in the NICU. They wouldn’t release her until I learned how to stop her SVT attacks. Telling a mother she needs to startle her fragile infant by shoving (not placing) ice onto her face or hanging her upside down by her feet is pretty hard. The cardiologist told me she was more difficult than other SVT cases they had seen. They had her on two heart medications. One of which was used for older patients and had to be mixed by a special pharmacy.
The last night your baby spends in the NICU they have special rooms that you can bring the baby into like a bedroom. Mom gets the safety of a team of nurses and doctors in case something goes wrong but you’re “on your own” for the evening. It’s to prepare you and give you confidence for the coming days of taking care of a tiny human that was brought into the world too early. Equipped with a heart monitor, tons of papers on what I’m supposed to do in case of an SVT attack and a nurse that will visit me at home periodically they sent us home.
The day we left the hospital was the last time she had an SVT attack. I couldn’t believe it and neither could any of her doctors. We were cleared of our monthly cardiologist appointments at her 6 month mark. With the help of online support groups and her cardiologist being so awesome it wasn’t as scary as I thought. It’s a manageable condition that lots of people have. There is a chance that it could present itself again later in her life but she’ll be able to tell me about the feelings her heart is having instead of me having to check every couple of hours.
You can’t even tell that she was a preemie now. She caught up in size and has the biggest heart for any little girl I’ve ever seen. She will find any excuse to snuggle with you and loves giving hugs. She has no fears or cares in the world. Except maybe going potty on the big girl potty, she could care even less about that. Her big beautiful blue eyes and curly brown hair make me smile every day. Her love for her big sister melts my heart even more. She completes our family in so many ways.
I love you squishy monster, Happy Birthday.