If you missed part one of the story of our Miracle baby, please read it here.
I don’t remember the drive to my Moms house even though it only takes 6 minutes tops. Maybe I was on autopilot. Maybe I practiced what I would say. Maybe I cried the whole way.
I walked in the side door, the one that walks straight into the kitchen and kitchen table where they were eating breakfast. I can still see my Stepdad sitting where he always does right by the window. I can still see his face, was he stunned or shocked to see me? Me, the not early riser, there at their house at 6:30 in the morning.
I must have looked like I was about to fall apart because Mom stood up, and I heard the words “The baby”. I’m sure I said them but that choked voice I didn’t recognize was all I heard. I said again, “The baby’s not going to make it.” And like that she had me in a bear hug holding me tight. I tried to cry but there wasn’t many tears left so they came out like racked sobs.
When my body stopped shaking, Mom led me over to the chair and a half that we’ve always squeezed on together. I slowly explained the evening before. The message on the answering machine. The phone call to the midwife. The prognosis.
We talked about the worst. What if this baby was so terminally mis-formed like they thought? What if the doctors thought I should have a therapeutic abortion. I am pro-life, but therapeutic abortions where the baby is terminally mis-formed are a whole different beast. What do I say when people ask what happened? What if they judge me for a choice that wasn’t really mine? Mom held me tight and said “You don’t tell them Kate. You tell them you lost the baby. And if you don’t say anything more, no one will ask anymore”.
We tried to talk about the more positive side. What was the treatment plan? What would it be like? These were all questions I didn’t know the answer to. And I didn’t know when they would get answered.
I don’t function well without regular food, so Mom insisted that I eat something. I had sprouted bread with butter and almond butter. I thought I didn’t want it, but once I started eating I gobbled it down. It’s amazing what talking with your Mom and eating a decent breakfast will do for your spirits.
I was glad to have told my Mom, but ready to go back and be with my little family. When I got home I played with Mac and sat on the couch with Mare. We were playing a waiting game. Wait to hear from doctors, wait to hear from midwives, how many days would we have to wait for this?
We were relieved and surprised when at 9 am the phone rang.
“Can you be in Victoria at 2 for an appointment at the hospital with an Obstetrician?”
They wanted us to see the Perinatologist, (One step above an Obstetrician, specializing in pre-natal care of a baby) but he was away and Dr. Cooper said he had time to see us.
Of course we’ll take it I answered. Then the rush started. That means we needed to leave on a 11:50 ferry off our little island. We didn’t want to take Mac, and a quick text to Mom revealed that she had business meetings this morning that she couldn’t get out of, but that she could take him later in the day. Next option was my sister Molly, but her phone wasn’t working. I knew she’d be home, so I left myself half an hour to tell her and visit her before I would have to leave her house for the ferry. Marius had some loose ends to tie up too so we went our separate ways just after 10 am with plans to meet up and head to the ferry at 11.
I was calm when I went to Molly’s. She wasn’t surprised to see me as showing up unannounced isn’t uncommon. Mac and Amy (my then 2 year old niece) played around while Mol, her husband Jer and I sat in the living room.
“So how did the ultrasound go yesterday?” she innocently asked.
I was surprised by myself, because I didn’t cry, instead I slowly started to tell the story of what happened. I put it into layman’s terms so it was easier to understand.
“The baby has fluid surrounding and compressing his left lung,” I explained, “There is a cystic hygroma which is a water pocket on the neck that’s usually a genetic marker for Down Syndrome or other similar ones. Maggie (midwife) doesn’t know what a cystic hygroma is. And it looks like the heart is malformed. It doesn’t look good”
The fact that our well seasoned midwife didn’t know what a cystic hygroma was made me a bit nervous. It obviously wasn’t very common.
She was shocked. She didn’t cry and neither did I. It all seemed removed and not real at this point because there I was sitting their healthy with my 18 week pregnant belly, and Molly with her just into third trimester belly.
“So what happens now?” she asked.
I told her about our call this morning and how we were going to go to Victoria for an appointment. Typical of our family the first thing she does is quickly figure out how she can help and tells me she can take Mac. I chuckle and tell her that that’s why I was at her house.
I realize the time and that I need to be heading out. Mac barely notices me leave as him and Amy love playing together. We hug, they wish me good luck and I headed to meet Marius not knowing what the day would bring.
It was a quiet trip over. I napped in the car because…well, I was pregnant and that should be reason enough on its own besides the fact that I didn’t sleep the night before.
When we were in the CFAU (Children and Families Ambulatory Unit) of Victoria General Hospital I couldn’t help but wonder if this was a taste of what was to come. There was heavily pregnant woman and newborns that all looked like this wasn’t their first visit judging by their comfort there.
I was amazed by the speed which we were brought into Dr. Coopers office. God knows what you need, because Dr. Cooper knew just how to speak to one sad Mama and a confused Dad. He cut to the chase and pulled up the ultrasound pictures right away.
“I see nothing wrong with this babies heart,” He told us right off the bat.
“From what I can see here there is nothing wrong with the heart, but we’ll book an appointment for a echocardiogram with the Pediatric cardiologist anyways to confirm.” A brick lifted off of one shoulder.
I don’t think he could have told me something better. But then he did.
He proceeded to draw a diagram, writing and drawing upside down the whole time so we could see of what was up with the baby, what treatment options were, and what optional procedures were. Basically, the cystic hygroma meant there was about a 60% chance of the baby having Down Syndrome, Turners, or another couple ones. He gave us a brief run down of what people with those were like. We sternly said that those were not deal breakers for us. He agreed.
An amniocentesis could tell them more, and the fluid surrounding the lungs could be to do with Downs, or it could not. While it was ultimately our choice about the amnio, we decided to think on it. The cystic hygroma was only 6 mm big, but who knows whether that would grow or not.
“So tell me,” I asked Dr. Cooper, “Our midwife was given the impression by the radiologist that all signs pointed to a therapeutic abortion”
His words were like angels singing. “I see nothing terminal about the baby in this ultrasound.”
He went on “I see different procedures like a thoracentesis that will drain the plural effusion, but I don’t see anything terminal about this. There is nothing that isn’t treatable”
I literally held Marius’ hand skipping out of his office. We went in thinking we were going to lose the baby and left knowing we’d have a fight, and potentially a special needs baby. But we were strong, and those weren’t deal breakers. Bring it on I thought.
When we got to the car, I texted my sisters and Mom, then left a message at the midwives office. We were so excited and smiling. It was a beautiful Wednesday afternoon and we were going to have another baby after all.
Thinking back to that point, I’m glad we weren’t aware of the fight we still had, because that joy we had, the hope and excitement, is what got us through.
Part 3 will soon follow