February is Heart Awareness Month and over the next few weeks I am going to share a little bit of our story of living with congenital heart defects.
This is part one.
When I was 16, I learned that due to my own congential birth defects (cleft lip & palate, an innocent heart murmmur, and a small-eye condition called micropthalmia) I had a slightly greater than 50% chance of having a baby with some form of a birth defect. As you can imagine, this was somewhat distressing news, especially for a girl who had dreamed of marriage and lots of babies for years.
That day the first ‘what if?’ question appeared in my mind, which slowly became many questions. What if I have a baby with a birth defect? What if I pass my defects on to a baby? Should I have kids of my own? Is it too risky? What if the baby gets something worse than what I had? Although the questions were never overwhelming, they were always there, lurking in my subconscious, popping up every now and again when I was reminded of my chance of having a baby with an issue.
During those years, when the questions would surface, I learned that the best way to deal with them was by giving them to the Lord. I would remember that He was the only One who knew the answer, and dwelling on them was not going to change anything. I had the choice of allowing the questions to cause fear and anxiety or to trust that if God could bring me through my own defects, He could and would do the same for any babies I had. Though the questions never went away completely, my persistent singleness helped them stay in the background for the next 14 years, since no baby was in sight.
Then came marriage, and 9 months later, we were pregnant! Here came the baby carriage! We were thrilled, so excited to be welcoming our first little one, (and also terrified, as most new parents are). At this point, those pesky questions that had been lurking came forward and took up permanent residence in my daily thinking. My doctor, desiring to be extra cautious given my history, ordered a detailed anatomy scan to be done by a high risk pregnancy doctor at 17 weeks instead of the traditional 20 weeks to check for any birth defects.
The appointment was like a dream. We got to see our baby moving and wiggling for an hour and a half on the screen, and were given a photo album worth of images to take home. They checked every inch and declared our baby perfectly healthy, with no visible defects or issues. We found out that it was going to be a boy, and left rejoicing that the pregnancy was progressing so smoothly.
At long last it seemed as though my ‘what if’ questions could be put to rest and all that was left was waiting for our little guy to arrive.