This is part 2 of the story. Read part 1 here.
The long-awaited day finally arrived – it was time to meet our son! My due date had come and gone 10 days earlier and this boy was running out of room. My labor started around noon, and twelve hours later my water broke. Twelve hours after that I was still in labor at the hospital, with my husband, midwife and doula by my side and both sets of parents in the waiting room. Ten more hours of labor later it was finally, finally time to push, and just after 11 pm, Henry took his first breath.
I’ve written this before, but it is still true: the moment he was born was breathtaking, the most beautiful experience I have ever had. Meeting this tiny, brand-new human who grew inside of me made all the waiting, the pains of pregnancy, and hours of labor immediately worth it. Christian and I were so in love from the first time we saw him.
Our parents had been troopers, waiting all day in the waiting area as visitors for other mamas came and went around them. Just after midnight it was their turn at last to come and meet Henry, and they were of course immediately smitten with him. As my mom was having her cuddle, she noted that his fingernails were really deep purple and that she had never seen that before. I said it was probably just from all the hours I was in labor, and that the doctors hadn’t mentioned anything about it, but I would ask them in the morning.
We made it up to our room on the maternity ward around 3am, and got a couple hours of sleep before the first doctor arrived. The pediatrician came in around 7, and briefly mentioned that she heard a heart murmmur. She said they would check again the next day and see if it was still there. I was so tired and so elated that our baby was here that it didn’t really register on that day. I barely remember her saying anything about it at all.
The next day, the pedatrician said he didn’t hear anything, but that we should go see our regular pediatrician the following day, just to be sure. So, the morning after we were discharged we bundled up and headed to see our doctor, hoping that it was nothing to be concerned about. Our pediatrician met Henry and listened to his heart, confirming that there was indeed a murmmur present. He told us that murmmurs are relatively common in newborns and often close up on their own. However, just to be safe, he referred us to a pediatric cardiologist for a full exam and testing, but encouraged us not to worry, that it would probably already be closed up by the time we had our appointment.
The earliest the pediatric cardiologist could get us in was the following Friday, almost two weeks after Henry had been born. I will never forget that morning. It was bright and sunny, and it was one of the first days I put on real clothes and did my hair and makeup. Christian’s mom was in town visiting us, and we told her that it would just be a quick check-up and then we would be home. We arrived early and sat in the waiting room, convinced that this was going to be a one-time visit.
We were called back, Henry was weighed and measured, and then our cardiologist came in and met us. He was so kind and gentle with Henry, and was immediately smitten with him as he also has a son with the same name. He told us that the heart murmmur was still there, and sent us down the hall for an echocardiogram. All I remember of that is it seemed to take so long. So many pictures, so many views of his heart, so many swipes of the wand up and down his tiny little chest. Once the tech finished, we were taken back to our exam room, where we waited again for a really long time.
By this point we knew there was something seriously wrong, and when our doctor came back in he gently and kindly told us the news: Henry was born with a congenital heart defect called Tetralogy of Fallot. It is actually four defects combined into one diagnosis, and the only cure is open heart surgery, usually done between 4-6 months of age. He drew us a diagram of the heart to show what was happening inside Henry, and what would need to be corrected during the surgery.
My ‘what if’ had happened after all.
I started crying, going through tissue after tissue after tissue because for some reason doctor offices always have the crappiest, thinnest tissues ever created. Seriously. Our doctor kept talking and I kept crying, so thankful that Christian was there to listen and catch what I was missing. I apologized for going through so many tissues, and his response was etched on my heart forever:
“You are supposed to be crying. This is huge, life-changing news. It is completely normal to cry when you hear this kind of information about your new baby, and you can use as many tissues as you need. In fact, I always tell my residents that if they get to this point of the talk and the mom is not crying, they are not explaining it correctly.”
He gave us as much time as we needed to ask questions, then gave us all the pertinent details we needed to know, and reassured us that Henry was going to be fine, that the surgery would correct the issue and he would be better than ever. He was (and still is) one of the greatest gifts we were given in this process. We are so, so grateful that we were referred to him, and for the care he has shown for us over the last year.
We left the office in a daze, three and a half hours after our appointment began. We headed home overwhelmed, but ready to confront this new normal, this ‘what if’ that had come true.
Part 3 – Coming tomorrow!