The hardest thing I’ve ever done….

Looking at this title, what things came to mind?

For those who know our story, this may have been an easy one.  I wanted to write about this now, almost 6 years later, to reflect on that period of time during our life and how the experience and dark times really launched us into a state of gratitude that extends way beyond ourselves.

Let me just fill in some details to set the tone….

We found out Lennon had a heart defect at her 18w ultrasound.  First reaction? We were in denial.  It was impossible for 2 people who did EVERYTHING “right” to have a “defected” baby.  It didn’t make sense.

But, me having to move to Halifax at 34 weeks pregnant after more confirmation and more bad news forced the unreal into reality.

IT SUCKED!!  Luckily my parents live close to Halifax so I stayed at their house.  Jay had to travel back and fourth, keeping business afloat back home.  He traveled down on a Friday, and left on a Sunday.  Unfortunately  he missed every visit with the doctors as a result, and endured so much stress wondering when I was going into labor, where he would be, would he make it? The guilt of not being able to be there was enormous.  The Chiropractor we were working with was also pregnant and dealing with her own struggles, and he ended up caring for her patients too.

What a mess.

So the day came when she was born, as maybe 20 doctors/nurses/specialists and other “ists” waited for her to take her from me (she was born just after midnight), I had maybe 10 minutes with her in my arms.  She looked perfect!  They were wrong.  I wanted to believe it true…with no luck.

Then off she went.  HARD!  I had to sleep on a different floor in the hospital in agony.  What was supposed to be one of the most special days of our lives was one of the hardest.  I slept for maybe 3 hours, released myself out of care against recommendations so I could go and find my precious baby.There were many test.  Her head was shaven multiple times moving an IV line from spot to spot as her veins collapsed as a side effect from the prostiglandin she was being given.  One time they switched it was incredibly painful as they searched and searched for a viable vein to stick the IV into – she was screaming for what felt like an hour (probably close), as my heart was being ripped out for her as we sat and watched, helplessly.

Of course, Jay checked her right after birth

 

If that wasn’t hard….the night before her surgery came upon us.  They scheduled it 7 days after her birth.  They told me the night before that I would have to stop feeding her 4 hours before her surgery.  I prayed SO hard that night that she would just eat and eat and eat and not be confused and starving before seeing her off. Can you imagine?  A newborn going 4 hours without food and being OK?

So precious

Moments before handing her over

Snuggles with Daddy

Well, our prayers were answered.  I stayed with her all night, beeps going off as we drifted and her O-sat line disconnected, I didn’t care.  I couldn’t leave her.

And then, the anesthesiologist came in to give us our final consent speech.  Wow.  That was intense.  When death is something they have to tell you about as you are about to sign your baby off into their trusted hands, RIGHT BEFORE SURGERY…….ugh.  But we trusted the team there.  They were fantastic.

And then the moment….the moment the surgical nurse comes in to tell you “it’s time”.  How do you snuggle your baby enough?  How do you tell them you love them enough?  I would have given ANYTHING to switch places with her.

That moment.  When you pass your baby off to the hands of the nurse as they take them away behind the big grey, double swing doors.  THAT was the hardest moment of our lives!  We both broke down. We could hardly stand up.  We were literally helpless in that moment, praying SO hard that our precious little babes would be as strong as we desperately believed.

Now what?  Your baby is gone.  Undergoing a major procedure.  Chest being exposed, the heart the size of a walnut being assessed, and they are literally working on an artery only mm’s in size, expanding it with a tissue graph.

Pray for the surgeons, pray for the nurses, pray pray pray.

My body ached.  I’ve never felt so much pain in my life.  My uterus literally screamed in pain.  I spent about 30 minutes in the shower trying to ease the pain, and mostly trying to muffle my moans and cries.  It was an emotional experience I hope to never endure ever again.

We decided to go for a walk.  It was summer, I hadn’t been outside in over a week.  I agreed.  It felt nice to feel the sun on my skin.  they expected the surgery to take 4-5 hours…..but then my cell phone rang.  The surgeon wanted to speak with us.  It had only been just under 3 hours!  What was this about?

“Is she ok?” I asked….”We can’t say”
“Is this normal to be done early?” I asked….”Yes, it can be”
“there is NOTHING you can tell me right now?” I asked again, desperately hoping for some glimmer of hope.
“No, we can’t say anything over the phone”.

Ok, I thought.  I lost my baby.  She is gone.  I left from the hospital and somehow she gave up.  WHY DID I LEAVE HER?!?!?!?!?!

I ran.  I ran as fast as a postpartum body could run.  I was incredibly sore, but I didn’t care.  We were the furthest distance we could have been from the block we started walking along.  Finally, I got there.

I had to wait.  The surgeon wasn’t right there.  I sat in the waiting room with Jay and my in-laws for what felt like 30 minutes.  “This is it”, I thought. “They are prepping her body.  They are hesitating to tell me because the news is bad.  I bet they are right outside the door, collecting themselves in preparation of delivering the worst news to new parents.”

Finally, a knock.  “Come in….”  BREATH

The surgeon walked in, and said the most amazing news anyone could have said to us.  “She did great!  She is getting closed up, you should be able to see her in an hour or so”.

I literally fell over into his arms and gave him the biggest hug.  I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.  I was just so IMMEDIATELY grateful.  We celebrated, cried, wiped our tears, and anxiously waited to see her again.

What a friggin ride.  Seeing your baby post surgery isn’t easy.  Hooked up to multiple lines entering 2 racks of fluids and meds, lifeless on the tiny little bed, ballooned up from swelling, blood smeared over her chest, a taped up scar all the way down her sternum, eyes swollen shut, breathing tubes, artery lines…..  My perfect baby, now lying there and I couldn’t pick her up, I could only stare at her.  Beyond the image, I was so proud of our little fighter.  I knew she was tough.  I knew she would make it. but she still had a huge piece of the recovery to get through.

Not an easy image…but she was so strong.

She made progress.  There were moments of fear, but a couple days later, I held her for the first time, I was able to nurse her again, I was able to snuggle and smell all of those fresh newborn smells.  I ached for her snuggles.

She made a full recovery and was released a week later.  Imagine!

I learned SO much during those 2 weeks spent in hospital.  I gained so much strength in myself, I have never felt more close to Jay, I was in total gratitude for the doctors, nurses, support workers, cleaners, anyone I ran into at the IWK.  They treated us like family during the hardest days.

I believed we were chosen to experience this all because we were called.  We were called to help families through their struggles.  I am so grateful for it all – even the darkest days – because it has offered me a sense of connection to other people that would have never been developed.  It connected us to our purpose in life.  It excelled our pursuit to  pediatric care.

Lennon taught us so much about caring for a baby, but not only that, sitting knee to knee with parents who are struggling and just simply looking them in their eyes and connecting.  We’ve been there.  We KNOW those feelings.  We feel WITH you.

We would NOT be the Chiropractors we are without that experience.  We would not be able to help parents like we do without that experience.  It connected us to an amazing group of Chiropractors that continue to inspire us and better our skills for the benefit of our community.

If you have ever met Lennon, you know what I mean when I say that Lennon may have been born with a broken heart, but that team at the IWK fixed it, and made it even more special.  She is a one of  a kind kid who teaches us SO much about the world.

And more of those lessons…for another blog post.

Photo Credit: Heart and Soul by Legoff Photraphy