After we got over the hump of telling everyone, I could finally tell the world. I posted the following on my Myspace page on December 29, 2007:
I wrote this after my first doctor's appointment (12.03.2007). Now that we've told everyone the news, I can actually post it:
I heard the baby's heartbeat for the first time today. Today, it became real. Not that it wasn't real before, but now it's tangible. The doctor took an U/S picture for us, and showed us the heartbeat. It's real!
We're going to do our best, against all odds and our excitement and anxiety, to hold the news from everyone until Christmas. We'll see how that goes. But, in all fairness, it's been 2 months since I initially found out. No one knows, that we know of . . . it's going to be quite a December to remember!
Right now, we have a nubbin. Come 4th of July next year (approximately), we'll have our first baby. We're already so proud! And I still can't get over the fact that the U/S actually picks up an image this early on. We saw it with our own eyes, even the fluttering of it's little heart!
10 Random Facts About My Pregnancy:
10. I had high blood pressure before I got pregnant. (Hereditary, a gift from my mom).
9. This was going to be the first grandchild for Justin's parents and the third for mine.
8. This was my first pregnancy.
7. We originally decided not to find out the sex of the baby.
6. Our theme on the registry was Winnie the Pooh (mainly for its neutral colors).
5. We painted the nursery purple and gold (big LSU Tigers fans), so much for neutral.
4. I had no morning sickness.
3. I eventually got Gestational Diabetes.
2. Our dog growled at me everytime I got out of bed in the middle of the night to potty.
1. I was hospitalized twice (both for high blood pressure), the second time for 10 days before Dylan's birthday.
I didn't really think this wasn't going to be a run-of-the-mill pregnancy. The thought never crossed my mind that anything could (or would) go wrong. We'd started calling the baby "Nubbins" early on (most people go with "Peanut" or something similar, and since we usually go against the grain of what most people do, we decided on "Nubbins"). I posted the following on my Myspace page on January 9, 2008:
Nubbins is Now Tubbins!
I had another doctor's appoinment on Monday morning at the Maternal Fetal Specialist. I will have to go there every four weeks, in addition to my regular OB appointments. My doctor just wants to make sure that my blood pressure doesn't have any negative affects on the baby's development or anything else, but it appears that baby is developing just fine. Justin and I got to look at another U/S. Baby is 4 ounces already, which they told me was normal but it sounds big! The funny part is, I didn't even notice the hearbeat this time. Baby was all curled up and kicking, and the crazy motion of arms and legs all over the screen was just so fascinating.
I posted the following on my Myspace page on February 5, 2008:
Nubbins is Stubborn Already!
We had an appoinment at the specialist yesterday, so of course I'm excited about getting new pictures. Unfortunately, Nubbins was not as excited to come out and pose for the camera. I spent what felt like an eternity getting my center poked endlessly by the U/S probe, but to no avail. Nubbins was curled up tight as a fist (chin and knees to chest) and was in no mood to come out and play.
The U/S tech was getting so frustrated about not getting any of the measurements that she needed. Which also means, she was not able to check the "junk", if you will. We still don't know if it's going to be a pee pee or a puakinekine [this is the Tagalog word for girly parts], so don't even bother asking. See, that's just a sign that we're not supposed to find out! Next appointment is Monday . . . wish us luck!
The bottom dropped on my seemingly "normal" pregnancy at my 20-week appointment. I posted the following on my Myspace page on February 25, 2008:
Our 20-Week Bombshell
My high blood pressure was a blessing in disguise. Ever since the beginning of my pregnancy, I've been seeing Maternal Fetal Specialists to monitor the baby's growth and make sure that my high blood pressure would not cause any complications down the line.
In "normal" pregnancies, women generally see their OB every 4 weeks for regular check ups. Because I was deemed high-risk early on, I was seeing my OB every 4 weeks, and in between seeing the Maternal Fetal Specialist every 4 weeks (which boils down to being in a doctor's office every 2 weeks).
On top of that, a regular OB probably won't do ultrasounds every visit, but they do at Maternal Fetal. So we were pretty excited about getting updated pictures every 4 weeks. We had a regular visit scheduled at Maternal Fetal on Monday, February 2nd, but Nubbins (our nickname for our sexless baby at the time) didn't want to come out for pictures, so they were unable to get any of the regular measurements that they needed.
We had a follow-up scheduled for a week after on February 11th. Again, Nubbins was curled up and in a tough position to get any of the measurements or see any of the anatomy (which was the sole purpose for these visits . . . to monitor baby's growth and development). The ultrasound tech did her business, then the doctor came in to try her hand at it. I thought to myself, "Not again, Nubbins doesn't want to come out and play!"
But their frustrations felt slightly more crucial this time around. I asked if there were any major problems in not getting the measurements and anatomy again (as if to say, I wouldn't mind coming in again next week to try another ultrasound and, hopefully, the baby will be in a better position). But to my horror, the doctor said there were concerns that the baby may have some "issues". It quickly went from that to, "We need to do an amniocentesis to try and figure some things out."
I could feel myself tearing up as I signed the paperwork for the amnio. They make you sign like 5 pieces of paper, and they try to explain everything that you're signing to you, as if you're paying any sort of attention. Wait a minute, I was just told that there may be something wrong with my baby . . . can I have a moment? No, straight to the amnio. I was overwhelmed by my emotions. Honestly, I didn't even have a second to take it all in. So I just cried the entire time. Not because of the procedure or the needle or the pain. I never really had a moment to just digest the information that was flying at us at light speed (there were concerns of the baby having a heart defect and/or possible issues with the kidney/bladder, maybe a chromosomal abnormality).
I must've looked like a deer in headlights when the doctor asked us if we had any questions. I managed to shake my head, as the tears continued to roll down my face. I still hadn't processed anything in my head of what just went down or anything that she said. At that moment, I just wanted to get out of there. They scheduled a follow-up appoinment on Friday, along with an appointment for a pediatric cardiologist. The drive home was fuzzy.
After everything that went down Monday, I had to take a day from work to just veg, sleep, cry (all of the kind of things that would have just made me useless at work). It really helped. Justin and I sat together and just processed through everything. It was almost like the 5 stages of grief (Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance), and by Friday, I had definitely reached acceptance. Yeah, I go from 0 to 60 pretty fast.
By Wednesday morning, I received a call from the doctor's office with preliminary results from the amnio. The FISH tests came back negative for abnormalities to Chromosomes 15, 18, and 21 (Down's Syndrome). This was welcome news, considering Monday's visit left us with so little information.
First thing Friday morning, we went for our first visit with the pediatric cardiologist for a closer look at baby's heart. The doctor confirmed the news that we originally heard on Monday. There was indeed something wrong with the baby's heart. The doctor (Vedelefsky) was amazing and broke it all down for us, so we could understand everything. From the ultrasound, he could tell that the baby has a very serious and very rare condition called Hypoplastic Right Heart Syndrome (HRHS -- the right ventricle of the heart is smaller than it should be) and, in addition to that, Transposition of the Great Vessels (i.e. the Pulmonary Artery and the Aorta are reversed from how they should be).
Due to the condition, the baby would need at least 3 surgeries before the age of 5 (one at birth, the second between 4-6 months, and the last between 18 months-4 years). For the first time, the idea of terminating the pregnancy had to really enter our heads with the severity of the condition we had in front of us. We wanted to wait and see what the rest of the amnio results would be before we made any decisions one way or the other. We agreed that if any of the rest of the results from the amnio came back positive for any sort of chromosomal abnormality, then we would seriously have to consider terminating the pregancy.
We then went straight from the cardiologist's office back to Maternal Fetal. We had another ultrasound waiting, to see if the baby was in a better position than Monday and that maybe they could get some more measurements or a better look at the anatomy. Coming from the cardiologist's office really made us believe that it couldn't get much worse, but as if to say the cake really needed a cherry on top, the doctor at Maternal Fetal confirmed that the baby only had 1 kidney and the amniotic fluid was low (which was the least of our worries at this point, with everything else going on).
Within 1 week, we really had to put everything into perspective. Should we consider terminating the pregnancy? Can this baby have a meaninful life? How can we possibly afford all of this? We had a good handful of questions between us, and a great deal of research ahead of us.
We spent the weekend scouring the internet for all the research we could possibly find on HRHS. The fact that we found so few articles really made us realize how rare this was. Armed with all this new information, we went to my doctor's appointment on Monday with our heads held high, trying to be as positive as we could. It was just another routine appointment at the doctor's office (peeing in a cup, weighing in, getting my blood pressure checked, and hearing the baby's heartbeat – everything was checking out A-OK). Before we left, Justin asked the question that we wanted to avoid but couldn't. "What's the procedure for termination?" (At this point, we were still waiting on the rest of the results from my amnio – there could very well still be something in the chromosomes that we would need to tackle.)
The doctor's bewildered look before he answered was answer enough. He said it was rare to terminate a pregnancy after 20 weeks. 26 weeks would be the absolute latest, and this is in cases of extreme medical emergencies. But basically, they would inject the baby's heart with Potassium, wait for it to pass, and I would have to birth it. NO! The look on my face must've been answer enough for Justin, but I told him that I just couldn't do it.
That was out of the question now. We had rethink everything we'd talked about up until now – to me, there was no other option than to proceed with the pregnancy. What would happen from here on out would be in God's hands.
We carried our positive attitudes into my doctor's appointment on Friday. In the beginning of this pregnancy, we'd initially agreed that we would not find out the baby's sex until he/she was born. With everything else that we were going through, we found that finding out the baby's sex was at least one thing that we didn't have to keep up in the air. This really made us excited for Friday's appointment.
Again, I went in for the usual vitals routine, and then they brought us into the ultrasound room. The tech came in to give us a look at the baby. We told her that we wanted to know the baby's sex this time. Leave it to our baby to not want to show off . . surprise, surprise! So she wasn't able to see anything from the ultrasound. But since I'd had an amnio, there would be a definitive answer in my file.
The tech brought us into another room to wait and speak with the doctor. After a few seconds, the tech popped her head back into the room and asked if we still wanted to know. Without hesitation or even looking at Justin, I said, "YES!" When she told us that we were having a BOY, I think I actually yelped. Justin and I were more excited than ever before, and we just hugged each other until the doctor came in.
The doctor gave us a bit more good news. All of the results from the amnio were back, and all the chromosome tests were negative! And while we still face an uphill battle from here, we rest assured knowing that we have each other and now a beautiful baby boy on the way.
Initially, we had extreme pain and anger over what our son would be facing in his life. No one goes into their first pregnancy prepared for anything but a perfect little baby. When you're told that your baby isn't going to be "perfect" (medically speaking, I mean), you definitely go through a grieving period, mourning for what you thought your child would be. That goes away, of course, and I continued to enjoy the rest of my roller coaster pregnancy. I posted the following on my Myspace page on April 29, 2008:
A 30-Week Update
I know it's been a while since my last report on everything, so where do I begin? First off, Dylan has been the name that's really stuck for Baby Brooks, so that's the name that we'll probably go with. Justin and I have high hopes that he'll be a brilliant musician. Dylan has been growing and doing really well. His weight and measurements have all been right where they need to be when we get those checked at Maternal Fetal.
Our appointments at the cardiologist have been nothing but positive as well. The doctor that originally diagnosed Dylan's heart condition (Dr.V) will also be his pediatric cardiologist growing up. So we're already establishing that history with him. We're blessed because this doctor is absolutely amazing! He is very positive about everything. He says that the pump on Dylan's Left Ventricle is excellent, so at least the Ventricle that will be doing all the work is in good shape. Basically, once all the surgeries are complete, Dylan's heart will function as a 2-chamber vessel rather than a 4-chamber vessel.
We had the opportunity to meet with the doctor who will more than likely perform Dylan's surgeries (Kanter) and got another bit of good news. There's the slightest of possibilities that the first surgery may not even be necessary. If, at birth, Dylan's heart is pumping just the right amount of blood to the body, then we can skip the first surgery. He referred to it as the "Three Bears" scenario. At birth, Dr. V will evaluate whether Dylan's heart is a) not pumping enough blood to the body, b) pumping too much blood to the body, or c) pumping just the right amount of blood to the body. Obviously, if things are not "just right" at birth (options A and B), a surgery will be necessary.
The first surgery will vary, depending on which condition Dylan's heart is in at birth. The surgeries will be at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta/Egleston. Along with meeting the surgeon, Justin and I also had the opportunity to tour the facilities at Egleston. What an amazing place! The heart center there, including the staff of doctors and nurses, is top-notch. We got to see a 4-month old just an hour out of surgery. I was fascinated. I know it'll be different when it's Dylan in that position, but I have faith knowing that he will be in the best hands.
And since everything with Dylan has been developing so well, it stands to reason that I'd have some kind of issues on my own. I now have Gestational Diabetes (diabetes that develops during pregnancy; it usually goes away after labor). I have to check my Blood Glucose levels 4 times a day, so I'm on a strict meal plan. I've had to adjust my Blood Pressure medication twice now to make sure it stays in the "safe" range. And the latest (and greatest), I had some issues with my sciatic nerve causing me some EXTREME pain. At the end of the day, it'll all be worth it. Dylan will be the ultimate payoff. I just cannot wait to meet him already!
On a side note, today is our 2nd Anniversary. I can't believe how quickly time flies. I'm pretty much convinced that Justin and I can survive anything thrown our way. And we're truly grateful and blessed by those of you who have given us your undying support, thoughts, and prayers.