Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Every Heart Has a Story

For those of you who know us or have followed our story from the beginning, this post may be "old news." However, there is another blog, When Life Hands You a Broken Heart, that is taking steps to connect heart families and give them the opportunity to share their stories. Through our heart journey thus far I have found it extremely helpful to find others who have exeperienced similar heartache, fear, successes, etc. I hope that by re-telling our story for this site, I might become a source of information for others...maybe become a friend, maybe be a virtual shoulder to cry on, maybe just a sounding board for questions. I guess I really just want to be a story of hope for others who, like myself, are simply learning as we wade through the scary heart journey with our children.

I will never forget the day that my husband Matt first told me "I think we should have a baby." He was on his way back to Sioux Falls after spending the weekend with some of his friends and their families back in Nebraska. I had been not so discretely planting the "baby bug" in his ear for some time, and I think that seeing his friends with their children was just the trick! I was in my car in the Hy-Vee parking lot and being the total sap that I am, my eyes immediately filled up with tears. To say that I was excited is an understatement! Just two short months later I was pregnant.

The first half of my pregnancy was pretty uneventful. I never had to deal with morning sickness, and other than feeling tired all of the time, I was my normal self. On January 19, 2010, Matt and I went to my 20 week ultrasound hoping to find out the sex of our little one and come away with some good pictures. Little did we know that our lives would totally change that day. Shortly after we found that we were having a little girl, we also learned that there was potentially something wrong with her heart. Our fears were confirmed the following day after a fetal echo showed that our innocent little lady has pulmonary atresia and hypoplastic right heart syndrome. She would need surgery shortly after birth in order to survive. Matt and I floated through the next few days in a total cloud. We camped out in the in the living room, forced ourselves to eat and avoided phone calls from people who we knew were just concerned about us. Those were the hardest days of my life, but in hindsight, I'm glad that we found out that day. It gave us the opportunity to "deal" and to prepare ourselves (as much as possible) for what we were up against. To this day I read stories about people who's children go undiagnosed until after birth-- I can't imagine having to deal with all of those emotions on the spot like that.

The second half of my pregnancy was emotionally draining at times. We tried to keep things as normal as possible...getting the nursery ready...having my baby shower...but there was always a looming fear of the unknown. I would get gifts but couldn't bring myself to take the tags off, just in case. I was determined to stay positive, but couldn't help but wonder how I would survive if I didn't get to bring a baby home with me. Never did I think that something like this could happen to ME. What had I done wrong? It felt unfair and at times I felt cheated, but mostly I was scared for our little girl and her future.

On May 14, 2010 (3 weeks early), Charlotte Delene Ritchie was delivered by c-section. She came out pink and screaming, nothing like the blue baby that we were anticipating. We spent the first month of her life at Children's Hospital in Omaha. During that time, Charlotte had 2 heart caths and 2 open heart surgeries. They placed a BT shunt, tied off many coronary fistulas or "sinusoids" and also put a patch in to open up the place that her pulmonary valve was supposed to be. Charlotte amazed us every single day. These kiddos are so small and vulnerable and dependent on us for care, but at the same time they are so amazingly strong.


So that brings us to the here and now. Charlotte is now 3 months old and has been home since June 10th. We're taking life one day at a time and enjoying our time at home before she needs her next surgery. Sure, we've had our battles along the way, but for the most part you wouldn't even guess there was anything wrong with her. She is growing and getting stronger day by day and continues to amaze us. As for Matt and I, yes, our routine is a little more labor intensive than parents with healthy newborns, but medications, O2 monitoring and endless appointments have become our "normal" and I can't imagine it any differently.

Matt gave me a card through this whole ordeal and I repeat a line from it to myself almost daily....

"I would do it all again, and I wouldn't change a thing."

Sure, I would give anything for Charlotte to have a healthy heart, but I can't change that. What I can do is love her and learn from her. Through all of this, she has made Matt and me better people. She has taught us to appreciate every minute of every day, even the ones you wish you could start over. She has strengthened our relationships with God, our families and our friends. Not only that, but she opened our eyes to the world of congenital heart defects that we otherwise would have been blind to. Its sad really...the fact that I didn't know that any of this existed until it was our reality...but its true.

Charlotte is a fighter. A CHD warrior. The bravest and strongest little girl we have ever known. We are so blessed to have her in our lives.

"I would do it all again, and I wouldn't change a thing."


Every Heart Has a Story

6 comments:

  1. What can I Say.......Beautiful. You are an amazing couple and I love you all so much!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Grandma D said it very well! You are an amazing family and I feel as though I am learning from all of you every day. I love you!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Well...I didn't make it thru that one without getting up for a kleenex. Like I have said in the past, you, Matt & Charlotte have taught me a lot over the past few months about life and the importance of slowing down and soaking it all in. You are a beautiful family! I love you all very much and wish you much love, happiness & joy in your future together as a family!

    ReplyDelete
  4. It is amazing how you can put all that into words! You are an amazing and very blessed family! Thank you for sharing with all of us so we never forget how important each day is!
    Sara Burchett Wilson

    ReplyDelete
  5. I don't have words that can compare the ones that you have written...but I do know that I'm so proud of the wife and mother that you are and I'm honored to be your sister. Thank you for continuing to share this journey with all of us...you don't know how many people ask about you each and everyday! Love you tons!
    Jill

    ReplyDelete
  6. Hi
    My name is Jenna and I came across your site. Charlotte is a precious, and special earthly angel. She is a beautiful miracle, super trooper and a tough cookie. She is a courageous, strong and determined fighter. She is a brave warrior, smilen champ and an inspirational hero. She will be in my thoughts. I was born with a rare life threatening disease, and love it when people sign my guestbook. www.miraclechamp.webs.com

    ReplyDelete