Life has felt like a roller coaster lately.
December 10, 2010: Charlotte's heart cath
December 23-26, 2010: Our whirlwind Christmas in Omaha. 3 Christmases, 2 days.
January 3-12, 2011: Charlotte's heart surgery and hospital stay.
January 13-Now: Trying to get back to "normal"
Then we get to today. January 18. I hate this day.
January 18 is a day that I will never in a million years forget. It was on this day exactly one year ago that I went from a thrilled mama-to-be who just found out that she was carrying a baby girl, to a terrified and devastated mama-to-be who heard the words "there is something wrong with your baby's heart." January 18, 2010, was the date of the ultrasound that changed our lives forever and triggered the most emotional few days that I can remember.
We had an appointment with a cardiologist (Dr. Sami Awadallah) on January 19th where our fears were confirmed. Our innocent baby girl had a condition that at that time was completely foreign to me. Pulmonary atresia, intact ventricular septum and hypoplastic right heart. In the span of a day we went from hearing "It's a girl" to hearing phrases like "fatal if left untreated." Her heart was "broken"...and so were ours.
On January 20th, Matt and I met with a genetics counselor and were scheduled for an amniocentesis to rule out any other genetic abnormalities.
I don't really remember much from that day...by this point I think that I was on auto pilot and was mindlessly maneuvering through a dense fog. I remember the poke that they said would feel like a quick bee sting feeling more like the stings of one hundred angry hornets. I remember squeezing Matt's hand as that insanely long needle took a sampling of my amniotic fluid. I remember as plain as day words that at the time didn't phase me, but the more I thought about them angered me. The perinatologist, simply doing her job, was telling us that there were options (i.e. termination). She proceeded to say "I know that this isn't what you signed up for."
We "signed up" to have a baby. We "signed up" to be a mommy and a daddy. Never did we say that we didn't want a child that wasn't perfect. Never did we think that we only wanted a baby if we were guaranteed that we would be a perfect little family without a care in the world. We DID sign up for this. We signed up for her. While learning of her heart defect was devastating, it didn't change the fact that we loved her or that she was ours.
Those early days are all a blur. Matt and I went through a very low period. We slept in the living room for days. We forced ourselves to eat. We dreaded every time the phone would ring. I sat in front of the computer for hours trying to figure out what this meant for our baby. The more I read, the more I cried. I never had morning sickness, but nausea and vomiting struck me many times. It was terrible. We were frightened for her, we were frightened for ourselves and we couldn't help but ask "why us?" Our lives were forever changed.
But here we are again, January 18...this time one year later. We have a beautiful little girl who's smile melts our hearts, who has taught us what is important, and has made us stronger as individuals and as a family. Charlotte is only 8 months old and has already endured 3 heart caths and 4 heart surgeries....more than most will face in a lifetime. The most important number there is 8. Eight months old. At this time last year I had myself convinced that I would deliver a baby that would never get to come home. A baby that would never get to see the nursery that her daddy worked so hard on. Yet here she is. Beautiful. Strong. Full of life.
Baby girl, together we can make it through anything.