Thursday, April 30, 2015

Counting Our Chickens

There's a superstition among Jews that you don't have a baby shower, or think of baby names, or set up a nursery or really do anything to prepare for a baby. It's considered bad luck for your baby. It's counting your chickens before they hatch.

Since Helena will be our third child I'm obviously not having a shower. We have most of the major baby gear from Our Guys and the few items we need to replace we can. I did buy some new girly bedding for her after we found out she was a girl, but that's really all the shopping for her I've done. That was at 14 weeks, so I figured we had plenty of time.

Then we got her heart diagnosis. And I haven't really bought her a thing since.

I couldn't bring myself to wander over to the girl section of Target or Kohl's or anywhere else. Not even when I was already in the store, buying new summer clothes for My Guys. The thought of going into the baby girl section really just freaked me out. I couldn't force myself to go there. I actively avoided it, not even daring to glance in its general direction.

She needed a new swing. Ours died with My Little Guy and we purged it a few Garbage Amnesty Days ago. It wasn't until Amazon had one on a Lightning Deal that I even thought about it. Apparently my cheapness trumps my fears and superstitions because that thing was a great deal and I did buy it. So there's that.

Somehow I came to be almost 28 weeks pregnant and all this little girl had was bedding and a swing (and her brothers'old carseat, stroller, toys, etc). I realized she'd be coming home from the hospital naked because I have bought zero new clothes for her. We have her carseat, but will they discharge her if she's properly strapped in in nothing but a diaper? Doubtful.

I was so excited that she was a girl and I could finally buy those adorable little outfits and then... I couldn't. I thought about it and realized that I wasn't buying her anything because I was afraid of counting my chickens before they hatched. I was scared to buy her stuff because what if something happens? Somehow the buying her stuff was tied to her health outcomes, or at least my fears about them. The Jewish tradition of no baby shower or baby prep suddenly made a whole lot of sense.

We met with our surgeon on Tuesday. It was a great meeting. He was very optimistic and positive and confident and we left the meeting feeling better about Helena's issues. Right now they think I can deliver at our hospital, and that the most she'll need right away is a shunt put in to help her blood flow to the right places. They think once that is in (if she even needs it), she'll be able to come home and grow and get bigger and stronger until we decide it's time to do the major corrective heart surgery around six months or so. The surgeon has done hundreds of surgeries just like the one she'll need and he said there's an over 98% success rate. He said the babies who have had this surgery can run and play and are basically normal kids. There are some minor activity restrictions on them (no competitive sports), but otherwise they're totally fine and grow and develop and live pretty much like any other kid would.

Our baby will come home. She'll need her swing, and her crib, and her bedding, and her toys and of course, clothes. I'm almost 28 weeks pregnant and tend to be induced early for my own health issues. I gotta get my shit together.

I went into the baby girl section of Target yesterday. I cried while picking out clothes. But I picked them out. She won't have to come home naked after all.

Monday, April 13, 2015


I am pregnant with our third child. It's a girl. She has a heart defect.

We went in for our 20 week ultrasound, and while we were excited we already knew she was a girl thanks to a DNA test we had done at our 13 week genetic screening so the big gender reveal had already happened. Knowing the sex took some of the excitement out of the ultrasound, but it's still always cool to see the baby.

The ultrasound tech came in and did everything, and I noticed she was very quiet when focusing on our baby's heart. I didn't say anything, but when she was done I asked if everything looked ok and she said the doctor would in to discuss it with us. I told my husband I didn't like the sound of that, but being a lawyer he replied that they have to say that so you don't get all upset and sue because the tech told you one thing and then the doctor told you another. Ok, that seems fair.

We had the doctor come in, and within about a minute he told us that there was something wrong with our daughter's heart. His bedside manner left something to be desired (along with a lot of other things I complained to the hospital about regarding him), but we were lucky in that the pediatric cardiologist happened to be there that day, and said he would see us. 

The pediatric cardiologist spent over an hour doing an ultrasound of just our daughter's heart and confirmed that it is not right. At that time, he wasn't sure what the exact situation was because she wasn't cooperating with all her moving around, and because she was just so small (she was the size she was supposed to be, but at 20 weeks that means 14 oz, so her heart was tiny).

We had our followup appointment and it was again confirmed that her heart did not form correctly. She has a number of issues, but our cardiologist has reassured us that they are all fixable and while she is in the womb (a phrase that totally skeeves me out) she should have no issues as she's getting all her oxygenated blood from me and doesn't need her heart to do all the work it will have to do when she's born. She will definitely need heart surgery, it's just a matter of when she'll need it (within a few days of birth or a few weeks) and whether everything can be corrected with one surgery or not (depending on the situation she might need surgeries throughout childhood to replace man-made parts that will not grow along with her heart). We will learn more as we have more ultrasounds and meet with our surgeon.

We meet with the surgeon at the end of the month to discuss her diagnosis, what surgery she'll need, and where we'll deliver (our local hospital or a Children's Hospital). The surgeon our cardiologist has recommended seems to be the best of the best which is also reassuring. We'll also have regular ultrasounds with the cardiologist to monitor her growth, bloodflow and her heart and health in general.

It's scary. It's really fucking scary. It's hard, and it's emotional and it's just plain scary. We'll have to hand our newborn over to a stranger who will cut her open to do things to her heart. No one wants to do that. Ever.

We're coping. It's hard, but we're trying to stay optimistic and look at the good news like the fact that we caught the defects while she's still in the womb so we can be as prepared as possible for what she'll need when she's born.

There is still a lot we don't know, and some of it we won't know until she is born, which is mildly anxiety-inducing to say the least. But this is the hand we've been dealt, and we will live with it and we will do all we can to help her.

We've discussed a lot names for this little girl; funnily enough while my husband and I couldn't disagree more on boys names (he likes Aristotle, I like Thomas) there are many girl names we both loved. One name kept coming back to us, and seemed even more appropriate after her heart diagnosis - Helena Jean. My Yiya was named Helen, and my husband's grandma is named Jenny. These are two of the toughest, strongest women we've ever know and this little girl is going to need to be tough, and strong and a fighter and naming her after our beloved grandmas just seems so fitting. She'll have a guardian angel in heaven in Yiya, and one here on earth with our Grandma Jenny. And she'll need them both.