I remember it like it were yesterday...
My sister came with me to my ultrasound appointment. We were going to find out if our baby bump was a boy or a girl. I didn't want the ultra-sound tech to tell me, but instead just write it down and put it in an envelope. Dinner was already planned with all of the family members to reveal that we were in fact having a baby Dominic. :)
Everything seemed to be fine, except that I was so excited to find out, that I couldn't keep still. She checked his head, his kidneys, his liver, and then his heart. She said it was obvious what sex the baby was because he wasn't very shy at all. She kept going back to his heart though.
"I just can't get a good picture of his heart" she says. "I'm just going to have you come back because he's just not in a good position."
So we did, we came back and still, couldn't get a good picture of his heart. We got sent to a specialist in Medford the next week. By this time, I'm about 7mos prego, sitting in the waiting room and I'm laughing uncontrollably. (that's how I deal with uncomfortable situations) We get called in, I'm laying on the table and he says it. "Your baby has a heart problem. We're going to need to do more tests" Just cut and dry like that... no, I'm sorry to have to tell you this, no, unfortunately.... just Hey, there's something wrong with his heart.
This is where things get blurry. I can't remember in what order things went from here but I cried... a lot. I had to get an amniocentesis because the surgeons wouldn't want to operate if they didn't know the complete genetic background of this unborn child. I was given many options including abortion.
I left that doctors office feeling alone, guilty, empty, but most of all, alone. The conclusion was this: My baby had a heart condition, and his stomach was on the wrong side of his body. We weren't sure of how extreme this condition was, if he was going to live, did he have downs syndrome? How did he get this? Was it my fault?
The next day the doctor called and asked us to come in on Sunday because in order for OHSU to look at the case, they needed more information. So we did. I was under the ultrasound machine for 3 hours and we left a second time with all of the same questions we had before. No answers in sight.
The tests came back negative for downs, good news, and our appointment at Doernbechers Children's Hospital was in two weeks. The only good news we had was the 3-D picture that we had of Dominic and he was already adorable :)
Portland was wonderful. We didn't get all of the answers that we had questions to but we felt comfortable. While in the ultrasound room, they were looking at him in 3-D and as we watched, unknowing what we were looking at it happened. The most beautiful, comforting, miraculous moment of my entire life. Dominic's face came up close, so we could see every detail of it, and he winked. He winked at me as if to say, "hey Mom, I've got this". And that was the last time I saw him until he was born.
The doctors were about 80% sure of what his heart had entailed, but it was hard to say, seeing it through another human being. As of now, the plan was: Deliver in Portland on April 10, 2006, give him an echo cardiogram as soon as he is born, and proceed from there. Until that day... we wait.
Dominic, my love, before you were born, you were already the most amazing little kid I had ever known.
Be Strong For Him
Bed rest wasn't all that bad. Besides the fact that I was stuck in a trailer, in Portland, and the only thing around me was bucket truck after bucket truck. See, the company my dad worked for at the time donated a spot in the middle of the "yard" where they keep all of their equipment. Needless to say, there wasn't much to do but rest.
April 8th, I can't sleep. I have heartburn so bad that I can't even drink water! I'm getting anxious about the next day. This was it. This was the last night I wouldn't be a mom. Of course, my mind was flooded with thoughts of good and bad. I'm nervous about labor, I'm excited to see my baby and hold him. I'm scared of what he might look like. (The doctors warned me that he would be blue)I'm so afraid of needles and I wanted that epidural but that was one HUGE needle! I finally got to sleep but the whole next day, I'm pacing. This is it, we were going to get some answers soon and I wasn't sure if I even wanted to hear what they were. As of right now, Dominic is safe in my womb and his little heart abnormality doesn't affect him.
At midnight I arrived at OHSU and at 2 I was induced. (at 12:01 I announced that I wanted that epidural and I want it sooner than later so don't try to talk me out of it! haha) I'm cracking jokes, and laughing with my family. I got some sleep, listened to Monster Ballads,(If you don't know what that is, google it. Best CD I've ever owned!) and started realizing that this was it. Every time I looked up, there were at least five new people in my room. I had everyone from doctors and nurses to specialists and med students. Everyone was ready for whatever it was that we were about to discover. At 4:20 in the afternoon, he took his first breath. I was fully prepared to wait to see my baby because no one knew how long he would survive on his own; so he cried and was rushed out of the room. Miracle number two happened shortly after when I was caught off guard by one of the doctors that I didn't know. She said, "You have 15 minutes" and she handed my beautiful little boy. He wasn't blue, or any abnormal color for that matter. He was a beautiful shade of pink and he had my blond hair, and my dad's fingers. I had, for the first time in my life, fallen in love. True, unconditional love.
I didn't get to see him for another couple of hours. There were tests and scans and echo cardiograms that were scheduled immediately. He was only a few hours old and he was the busiest person I knew. (He gets that from his mom :)) But those tests answered many questions that the doctors had, and a plan soon started to form.
I spent the rest of my night staring at him in his own perfect little incubator from the rocking chair. I couldn't believe what I was looking at. How is it even possible that the baby that I was looking at and so head over heals in love with, how can he look so perfect and beautiful on the outside, be so imperfect on the inside. I kissed every part of him that I could and I prayed. I prayed that my little boy would be safe in the night, and I prayed that I would make it through all of this; I prayed for the strength and courage for this long and winding road ahead of us. It had just begun.
Dominic at Three Days Old
Dominic, my love,
You have inspired me in so many ways. In your short little life you have showed me how to be brave and strong better than anyone could. You have taught me how to be compassionate and loving to those that I might not have looked twice at before. You have taught me to have more fun than I have ever had with less than I've ever had. I thank God for you every single minute of every single day! I love you!
By day three of this precious baby's life, I had the hardest day until that point. In order for the doctors to see what needed to be done to little Dude's heart, they needed to perform a Cardiac Catheterization. Basically, they take a catheter and string it through a vein either in your groin or in your neck until it gets to your heart. From there, they can inject dyes to check blood flow, or they can insert stints. They can even dial ate veins and vessels as well as coil them off. With this test, we will know exactly what our little hero's heart actually looks like and how it functions. The test went the best it could. They got all the info they could and at the next cardiologist meeting they would present him and figure out the best plan of action.
All of the news we got, was good. The procedure went well. Everyone was happy. I was forewarned that when I saw my baby, his right leg would be slightly dusky compared to the rest of him. It wasn't bad at all. He was beautiful and peaceful sleeping in his little incubator in the DNCC. Then it happened. He started to wake up. He hurt my poor baby and all I could do was sit an watch. He screamed and screamed and I couldn't pick him up. I held his hand and tears streamed down my face and all I could do was pray. I just wanted to hold my poor child as he laid there is pain. This is when it actually hit home, my baby wasn't like all the others I had held before, and this wouldn't be the last time that my poor baby would cry and there would be nothing that I could do to comfort him. This is when I learned courage because if I wasn't strong for him, who would be? Thanks to my Lord above... I was.
Dominic my love, you are my little hero!