Dancing in the Rain
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A Trisomy 18 Journey

Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass. It's about learning to dance in the rain. -- Vivian Greene

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Day Before and After

I am trying very hard to focus on the present this week instead of the events of a year ago. However, the memories are crowding my thoughts. I am also super tired after a few long nights, so efforts to direct my thoughts are much less effective. I hope in expressing some of these thoughts that I can focus on this week. 2011. Not 2010.

I was 37 weeks pregnant with Julia. My hospital bag had been packed for weeks due to concerns over placental insufficiency. I was in the perinatologists' office twice every week for monitoring and was warned each time that this might be the day for admission. We "knew" several things-- Julia had many heart problems, she wasn't growing well, she was breech, I had too much amniotic fluid, one of Julia's kidneys was abnormal, and one of the two umbilical arteries carrying nutrients to the placenta had closed. The doctors strongly suspected a chromosomal disorder and were "convinced" it was Down Syndrome we were dealing with (mostly due to a very small or absent nasal bone).

At this particular appointment, one year ago today, I had an amniocentesis performed to check for lung maturity. We were preparing for a delivery that week and wanted to administer steroids for the lungs if needed. After the test, Julia started having decelerations in her heart rate. We were admitted for delivery pending the amnio results. The results came back -- lungs not mature -- so we began steroid injections and scheduled delivery for the following day. Julia's heart rate decelerations continued on and off throughout the day and night. We were so afraid but ready to deliver.

We had one day of Julia's life when we did not know her diagnosis. The docs were pretty sure after examining her that she did not have Down Syndrome. The genetic tests for chromosomal abnormalities were performed. I was recovering from the c-section and was too sick to make it to the nicu to see Julia that day. I briefly saw her after delivery as they wheeled her to the nicu. Her little eyes were open and she looked right at me. I felt relief that she was here and intense anxiety over what was to come. And I felt love -- a love that felt both fierce and fragile. Marc spent most of that first day in the nicu with Julia. He kept me updated with pictures and with doctor consultations.

We received the diagnosis on Julia's second day. It was shortly after I visited her in the nicu for the first time. She was tiny and beautiful. The nurses made Julia a hat with a cute bow. Julia was breathing on her own -- no oxygen or bipap. Receiving the news was unimaginably difficult. Marc has described it as being hit in the face with a baseball bat. I had had a feeling for weeks that things were worse than we knew, and I feared we would not even get to bring Julia home with us. That was my sole remaining prayer at that point -- that we could bring her home and care for her. My intuition was both right and wrong. Julia's diagnosis was much worse than the docs suspected. But, we were able to bring her home and she has now been at home with us for 365 days!!! We were told she would live only a few days and we came home on hospice care. We stopped hospice care 5 months ago. Julia is here. She is a very real part of our family's life. She is the baby sister. I am holding her now and looking at her beautiful, pink face. She is contentedly taking her bottle. She is reaching out to me with her right hand. She is where she belongs. And now it's time to put away the tears and just celebrate.


BR said...

So beautifully written, my sweet friend.

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