Reflecting Back While Moving Forward : Celebrating the 2nd Birthday of Our Second Child.

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Photo courtesy of Erica Burns Photography (www.ericaburnsphotography.com)

The path on which we grew into a family of four was not the easiest of journeys to be on. For starters, I was ready for a second child much sooner than my husband was and while we were both thrilled at the sight of that positive pregnancy test I think the fact that it happened right away threw us both for a loop.

We had compromised on a minimal 2.5 year age difference between our first child and second child but considering that it didn’t happen right away the first time, we agreed we’d begin trying when our eldest turned two.  Just one month after that day, I found myself moody, short tempered, and staring at two pink lines on that stick.

It’s safe to say that I was thrilled at the idea of being pregnant for the next nine months.  I had been one of those women that loved being pregnant (the first time around) and I couldn’t wait to experience pregnancy again. All systems were a go and we were all in this together.

In my 13th week of pregnancy, I was at work, having just divulged my poorly kept secret to all of my coworkers the week before. (I must mention that it’s often hard to hide a second, third or subsequent pregnancy when you seemingly begin to show a belly the day you find out that you’re with child). I took note that morning, that I had many missed calls from several family members and when I was finally able to check my messages I heard via voice mail that my last living grandparent had suddenly passed away. To say I was devastated would be an understatement. Almost selfishly, my first thought was how my grandfather would have been over the moon to learn about his next great grandchild-to-be and that I hadn’t yet had the chance to tell him about. I even for a minute thought maybe if I had told him it would have kept him to live long enough to see the birth. It was with an extremely heavy heart that I then gathered my belongings and drove home from work to be with my family.

My Grandfather, Husband and eldest son-August 2011
My Grandfather, Husband and eldest son-August 2011

We flew to the funeral the very next day and my husband, then 2-year-old son, and I joined my family in mourning the loss of the man who kept my family closer that we would otherwise have been.  As in Jewish custom, I stayed away from the cemetery and burial as there is a belief that woman should not be in a cemetery while pregnant. So, off I went to a park to play with my first born. It was there, that my pregnant life suddenly changed dramatically.

My cell phone rang and the caller ID showed my OB’s number. I didn’t think twice about answering as I assumed she was just calling to check in. What she told me shook me to the core and left me speechless.

“The blood tests are showing that your baby has a 1 < 5 chance of having Trisomy 18.  I have never seen results this significantly abnormal turn out to be a false positive. I’m sorry to have to tell you this over the phone, but I thought you’d want to know right away.”  Being a nurse, I had some understanding of  what this meant, though I suppose, in that moment, I just couldn’t process the words.  She continued, “given the results, I’d like you to schedule a CVS (chorionic villus sampling test) sometime in the next 72 hours to confirm the results and then we can go from there.”

When I asked, I was told that should the CVS results come back positive as well, my options were limited to a D&E (dilatation and evacuation) which essentially is a late term abortion, or I could attempt to carry the baby as long as possible with the knowledge that it wouldn’t live for more than a few hours or days after delivery (regardless of how long it was carried).  Either way, the news was a huge blow – one that I was suddenly left alone with while my husband was at a cemetery burying my grandfather.

That was probably the most stressful weekend of my marriage to date. We were dealing with the loss of my grandparent, (my mother’s last living parent) and the potential loss of our child whom we hadn’t even had a chance to meet yet.

Once I was able to inform him, my sweet husband seemed to take the news much better than I thought – though looking back, perhaps he was only staying strong for me, as I was coming apart.  Because of the surrounding events, we chose to keep the news to ourselves to spare any additional grief to my family, as they had also been seeking joy in the knowledge of my pregnancy throughout the weekend.  For those few days, my pregnancy was the light at the end of a very dark tunnel for my family but at the same the same time my husband and I were having a hard time seeing through the darkness.

What came after was a series of stressful tests and what was the longest 3 days of waiting for the results.

I got the call on a Thursday morning, while I was at work.  The geneticist’s number showed up on my caller ID and I almost didn’t want to answer.  With my hands trembling, I managed to pick up the phone.

After a bunch of facts about some other test results that I can’t even remember at this point, I heard what I was waiting to hear all along. “Your results came back normal. The baby appears fine.”

I can honestly say that I never experienced the feeling of ‘weight off your shoulders’ as I did in that moment.  I fell to my knees and thanked any higher power I could think of (and I am not a religious person).  I felt beyond relief as I began to weep tears of joy.  My baby would be alright.  I could once again begin to enjoy this miracle growing inside of me.

But in the back of my mind I began to doubt. Why, then, the false positive? What can they be missing?  My doctor even mentioned that she had never seen results so conclusive that turned out to be false.  There must still be something wrong; or something they’re not seeing.

The original false positive results made for an automatic diagnosis of what was considered a high risk pregnancy, which led to fetal echo-cardiograms and constant growth scans (not to mention all sorts of additional monitoring) just to be safe.  The end result of what was supposed to be a joyous and exciting pregnancy soon became nine months of sleepless nights, stress, anxiety and a whole lot of what-ifs.

The next couple of months continued to be trying for my family.

Our first born with his first best friend, Ernie.

That very summer of we found out that we had to put our lovable dog, dubbed the ‘first-first born’ down after a very surprising diagnosis of an inoperable tumor compressing his esophagus.

At my 20 week sonogram we found out that the baby then had a 2-vessel cord, which in the grand scheme of things isn’t a huge deal, but in the throws of everything else going on was another added stress to deal with that led to more consistent monitoring.

Fast forward a few months and there we were; the little person who we weren’t sure would be here was born on November 18th 2012, after a quick labor and (thankfully) easy delivery.  His birth was beyond joyous and his first cries were both relieving and miraculous.  Even his older brother (then two and a half) was over the moon with his arrival.  Our little family grew in ways I never imagined.
Ahhh, those little newborn cries, music to our ears..

November 18, 2012, at 1:10pm – We became a family of four!

That is until we realized that unlike his brother, all this baby seemed to do was cry. The screams didn’t sound like those cute little newborn noises, but rather sounds of  distress and discomfort.  As his parent, I felt so helpless that all I couldn’t figure out what was upsetting this little person whom I had been praying for all this time.  Again, we began with a battery of tests, an endoscopy, and blood work that ultimately resulted in a diagnosis of GERD, and a possible lactose intolerance.
Poor little boy, I thought. Not even three months old and already having to deal with so much.

The rest of year one was spent trying to resolve his discomfort which they ultimately chalked up to a sensitive digestive system.  At one point, one doctor even labeled him ‘failure to thrive’ (which he has never nor will ever be).  Out went the dairy and gluten from my diet (because perhaps it transferred through my breast milk) and in came routine visits to the GI specialists. Then, almost as fast as we had established our new feeding routines, at exactly 13 months of age, it all just seemed to suddenly resolve itself. This boy is just full of little miracles!

Standing up to celebrate his first birthday!

The first year of his life was all about reaching his milestones. My son always seemed to get there, but he did it all at his own pace. While his “friends” were sitting up by 5/6 months, he sat up on his own at about 7 months. While everyone who had a child the same age was bragging about their kids waking at 12-13 months,  my little man didn’t take his first steps until he was well into his 14th month. When other little ones his age were babbling and chatting, my youngest son was saying nothing.

“He’s right there” my husband would say, trying to constantly reassure me (and simultaneously himself). This little guy had us worried all the time, and sometimes we couldn’t help but wonder if it all went back to that original “false positive” test when I was 13 weeks pregnant.

These days, according to every expert who has come to know my son, he is right where he should be in every way, except when it comes to speech (it’s always something, right?). He works with a speech therapist who is kind and wonderful and he looks forward to the sessions that he has with her weekly. For the longest time we all began feeling like he is ‘right there’ when it came to talking and I began longing for him to say ‘mommy’ more than anything but he could never seem to find the way.

Then, last week my husband and I went on a long overdue vacation to Paris while both of our boys stayed with my in laws. We were both excited to be getting away from the stress of our lives and just take time to enjoy each others company again. When we missed the kids (which was atleast once a day) we would Skype or FaceTime with them and watch our 4.5 year old be his silly, happy self, while our little one did his usual babbling and waving while saying “dada”.

One morning we woke up to a video message, courtesy of my mother in law, that literally brought me to tears. It began with a “say hi to mommy” followed by my (not quite) 2 year old waving and saying “hi Mama” over and over again.  I can’t even tell you how elated I was. How grateful I was to hear the most wonderful sound of my baby saying “mama” for the very first time.  As usual he had taken his time, but in the end his timing was perfectly suited to him and I have been playing that video message over and over since the day we received it.

My baby is turning two today. From the moment I found out I was pregnant until this morning, his presence in our family has been a whirlwind of excitement, joy, uncertainty and amazement.  The last two years (dare I say even longer) he has continued to surprise me in so many ways that sometimes he makes my head spin. But I wouldn’t change it for the world.
Sometimes you have to deal with heartache and worry to really appreciate what you have. While I most often witness this at work (in the hospital) it can easily be applicable to the uncertainties in life.

I am beyond grateful to be here with my boys (all three of them) celebrating my 2 year old on his birthday.  I feel blessed to have a husband who is not only an amazing partner to be on this journey with but an even more incredible, involved (can we say PTO president?!?) nurturing and loving role model for our children.  I am thankful for my first born, who is kind, loving, patient and the most terrific big brother to whom he describes as his “best brother-friend.”  Last but certainly not least I am thankful that my little boy is exactly who he is.

All of our worries, scares and thoughts of what might have been are long gone and in their place is a bright and shining two-year-old star who is just beginning to take his place in the world (long after he has made his mark in this family). To mark his two year birthday, he is doing things at his own pace, as usual, by giving me the added joy of hearing him call me his “Mama.”

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My TWO year old today. (photo credit: Erica Burns Photography)