This past September, I gave birth to my son. When I was 5 months pregnant with him, I was told he had a massive cerebellum brain bleed. The first 5 months of my pregnancy had been rough…I was hospitalized in my first trimester for hyperemesis (vomiting too much), hospitalized in my second trimester with viral meningitis, I had a VERY minor car incident but still managed to mess up my pelvis, and I slipped in my kitchen. Even with all of these crazy things going on, I loved being pregnant. I felt so beautiful. So when I was hit with this terrifying news at 5 months, I was so scared and anxious. No one could tell us what to expect, or if he would have minor or major problems.
To be honest, when I found out about the bleed, I struggled as to what to do about the entire pregnancy. The doctors were wanting to perform major tests before I passed the ‘age of viability’. As a nurse, I knew what that meant…they wanted me to know how bad things were or weren’t, so I could decide if I wanted to terminate the pregnancy.
I had so much guilt. I thought about every single bad thing I had done while I was pregnant. There was that time I sunbathed while we were on vacation. I totally did not drink enough water. I frequently forgot my prenatal vitamins. I thought about every single piece of food I put in my mouth. I even thought about things I watched on t.v….could the loud noise have somehow caused this? I wanted so bad to find an answer to why this had happened.
My husband and I talked about what we should ‘do.’ Was it fair to our daughter to bring a baby that might have massive disabilities into her life, someone who might take the majority of our time and money? I struggled every second of every day. I began to hate myself for thinking horrible things. I didn’t believe I was capable of caring for, or even loving, a baby with major problems. How would we find someone to care for a disabled child while I was at work? How would we even afford that? How could we ask our parents to help us with that kind of responsibility?
It was a horribly heavy weight to carry. And to top it off, my husband had never wanted a second child. I had begged him every single day for seven years…threatened him, pleaded with him, cried to him, and had finally given up when he shocked me and said we could “try” one time and “leave it to fate.” On top of every single emotion pulsating through me, I was worried he would resent me for asking for this second child.
I cried all the time. Friends would stop by unannounced and I couldn’t even look them in the eye. When they tried to hug me, I retracted, or just stood there stiff in their arms. My husband said he would support any decision I made in regards to whether or not to continue the pregnancy.
I’ll never forget the night I finally gave in and let go and accepted whatever fate would be dealt to me. I was crying silently in the bath, and as the water flowed over my tummy I told my baby how sorry I was. I was sorry this had happened to him, I was sorry for the thoughts running through my head, and I was sorry for even questioning if I should continue the pregnancy. And as I laid there, crying in a bath of warm water, I told him how much I loved him and he kicked inside of me, as if he could hear every single word I spoke. And then I knew, I knew I couldn’t do anything to him. And I knew I did love him, and I loved him as he was, whatever that meant.
The rest of my pregnancy, I had good days and I had bad days. But as I look at my son now, and I think of how I questioned so many things…I’m so thankful for our conversation in that bathtub.
The second day of his life, he had a fetal MRI that confirmed the bleed was confined to his cerebellum. 75% of his cerebellum was gone, it had been reabsorbed from the bleed. But I think we are so lucky that it was localized to his cerebellum, which is mainly responsible for movement and coordination. He is a little wobbly, and we don’t know if he will show any symptoms when he tries to sit up or walk, but I know now that it could have been so much worse. I am so so grateful that he smiles at me, and I find peace knowing that he has the ability to be happy.
I guess when something happens to your child, during or after your pregnancy, you mourn the loss of what is ‘normal’. You mourn the loss of what you thought everything would be like. You learn to accept any hand that is dealt, because what else can you do?
For anyone out there with perfectly healthy, perfectly normal children, you are blessed. For anyone out there with children with difficulties, you are blessed too Just know that there are other people out there that feel the way you do, have had the same thoughts, and your efforts to care for your child do not go unnoticed.