I was not really going to write about Alan’s heart surgery. As I had mentioned in this post, those times were really hard for our family. But at the end of the day I thought if my post could help other parents or grandparents to cope with similar circumstances, I absolutely have to write about it.
So, I will start right from the beginning, and please forgive me if you think I am sharing too much information, but I think it is very important information to share.
When my husband and I decided that it was time for our at that time the only child to have a brother or a sister (as he kept asking for one), I stopped taking the birth-control pills, and….
Nothing happened for a couple of months. So, I thought to myself that for whatever reason I would not be able to get pregnant again. So, I stopped waiting for a wonder to happen. I was telling myself that at least I knew I did not need to take those pills anymore since I wouldn’t get pregnant anyway.
Six months later, my very regular “visitor” did not show up. I got so excited as I thought that was it! We are having a baby! So, I purchased a pharmacy pregnancy check kits, and….. the result was negative. I was not sure what was happening, but I waited for two more weeks and got another tester. Once again, the result was negative. So, I thought it was time to see my gynecologist.
Are we pregnant?
After a brief examination, my gynecologist had told me that it was just a hormonal disbalance and prescribed a hormonal treatment. I am a good girl, I listen to what my doctor tells me. Well, actually I was. After a week of taking the medicine, nothing was happening. I went on a business trip to Italy, but I was really feeling weird. I was tired. I was not very excited about anything. Well, I was happy to see my friend there and to go shopping with her, but that was it.
When I got back home, I thought I would just try and do another test. I could not believe my eyes when I saw those two blue lines on the tester! I got out of the washroom and showed it to my husband and our son, and Vlad got so happy and kept asking me: Am I getting a brother :)? On the other hand, you should have seen my husband’s face: the wife is coming back from a few days trip in another country and is letting him know she is pregnant. Like,
Of course, I am exaggerating 🙂 He was happy too (though we do joke sometimes that Alan is somewhat Italian since he loves pasta and pizza a lot!)! So, it was time to see my doctor again and to have the ultrasound done. During the ultrasound (performed by another doctor), the doctor told me I was 8-9 weeks pregnant with a boy, but he also told me he could see some kind of a liquid gathering around the baby’s heart. That moved me to a mid- to high-risk pregnancy category, and I had to go through four or five more ultrasounds within the course of the pregnancy.
The good news was that the baby was developing well, so they were just watching me and the baby growing.
Mommy, here I come
Alan was born just a few days before the due date. The delivery was very long, but with no complications. He was born little but gained 2.5 pounds the first month. It was not an easy month, but we were so happy and loved him so much!
I went to see a pediatrician when he turned 1 month old, and told her he was not a quiet baby. I remember my older son was eating and sleeping when he was that little, and I actually had to check on him a lot to make sure he was breathing, and to wake him up to eat. Alan was different. Sometimes it felt like he had not been sleeping at all. He would only sleep for short periods in my arms. I would have him in my arms for probably 20 hours a day.
I was exhausted.
My husband was helping a lot, but he needed to work, so I did not want to keep him awake in the night too much so he could function at work the next day. I’d told that all to the pediatrician, and she sent me to take some tests for post-partum depression. I passed all the tests and the nurse told me that it did not look like I had a problem.
Of course, I did not! It was the baby!
So, I came back to the pediatrician. That time she took a better look at the baby and checked him really thoroughly. I remember turning her head to me and saying: “now you will start crying again”. Don’t ask me what I felt at that moment. My heart sunk.
She explained that it looked like Alan had a different pulse at the upper and the lower body. She said that we would need to see a pediatric cardiologist. Long story short, the cardiologist told us Alan would need an open heart surgery which is called coarctation of the aorta.
He had booked another ultrasound check for Alan in two weeks from the first meeting. During the second ultrasound, we were told they had to operate him as soon as possible.
We felt like the whole world stopped to exist at that moment. There was nothing around us. It was just us and Alan, who has done nothing bad to anyone. Why him??? Why us??? I don’t think anyone could answer these questions…
We were getting ready for the surgery which was scheduled just a few days before our older son’s birthday. I am sorry, honey! That was probably your worst birthday ever. We were so busy, we did not really have time to do anything for you.
The doctors told us the surgery was supposed to last about 2-3 hours. We arrived at the hospital the day before the surgery. They performed all the last checks and said we were good to go. I remember giving my tiny baby to the doctors. We were sitting in a waiting room with many other people, and I could not stop crying.
I was just sitting there and crying.
My husband was holding my hand pretending he is strong and telling me how strong Alan is. Two hours passed. Three hours passed. Four hours passed. In my mind, I had already imagined all possible complications during the surgery. Five hours later, the doctor came out and told us the surgery was successful. Alan was doing good, and we would be able to see him in a few minutes.
Oh. My. Gosh!
I was ready to kiss the ground under the doctor’s feet! I hugged him. and thanked him. I was mad at him for telling us the surgery would only take 2-3 hours, and I was so happy at the same time that everything was over!
A few minutes later we heard our names called and we saw Alan. The tiny baby was laying on a huge bed covered with IV’s and tubes connected to a machine that helped him breathe. He was still sleeping. My baby was sleeping.
After the surgery
I stayed with him days and nights in the hospital, and my husband was taking care of our older son, working, and visiting us at the hospital. I was thinking to myself: we had to go through this all to realize how we love each other, and how lucky I am to have such a great man by my side. I guess I always knew that, but at the moments like this you find out whether the other person is your real partner.
I was breastfeeding Alan before the surgery, but was not able to breastfeed him for a couple of days after it. It was not only a hard time emotionally, but also physiologically. I guess I totally was not thinking about myself during that time, so I forgot to pump. My breast was killing me. Luckily, they were able to find a pump for me at the hospital, as I literally could not touch my breast. I was wondering if Alan would have still remembered how to “eat” after the surgery. When finally a few days after the surgery, he got disconnected from the breathing machine and the IV’s, I was allowed to breastfeed him again. It was a reunion moment again 🙂 He was sucking like nothing had ever happened to him.
I have to mention volunteers who had been distributing free sandwiches for parents taking care of their kids in the Intensive Unit. They would not differentiate between rich or poor, white or black, Jews or Muslims. EVERYBODY was EQUAL there. EVERYBODY would get a sandwich. Some would say “that is just a sandwich”. But when you are with your baby day and night, and there is no kitchen to cook, and you don’t really want to leave your child to go and get something from a cafeteria, those sandwiches are a lifesaver! Some people donated their money, some – their time to make them, and some volunteered to distribute them. Here is my opportunity to thank them. At least this way.
It is amazing how after the surgery he was a different baby! Not that he would have never been crying, but he would be able to sleep in his crib. He would let us sleep! 🙂 He was eating, and growing, and smiling, and learning all things kids learn. He is such a loving kid! He tells me how much he loves me, and he kisses me every day. He loves his older brother, and we are so happy to see them growing 🙂
Everything happens for a reason
We will never be the same. Yes, the surgery has changed us. We have learned to appreciate every single moment together. We have learned that there is nothing more important than the family. I believe every family has its up and down moments, nobody’s perfect. Some times moments like this help us realize what is really important in our lives.
We love being together. We are a family.
I don’t know who the author of this quote. I agree with each and every word in it. I have said so many times, I will never ever wish to anybody to go through what we have gone. But if you or someone you know are going through the same period in their lives, please know
You are strong!
You have to stay strong for yourself and those loving you. You have no choice. Remember? You. Are. Strong!
Another lesson learned
Always question things. I many times think if I had asked my gynecologist to be more diligent and to have me more tests done before I took the hormonal treatment, we probably would not had to experience all this. I keep wondering whether that treatment coincided in timing when Alan’s heart was developing, and those pills had interrupted the normal process.
Do not be afraid to ask questions!
I will give you another example. When Alan was about 2.5 years old he got really sick. We went to a doctor and he told us it was an ear infection. I really did not believe it and asked for a second opinion. He had sent us to a hospital and after a few tests (blood and urine) done, they confirmed it was measles.
See what I mean?
The doctor just wanted to prescribe Alan with antibiotics, which would not have helped in this case. Just a warning: your doctor might not like you questioning him/her. In our case, he put a note on Alan’s file that he was not ready to see the patient again. Well, I don’t care! My son’s health is more important to me than someone’s ego!
By the way, a few days later I got measles too. That was not fun at all. The “beauty” of the parenthood, isn’t it?
Trust Your Instincts!
Remember me visiting the pediatrician and crying and complaining? Yes, that what it was. Moms can feel something is not right! I am not talking about being obsessive and seeing bad things in everything. No. I am talking about observing, and thinking, and asking questions.
Whether it is something little, like helping your neighbour, or volunteering at school, or donating blood (the latter is REALLY big!), please know you can make someone happier 🙂 Don’t do that to expect others will do the same for you. Just do it because it feels good to help!
Did you or someone you know have a life changing event that you are willing to share in the comments? What were your lessons-learned then?