November 2007 - Texas
As I sat there in silence, I began to think about a question an new expectant mom posted on a CHD support group:
"Do you blame yourself for your little one's heart defect?"
She said she knows that she shouldn't yet still struggles with the guilt. I could relate. Could you? As I sat there in the parking lot, I mused about what I had earlier replied to her. How I had over analyzed everything that happened during my pregnancy, especially those first few weeks.
Alexa was planned and very wanted. We tried and I anxiously took a pregnancy test as soon as I missed my period. I found out I was pregnant early Christmas morning 2007 in my mother-in-law's bathroom in Texas. The morning before I had gone jogging with my hubby, something we enjoy doing together when we get the chance. I had been feeling great! I was excited to share the news with my hubby and I wrapped the pregnancy test and gave it to him in private. He was so happy and nervous as I! He shared the news with his family who were equally excited. Everything seemed right. Unfortunately after our trip, I began to feel sick, I was catching my nieces cold, fever and cough. It turned ugly. I had not been that sick in a long time. I worried about coughing my new baby out. The doctor told me I wouldn't, which I knew but still felt like it was going to happen. She said I was beginning to get bronchitis and gave me some antibiotics. I refused to take them (yet). I wanted a chance to get better naturally. I wanted to avoid all medications if possible. Thankfully I did finally get better on my own, no drugs.
During those first few weeks/months of my pregnancy I was VERY cold. I had unexplained chills. I walked around my home in jackets and blankets. I rarely went outside because I would freeze. It wasn't really that cold but I was. I began having lots of side pain which my ob attributed to round ligament pain, stretching inside etc but I was worried about a tubal pregnancy. So one January morning close to midnight, I awoke in pain again and had had enough worry and wonder, so I went to the local ER to get answers once and for all. I peed in a cup and had my first ultra sound. The first of many to come for my peanut. I was told everything was okay and that the baby was "right where it should be." I was relieved. The ER doc mentioned however, that I may be developing a UTI and so she would be prescribing some antibiotics.
"Are you sure?" I replied. "Do I really have to take them? Are they safe?"
"Well, you don't have a full blown UTI but a few bacteria indicating one could develop, if that happens it could be very bad for you and the baby. This antibiotic is considered safe while pregnant. Pregnant women take them all the time."
I wondered though because I did not feel like I had a UTI. I asked the nurse before being discharged if the fact I was not given an alcohol wipe before peeing in the cup could have affected my results and she said maybe and was surprised they had not given me one, but I said no, just a cup. Being pregnant and in the waiting room forever, I had to pee, no time to go back out and ask for wipe. (Sorry if too much info)
So I left the hospital, now with the sun shining in the sky and my husband late for work. I was happy though, happy to know my peanut was growing right were it should but with a new decision to make.
Later that day I told my mom about the findings and she told me she use to cure any UTI's she got by drinking Corn Silk Tea. I bought some, I made some, I drank a little but since I felt no symptoms I wasn't sure if I was getting better. So with the doctors words of warning of the dangers of an untreated UTI I took the pills, the pills 'considered safe while pregnant taken my many pregnant women'. After taking the pills, I felt no different, again because I had no symptoms of a UTI. My side pain however continued through my pregnancy but I knew it was just from the baby growing.
So my answer to the moms question was YES. I have blamed myself. All the doctors say, it is just a matter of chance, 1 in 100, nothing you could do to prevent it, nothing you did cause it. But I will always wonder about these things that happened to me those first few weeks. What if I hadn't gotten sick? What about all that coughing and fever? What if I didn't have a UTI? What if they would have given me the wipe? What if I hadn't taken the pills? Why was I SO cold and with chills? I use to blame myself A LOT at the beginning. Especially as I came to terms with what the diagnosis meant for my baby. Slowly and with time I began to accept what the doctors told me. I know in my heart I would have never done anything to intentionally hurt my baby. All this stuff just happened. I did my best to be healthy and avoid harmful substances, even soda.
I have slowly learned to let go of the guilt but in the back of my mind and bottom of my heart a faint voice is heard asking and wondering
what might have been ... if
and I think it may never be completely silenced.
So as I sat there in the dark, I asked God if I was my fault. Tears clouded my eyes. I thought of how something so seemingly insignificant could have completely altered my daughters life and future forever.
I thought about all the implications and precautions we have to take with our children suffering with CHD. How we have to go the extra mile to keep them safe. I saw lots of families go in and out of Home Depot and place their seemingly healthy little children in the back seat of their cars. They seemed so care free. Not worried about all the possible germs inside and what contracting a the flu could do to their babies heart and lungs. Then I was shocked to see one of those families drive away with the mom carrying her baby in her lap in the front seat. How in an instant their world could be shattered because they chose to not restrain their child. That is a big pet peeve of mine. And I felt like running out and knocking on their window and say how could you place your child at risk like this. I guess we all have choices.
I sat there for a while feeling alone in my plight. Angry to see some parents be so irresponsible with the life of their children. The situation seemed unfair. I realized soon enough however, that I was not alone. That there are thousands of moms and parents out there that willingly sacrifice for their children sake. Like all the amazing mothers and fathers I have met along this journey. The parents who willingly hunker down at home for the flu season every year to protect their children the best they can from any further dangers and illnesses. And parents who courageously crusade for their child's health and selflessly keep vigil over their child's hospital bed day and night. The loneliness I felt was replaced by happy and warm feelings. Feeling lucky to be a part of a group of such loving, caring and devoted parents like you, yes, you.