Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Inside the American Medical System: Our Story Begins (Part 2 in the Series)

Though our little guy is now four and a half years old, I've never written down his story. If you go back to my blog entries for August and September 2010 (starting here and here), you can read the beginning of our journey into the medical system. I'll cover that in a minute.

And in a way, you could say that our journey began at that point - on the day that I took our little guy in for our pediatrician to evaluate the problems that were becoming obvious to our family.

But in reality, this story goes back further - much, much further. In fact, the Lord had been preparing me for the arrival of a baby with special needs for years - even decades. When it happened, it was not a surprise, but rather the fulfillment of something long-known.

Here's how that happened:

I was raised to be strongly pro-abortion. The philosophy taught was simply that abortion was a necessary evil - "Better aborted than unwanted." I began the journey out of that place of darkness quite early - I began to question the ethics of abortion in my early teens, and began gradually to travel the slow journey toward becoming completely and fervently anti-abortion and pro-life, which is where I am today.

However, in my life is a much-loved person who is, and always has been, very pro-abortion - adamantly so - and who has always made it clear that he/she would immediately abort any child with health problems.

And thus, about fifteen years ago, the thought popped unbidden into my head, "I wonder if I will ever have a baby with health problems in order to show this person that all babies are precious and deserve life?" I didn't consider the question in depth, but the thought remained in my mind all those years, with a half-aware assumption that a baby with special needs might be in my future for that very purpose.

Fast forward to when I was married.

We accepted the culturally-popular mis-truth that "you have to use birth control for a few years so that you can get to know each other," so we waited a decorous two years before deciding to start our family.

When we decided that we'd waited "long enough," our first child was quickly conceived - but was miscarried at nine weeks. Though I was puzzled by my near-complete lack of pregnancy symptoms, I was completely clueless of the obvious signs that we were headed straight for a loss. (My miscarriage story is here.)

Our second child was completely healthy and born at term. Except for crippling hyperemesis gravidarum, the experience of which formed the basis for this blog, there were no complications. I felt no misgivings about his health, and we refused all prenatal testing and ultrasounds.

Our third child, however, was different.

From the very beginning, I felt deeply that something was wrong. At first, I was convinced that I was going to miscarry. That didn't happen. But the feeling that something was wrong didn't go away. And as the pregnancy progressed, I began to wrestle with an unexpected (and unwanted) feeling - the feeling that I ought to get an ultrasound. Normally, I don't like ultrasounds, and I don't get them unless absolutely necessary. But this time I felt that I needed to.

And so we did. And they found nothing.

At that point, I started to feel like I was a neurotic mess. Why on earth was I doing so much worrying and fretting? Baby was fine, we were at the twenty-week mark, and there was nothing to worry about.

Control yourself, woman!

I couldn't help but wonder if my fears were portending either a stillbirth or birth complications. However, I didn't have any strong feelings that way, so we continued ahead planning our second homebirth.

Maternity pictures one month before baby's arrival! 

The rest of our pregnancy went smoothly, with no complications. I went into labor at something like 39 weeks and 3 days, and my labor lasted seven hours, eleven minutes. We had a bit of a dramatic finish, as baby's heart started doing some fairly serious decels during second stage, and we had to rush pushing a bit. NOT fun. And baby needed suctioning and stimulation to get started. However, as all birth junkies know, those are among the most common of birth complications - nothing out of the ordinary.

Read baby's birth story here.

Baby's on his way.... 

... and here at last!

When everything was over, I felt relieved - but also confused. I had spent this entire pregnancy worrying. Constantly worrying. And here I was, with an uneventful pregnancy, a (relatively) uncomplicated birth, and a seemingly healthy newborn.

At that point, I really started doubting myself. Why was I such a worrywart?

Baby's first year, however, was quite eventful. Right after the birth, we were plunged into catastrophic nursing problems that were absolutely nightmarish. We ended up seeing lactation consultants repeatedly, pumping around the clock while bottle-feeding, going in for tongue-tie, and having to retrain baby to the bottle. It was a very hard couple of months, and a time that I hope never to repeat. After we finally got all of the problems cleared up, and the breast pump triumphantly returned to the nursing store (with a big good riddance!), we thought we were in the clear.

And we were. But only for a couple of months. Then the next storm began to brew.

The first time I noticed that something was not quite right was when a sweet friend gave us an exer-saucer for baby. In reading the label, I saw the words, "For infants of four months and older with good head and neck control." Wait a minute. Our baby was more than four months old, and didn't have good head and neck control. There was no way he could sit in that exer-saucer!

But I dismissed the thought and still thought our wee one was within the lower confines of "normal." And so the year continued. But I began, gradually, to notice that baby was falling further and further behind in his milestones, as well as displaying other concerning characteristics (such as a lack of ability to make eye contact or smile) and a small cloud of fear began to gather.

Finally, a month before our little guy's first birthday, I allowed my fears to surface. This is not normal. I am officially worried about this baby. And I packed him up and took him over to our sweet midwife's house to get her opinion.

One of the reasons that I value our midwife's opinion so highly is that she, like me, is extremely anti-fuss. She doesn't support unnecessary tests, and she is extremely calm and unlikely to make a fuss when none is needed. Thus, I knew that I could trust her opinion, because she would not overreact if I was worrying about nothing.

However, after I laid out my concerns to her, my midwife said immediately and clearly, "Yes, I think there is something wrong. Yes, you need to go see your pediatrician right away." That was enough for me, and I immediately made the appointment to go in and have our little guy evaluated to find out what on earth was going on.

Through it all was a small feeling of relief - I was not crazy after all. All of the worrying, the intuitive Spirit-led knowledge that something was indeed wrong, had been correct. And the knowledge that whatever it was was finally here, instead of being forever-anticipated, was a relief. We could deal with reality instead of a nebulous cloud of uncertainty, fear, and vague apprehensions. The shoe had dropped, and now we could deal with the shoe instead of worrying about it.

To be continued!

With his big brother! 
Click on Part 3 to keep reading!

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