A Mother's Love
A Mother's Love
A Mother’s Love Is Never Ending
Once a year, we celebrate Mother’s Day and then we get busy and sometimes forget the fact that a Mother’s love is never-ending. In a culture gone awry let us help others to see the value of a loving mother and a loving family. Let’s continue to celebrate the gift of life our mothers gave to us.
Our work is SO important to give every life and family a fighting chance and then the rest is in Gods hands.
A Mother’s Love
I was six months pregnant when I found out my unborn baby had Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome. (There was no left ventricle.) I laid in an ultrasound room that was completely silent for 45 minutes while two ultrasound technicians, a high risk OBGYN, and two Pediatric Cardiologists took their turns using the ultrasound machine and looking at the screen. No one told me or James what was going on. You could hear a pin drop. I had tears steaming down my face, but I couldn’t tell you why. I didn’t know what was happening, but I knew it wasn’t good. After those agonizing 45 minutes one doctor told me to get dressed and meet them across the hall. I was is a daze. We sat down and waited another eternity until a group of doctors entered the room. At that time we were told the diagnosis. I don’t know how long we were in there. I don’t even know what they said. I remember they were talking, but it was like hearing Charlie Brown’s teacher. Blah blah blah blah. Their mouths were moving, sound was happening, nothing was being comprehended. After leaving the room we somehow managed our way to the car. I don’t remember walking out. We sat in the car and cried. Hard. Together we both could only remember a few things they said: “heart defect” “heart transplant” “death.” Stunned, we drove home.
I received a call the next morning from a doctor telling us that altogether they found 5 things wrong with the baby’s heart: Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome, a pinch in the aortic arch, bicuspid valves (instead of tri cuspid), the blood flowing backwards in the heart, and aortic stenosis. We were told to come see a specialist right away. We went in later that afternoon. The doctor was nice and friendly and then recommended I get an abortion quickly, “before it’s too late.” Huh? “Too late?” He said, “you know- too far along.” Abortion? What? Why? “Because IF your child survives past a few days, they will not have any quality of life.” But, they already HAD quality of life. Right now. In my womb. I could never love something more and now, knowing about their defect, I loved them even more. I simply told that doctor that we would not be returning and out we went. One more time during my pregnancy a doctor urged me “for the sake of your child” to abort.
I got put on bed rest, more for my mental state than anything else. James and I looked at this from different angles causing friction and arguing. He said to think positive, I said to think realistically. We were advised to have funeral plans prepped and ready. How can that plan make me think positive? We were told IF the baby made it through birth, which was a big if given the pressure a baby goes through during labor and given that our baby didn’t have a heart designed for that kind of pressure, then we had some choices that needed to be made. Choice #1- bring your baby home. Do nothing. No medical intervention. Likely the baby will live a few days, maybe a week, and pass away at home with us. Choice #2- immediately get put on the heart transplant list. Choice #3- send the baby to surgery at one day old to put a stent in their heart. If they survive and make it to 6 months, they would have another open heart surgery to replace the stent for a new one. If they survived that surgery and made it to 18 months, they would have a third open heart surgery to once again replace the stent. This stent changing would occur again and again as the child grew. Some options, huh? Well #1 I couldn’t do nothing. I couldn’t just bring them home and let them pass if I knew I had other choices. #2 I couldn’t bring myself to put them on a heart transplant list. I just could not pray for another baby to die so that mine could live. I couldn’t wish for another mother to mourn her child so that I could celebrate mine. I just couldn’t. So, option 3 was truly the only option. Surgery then into God’s hands.
One evening while eating dinner and inevitably discussing our after birth plans and crying incessantly, James told me something that changed me. Seriously. It changed me. “Don’t you think we’re lucky?” Excuse me? Lucky? Look at our options! I stared at him like he had grown an extra head. “Beth, God picked us out of all the people in this world to raise a baby with health issues. He knew that baby needed us.” I was so blown away. I fell in love with James in that moment more than I ever thought possible. How selfish I was. He was seeing blessings and love where I was seeing despair and hopelessness. I was angry at God because I did everything right in my pregnancy and didn’t deserve to have this happen, instead of praising Him for trusting me. From that point on it was so different. I was happy. James and I were on the same page and our love for our baby and each other grew exponentially. I went from the breaking point to nothing can stop us.
I went into labor prematurely, about 7 weeks early. I was scared because not only was the baby’s heart defected, now they would have prematurity to overcome. Luckily they were able to stop the labor and put me on complete bed rest.
On January 31, 2002 my water broke. Ready or not at four weeks early it was game on. It was a blur of excitement, fear, joy, anxiety, happiness, uncertainty. The baby was coming. It was time. The fight starts NOW. We were warned that the baby would be purple in color and wouldn’t cry due to lack of oxygen from a slow pumping heart. The show began. I had what felt like a stadium full of people in my room. I wouldn’t have been surprised to see hotdog and soda vendors to keep the masses happy! There was a team of NICU nurses, about three of them, my OB, my high risk OB, a Pediatric Neonatologist, two Pediatric Cardiologists, my labor nurse, two medical students, my husband on one side, and my mom on the other side. I should have sold tickets.
At 2:12 am my baby girl was born! A GIRL! I thought it was a boy the whole time!! I caught a glimpse of the back of Rachel’s head as they ran to the warmer to start the medicines for her heart. It was a flurry of activity with voices and medical jargon and doctors and nurses and seriousness. Then there it was. A cry. Quiet at first. Then louder. Then even louder. Tears just rolled down my face. I had a fighter. Girl power!
After about 45 minutes or so I got my first chance to see her. They allowed me to hold her just for a bit. She stopped crying as we just laid there in awe of one another. Studying each other. Memorizing each other. Would this be the only time I get to see my baby alive? When they take her from me would that be it? I held her so tightly and studied her so closely. Just in case. I whispered how proud I was of her already. She was here. She made it. I told her that in these arms there would be love forever. They would always be made for her. I told her that I loved her and that together we can do anything. Anything. I told her I was proud to be her mom. Then it was time to hand her over. I kissed her with every ounce of love I ever had and handed her over. Then I hugged and kissed James as he went with Rachel to Children’s Hospital. I delivered her at St. John’s Mercy so they had a trip to make. I couldn’t go.
I was brought to a room down at the far end of a hall. It felt lonely. I asked the nurse why I was so far away from everyone. Literally, the other moms were several doors down with plenty of empty rooms separating us. She quietly told me that they didn’t think I would want to hear the babies crying in the mother’s rooms. Oh. So there I sat. Alone in my small, dark room with my husband across town, my baby across town, my whole world across town. The next day was long. Social workers coming in to try to explain to me symptoms of separation anxiety, several nurses and doctors that were there for the birth coming in to say hi. They were so kind. But I didn’t want to be with them. I wanted to be at Children’s looking at and loving my little peanut. James called me throughout the day to keep me updated. She was doing good. Crying loud, wetting diapers, all the baby stuff she’s supposed to do. That night, James came to the hospital to stay with me. He was exhausted. Emotionally spent. Wanting to be with his wife, yet needing to be with his daughter. We hugged, cried, laughed, and prayed. A lot. Finally we fell asleep.
At about 6:30 am we were awakened by the Pediatric Cardiologist. The expression on his face was one I had never seen from him. My heart sank. He’s here to tell me that my baby girl has left. I started crying before he even uttered a word. “I don’t know what to even say. Rachel is something of a miracle.” Huh? A miracle? Do those really still happen? I prayed for one, but really? “We did quite a few tests this morning. Rachel’s heart is beating beautifully. She is pink in color and looks wonderful. She even has a left ventricle. Small, yes, but there.” What?!?! “No surgery needed, no heart transplant list, just a perfect baby. Mr. and Mrs. Henson, we KNOW what we saw. We all saw it. We KNOW our diagnosis was right. I know medicine. This wasn’t medicine. This was God.” A miracle. A true miracle. In an unprecedented move pushed forth by Rachel’s doctors, Children’s Hospital released Rachel and sent her back to the St. John’s NICU. Why? “Because this little girl needs to be with her mom.” The best reason ever in my opinion. We had her baptized in the NICU because, do miracles last? Are we tempting fate?
My miracle, Rachel, born on the most perfect of days, Thursday January 31 at the lovely hour of 2:12 am, is now a Nursing major and a music minor at Truman State University. She received a full ride to the college of her dreams. She wants to be a pediatric oncology nurse and is even kicking around going further and becoming a doctor. She plays the piano, the oboe, the bassoon, the tenor saxophone, and the baritone. She is wicked smart, incredibly funny, beyond kind, sincerely humble, and absolutely the most loving miracle on this Earth. In the first semester as a freshman in college she became the secretary of the Students for Life organization. She put together a lecture for the college inviting the President of the Missouri Right to Life (who just so happens to be her Grandpa) to teach and answer questions. Even inviting other clubs who do not share in her passion or beliefs. She has straight A’s and is loving every minute of college. It’s been amazing, yet bittersweet watching her spread her wings and become the person God created her to be. She is a miracle. God has such plans for her. He saved her for a reason, and she’s already proving why.
Abortion? What would I have done to this world if I followed that advice? What I would have missed out on! What this WORLD would have missed out on! If Rachel would have died in my arms that day, if God would have taken her home, I would be no less honored to be her mother. I would be no less overjoyed at her life. I would be no less touched by her presence. And I would have always cherished the overwhelming amount of love we shared in those few minutes of time. Abortion? Oh my word. I can’t even imagine……