3 ‘imperfect’ pregnancies = a perfect Mother’s Day

With Mother’s Day coming up, it’s good to remember that there is no perfect blueprint for motherhood.

Many moms-to-be think that with enough preparation during pregnancy, their childbirth experience and new baby will develop exactly as planned. You will learn that you can’t always control the inevitable twists and turns, and that is perfectly OK. I invited three mothers to share how they learned that lesson, and how they came to embrace motherhood. Here are their stories in their own words.

Lindsey Persson’s story: Half a heart makes a family whole 

There are many ways to help alleviate the symptoms of morning sickness.
Lindsey Persson holds her 6-week-old son, James, as he is discharged from Children's Medical Center in April 2015. Also pictured (from left), father Johan Persson, and sons Lucas Persson and Drew Thomisee.

Moments after I saw my newborn son for the first time, he was whisked away from me. My baby, James, has hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS), which means the left half of his heart never developed.

I had a typical pregnancy up until my 20-week checkup. My husband, Johan, and I went in for an ultrasound, and the doctor couldn’t get a good look at all four chambers of James’ heart. The doctor wasn’t too worried. James was moving around a lot, which can obstruct the view. To be on the safe side, the doctor sent me for a special ultrasound. They started the ultrasound, chatting away. Then we heard an awful pause. That’s when we knew something wasn’t right. They sent us to a pediatric cardiologist, who confirmed that James had this syndrome.

We met with a lot of doctors to prepare for James’ birth. When we met with Dr. Joseph Forbess from UT Southwestern, it just felt right. His team was so supportive. The cardiologist, anesthesiologist, and heart catheter doctor were all present so we could talk to everyone in one appointment. We scheduled the delivery for late February and managed the remainder of the pregnancy one day at a time.

A snow storm made James’ birth even more challenging. The roads were terrible, and the people who were supposed to watch Lucas, our nearly 2-year-old, couldn’t come because of the weather. To top it off, my husband woke up with a stomach bug. I guess James really wanted to come in with a bang!

Despite all the hurdles, we made it to Dallas, and James was born Feb. 24, 2015. Before I even got to hold him, the delivery team swept James away for a heart catheter procedure. I’m so grateful to Dr. Patricia Santiago-Munoz because she arranged for me to be wheeled into the hallway immediately so I could see my baby. Those few precious seconds meant the world to me.

At 8 days old, James had his first major heart surgery, the Norwood procedure. He was in Children’s Medical Center of Dallas for 41 days. While we were there, the doctors and nurses taught us how to care for his complex needs. They prepared us so well before we came home that being home is actually easier than we expected. James is just like any other baby; caring for him just takes a little more.

I’m definitely going to view this Mother’s Day with a new perspective. I’ve learned to treasure little moments even more. Our experience with James has been totally worth it. It doesn’t matter what obstacles you face. You just love your kids, and that’s that.

If you are going through this kind of journey and need someone to talk to, connect with me through my blog. I’m happy to share my experiences with you.

Colette Haigler’s Story: Pregnancy isn’t always fun, but it’s worth it

There are many ways to help alleviate the symptoms of morning sickness.
John and Colette Haigler hold their twins, Ava and Austin, in December 2014.

My husband, John, and I are in our 40s. We found out in April 2014 that I was pregnant, and we were absolutely thrilled. This was my first pregnancy (John has older children), and we couldn’t wait to take this journey together.

At an appointment early in the pregnancy, my human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) levels were really high. I’m a nurse practitioner, so I knew right away what that meant. There was more than one baby in there. Our doctor verified my suspicions: John and I were having twins.

We went home, sat on the steps, and just stared at each other. It was overwhelming and amazing. We’d waited so long for the wonderful experience of parenthood, and now it had arrived, times two! Fear soon gave way to excitement, and we began to prepare for Ava and Austin to arrive.

As thrilled as I was about being pregnant, I can say that I truly did not enjoy the process. I was probably the worst pregnant person ever! I was not interested in having my picture taken or anything because for the first four months of my pregnancy, I had morning sickness all day, every single day. It was pretty awful. I started having contractions at 25 weeks, and Dr. Santiago-Munoz put me on modified bed rest. That meant I had to stop working, go home, and relax. I didn’t have to lie in bed all day, but do light activities and rest a lot when I was at home. I made it to 37 weeks before the twins arrived.

Ava and Austin were born on Nov. 24, 2014. Ava weighed 5 pounds and was born two minutes before Austin, who weighed 5 pounds, 7 ounces. The delivery went smoothly. Ava got to come home right away, but Austin was in the NICU for about a week (first at Clements University Hospital and then at Children’s Medical Center of Dallas). When the babies were born, it was indescribable. In most relationships, it takes time for love to develop. When you have a baby, it’s instant, immediate.

Having twins is very challenging, but it’s a lot of fun. It takes a lot of planning. You have to get two of everything! It’s really about teamwork for us. We care for them together, feeding them, changing them, bathing them. I wouldn’t change it. It’s so special and truly a gift from God!

I lost my mother at a young age, and I hated Mother’s Day because everyone around me had someone to celebrate. Now I have something to look forward to. I know how special it is to be a mother. No matter how bad the pregnancy was, all is forgotten when I look into my babies’ eyes and see their smiles. It’s a life changing experience!

Stephanie Swanson’s story: Love comes in tiny, sometimes early, packages

There are many ways to help alleviate the symptoms of morning sickness.
Eddie and Stephanie Swanson pose with their newborn daughter Carolyn in December 2014.

My husband, Eddie, and I were ecstatic when we found out I was pregnant with our daughter, Carolyn. Eddie is a former Green Beret, and after multiple deployments and 10 years of marriage, we decided it was finally time to have a baby.

I had a very easy pregnancy with no unpleasant pregnancy symptoms. But everything changed when I went to my 32-week appointment. Dr. Ann Lutich looked at me and said, “You’re being admitted. Right now.”

I was shell shocked. Dr. Lutich gave Carolyn a pretty ominous diagnosis: intrauterine growth restriction caused by reversed end-diastolic blood flow. That meant that between heartbeats, blood and nutrients were flowing back into the placenta instead of to Carolyn. Carolyn needed to come out, fast, via C-section. Carolyn was born eight weeks early on Dec. 5, 2014. Her birth was the last C-section performed at St. Paul University Hospital, which was closing. We were among the patients moved into the new Clements University Hospital the next day. Carolyn weighed 2 pounds, 15 ounces, at birth, and she was in the NICU for 25 days. We could visit her whenever we wanted, but we could not stay all night. Having to lay her in an isolette and say good night was really tough.

When you’re pregnant, you develop this idea of the perfect childbirth experience, and you plan for that to happen. When you have a preemie, your plans go out the window, and you have to understand that that’s OK. I never wanted a C-section. I wanted to be able to breastfeed, which is often difficult or impossible for mothers of preemies. I had a little “mother guilt” to cope with, but Dr. Horsager-Boehrer, Dr. Lutich, and the NICU nurses were very supportive and helped me understand that none of this was my fault. As long as Carolyn was safe, healthy, and growing, our experience should be labeled a success.

When Carolyn was finally 4 pounds – big enough to come home – Eddie and I did “shift work” for her first few weeks. I’d do eight hours, then he’d do eight hours. We made sure to spend the next eight hours together, catching up or watching a movie. Routines change as your baby grows, but it’s important to make time for each other.

This year will be my first Mother’s Day. My mother passed away almost 10 years ago, so it will be both special and bittersweet. Carolyn is actually named after my mother. I’m sure it will be perfect and memorable, just like our beautiful baby girl.

There are so many bumps along the path to motherhood. Some are clearly marked, and some will take you by surprise. It’s great to hear stories of moms overcoming these overwhelming life events and coming out with a new, positive outlook on parenting. Thank you for sharing, and happy Mother’s Day to all moms and moms-to-be.

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