When I conceived, we’d been married for 7 and half years. We didn’t want to have kids all these years. We wanted to plan it, we wanted to be financially stable, we wanted to prepare. We weren’t spared at all by family for this decision of ours. “So when are you having a baby?” “Why don’t you have kids?” “Your cousins and friends younger to you have 2 kids.” The list goes on. Needless to say, it was very uncomfortable. But, we knew – if we wanted a baby & when we wanted.
We had our moments – happy, sad, bad. We had our little friendly fights, arguments, I-hate-yous and I-love-yous. We celebrated our birthdays and anniversaries. Had dinner watching Two and a Half Men & Big Bang Theory. We fought over wet towels on the bed and used coffee mugs at the dressing table.
Finally, on a pleasant Sunday morning of October 2015, we found out I was pregnant. Both our parents were going to have their first grandchild. Our siblings were going to have their first niece/nephew.
Nervous, excited and multiple other feelings. We made memories every day. We took pictures of my bump progression every month. We looked forward to the ultra sounds. Pregnancy was the happiest I have been. That was the happiest we have been as a couple.
My friend called me the happiest pregnant woman she has ever seen. I patted on my back. I truly was. I hardly fell sick. No nausea. Active. Did yoga twice a week.
We fell in love with the baby en-route.
We looked for names. Asked friends to suggest. We shortlisted 2 – name for a boy & a girl. We started addressing the baby by the name, looking at the bump. We called him Ayden even before we felt his kicks.
We waited for his kicks and jabs everyday. We took videos of his movement. We watched pregnancy videos on YouTube together. We read out loud to him. We played songs to him. We shopped maternity clothes.
Third trimester – nervousness & excitement was in equal amounts. Our baby will be here soon. The house will be filled with baby cries and giggles and diapers. We need to shop – crib, cradle, baby clothes. Which brand is safer? Which store has the cutest designs? Where do we start – there are so many baby products out there.
Such happy & exciting months!
The growth scan in May said that my amniotic fluid index (AFI) was low. We were worried. My Ob-Gyn put me on medication for a week and asked to repeat the scan a week later to see if the fluid levels went up.
I spoke to other mothers. I posted on Facebook groups for new mothers. I found hundreds of them who’ve had low fluid levels that went up after a week of medication. I was relieved. Low fluid levels is not uncommon, plus I’m on medication – so that should be ok, it should go up by next week.
Come next week, 35 weeks pregnant – another happy drive to the hospital for the ultrasound. Turns out, AFI was still the same. And, this time the baby’s weight had started to come down from 2.3 kgs to 2.1 kgs. IUGR – Intra Uterine Growth Retardation. The low AFI had started affecting my baby. If there’s not enough fluid, the baby gets suffocated. That thought was scary. Panicky few hours.
Emergency hospitalization. C-section planned for the next day. Betnasol doses to strengthen the premature baby’s lungs. Panicky few hours, but nothing worrisome.
In less than 24 hours, I’ll have my baby. Excitement had clearly overpowered nervousness by then.
On the morning of June 2nd, 2016 at 9:46 am, Ayden was born. When they said “it’s a boy” my first reaction was, why isn’t he crying? And, in the next second, he cried. I smiled. I think I had a little tear in the corner of my eye. They got him to me. He was so tiny. The tiniest little thing. I touched him very gently. The nurse held his head on my left cheeks (holding my cheeks now as I write this). That moment was the most magical of all the little motherly moments that I’ve experienced.
They took him to NICU, as expected, because premature baby right?
Hours in the post-op room thinking of how I’d raise him – I’ll teach him cooking, I’ll teach him to respect women, I’ll encourage him to take up sports, I’ll make him healthy snacks, I’ll have a cake smash on his first birthday… I did have, not just one, but a few many tears in my eyes this time.
My husband came to the post-op room, held my hands, showed me Ayden’s first ever pic on his phone. A few silent emotional moments there.
“I touched him.” I told him.
“I touched too.” He smiled wide with a sense of accomplishment.
Around 5 pm in the evening. Back to the regular room, hoping to see him again soon. Friends came with flowers. Hugs, laughter, happy tears.
But, there was something wrong. My husband wasn’t around when they got me to the room, which wouldn’t happen unless there’s something concerning. That man would be there for sure. He must be settling up the hospital formalities, maybe signing the birth certificate – I told myself.
But that look on a few faces didn’t seem right. I caught hold of my phone to text my husband, & I see this message on our family WhatsApp group sent by his cousin – “The baby needs heart surgery. Please pray for him.” The same heart of mine which was overjoyed a while ago, sank to no extent.
Heart surgery for a baby? Aren’t heart problems for 60+ olds?
I refused to ask anybody else. If, that is, if at all there’s anything wrong, I don’t want to hear it from anybody else other than the one who made the baby along with me. I texted him – “is everything ok?”
He read the message, but didn’t respond for another hour. Something IS wrong for sure. After an hour I get a reply – “not really. I’ll come there in a bit & tell you.” I wanted to know how soon was a bit. Thankfully it wasn’t too long. But when he came, there came my baby as well, in a portable incubator. That sight!!!
They got him to me just for me to see him. I could barely lift my head. I asked them to take him back to NICU immediately. I didn’t know what was wrong with him, but something was wrong for sure. Let him be under neonatal care until that’s fixed.
After they left, my husband politely asked family to leave the room, bolted the door, held my hands, and cried to no end.
Totally unexpected, totally unaware, I get to know that the little thing that I just gave birth to is born with a critical congenital heart defect. TGA – Transposition of Great Arteries. I’ve never heard that before. Life threatening. My husband still holding my hands tight, told me – “we might not see him again.”
But we did see him, that day, the next day, the day after that and every day until he was with us.
My stitches were still raw. I couldn’t move for the first 2 days. With a lot of difficulty I moved from my bed to the wheelchair to see my baby who was in NICU under observation. I was numb when I saw him with wires around. Just the previous day, I was thinking of ways to raise him to be a good man… And, here I am looking at my 2 days old baby not knowing if he’ll make it to the next day! Needless to say, I picked up my shattered heart and touched him on his forehead.
I asked the nurse – is he ok? She reluctantly said yes. Not that I believed her, but I just wanted to hear that.
I felt immensely happy when I expressed milk for the first time & handed it over to the nurse. The next moment, I felt terrible that I’m not able to feed him directly.
Ayden’s open heart surgery(OHS) was planned 2 weeks later for him to be out of the premature zone, and hence increase the chances of survival.
Unexpectedly again, breathing problem and a few other complications, emergency OHS was planned for the next day morning. We transferred him overnight to the hospital where he was to have his OHS. He was just a week old by then.
That morning, the surgeon got him to me – all dressed for the surgery. The surgical cap was too big for his tiny head. They fastened it with a rubber band. He looked very cute. I held him in my arms, very well knowing that could be the last time I’d be holding him. Painfully, I handed him back to the surgeon. They needed to do what they needed to.
8 hours long surgery. On his tiny heart. Along with his, our hearts too struggled to survive.
The surgery was complicated. There was complication during the surgery. The surgeon looked very tired after the surgery. He explained the complications and then said – we’ll have to wait and see. We waited.
We saw him after the surgery. He didn’t look like anything that I had seen him that morning. He had tubes going in & out of his body. Plasters & gauze bandages. The screen next to him beeped random numbers. Some red, some green, some yellow.
The same night Ayden crashed. The doctors weren’t hopeful. We waited outside the ICU just to hear what we never wanted to hear. But by next morning, he picked up and his vitals were looking ok. We were scared to be happy.
This happened a couple of times, where there was a clear imbalance between hope and heartbreaks.
Ayden was on multiple life supports – ventilator, dialysis, pacemaker. He didn’t respond well to weaning off the ventilator. 22 days in pediatric ICU. The other kids who were admitted in the ICU – all of them met their parents in a few days. Ayden made his home there.
I saw him everyday. I held his hands everyday. I touched his forehead some of the days. I called his name. He never responded. He was sedated throughout.
When things were starting to look better, it started to get scary too. His health started deteriorating. Infections and other complications. His chances of survival turned very meek. Very painfully, we discussed his funeral when he was still alive.
July 1st. New month, a new morning. A day before his actual due date. We realized he had just a couple of hours left in the world. We waited. We informed family. Close family flew in from different cities. Around 2:30 pm, the doctor very hesitantly said – “the heart has stopped.” Ours too stopped for a few seconds.
We got him home for the first time, lifeless. That was the first time my husband ever held him in his arms. We buried him the same evening.
Life has not been the same ever since. It will never be!
This story has been published in Faces of Loss, Faces of Hope.