Della. The girl who changed everything. Our story is long, emotional, beautiful, and empowering. As I sit here with her snuggled up to my chest, breathing in every ounce of her, I reflect on the entire thing.
It all started with a desire to grow our family and dreaming up what it would look like to have one more in the mix. Something happens for us around the time each of our kids turns 2. We start to get the fever. I mean, babies are so delicious, right? When they start talking, walking, rebelling, and finding their own way, who wouldn’t crave that newborn, doughy, baby smell. I don’t know exactly what it is, but I think I would have 10 babies if nature and God would allow me to. 😉 Luckily, my husband usually doesn’t take a lot of convincing in this department. We come from big families and both being the oldest of 5 kids makes it an easy sell.
Ok, back to Della, the third little rosebud. We found out in July of 2017 that we, in fact, were pregnant! I actually knew it before I took the test. I found myself standing in front of the fridge downing apple juice from the glass jar. Not a typical thing for me. I usually cringe at the thought of drinking straight from the containers. One of those moments where I couldn’t deny what my body was telling me.
You’re doing weird things. You’re totally pregnant.
I take a pregnancy test, it’s late at night. The boys were asleep. Doug was in the living room. As soon as it turned positive, I ran into the living room. Legit ran. He thought something was wrong with me until he saw my face. I’m sure I looked like a cartoon character at the moment, but I couldn’t help my cheesy grin. I blurted out, I’m pregnant, and shoved the pregnancy test in his face. I can see his expression in my head now even a year later. Joyful, genuinely happy and thankful.
Ok, now onto the pregnancy. I started feeling morning sickness pretty early on. Like right after I took the test. Actually, I am not sure why they call it morning sickness. It pretty much lasts all day long. I couldn’t help but tell my family almost right away. I sure am glad I did as well because they were my peace and calm for the next few weeks of trials. Letting me call them for every issue, listening and praying for us.
The Scary Start
I had a big scare around 5 weeks. I started bleeding unexpectedly. I could write a whole post just about that, but in the spirit of getting the whole story out, I’ll summarize a bit. I had 4 episodes of unexplained bleeding. 3 trips to the ER and 2 to the doctor. All the while, it was too early to see anything except for what they call a fetal pole, which basically means a baby is forming, but they could not see a heartbeat until further along. I was discharged every time and told there was a 50% chance we would end up with a baby. They diagnosed my “condition” as a threatened miscarriage. I had many questions, tears, pleading with God, and on my knees in prayer moments over the next 3-4 weeks.
My HCG levels were checked and rechecked with positive signs, but never any solid confirmation until my last visit to the doctor. What I can tell you is that there were many moments during that trial that I felt the presence of the Holy Spirit with us. One example is when we were in the ER for the 3rd time and an ultrasound tech was doing a scan on me. She wasn’t supposed to tell me anything. It was actually a big deal for her to break protocol, but she let me see the baby’s heartbeat on the screen. Doug and I cried in the room that day and it gave us faith that everything would be ok. I also had a lovely midwife that allowed me to go into her office at 9 pm, knowing that I wasn’t her patient, and gave me an ultrasound. She had the suspicion that I had a subchorionic hemorrhage and that’s what was causing the unexplained bleeding. As we waited for the confirmation from my OBGYN, we put faith in God that this was the true diagnosis.
I cannot describe to you what it feels like to walk around in your “normal” life while being told you are halfway pregnant. I was able to breathe again at our 10-week appointment when the hemorrhage was confirmed. The baby would be completely unharmed by this and it would likely resolve on its own by 20 weeks. I am very lucky that my baby was ok. For many, many women this is not the case. We have to be able to talk about these things and not put such a stigma around them. We should offer prayer, comfort, and healing words to one another instead of judgment, criticism, and silence out of fear of saying the wrong thing. My heart aches for those that have angel babies in heaven.
The Gender Reveal
I continued along in my pregnancy feeling so much worse than I did with the boys. I was starting to think that this must be a girl, but not convinced. Doug was absolutely sure that there was a girl in there. I guess part of me was telling myself that I was carrying another boy to lessen the shock if I was to be a mom of three boys. Which, I will say would have been totally fine, but a deep part of me longed for the “mini-me” that I could one day play dress up with and I would be lying if I said that I didn’t dream of the tea parties that would take place in our house with a girl in the mix.
It was so surreal to sit there in the ultrasound tech’s room at 16 weeks when she asked the question, “Are you ready to know what you are having?” Holding Doug’s hand, we both looked at each other and said, “YES!” She confirmed that we were having a girl and of course I had to ask her if she was sure about a hundred times. We left feeling so elated. I was on cloud nine. My pictures of pink bows and frilly dresses were about to become a reality.
We planned a big reveal for Halloween night. A somewhat of our own trick-or-treat if you will. Of course, I think the boys were the most surprised. Dregon, our oldest, was sure he would get a sister and was actually quite vocal about that fact that he did not want another brother. One little brother was enough for him. I was glad that we weren’t about to crush his dreams. The party was fun! There was food, cake, and family…followed by a very rainy trick or treat session for the boys.
Our 20-week anatomy scan was something that came quickly and neither one of us really thought twice about it. We had already overcome so much in the beginning so what did we have to worry about? Work was crazy for both of us around this time so I told Doug that I didn’t mind going to this one alone. He had been there with me through everything and anyways we had done this twice before. Opening a new restaurant was not an easy task and he needed to be on site that day.
I arrived and they did the usual routine scan on me. Everything was looking good and measuring great. Until another nurse came into the room and started to scan her heart again. She asked me if she could talk to me about something. I immediately knew that something was wrong and I asked if I could call Doug. I put him on speaker phone as she told us about Della’s heart. She saw what she called a Ventricular Septal Defect or VSD for short. It meant that there was a hole between the ventricular walls of her heart. We would need to be referred to the pediatric cardiologist at Texas Children’s for a fetal echocardiogram. Tears streamed down my face as I imagined all the possible outcomes. I had her draw me a picture of the defect so that I could understand exactly what was going on. I couldn’t believe that just a few hours ago I was telling Doug to go to work like no big deal and now I was alone in this room feeling like I was just punched in the face. The good thing is that I was able to drive straight to him where he, of course, gave me such comfort because he is way stronger than I am in these types of situations.
I spent the next few weeks obsessing over the diagnosis and researching everything I could about VSD. Google became my best and worst friend. We had so many people praying for us. My family that prayed for us over the phone on the day of the diagnosis, I will never forget those special moments. I cannot express how thankful I am for the people in my life that surround me with such comfort.
It was December and we had to wait until January to see the specialist. It was agonizing. The Holidays were supposed to be such a happy time, but I found myself struggling. I was physically feeling a lot better, but emotionally I was wrecked. I would be fine and then I would think of her little body growing inside of me and how I just wished I could make everything better. I knew there was a chance that the hole would close on its own so I clung to that thought. As much as I would like to say I stayed positive the whole time, that is just not true. My mind wouldn’t rest until we saw the specialist.
As we found ourselves there in her office for what seemed like an eternity being scanned again we just sat there feeling so anxious. They took so many pictures of her heart. The doctor came in when they were finished and she explained what a VSD was to us again. She asked about our other kids and if they had any heart issues. We thought for sure she was about the deliver us more bad news. She then proceeded to tell us that the hole was already smaller and appeared to be closing on its own. She was certain that this would resolve before she would be born. They would listen to her heart closely after delivery, but she assured us not to worry at all. Our girl was completely healthy. The sigh of relief was tremendous. Another miracle.
The Third Trimester
What hurdles we had been through! It started to feel like smooth sailing now. We did a lot of leaning on each other during my pregnancy for both pregnancy-related issues and life issues. During a job transition for Doug, our oldest son came home from school with something called Fifth Disease. It sounds scary, but it’s a common virus that school-aged kids get from time to time. Most of us were exposed when we were children without even knowing. It caused cheeks that looked like they were slapped (red and sometimes itchy) and possibly a fever. Kids are usually fine and act completely normal. I did some googling (again) and found out that Fifth Disease was extremely dangerous to pregnant women and unborn babies. Great. I told my doctor at our appointment that week and she had some blood work ordered for me. It was most likely that I was exposed as a child and I would have the antibodies, but not a current infection. Well, turns out when we got the blood work back that I did indeed have a current infection. Fifth Disease in pregnant women translates into what they call Parvo b-19 virus. The risks of having this while pregnant were mainly for fetal anemia and in some cases some other serious fetal conditions like Hydrops.
Right after that while on a trip with my family, I experienced some very crazy itching symptoms to my hands and feet. It was so bizarre, but no amount of itching would resolve it. I mentioned this to my doctor and she was concerned that it could be Cholestasis. Was I the poster child for weird pregnancy symptoms now? We ran more tests that confirmed Cholestasis. With the two diagnoses’ I was to be monitored twice a week with non-stress tests and weekly ultrasounds. That was fun. Working a full-time job, having two kids to care for, being pregnant and trying to juggle it all was challenging. We got through it together. Our nurses were amazing throughout the non-stress tests and Della continued to pass with flying colors. They checked for fetal anemia weekly and never found any signs. It started to become just a part of our routine. I even started to enjoy our time together at the hospital strapped up to monitors. Just us two girls and some good quiet time.
The Cholestasis diagnosis ended up being dropped and classified it as a secondary response to the parvovirus. Whew!
We were nearing the end of the pregnancy and feeling confident that she was a fighter and continued to push through every obstacle we were presented with. I couldn’t have done it without my family and friends that were there for us. The texts, phone calls, advice, prayers, and thoughts really went a long way. By the Grace of God we made through to 40 weeks and 3 days.
Next up…the story of her birth. Stay tuned, it’s a beautiful one.