Triggers, they sneak up on you when you least expect it.
As I got out of bed this morning and said a prayer, I instinctively reached for my phone.
Jimmy Kimmel was trending ― I assumed for yet another hilarious spoof, but I was wrong. His monologue was about his newborn son. How he and his wife found out that their baby ― only a few hours old ― was born with severe heart defects.
There, in that moment, as he shared his story which ultimately had a “happy ending,” I was transported back in time. Back to when I chose to go it alone and forge ahead with plans my husband and I made to have a baby.
Unfortunately, life had other plans and my husband passed away ― unexpectedly ― a mere year and six days after we exchanged vows. Our plans, dreams and goals seemed to die along with him ― including that of having a baby.
I decided to continue our journey. I know he’d want it for me. We’d picked out names and even created a chart to analyze our parenting styles. We’d spent countless hours debating the name “Calypso.” His Caribbean roots drew him to the name. After convincing him he was setting our daughter up for a lifetime of ridicule, he quickly reconsidered.
Fast forward to what seemed a lifetime later. I sat at the maternal-fetal medicine specialist’s office. Because of sluggish thyroid, I was considered a high risk and needed to be monitored more closely.
A few weeks earlier, they’d noticed fluid around my baby’s heart and referred me to a pediatric cardiologist. I was now back at the MFM’s office waiting for an update.
I knew something was wrong when the technician stopped talking. I began to feel anxious and said a prayer. I wished my hubby was there to hold my hand. I prayed he’d reach out to God on my behalf.
She left the room and the MFM walked in.
“There is still fluid and the baby hasn’t grown,” he said solemnly. “Go directly to the emergency room. The baby may die at any moment.”
You realize the cruelty and the unfairness of the world when you bury your spouse and then hear your unborn child is dying too.
Perhaps my husband dying with no warning was a good thing. This knowing. This knowing that someone you love may die…it’s too much.
At the hospital, I heard the phrase IUGR for the first time. Intrauterine Growth Restriction. My little girl ― who would not be named Calypso ― wasn’t getting the nutrients needed to grow. And if weighing 15 ounces despite my being six months pregnant wasn’t bad enough, her heart was the entire size of her chest cavity. There was fluid and her heart muscles were larger than usual because they were fighting. Fighting to beat the odds, fighting for survival.
The doctor, who my mom ultimately named Dr. Hyena because of his tendency to snicker at the most inappropriate time, suggested I terminate the pregnancy. I told him that wasn’t an option. Don’t get me wrong. I am very much pro-choice. It is not my place nor do I believe it is anyone else’s right to tell a woman what to do with her body.
“You realize the cruelty and the unfairness of the world when you bury your spouse and then hear your unborn child is dying too.”
I remained in the hospital on bed rest for three weeks. I prayed. I got mad at God. I asked Him questions. How come my husband died? Was my baby at risk because I chose to be an only parent? Should I have waited for a new spouse? I was only 32. Young enough to find another husband, as many people felt the need to point out.
Every morning, Dr. Hyena told me to terminate the pregnancy. I, however, was determined to stand with my daughter for as long as she was willing to continue the fight for her life.
Dr. Hyena finally sent me home with the words, “She’s hardly gained any weight and she can die the moment you leave here.”
Her new cardiologist continued to give me reassuring signs and monitored her closely. The fluid issue began to resolve itself. Her heart size normalized. And, she started to grow. It wasn’t a lot but when you’ve buried your spouse less than a year ago, you celebrate all victories ― big or small.
At 37 weeks, another routine exam showed some tell-tale signs of preeclampsia and my labor was induced. A few hours later, my daughter bulldozed her way into the world.
All 4 pounds, 9 ounces of her were whisked off to the NICU, her home for three weeks. There were some minor bilirubin/sodium issues, but she was healthy.
Then came the insurance drama. It’s important for all of us to understand the ramifications of allowing insurance companies to deny coverage due to “preexisting conditions.”
My daughter was born the summer before Obamacare went into effect. My company paid a bit shy of $700 per month for my health coverage. To have my daughter added to my existing plan doubled the premium. Fortunately, we found another policy that covered both my daughter and I for significantly less.
They asked for medical records, I did the medical survey via phone, etc. The new quote had ballooned to approximately $1,500 because of my daughter’s “preexisting condition.”
Her cardiologist submitted further proof stating that her heart complications had been resolved either prior to her birth or not long after. My appeal was rejected. It’s not right nor is it humane for a team of people to arbitrarily make a decision about my daughter without laying eyes on her. As Jimmy so eloquently said, “If your baby is going to die, and it doesn’t have to, it shouldn’t matter how much money you make. I think that’s something that, whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat or something else, we all agree on that, right?”
My boss graciously footed the entire bill until the new law erasing “preexisting conditions” took effect. She knew I had gone through so much and was just tired. Tired of death and the thoughts of death. Tired of grieving. Tired of the stress. Tired of being emotionally drained.
We made it through those seven months and ended up with a top-level insurance plan through the insurance marketplace. When you’re in the midst of dealing with possibly the worse news you can get about your child, insurance and coverage should not be one of the things you have to worry about.
As my little warrior prepares to celebrate her 4th year of life, I remain in awe of her will, strength and determination and the power of prayer. While parents are supposed to instill life lessons into their children, she’s taught me the power of perseverance. How to carry on despite my husband’s untimely death. How to be grounded in my faith despite the storm raging around me. How to live and live boldly. How to seek out my joy and ultimately claim it.