Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Having Our Only Child

Growing up, I really never thought about having children. The fact was, my cardiologists always told me I would never be able to have a baby. It never really bothered me. Instead of having children, I figured I would just have cats and dogs. Seriously, I loved animals and the pets I had while growing up gave me great comfort and lots of joy.

Then one day, as a twenty-four year old, I went to visit a co-worker who had just had a baby. When I left after seeing my friend and her tiny little girl, I felt sad that I would never be able to have that experience.

Fast forward two years. Due to the heart surgery I had when I was 25, I was doing very well, healthwise. I was also seeing different doctors - those from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester instead of those in Minneapolis. These cardiologists told me they had success with women who have had the fontan surgery having babies. So, after getting married in 2002, my husband and I decided to go for it.

When I did find out I was pregnant. I was in shock. I didn't quite believe it. I had been told for so long I was never going to be able to have a baby, yet there I was, pregnant. Because of my heart condition, the pregnancy was not without risk. My doctor referred me to another doctor in Billings, Montana who specialized in high risk pregnancies. It was a five-hour drive but much closer than driving to Rochester. In Billings, we found out we were having a girl. I was elated! They were able to do 3D ultrasounds of the baby and her heart to make sure her heart was functioning as it should. (congenital heart defects can sometimes be inherited.)

At one particular doctor's appointment in Billings, my doctor told me after talking to the cardiologists at their hospital, that they did not feel comfortable with me having my baby there. They had never had a patient with such a complex heart condition. I felt sort of rejected like they didn't want me. Looking back, I'm very glad they realized their limitations. Our plan was that I would go to Rochester about a month before I was due (which was January 5, 2004). I would then be near the Mayo Clinic when it was time to have the baby.

Things did not work out according to plan. For some unknown reason, I went into preterm labor on October 4, 2003. My husband drove me to Williston and after arriving at the hospital, we were told I was having contractions eight minutes apart. I was stunned. I couldn't really feel them. They did an ultrasound and that's when I started crying. I became worried that we were going to lose her. She was only 26 weeks at the time and probably weighed just over one pound. She seemed okay. They decided to fly me to Rochester where they would be better prepared to deal with a woman having a complex heart condition going into preterm labor.

Faith at 10 days old
In Rochester, there were no more contractions. They gave me a shot in the butt which was a hormone to help the baby's lungs develop more quickly. She stayed in utero another three weeks. I had her at 29 weeks and she weighed 2 lbs. 6 oz.
Faith at one month old
We discovered when she was six months old that she probably had cerebral palsy. We moved from our home in Watford City to Bismarck so she could get the best pediatric therapy and medical treatment possible. At the time, she required all of our energy. Rob and I were both stressed and overwhelmed. But after a couple of years, I really wanted to have another baby. I didn't want Faith to be an only child. I really wanted her to have a sibling. My cardiologist gave me the go ahead as long as it happened while I was still in my early thirties. The older I became, the higher the risks, especially for me because of my heart condition. Rob, however, was not so willing. He did not want to go through what we had gone through again.

A couple of more years went by. I worked with a room full of women. Every time one of them had a baby they would bring their little bundle of joy in for everyone to see. My heart felt torn. I so badly wanted to have another baby, even though my husband didn't.

Besides wanting to give Faith another sibling, I was struggling with another issue. Some Christians believe that it is best to let God decide the number of children for you. This means birth control is never an option. Some believe that birth control is the same spirit as abortion. I did not want to disobey God. By not having more children, I felt like I was not trusting God. There were some women who said they too were at risk when being pregnant but they chose to trust God and He took care of them.

Faith on her fourth birthday
Then, at my next cardiologist appointment, I was 34 years old and unable to complete a 12-minute stress test on the treadmill. The doctor told me he didn't think it was a good idea for me to have another baby. I was crushed. I knew this was it. Unless God audibly spoke to both my cardiologist and my husband, I would never be pregnant again.

Around November, 2008 my husband, who had been staying home with Faith got a job somewhat out of the blue. It was now my turn to stay home with our daughter. As the bond with my daughter grew stronger and stronger, I thought about having another baby less and less. Then one day, Faith and I went to see a friend who had just had a baby. I realized I no longer felt that desire for another baby. I really truly was content with just Faith. God had healed that hole in my heart.

Throughout Faith's life with us, there have been people who have asked if Faith is our only child. When I reply, yes, she is, I always feel like they're waiting for an explanation - like it's not normal for someone to have just one child. Even though the number of one-child families is steadily increasing, I think there is still a stigma to having an only child - that they are spoiled rotten and become problem children. Research shows that this is not the case. In fact, quite the opposite is true. Only children tend to have higher self esteem and tend to go further with education and achieve more of their goals.

Even though there are some days I still wonder if we are supposed to step out on faith and try to have another baby, I am glad we just have one child. Sometimes when I am around those with more than one child and am wondering how they do it, I can honestly say, I'm glad that's not me! Faith has brought us so much joy and she has so much love to give. I am so thankful to God for blessing us with her. Our family truly is complete with just us three. (Bloggers Note: This post is a companion piece to an article I wrote for HubPages, which can be found here.)

1 comment:

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