Many of you know Gracie. You know her through my post, you know her because you are family, you know her because you have been her teacher on one way or the other, or you know her because she has made an impression on you.
Every year on her birthday, I reflect on what may not have been. If you had told me then what I know now, I would not have believed you. Just like most stories go, Gracie’s does not begin at her birth. It begins three months prior.
My pregnancy had been normal. The usual morning sickness, lack of energy, small weight gain. I was measuring as I should, all was well. It came time for the 20th week ultra-sound appointment. Joe and I were excited. Nervous, but excited. There was a time not too long ago when we went to another ultra sound appointment only to be told “I am sorry, there is no heartbeat.”
That was a time in our life that really messed us up. We were challenged in ways that we had never been challenged before. That day, the day before Gracie’s ultrasound, the day we were told “I am sorry, there is no heartbeat” was one I will never forget, although if I were to be honest, there are times when I want nothing more than to forget.
For whatever reason, there was no heartbeat. The Doctor prescribe me some medication to allow me to induce on my own. Joe and I left the doctor’s office, devastated. We both blamed ourselves for something we could not control. We went to our local pharmacy so I could get the medication to help me induce, to rid my body of “the fetus.”
There was a long line. Joe and I are standing there at the end of the line. I am crying, Joe is being supportive, but nothing could help me. I was at the end of my road. Something just snapped in me. After standing in the same spot for 15 minutes I had enough. I gave Joe a silent look, as I made my way up to the counter, ignoring every other person in line.
“I am sorry Mam there is a line, you have to wait in line.”
“I have a 20 week old dead baby in my stomach, I need this medication right here, on this paper, I need you to give it to me now, because if I have to continue to walk around with my baby, my dead baby inside me, then I wont make it. I am telling you I wont make it and I need help now.”
Immediately Joe was at my side, the line cleared, and a few of the shoppers muffled “I am good, take care of her.”
Twenty minutes late I had my medicine and all I could do was wait. Wait for nature to take its course. It sucked.
Fast forward to six months later when Joe and I were in the same ultra sound office waiting. Just waiting. My new pregnancy seemed to be normal, but time had told me one can never be sure.
The ultra-sound tech made her way in, put the wand on my expanding belly while we waited. We waited in silence. Joe and I both afraid to ask “Is everything okay?” “Do you know if it is a boy or a girl?”
None of that happened.
The ultra-sound tech immediately left.
Did she not know what we had previously been though?
About seven minutes later she decides to grace us with her presence. “I have your Doctor on the phone, he wants you to meet him at his office immediately.”
I hated this woman.
“Please, I just lost a baby six months ago, is there anything you can tell us? Please, I am begging you.”
Nothing. She would not tell us a thing.
Joe and I made the quick walk from the ultra-sound tech to my Doctors office. He was waiting for us. As soon as we walked in we were ushered back to a room.
“I am sorry, there is a problem, your baby has gastroschisis. Are you familiar with that?”
What the hell?
“It is a condition where the abdominal wall does not close and in the case of your baby, it means the intestines are floating outside.”
I clearly remember Joe and looking at each other. He grabbed my hand as my eyes filled up with tears. I looked at the doctor. My eyes told him more that the words I was able to get out. “Is the baby going to die?”
My doctor took a deep breath. He laid down his notes, took his glasses off and looked Joe and I directly in the eye. “I am going to do everything I can to make sure that does not happen.”
After that, everything was a blur.
“I will be your doctor but you will deliver at Children’s Hospital”
“You will have to be monitored weekly.”
“There are specialist, we are putting specialist on your case.”
“For this condition, you are in the perfect spot, we have the best doctors.”
“You will need a c-section.”
“Your baby will be in the NICU”
“It wont be an easy road”
Everything was coming at me, I had no time to process. My Doctor took out his paper and pen and scribbled out “GASTROSCHISIS” for Joe and I. We were then handed phone numbers after phone number, instructed to go home and set up an appointment.
Joe and I left the office and went to the library. This was back before Facebook, back before MySpace, and honestly, the library was the only source of information that was at our finger tips.
We walk in, I grabbed my coat and wrapped it around my belly. I did not want anyone to see I was pregnant. Joe and I make our way to the “Information” desk. He gives the lady the paper with the word “Gastroschisis” written on it. “We need every book you have on this.”
There was no book. Not one single book in the Federal Way library. The very nice lady at the information desk looks at Joe, she looks at me. I am crying. She does a quick “Google” search and prints out the only information she can find on Gastroschisis. “I am sorry, I wish you luck.”
Joe and I came home. We took in the five pages of material that came from Google. He made calls to his family, I made calls to mine….and then….we waited.
The next three months were gut wrenching. Every single week I not only had to see my regular doctor, I had to see the specialist. I had to be monitored, I had to count the kick count of my baby. I felt like every little thing I would do, would cause harm to the baby.
I will never forget the first meeting of our specialist, the one who would be delivering the baby. He took Joe and I back into his office. Sitting across from us in his big fancy chair, glasses on, pen and paper in hand, the questions began. Looking directly at me he asked…
“Do you use drugs?”
“Do you consume alcohol?”
“Any history of STD’s?”
“Any domestic violence?”
“How many sexual partners have you had?”
This is when I pretty much lost it. I looked at Joe, Joe knew what was coming, and silently gave me the “okay” to let it out.
I repositioned myself in my chair, a nervous habit that has stayed with me over the years. I made eye contact with my new “specialist”, and with every bit of confidence I had, which was a lot, I said…
“Look, I do not know what you are getting at but I can tell you in about three seconds everything you need to know. I have never had an STD, I was a smoker, I was a drinker and I can count on one hand how many people I have slept with, can you do the same? Because right now, all I need to know, is my baby going to die and if not, what are you going to do to prevent that?”
The specialist looked me. He took his glasses off, he looked at Joe. “Well, she is a feisty one isn’t she.”
Joe laughed, as he put his head down “You have know idea.”
I was reborn that day. I saw the end of the road, I told it to “fuck off, I can do this” and I persisted.
The following three months were anything but easy. Every week there was some sort of appointment. Every single day I had to monitor kick counts. It was hard, and if I am to be honest, the two older boys suffered because of that.
At 30 weeks, we were looking good. Joe and I understood what was going to happen. As soon as I delivered our daughter, the one who we still had no name for, she would be taken to NICU (intensive care for newborns) I would be in recovery, Joe would be allowed to follow the baby.
The baby had quite of bit of intestines outside of her body. Nobody would know until birth just how much there would be. How long the “closure” surgery would take, but we had our plan in place. I was scheduled to deliver at Children’s Hospital in a little over a month……excpet, the baby had different plans.
It was a week night. Joe was cooking dinner for the boys. I was in my usual spot on the sofa, trying to count the kick count. There were none. No matter what I did, I could not get the baby to kick.
We knew, I had to go to the hospital. Christin graciously enough took my boys while Joe and I made the all to famaialr drive. I was hooked up to every machine you can imagine. There was nothing.
It was time for an emergency c-section. There was not enough time to transport me to the hospital that had the NICU, to the hospital where my specialist was. My OBGYN was literally on the phone with my specialist. My specialist was explaining to my OBGYN how to do a “Gastro Baby C-Section” this would be his first.
I was quickly introduced to the medics who would transport the baby to the NICU at Children’s Hospital. With tears in my eyes, I begged them “Please, just take care of my baby.”
One of the three medics, looked at me with tears in her own eyes. “We will protect her, we will watch over her, we will transport her. You do your part, we will do ours”
And just like that I was rolled of into surgery.
It took two doctors.
One to grab the baby from my belly,
the other to grab the intestines.
They cleaned her up, and handed her off to the transport team. Joe closely behind. I, well I passed out.
I would give my life to give this baby life.
When I came to, Joe was by my bed side. He handed me a poloroid picture. I did not know what I was I looking at. It was like a puzzle, which way does it go?
I asked him “What am I looking at?”
He patiently pointed out the intestines…..and….the baby. I had a baby girl.
By the Grace of God I had a baby girl.
That is when we agreed on the name. “Gracie.”
Twelve years later, one autism diagnosis, a few seizures here and there, we are still on the journey. Currently, there are some issues going on with Gracie that we are trying to figure out……however, just the other day in school, a teacher and Gracie were having somewhat of a “Gracie Conversation” the objective being…….How loud can you really burp? Yes, you read that correctly. The same baby who I had no idea if I would be bringing home or not, the same baby who could never calm down because of her rock hard tummy, the same baby who had always had delays and will continue to have delays, this baby has grown into a pretty bad ass young lady…..and is now asking me, “I need to learn to burp the loudest Mom!”
That my friends, is music to my ears……..years ago when I told the road to fuck off……this is what I meant. This is what I had hoped for. By the GRACE of GOD I have GRACIE.
Gracie, walks to the beat of her own drum. She is my life. She is my good, she is my heart-break, she is lessons taught and lessons learned….she is my legacy, she is my accomplishment, she is my breath, she is my life……she is my story, she is her story.