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Some thoughts!

May 1, 2010

So, first thought: “Fetish priest” didn’t actually turn out to mean what I thought it meant. 

Second thought: Shortly into Wife of the Gods we learn that detective Darko’s son has a heart-defect. I’m reading along and the narration tells me that his little man was born with a hole in his heart, medically known as a ventricular septal defect. It’s where there is a hole between the ventricles — allowing more blood to pass through with each pump than with a person who doesn’t have the hole. 

Anyway, that resonated with me pretty quickly because that was what Elliott was born with!

As those close to me know, I was diagnosed with preeclampsia at 33 weeks into my pregnancy. Preeclampsia can be dangerous, but it’s also super common and easily detected. The only way to treat it, however, is to just have your baby; but I wasn’t quite ready to do that…so I was bed-rested. (And I’m not a good candidate for bed-rest. That might have been different if I was doing a reading challenge then…but I wasn’t. So, I just kept wanting to get out of bed to do various chores. I even went to school one day and entered grades.) But despite the bed-rest, I kept getting worse. I was admitted to the hospital at roughly 34 weeks and then Elliott was born several days later after my kidneys started to fail.  

Of course, all of this was happening during Portland’s worst snowstorm in 40 years. The entire state was shut down. 

I know that sounds super scary, but I don’t remember being scared for me. Matt was scared for me, but I just wanted to meet my son and have a healthy baby. Elliott was born 5 weeks early and we had this tiny, incredible little guy. But he wasn’t crying and was doing this strange singing noise — the nurses told us that meant his lungs weren’t quite developed. And then they discovered the hole in his heart. 

So, off they whisked him to the NICU…and that was when the majority of my 16.5 month prolonged crying fit started. 🙂 Nah. I held it together most of the time. (My worst tear-fest didn’t occur at the hospital…but at the Claim Jumper across the street. It was still so snowy that no one was going out, but my dad has an SUV and took Matt and I and my family on a twenty-minute driving adventure to go three blocks. I sat there — in the same clothes I wore to the hospital — without my child…trying to enjoy a french dip. And every time the waitress asked if we were doing okay and needed anything, I would just burst into tears. A little surreal. It would also make a really good scene for a movie.)

It’s hard to be in the NICU — there are sick kids all around you. Some are in really bad places. So, while you’re there with your own child, you can feel happy that he’s making progress, but you can feel utter desperation for the mom you just talked to for two hours whose baby isn’t doing well at all. The worst part was that the pediatric cardiologist couldn’t get to the hospital because of the snow and our stay kept getting prolonged so we could wait for him. (Elliott had jaundice issues too in addition to the heart and lungs. He just wasn’t a healthy little baby.) There was brief talk from the NICU doctor that Elliott might need heart-surgery…which is not what you want to hear as an already panicked, new mom. 

Finally, they let us take Elliott home if we promised to come back the next day (Christmas) and if we promised to take him the children’s hospital on the 26th.

Elliott had a series of echocardiograms and we learned a lot about how to keep a baby still during one of those things. None of that even phased me; I had a newborn, I was worried about all the same things all new moms are faced with. 

The last time we checked, Elliott’s hole was still there. However, it’s getting really hard (sometimes impossible) to detect with just a stethoscope — they believe it might still close up completely. Such an answer to prayer. The only issue we could ever identify as related to hole was his breathlessness when eating; and that has gotten a lot better too. And from his screaming, you can’t tell he was born with underdeveloped lungs. 

I have this amazing healthy toddler who is the bright spot of my day! I can’t believe we went through all of that together and I can’t wait to tell him his story.

Thanks for letting me share — I made a connection with the character in my book and it made me want to write my own story. Maybe for nobody but myself. (Our own lives are always far more interesting to us than to the outside world.)

In book news: I have 15 more essays to grade (down from a stack of 43 — whoop!!) and I’m on a major mission to rid my house of sugar ants. We’ll see how much reading I can carve for myself this weekend. I’m even hoping to earn a date night. Matt and I haven’t seen a new movie since December. (We did watch “Pan’s Labyrinth” last night via the Comcast free movies feature — and, of course, I cried.)

Elliott still has this exact expression when he sleeps. This is pretty much all we remember of Elliott's first week on this earth -- in his little bed, under the lights, monitoring his heart, his lungs.



2 Comments leave one →
  1. Marisa permalink
    May 1, 2010 11:56 am

    Shelbi, I love you and sometimes I really hate how far away we are from each other. After reading what you wrote, I think the picture adds the perfect touch. I find it beautiful. Especially considering all that you went through to get to the pictures we see of Elliott today.

    • May 2, 2010 6:00 pm

      I love you too!! Thank you so much for the comment — I love that picture of Elliott because it reminds me of that time in our lives with him. It’s a good thing to remind me how blessed I am!

      I can’t wait for you to get to meet him someday.

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