I was only seventeen years old when I discovered I was expecting. I knew parenting at such a young age was not going to be easy, but I never could have imagined all the struggles I would have to endure. First there were progesterone problems, then gestational diabetes, then preeclampsia, then a breech baby, then a special needs child.
The hardest struggle was finding out there was something significantly wrong with my child. I was thirty-seven weeks pregnant and went in for my last routine ultrasound. I could tell something was wrong when the ultrasound tech kept moving the wand to one particular spot and the look on her face as she did so, but I never could have guessed how wrong things turned out to be. At the end of the ultrasound the doctor walked in with a very solemn look on her face and said, “There is a large mass that reaches from your baby’s neck to the top of his bottom, you will not be able to deliver here and you need to see a high risk doctor as soon as possible.”
The following Monday I saw a new doctor who said the same thing but this time added that my baby had fluid in his brain and an enlarged heart and that they weren’t sure what the mass was but that I needed to see a higher risk doctor the next day. As I anxiously waited for the next day I researched on the internet all the symptoms my baby had and each one was painting a bleaker picture. The morning finally arrived and I was seen by the doctor who admitted me to the hospital and ordered an MRI. During the first MRI my large belly actually got stuck in the machine so I had to wait for the larger one to become available. As I waited contractions began and my doctor said she refused to deliver the baby without a clear picture of what was wrong so in the MRI machine I went. Inside contractions became unbearable and my water broke.
The nurse finally agreed to take me back to my room where I was told we were having a baby in fifteen minutes and the head NICU physician was on her way. The doctor came in and told me they would have part of the NICU team in the room during delivery and I would be unable to hold or see my baby after delivery but my mother could take a quick picture and right before she left her exact words were, “Your baby may not be compatible with life.” She had officially become number one on my most hated list. As soon as she left the nurse came in to wheel me into the operating room and I began cry and pray.
As soon as the epidural was in they let my mother to come in and sit next to me, there was no talking after that until I heard my doctor say, “All hands.” Then there was a lot of pressure and a faint cry. The doctor then said my mother could take a quick picture to show me and then they took him away. I kept saying to myself, “he cried so he must be OK.” My mother showed me the picture in the recovery room and there was my beautiful, eleven pound five ounce, baby boy I named Charlie. After I was able to move around I went up to the NICU to see him. He did have a large mass that took up his entire back and his feet weren’t quite right, but it didn’t matter to me in my eyes he was perfect.
The head NICU physician came in during our first visit and told me the large mass was called a myelomeningocele and it is caused by spina bifida and he was affected in the L1 through L3 region, he was paralyzed from the waist down, he would always require a catheter every six hours, and we were very lucky. Charlie had a surgery the next morning to have the mass removed and one week later I was able to hold him for the first time and bring him home. Today Charlie is a healthy happy one year old and is rolling over, sitting, crawling, and learning to stand and talk. He is my little miracle and has taught me a lot.