First of all, thank you for all the support over the last few days. Some day I will devote an entire post to how much it has helped me, but just know that you guys are keeping us afloat right now and I will be eternally flabbergasted at how wonderful you all are.
There’s not too much to report at the moment but MJ did get a call back from our primary doctor today. Unlike Mr. Insensitive Asshole the radiologist, he refused to conjecture or hypothesize as to what’s wrong. He said it is best if we get to Brigham & Women’s in Boston for a high-risk ultrasound that will attempt to determine exactly what we’re up against. That will happen on July 6.
Interesting to note, he said this kind of thing predominantly occurs in mothers who have diabetes. As far as we know, MJ does not have diabetes but we’ll be getting her checked as well. They also ruled out the possibility of Down’s Syndrome through blood tests. Which is ironic because I was kind of hoping it was Down’s. I could’ve dealt with that and at least Down’s isn’t life-threatening.
And right now, that’s my big worry. I’m concerned this baby has a terminal physical or genetic condition that will either kill it in the womb or shortly after he/she is born. And really, that’s the crux of this whole thing and what we need to determine. Because while it will be heart-breaking to watch our unborn die at 17-18 weeks, I have to believe it is soul-crushing and damn near life-ending to bury a child shortly after he/she is born.
Unfortunately, time is a factor right now. If this pregnancy has to be terminated it should be before 16 weeks (we’re coming up on 14 now). Otherwise it gets dicey health-wise not to mention the fact that MJ would have to deliver a dead child. That is something I need to try to avoid at all costs.
Again, these are all hypotheticals and I’m still clinging to the ever-shrinking hope that everything will be OK. MJ, however, has prepared for the worst. And I don’t blame her. If she was optimistic like I am and then got horrible news next week in Boston, it would crush the life out of her. So steeling herself mentally and emotionally is a natural defense mechanism. I feel so horribly for her. She’s carrying a baby inside of her, feeling it grow but knowing all the while there’s a very good possibility it will all be for nothing. That is a mind fuck the likes of which I cannot fathom.
As for me, I can’t help it. I’m just not there yet, which means the anvil is set to fall on my head next week. I guess I’ll deal with that when I have to.
Again thank you (most of you anyways) for all your support and I promise I’ll keep you updated as this all unfolds. Now go hug your kids.
“Everything I see leads me to believe there is something wrong with your baby.”
I don’t know what it’s like to lose a parent or a sibling. I’ve never been in a battle where I’ve had to fight for my life. So I consider myself very lucky that I haven’t truly known true fear. But yesterday that all changed. Because I’m telling you right now, the fear you feel when someone tells you there’s something wrong with your tiny unborn baby is a paralyzing feeling the likes of which I’ve never experienced, and wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy.
MJ went into yesterday’s appointment already convinced of the worst. Call it Mother’s Intuition if you want, but she was POSITIVE there was something wrong. I tried to calm her down and managed to get her into a reasonable state of mind as we entered the office. But I knew the moment of truth would be the minute that little hologram popped up on the ultrasound machine.
I don’t pray, but I hoped like hell the first thing we’d see is that kid spread eagle. I had it all planned out in my head. The tech would smile and reassure us, showing us the baby’s legs were separate and flailing away. MJ would shed small tears of relief and I would say “See? Told ya so!”
But it didn’t work out that way.
When the fuzzy image came into focus, it looked exactly the same as it did Wednesday. MJ asked if the legs were separated but even I could see the answer to that was no. And when MJ saw, she lost it. She immediately started crying and sniffling. I gripped her hand as tight as I could and told her it doesn’t mean anything yet. After all, this was only the ultrasound tech. We hadn’t even seen the doctor yet. He would take a look and find that everything was OK. I refused to shed a tear and I convinced myself the doctor would come through for us. I was going to will this baby into acceptable condition. I clung to that.
The doctor came in and immediately started asking MJ a barrage of questions about her health history. It became abundantly clear that this guy might be an expert in examining ultrasounds, but some etiquette and sensitivity classes would’ve also been a worthwhile investment. With deft skill but horrible manners, he viewed the baby from every possible angle as MJ and I struggled to keep our shit together. Then he stopped and looked at us.
“The fact that the legs do not separate and won’t move is highly unusual,” he said. “It leads me to believe there is some kind of lower extremity defect.”
I’m not a religious person and I’ve never believed in heaven or hell. But there is a hell. Hell is sitting next to the person you love most in this world and listening to her wail hysterically because her heart just broke into a million pieces. Hell is watching her entire body convulse with sobs as she screams because she’s being tortured with grief. For as long as I live and no matter how many children we have, I will NEVER forget that sound. Ever.
I tried to hug her, to hold her hand, to console her in any way I could. But she just pushed me away and screamed at me to get away from her. In that instant I was completely powerless. My baby is sick and there is nothing I can do for him/her. Nothing. I can’t even hold the baby to comfort it. My wife is devastated too and once again, I’m powerless to do anything about it. I couldn’t make her feel better no matter what. I can’t fix my child, I can’t comfort my wife…that feeling of helplessness is crippling. And terrifying.
The only thing I could do was flip my switch. I went from being a parent to being a newspaper reporter. It’s a defense mechanism that allows me to do my job in some of the most emotional, saddest situations possible. And while it’s usually reserved for fatal accidents or knocking on the doors of grieving families to interview them about a lost loved one, this time it was a quest for information concerning the health and well-being of my future son or daughter.
I asked how unusual this was. What’s the next step? What are some possible diagnoses? What are our options? When can it be narrowed down? I asked every question my frazzled mind could muster.
Unfortunately, there really aren’t any answers right now. It’s too soon to know specifically what’s wrong. The only way to do that is wait a few weeks for the baby to develop and grow, so doctors can get a better look. So in 2-3 weeks we’ll have an amnio done which should be able to tell us what we’re up against. But the problem with that is we can do nothing except have this damaged child grow inside of MJ for the next month while we figure out what’s wrong. I have no idea if it’s going to be fatal. Or if it’s going to put MJ at risk during delivery. Or what kind of quality of life this child can expect if he/she does survive.
But to be honest, I can’t think about any of that right now. There are too many unanswered questions at this point so to try and answer all these hypotheticals would just drive me unnecessarily insane.
That’s why on the way home from the doctor’s office yesterday, the only thing MJ wanted was Will. Unfortunately he was an hour away staying with my aunt. So I dropped her off at her mother’s house and told her I would get him ASAP. I hugged her tight and swore to her that everything would be OK, even though that felt like a blatant lie. And I held it together long enough to make sure she got inside. Then I turned the car around, drove out of sight, and completely lost my mind.
I cried. I sobbed. I openly wept. I pulled the car over to the side of the road, put it in park, got out on the side of the road and fell on my knees. And then I threw up. I didn’t care who saw me or how I looked. I didn’t care about anything.
Eventually I made it my aunt’s where she was waiting along with Will and both of my parents. I held it together the whole time I was there. I hugged them all and I saw the love and concern in their eyes and heard their words of encouragement. And while I appreciated the sentiment, none of it mattered. I just wanted my son.
I put him in the car seat and hugged my family goodbye. I drove away but pulled over down the road a bit. I got in the backseat with Will and I told him there was a problem with his little brother or sister. “Brother sister” he said excitedly. He likes to give kisses to MJ’s belly and last week he even tried to share monkey — his most prized possession — with his sibling in mama’s stomach. The smile on his face as he spoke of his brother and sister might as well have been a knife twisting around inside my chest.
I broke into tears as I told him he might not get to be an older brother. I laid my head and all of my problems in the lap of my poor 2-year-old son. When I glanced up Will looked a little stunned and concerned. I wiped the tears from my eyes and told him I was sorry. And that’s when he grabbed my hand, looked me straight in the eye and said “Dada, it’s OK.”
To be fair, the Hallmark moment was ruined seconds later when he inexplicably slapped me across the face. But still, it was incredibly sweet and something I’ll never forget.
MJ and I both took the weekend off from work. I just can’t function properly right now. When I woke up this morning I was happy for a fleeting instant because I thought it was all a dream. But then I remembered my world is now upside down and the nightmares take place during the waking hours, the only reprieve coming at night.
I have no idea how this will turn out. We’ll get as much information as we can over the next few weeks and make the best decision for our family. I just hate this. I hate feeling like I’m cursed. With the exception of Will, the last few years have been nothing short of fucking miserable. MJ lost her job and had to take another with a significant cut in pay. Our finances suffered to the point we’re on the brink of declaring bankruptcy. We’ve borrowed thousands from generous family members that we haven’t been able to pay back. MJ was diagnosed with Crohn’s an other serious medical conditions. We went through two miscarriages before Will was born. MJ suffered through hellish postpartum depression. Will gets kicked out of daycare and then a day later, we find out there’s some horrible defect with our unborn child.
And each time I try to reassure MJ that nothing else can go wrong, something does. Each time I tell her things can only better, they get worse. I don’t have any more optimism in me after this. The fact that my poor unborn child is cursed with some kind of freakish defect after we’ve already suffered through two miscarriages is proof that I am not destined for normalcy or peace of mind.
But why not? When is it going to be enough? Am I literally going to pay with a pound of flesh in the form of my unborn child??? I’ve fucking had it. I don’t even want fame, fortune and riches. I just want to avoid devastation. Is that really too much to ask? I don’t think so! And I don’t want to hear about God’s plan, or God not giving people more than they can handle, or what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. Bullshit. God is crap, this is more than we can handle and what doesn’t kill us only weakens us and leaves us even more vulnerable for the next fucked up thing that happens to us.
While I don’t know how this will all end, I know it won’t end well. Because in the end there are two choices we can make and neither one is appealing. But both are daunting and terrifying.
Turns out I may have been prematurely optimistic in writing my last post about getting past the threat of a miscarriage and being able to enjoy this pregnancy.
Less than 24 hours after I wrote about how happy I was, everything came crashing down all at once. First of all, Will got kicked out of daycare. I won’t go into detail too much right now because that’s going to be a separate post all its own. But the bottom line is its for bullshit reasons and now we have to scramble to find a suitable/affordable daycare for Will in the next few days. No easy task and very stressful. It also doesn’t help that I’m sick as a dog right now.
But adding to that stress is we got a call from the diagnostic company that did MJ’s ultrasound on Wednesday. The doctor wants us back in this morning because he’s worried about a potential problem with the baby’s legs. Specifically they didn’t separate the entire time we were having the ultrasound done.
Look, I know what you’re going to say and I know you’re right. It’s probably nothing. Moms everywhere have told me they were dragged back to hospitals 2, 3 and even 4 times for possible problems and genetic defects from ultrasounds which turned out to be nothing. And later on this morning, I fully expect to be breathing a huge sigh of relief when we find out everything is OK.
But in the meantime, I’m human. And I can’t help but wonder, what if?
What if there’s something very wrong with this baby? Down’s Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, Cystic Fibrosis, or Sirenomelia (aka Mermaid Syndrome) where a newborn’s legs are fused together. Can you tell I took straight to Google after the doctor’s call? And yes, I’m jumping the gun here. But that’s not the point.
Every expectant parents has, at some point, wondered what would happen if their kid was born with some kind of defect. Hypothetically, let’s say we find out something is seriously wrong with this baby. And whatever it is he/she will be special needs. That baby will require a lifetime of special attention. Doctors visits, expensive medical procedures, specialized daycares and special schools. I’ve seen the amount of dedication, love and effort the parents of special needs kids put forth and it is EXTRAORDINARY. It’s also tough. Dealing with bureaucrats at all levels of government, advocating for your kid at every turn and being a professional squeaky wheel. If you need evidence of how unbelievable these parents are, just click on over to Tanis at the Redneck Mommy who is an absolutely amazing example of this.
But I’m not sure I’m that good of a person.
Seriously. The thought of having a special needs child terrifies me. In part because I can’t imagine what that child will go through over the years, but also because I can’t imagine that kind of lifelong struggle as a parent. I don’t think I’m emotionally prepared for that, and I’m definitely not financially ready for that kind of undertaking. So if something was really, really wrong, what would happen? Obviously MJ and I would need to talk, but terminating the pregnancy would be an option on the table. Which is terrifying in and of itself.
But then I think back to an event I covered last week at a school devoted to helping students with disabilities of all kinds. As a reporter I blended into the background and did my job, which is to observe. I saw these kids, happy as can be, in caps and gowns ready to earn diplomas. Some of them graduating from the modified high school, others from a program that gets older kids ready to lead a semi-independent life in the outside world. And then I saw their parents. Specifically I focused on one family gathered near the aisle preparing to watch their son walk to the graduation stage. They were obviously divorced because the mom had a guy and the dad had a woman. They were both welling up with tears. And then the dad glanced at his ex-wife with tears and a smile. He walked over to her and gave her this HUGE hug. She hugged him back and looked at him. They never said a word. They didn’t have to. I could see how long and hard a road it was to this day. Who knows, it may have even played into their divorce. But regardless, the pride and utter joy they were feeling at that particular moment was transcendent. Pure. And tangible. A mega payoff at the end of a seemingly endless journey.
I’ll admit, it moved me. And I thought about my unborn baby and what would happen if I was in a similar boat. And this made me think maybe I could do it.
Until I saw that tuition for this school is $68,000 a year.
Again, I know we’re not there yet and probably won’t be. But something like this makes you think and I barely slept last night. MJ is a wreck too. I’m just hoping as hard as possible that nothing is wrong, because while I don’t think I’m strong enough to be the parent of a special needs child, I may not be capable of making the other almost unthinkable decision either.
In the meantime I’m letting MJ drink some caffeine this morning so hopefully we can jolt the kid into moving around and get those legs separated. Now is no time to be proper kiddo.
I’ve known MJ was pregnant for nearly three months now, but it wasn’t until today that it hit me:
We’re having a baby!
I know this sounds horrible, but there have been several occasions since early April that I forgot MJ was pregnant. And the reason I didn’t remember is because I was sure — I mean POSITIVE — this pregnancy would end in a miscarriage. So ultimately I convinced myself not to get my hopes up because it wouldn’t work out.
It’s not because I don’t want another kid. I absolutely do. It’s just that before we had Will we went through two miscarriages. Two different times we got excited, got our hopes up, told friends and family, picked out names, etc. And both times we had to go through the devastation of breaking the bad news to everyone and having our optimism smashed into a million tiny pieces.
MJ took it really hard and I wanted to be there for her. To be strong while she wasn’t. So I just put all those feelings away. I told myself it wasn’t even really a baby yet. Just a collection of cells. No big loss really. Of course this is all bullshit, but you do what you gotta do.
But the unintended byproduct of going through that is it absolutely ruins the news of a pregnancy the second time around.
When MJ told me in April I celebrated outwardly and said/did all the right things. But inside all I was thinking was “keep your distance.” If you lower your expectations it doesn’t hurt as much when things don’t work out. And so that’s exactly what I did. To the point that I actually forgot she was pregnant at least twice.
But today all that changed.
MJ is 13 weeks pregnant and we had an ultrasound and blood work today to look for any genetic abnormalities. My heart raced as the ultrasound tech put the jelly on MJ’s stomach and prepared for a look-see. I told myself not to be surprised when there was no movement, no heartbeat. I readied myself for MJ’s breakdown. For the disappointment that would haunt us for months. For the mourning of what should have been.
“And there’s your baby,” she said. “And right there, that flashing, that’s the heartbeat.”
The head, the little hands, the feet and a perfectly healthy beating heart. All there. Moving around, looking like a creepy little holographic alien. Or in other words, everything is normal. And that’s when I realized this baby is a go. A green light. It’s on!
I know it’s still possible that things could go wrong, but at this point the doctors said we’re largely out of the woods as far miscarriages go. Which means I can concentrate on this baby and all the wonderful things in store for us. I’m really, really excited.
And although it’s too early to find out if we’re having a boy or a girl, this kid was incredibly stubborn and refused to move for the ultrasound tech. Specifically, the kid would not — under any circumstances — spread his/her legs.
First of all I had to work. That right there takes a lot of the joy out of the day and eliminates a lot of options for celebrating. And I definitely didn’t want any presents. We’re broke and I don’t need anything. MJ got me my phone last month and that’s a big gift for Father’s Day, my birthday and Christmas combined. Besides, it has never been about the price tag on presents for me.
All I wanted was a card, a nice meal and maybe something thoughtful and homemade. But apparently that’s asking too much.
I received no card in the morning. Then I left for work, and got out just in time for gray skies and spitting rain. It also took me an extra 45 minutes to get home because traffic leaving the Cape was so shitty. When I got home from work, I noticed the house was really clean and I thanked MJ for her hard work. Then I proceeded to fold two loads of laundry. She told me she was cooking me dinner. Pasta with meat sauce. It’s one of my favorite meals, but honestly I offered to cook it myself because, well, I like my sauce better than hers. But she said it was Father’s Day and so I stepped aside.
Here is the series of events that followed:
My favorite kind of pasta is rigatoni. We were out of it. So I had a choice between tri-colored corkscrew pasta and spaghetti. I really don’t like spaghetti so I went with the lesser of two evils and told her anything but spaghetti. She inexplicably cooked the spaghetti.
She used sauce that had more of a hot, spicy taste. I abhor spicy food.
While cooking she broke a dish and cut her hand in several places. Which means I finished cooking the last of the meal while simultaneously cleaning up a plethora of broken glass and making sure my wife didn’t bleed to death.
When I do eat pasta I cover it with parmesan cheese. It is one of my favorite things on Earth. We were out of it.
One of my other favorite foods is garlic bread. MJ tried to make some homemade garlic bread but forgot it was in the oven and ended up burning it so badly I couldn’t eat it.
After the meal I got to do the dishes.
And let’s just say there was no dessert, if you catch my drift.
For Mother’s Day I made MJ breakfast in bed and brought her coffee in with a card from me and Will. Then I took Will out of the house and let her relax to do whatever she wanted for 3-4 hours. I also made her dinner later that night. Nothing extraordinary by any means, but I wanted to acknowledge that it was a special day. Because she deserved it.
I know this post won’t be popular. After all we’re dads. Men. And men don’t complain like this about being shafted. We’re supposed to suck it up and move on and stop acting like babies. But fuck that. Is it really to much to ask that we get special treatment for one day?? And yes, I’m aware that there are extenuating circumstances here such as MJ being pregnant, her having to clean the whole house because of the current flea infestation courtesy of our three pets and she certainly didn’t mean to burn the garlic bread or cut herself by dropping a dish. I get it.
But would a a little effort have been too much to ask for? On Father’s Day I ended up with no card, folding laundry, doing the dishes, eating food I don’t like and didn’t ask for, not eating food that I love because it wasn’t in the house and capping it all off sitting by my lonesome on the couch. Seriously, would a card have been too much to ask for? I would’ve settled for a homemade card with Will’s scribbles on it. And why ask me what pasta I want if you’re just going to forget my answer and cook the kind I don’t like? And then when things don’t go as well as planned I figured it’d all be made up after Will went to bed. Instead I sat on the couch alone and watched True Blood. Which, unfortunately, was by far the best part of Father’s Day.
Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised. Mother’s Day is THE parental holiday of choice. Father’s Day is more of an afterthought. And yesterday, so was I.
I guess all the stereotypes aren’t so off-base after all.