Prior to getting pregnant with Avery, I’d had two losses. My first son was born July 27th, 2006 after it was discovered via ultrasound that he had no heartbeat. He was due on my Dad’s birthday, December 4th. At 21 weeks, I was forced to give birth to a baby we named Damian Alan. I would never hear him cry, never watch him take his first steps. We never found out why he died. Then, I had a miscarriage just a few months before I found out I was pregnant with Avery. My first pregnancy in 7 years, for the few days I knew before I miscarried I allowed myself to be happy and expect my “rainbow baby.” That baby was due, ironically, on his/her angel brother’s 7th birthday- July 27, 2013.
At my first prenatal visit with Avery, my doctor assured me: I’d simply experienced very bad luck. She’d guess that I’d neither develop preeclampsia again nor have another miscarriage. I held on to those words and the hope that they gave me.
My chances of developing preeclampsia again were right at 50%. With the right care and treatment with low dose aspirin, she didn’t think I’d suffer the same fate. After all, I didn’t get sick with Abby until 28 weeks and even then we stretched and fought for 9 more weeks of baking her. I’d spend weekends in the hospital and on bed rest but ultimately she made it here healthy at 37 weeks. Two weeks I’d spend separated from her after I developed postpartum preeclampsia, a much rarer side effect where delivery does not cure the dangerously high blood pressure.
My doctor was wrong.
My preeclampsia with Avery came on suddenly and without warning. A thief in the night, it took my peace of mind away at just 20 weeks. It robbed my body of my son at just 25 weeks. I felt naive for believing that it wouldn’t happen again.
30%. That was Avery’s chance of survival at birth. Sure, he got sicker. We watched his heart stop once. He quit breathing countless times. Even when he was bigger, 3 pounds or so and we could hold and feed him- he’d stop breathing. In our arms. He grew tired, weak. There was a night or two his chances probably dropped significantly lower than that 30. In fact, I know they did. His doctors were wrong.
Once he decided I had enough gray hair, my son amazed everyone. He grew strong and defiant. Upon release from the NICU we were told we’d be referred to Early Childhood Intervention to be evaluated for therapy services but there was no chance he’d qualify. He looked great, he didn’t seem to have any significant damage. They predicted no delays. They, too, were wrong.
I found myself unexpectedly pregnant again in June. From day one I was having panic attacks and heart palpitations. How would we endure months in the NICU again? How could we care for Avery, who’d be just 17 months old when his sibling came, IF we went full term? And Abby…I couldn’t be separated from her again. Again I was told: this time your baby has the same father and your body should “recognize” this. Preeclampsia shouldn’t be a worry. Your late miscarriage was a fluke. This baby will be fine. I let my guard down and again there was a motionless baby on the screen. My doctor was wrong, again.
Predictions are funny things. Sometimes they’re just numbers or odds placed on situations to make us feel better. To soothe ourselves. Sometimes they’re based in fact, on research or statistics. But they’re still crap. Sometimes we need to hear the truth and not be placated, but our nature as humans prevents it. The truth is that no one knows.
My less than 30% is sitting in my lap right now watching Mikey Mouse Clubhouse and jumping when music plays. I got preeclampsia again, and it tried to kill us both. He’s delayed, significantly. I lost another baby. Should I have placed so much weight on predictions? If I never heard the number “30%” when Avery was born, would I have slept better at night, cried less or worried less? Probably not. If they had said “75%” would it have made a difference? Would we have truly believed in our hearts that the chance of him coming home with us was greater? Not at all. We’d have still been the emotional wrecks that the NICU left us.
Avery’s physical therapist says we aren’t predicting anything. He’s going to do what he’s going to do precisely when he does it. Does she think he will crawl? Absolutely. Do I? No doubt about it. But we’re not going to label it and give it a number. We won’t say “within six months” and have us all feel like failures if that doesn’t occur.
Who knows what is going to happen? There’s no way that my doctor could have looked at me and said: “You’re going to get preeclampsia again and this baby will come at 25 weeks. He’ll spend 16 weeks in the NICU, endure two surgeries and go home on oxygen.” If she could have, would it have changed anything? No.
I’ll never again put my faith in a number or a statistic that has nothing to do with me. Especially when it comes to my son. They can’t predict anything in regards to him because he does things the Avery way. And that’s just the way it should be.
I predict that he’ll
I know that because my faith is in God.
And in Avery.
My survivors, the first time they met outside of the NICU.