• My child, my opus magnum

    You’d think someone who has faced death so many times would be at peace with the reality of it by now. Nope. I’m even more afraid of dying than ever, probably because I have a child to love and care for now. I never expected to actually be a mother. I was pretty convinced that having my son Noah was going to be my opus magnum and that I would die in the process of giving birth.

    Having been born with a congenital heart problem I grew up wondering if I would be able to get pregnant and carry a baby to full-term. When I married my husband I became determined to have a child and sought out specialists who “cleared” me for pregnancy. I was in a state of shock when we discovered I was pregnant, not because it was unexpected, but because I couldn’t believe we actually made a human, and because I knew this may be too much for my heart. I didn’t care though; he is what I am meant to “do” in this world.

    To say I was anxious throughout my pregnancy is an understatement. With every palpitation I braced myself for a sudden cardiac arrest. Luckily, besides a return of vocal paralysis (a complication of my last open heart surgery) and some semi-scary arrhythmias my heart stayed stable throughout the trimesters.

    In the final trimester our attention turned to Noah because I went into pre-term labor at 30 weeks. You know you are different when your three-day stay in the labor and delivery unit includes 24 monitoring by my very own ICU nurse. She sat right next to me, staring at my monitor waiting for my heart to do something crazy. It was a tad bit nerve-wracking.

    After five weeks of bed-rest and many false alarms, we made it to 37 weeks — term pregnancy! That same day I visited the ER due to heart palpitations, and discovered (Surprise) I was in labor. I was so scared; this was the day I was convinced I might die.

    I tried to stay optimistic, but when we lost Noah’s heart rate and they called a code for an emergency cesarean section, I feared those 12 minutes would be my last. In the chaos of the code I managed to kiss my husband and tell my parents I loved them. As they put me under general anesthesia, I thought, “There will be one of four outcomes: We both die and go to heaven together, I die but Noah lives, I lose my baby or we both live happily ever after.” I repeated in my head as the lights faded, “As long as he lives… as long as he lives.”

    People say you miss the bonding moment through having a c-section, especially when the mother is under general anesthesia, but I couldn’t have felt more bonded to Noah when I awoke to see that we both survived, and we were doing great.

    He is my miracle, my masterpiece in the flesh, and God had granted me the chance to know and love him. My husband would not be a single father. Noah would have a mom.

    Now, four months later, I have developed difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, and some ankle swelling, and thus my cardiologist is sending me to San Francisco for a specialized cardiac MRI. So again I face all the fears I did when they rushed me to the operating room for the cesarean section. Is this my time? I’m praying I just have asthma and cankles.

    I wish I had words of wisdom to share, but all I can think to say is that everyone dies. No matter what happens today or 50 years from now I can’t change that reality for myself. I can only hold my son a little closer, leave him love notes to always have, and fall into my husband’s arms until my heart is so full of their love that the pain of my mortality doesn’t hurt anymore.

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