Saturday, December 8, 2012

Why you should have another baby after HIE

It is a common theme among HIE parents.  "I want another baby but I am terrified."  And understandably so.  Nothing prepares you for the HIE experience.  You get pregnant, you are happy and excited, you can't wait to meet your beautiful baby, to finally meet this little person and hold them and kiss them and love them, and to go off and live the happy life you imagined for them, your little boy playing soccer, your daughter doing ballet, oh what fun life will be with this little person.
And then it happens.
Your baby is born very sick.  Maybe they needed to be resuscitated immediately after birth.  Maybe you didn't get to hold them for days.  Maybe you had no idea whether or not your new baby was going to live or die.  Maybe you were even told to withdraw life support.  Maybe your health was also in a bad way, or your experience was physically and/or emotionally traumatic.  It is no surprise then, that the prospect of doing it all again doesn't exactly sound all that appealing.

I never ever would have imagined that I would spend the first night of my son's life laying in a hospital bed alone, while he lay ventilated in the NICU, after having witnessed him be resuscitated twice after he stopped breathing due to seizures.  That was certainly a far cry from the cozy picture I had painted myself during pregnancy.  And you don't get over that.  Ever.  Watching your baby literally fight for their life, Doctors not knowing what was wrong, then discovering your child suffered a brain injury and was very unlikely to live a normal life.  Not having any idea how long your baby would need to be in hospital, not being able to hold them, having to feed them through a tube, and having to re-evaluate all those hopes and dreams that you had for that child.  Maybe they will never be able to play soccer, or do ballet.  You will just have to "wait and see".  Yes, it is a shitty place to be.  Your child was permanently injured during the process of their birth.  And birth is not exactly optional....  there is no way to get around that if you want another baby.  So what to do?  Well, I say, Just do it!

After Joshua was born, my immediate thoughts were "that was fucked, I need to do this again right away, I need a do over, I need to do it properly, because this was all wrong, totally not how it was meant to be".   Then I told myself that logically, I should wait until he was a year old before trying to get pregnant again.  As he approached his first birthday, I thought, No way man, that is so soon.  I had absolutely ZERO desire to get pregnant again.  Don't get me wrong, I always planned to, Joshua was never going to be my only child, and I would have made myself do it, but I had not yet reached a point of "wanting" another baby yet.  Joshua was not an easy baby.  He cried a lot.  He didn't sleep.  (He still doesn't sleep very well).  Our days were full of appointments, therapists, paediatricians, orthotics, audiology, ophthalmology, specialists.  How could I ever manage to look after Joshua and do all that with another baby in tow?  I am already so busy.

When I thought about having another newborn, I didn't get warm fuzzies.  I just thought about how much more work it would be.  I imagined myself with another newborn that was just like Joshua had been, that screamed and didn't sleep.  And I thought, no thanks, I can't do that again.

And then I got pregnant again.   Joshua was 15 months old and it happened before I had actually made the decision that we would start actively trying again.  In some ways, that was a blessing, because it removed the need for me to actively make that decision to jump off a cliff again.  Or so it seemed.

My first reaction?  Panic.  Yep.  I felt sick with worry.  At that point, I had no idea what happened to Joshua and whether or not it might happen again.  It was just lucky for me that I had already submitted our records to Dr Hill for review, and just days later, I spoke with him.  I was assured that Joshua's HIE was a random event, unlikely to re-occur and that I didn't need to worry about this happening again, as I was at no greater risk of having a problem with a future pregnancy than any other woman who had never had a HIE baby.  That was music to my ears.

That is the first step.  If you are unsure what caused your child's HIE and you are worried about it happening again, you need to get your records reviewed by someone like Dr Hill, and find out exactly what happened and what your risks are of it happening again.  That really goes a long way to put your mind at ease.  At least it did for me.  After that, I really didn't worry too much about HIE reoccurring.  Many people continue to worry through their whole pregnancy though.  And that is normal too.  But have the facts to talk those dark thoughts back into their box.

People would ask me if I was excited about having another baby, and the honest answer was No.  I wasn't.  Which is really not a socially acceptable answer to that question, so I guess I mostly just smiled and said yes.  It did help for me to find out the gender though, knowing I was having a little girl and to start preparing girly things did help me feel a bit more bonded.  I know many people find it hard to bond with their post-HIE pregnancy.  You've already had your hopes and dreams for a newborn baby shattered once, so its almost a protective measure to not let yourself get too attached to anything just in case it didn't work out that way.  Did I love and want my unborn baby?  Yes I did.  But pregnancy was no longer a period of joyous expectation that it once was.  HIE bursts your bubble, it really does.  But slogging your way through that next pregnancy is so worth it.

For me, it has been the best thing I have ever done, and thoroughly healing.  It is true, not everyone finds their next birth to be a healing experience, but many people do.  Why?  Because you get to do everything right.  And by "right", I mean "right for you".  The ultimate goal for everyone is to bring that baby into the world safely.  The journey to get to that point however, is highly personal, and something one can only decide for themselves.  Many people express the desire to hear the baby cry right away, to be able to hold their baby soon after birth, to basically have an overall positive experience to help erase the negative ones that came about with their HIE babies birth.  Once you decide on the course of action that feels right to you, and you bring your baby into the world, and they don't have HIE (and they won't!), you will be so happy.

I can't really describe what Amelie's birth has done for me, but it was absolutely positive and healing.  Many of you would know that I had a drug free natural birth at home, which is not a popular choice, but it is the choice that was right for me.  But many people choose an elective c-section and also find that to be a wonderful, positive experience.  Getting to have a birth you feel happy with, combined with a happy newborn experience, it just does a world of good to heal your heart.

Adding a new baby to our family is something that can only be described as joyous.  Not only did I have a positive birth experience, but it is also a real thrill to see my new baby meeting all of her developmental milestones easily.  I admit, there are some hard moments because sometimes you can't help but draw comparisons, and especially when your HIE child is your first child, having that second child really makes you realise what you missed out on the first time around.  Like when you are snuggled up in bed cuddling your newborn baby and think to yourself that at this point in your first child's life, they were in a "plastic box" attached to tubes and wires, instead of warm and cosy with their Mama.  It is gut wrenching really.  But at the same time, it also brings an element of peace to get to experience things as they should be.  Sometimes it really hurts to see how easily she does things, knowing how hard those things were for Joshua, but it is so nice to not have to worry about her, and to really be in a special position that allows me to fully appreciate how damn miraculous "normal" really is.

Enough about *me* though.  Been there, done that parents always say that having a sibling for your child is wonderful for them.  And now that I am on the other side of that, I can confirm that it is true.  My son, who is 2.5 years old and has yet to call me Mama....  calls his baby sister "Bubba".  Within two weeks of her birth he had learned that word.  He loves her.  It is true that he is not always gentle.  (ok, he is pretty damn rough with her most of the time) Some of that is accidental, some of that is on purpose, but despite that, you can tell he is thrilled by her.  And it didn't take long to realise that she too had a special smile that she did just for him.  Watching your children interact with each other is nothing short of amazing, and I have no doubt that as they both grow and develop more, and their interactions with each other become more elaborate, it will only get better.

As they say though, Pictures are worth a thousand words, so if you are still umming and aahing about taking the plunge and having another baby, don't take my word for it, just look at these pictures.....

And if that wasn't enough to convince you, here is a video for good measure!

Joyous right?  Now go make a baby!    :)