My older son will be 4 years old in a week and, like so many parents, each year I find myself looking back at pictures and reflecting on his birthday. What does his birthday mean to us? How has this day impacted us? How have we spent every birthday before this one?
In June of 2014 we got the exciting news that we were expecting our first child. We went through the first half of our pregnancy thinking everything was perfect. At my 20 week anatomy scan, we were told that our son had a two vessel umbilical cord. Most babies have three blood vessels: one vein, which brings nutrients from the placenta to the baby, and two arteries that bring waste back to the placenta. Our son’s umbilical cord only had one vein and one artery. We had never heard of this condition but the doctors assured us it was likely not going to affect our baby. Since we’ve gone through this, I’ve learned just how very common two vessel cords are, but at the time all I could find online were scary stories. I eventually learned to stay away from Google with all things related to pregnancy.
Like many other expecting parents, we were extremely scared of the unknown that came with that diagnosis. With tears running down my face, our doctor explained that there’s a slight increase in risk of growth problems and a minimal increase in risk of stillbirth. We would need to see a specialist so that our son’s growth could be closely monitored and so that other organs (such as the kidneys and heart) could be checked for any abnormalities. Our doctor explained that we should not be alarmed since our original ultrasound showed normal growth and development in all other areas.
Two weeks later we saw a Maternal Fetal Medicine doctor. This doctor performed an ultrasound to specifically check our son’s heart and kidneys since these parts are most commonly associated with umbilical cord abnormalities. As the technician performed the ultrasound, we gave one another that gut-wrenching look. We both knew something else was wrong. We were told at this appointment that our son only had a left kidney. We were completely heartbroken. Good intending friends and family reassured us that plenty of people live with only one kidney, but we were left with no peace of mind. We were wrought with guilt that WE were not able to provide a perfect body to our sweet baby. We spent the next couple of weeks mourning the loss of our “perfect” pregnancy and what we thought was a healthy baby.
At our next appointment at 26 weeks pregnant, the ultrasound showed another alarming abnormality on our baby’s umbilical cord. The doctor explained that there was a varix (a dilated vein) on the inside of his belly button right in the curve of the umbilical cord. He explained to us that there was little research on this condition but that it put our baby at risk for a blood clot. A blood clot on his umbilical cord would ultimately cause our baby to die. Still to this day typing the word “die” when writing about our son gives me chills up my spine. No one pictures this when they get pregnant. The news was devastating. Our doctor told us that a blood clot could happen instantly or over time so he would need to monitor us weekly in hopes of preventing any clotting. Each week from then on if the doctor saw a blood clot forming, we were at risk for being induced. The weeks went by so slowly and so painfully.
We were people of faith before any of this occurred but our perspective changed dramatically during this period. We decided to be very specific with God and sought people who could give us any bit of hope. Every single day we prayed aloud saying,
“Lord we pray for a miracle. We pray for two kidneys. We pray for no blood clots. We pray for a healthy baby.”
Still to this day, we have a crumpled piece of paper that had 10 specific verses that we prayed over him every night. I had no idea if any of it would help but we were willing to do anything.
We worried a lot about if we would get to the day where we could hold a healthy baby boy and if he would survive. I would constantly ask myself if our baby would be able to celebrate his birthday the follow year?
We had an ultrasound every week from then on. Each week I would cry and pray the whole way to the doctor and hold my breath as they did a quick scan of the varix. At 38 weeks, with the advice and guidance from our doctors, we were induced. Inducing us early would lower the risk of blood clotting. After 6 hours of being induced, our doctors decided to do a C-section because our son was not responding well to labor. The extra pressure on the umbilical cord from the contractions was negatively affecting his heart rate and movement.
At 11:29 am on January 26, 2015, I gave birth to our son. He was smaller than expected, weighing 5 pounds 6 ounces but all I could see was perfection. I will never forget the relief of hearing him cry. Our son spent nine days in the NICU because he needed a little extra time for his lungs and heart to develop. An ultrasound was performed immediately after his birth to check on his left kidney. Soon after the ultrasound my husband came into our hospital room where I was recovering to tell me the news. We were elated to find out that our son was born with two normal kidneys. Truly a miracle! We were dumbfounded and confused, but so very thankful. This is what we had prayed every single day leading up to his birth despite all of the many ultrasounds confirming that he only had one kidney. After nine days in NICU, our son was discharged and we took home a healthy, beautiful baby boy.
Our pregnancy was grueling, emotional, stressful, joyful, heartbreaking, and so much more. The only thing we attribute Abram’s second kidney and successful delivery to was a whole lot of prayers and even more faith. For us, there is no other explanation.
So, he’s almost 4 years old. He’s full of joy, bright, energetic, sweet, and hilarious. He loves carrying around little treasures in his pocket and knows every name of the Thomas and Friends characters. He’s everything I ever hoped for and more. It’s easy to forget in the day-to-day grind how badly you wanted what you have now. We recently saw a family member that we hadn’t seen since our son was born. The second she saw him she said, “The miracle baby. Our angel from God.” Of course I know that every baby is a miracle, but I knew what she was saying in that moment. She still looks at him as the baby we prayed for and the baby who beat the odds. I never want to take it for granted.