I sat in the gathering room at the Ronald McDonald Apartment in Ann Arbor, Michigan looking out the window. It was cold outside, the air was crisp and the sun flickered off the autumn leaves in a magnificent display of red, orange, and yellow. It was beautiful. But I couldn't enjoy it. My 4 day old son was in the NICU on another floor of the building - dying. My 17 month old daughter was somewhere with my mom. I hadn't seen her in days, and I didn't really know where she was. My mind was cloudy from pain killers and I couldn't move my head or the air bubble from my spinal would transfer and cause the worst headache I had ever had. I didn't know it then, but my very recent cesarean section wound was infected. Very infected. My son had just been transferred from a different hospital to go on ECMO - an artificial lung that drains all the blood from your body, oxygenates it and then puts it back in your body. He had been on the maximum amount of life support the Level 3 NICU in Lansing had. We were now in Ann Arbor buying him time. There was nothing left to do, and we were told that IF he lives, he will be on a machine his entire life. He would never run, or jump, or play. It was surreal.
Rewind 5 years earlier. My husband and I had been married for 3 years and were about one year into infertility. I went to see a reproductive endocrinologist, and after a litany of tests, a lymphoma scare, an adrenal cancer scare (turns out I just have extra kidney tissue) a diagnosis of IBS, and a year of my life I will never get back, the diagnosis was made. Nothing. Unexplained infertility. We were on the fast track to IVF, but something inside of me said "no." It wasn't the cost. It was something else. We explored adoption and decided that wasn't for us. So we came to grips with our reality and set out to be a childless couple. We did all the things we thought a childless couple should do. We went camping, remodeled our house, bought too many dogs... We got into a routine.
Just before our 5th wedding anniversary, I discovered that our marriage wasn't valid in the Catholic Church so we went to the local parish for a Convalidation. Little did we know, but my Pastor was planning to send us through marriage preparation for 9 months leading up to our Convalidation. He wanted to be sure that we knew what we were getting into. As we were driving home I went through the list of requirements. At the bottom was "NFP Intro." Neither of us knew what that was so a quick Google search revealed that it was "Catholic Contraception." The irony of taking a class on contraception when you can't have kids didn't escape us. But we went. It was there that we learned about NFP in general. Specifically we learned that the Creighton Model could help with infertility. The next day I contacted our local Practitioner and registered for a CrMS Intro.
Six months after our Convalidation, 3 cycles, 1 million vials of blood, some NaPRO intervention, and some dietary changes and I was pregnant! Sadly, we lost our first baby at 15 weeks. We discovered then that I had a rare pregnancy complication called a partial molar pregnancy, and that there was an "invasive" (read cancerous) placenta. We were under strict orders to avoid pregnancy for the foreseeable future otherwise a new pregnancy would make the placenta grow more. On a dime, we had to switch how we were using CrMS and avoid pregnancy. 7 months after burying our first baby, I was cleared to try and get pregnant again. We conceived our daughter on the first cycle after being cleared. 9 months later, our beautiful baby girl was born.
When she was 9 months old we ignored a CrMS instruction. For real, it took so much to get pregnant the first time that we didn't think we could have an unintended pregnancy; especially given I wasn't taking my NaPRO prescribed medications. We were wrong.
Now fast forward 7 months back to the Ronald McDonald apartment. My son was born six weeks early. His amniotic fluid was basically gone, so the doctors said that we needed to have a C-Section that evening and they scheduled it for 12 hours later. I told them he was 6 weeks early. I knew because of my CrMS chart; however, the doctor argued. According to my menstrual period he was only 4 weeks early. They refused to give me steroid injections to mature his lungs before delivery and assured me there was a less than 2% chance he would have any complications. They based this on the erroneous data from my last menstrual period. When my son was born he had full respiratory failure that likely would have been avoided if I had been given the steroid injections. His neonatologist confirmed his gestational age was the date that I had given based off my chart. Creighton was correct. The OBGYNs were wrong.
Despite this, my son lay dying. I've never felt so utterly helpless in my life. I texted a friend who had a son who nearly died as a boy. I wanted to know what to do. Her response was, "what has been asked of you is tremendous." It was what I needed to hear. It was permission to grieve and be angry at the doctors. It was permission to be helpless. It got me through many rough days ahead. My son eventually made a miraculous recovery. Eight years later and he now runs, jumps, talks, and does all the things that he should be doing even though he was on social security disability until he was 3. He hears even though he was deaf for the first year of his life. Yes, he's got things still. But we all have things. The story goes on, but this blog is already longer than I intended. So maybe I'll finish it at a different time. Until then, if it weren't for Creighton, my children wouldn't be here. This is my Creighton story.