So, in classic mom mode, I completely forgot to blog about Teddy’s birthday, even though it was 2 months ago (Seriously, how has it already been 2 months??). Second kid problems, right? Regardless, Happy Birthday, Teddy!
This little boy is actually a huge part of the reason that I became a photographer (and subsequently dragged Jeremy along with me! Haha). 3 days before Christmas 2015, I had what was supposed to be a routine echo scheduled. I was told that something looked a little off, but the doctor was fairly sure it was a variation of normal. But he wanted to get a fetal cardiology specialist in to make sure everything was fine. They told me it was probably normal, but just wanted to make sure all of our bases were covered. After being reassured, I decided to go to this particular appointment by myself.
The half hour echo stretched to one hour. Then to two. I dozed in and out in the dim room, pregnant and tired (I had an 18-month old at home already!). Finally the cardiology specialist finished and left the room to analyze the images. A technician came in a few minutes later, and I asked if everything was good and if I was free to go. “Um… you really need to speak with the doctor.”
My heart stopped. “But everything’s ok, right?”
She didn’t meet my gaze, “The doctor really needs to be the one to tell you.”
The next 15 minutes was agony. Hormonal and pregnant, I cried by myself in the exam room, waiting for the doctor to come back.
When she finally did, it was to explain that my unborn son had a congenital heart defect – an anomalous pulmonary artery off the right artery. In plain terms, his lung was attached to the wrong part of his heart, so his lung would be getting blood that had already been oxygenated, and if it wasn’t fixed, he would only have a 30% chance of making it to his 1st birthday. I was told that while he was still in utero, he was safe, but after he was born, he would start to get very sick if they didn’t perform open heart surgery as soon as possible.
After calling Jeremy and filling him in, I called my mom and cried my eyes out. This baby, this tiny, unborn baby that I had been entrusted with, that I already loved with all my heart, was going to need open heart surgery when he was just a few days old. I had to pull the car over because I couldn’t see straight.
Fast forward 4 months, holding this little boy in my arms for the first time, being told I could only hold him for 10 minutes, and then they would have to take him to a neighboring hospital for testing. 4 days after he was born, he underwent open heart surgery. I spent every day of the next 2 and a half weeks at the hospital, holding him as much as they would let me, going with him to x-rays, echos, listening to the endless beeping of the different machines and monitors he was hooked up to. One thought ran through my head on repeat while we waited to see how he would do, if he would recover, if he would have other complications – what if this is all I get? What if this is the only time I get to spend with him? What if this is it?
I had this inexplicable urge to capture as many moments as I could. I took photos of him with all of the tubes, monitors, everything. I knew it might be upsetting to some people, so I never posted it. But I kept it for me. Just in case. Every day, a new picture. Every time another monitor, tube, or wire came off, another picture. Pictures as he met sister, Me-Ma, uncle for the first time. Photos of our kids MATTER. (Want tips for taking better photos of your kids?) The urge, the desire, the pressing need to keep documenting love, life, moments hasn’t let up since then. If anything, it’s become stronger. I have to take these pictures. Mark these moments. Hold on to these emotions and memories forever.
Teddy will never remember his first hospital stay, but I will never forget. It will be engraved in my heart and mind forever. And now I have pictures to show him when he’s old enough to ask about his scar. To tell him that he is the strongest, bravest little boy that I know. And I am so proud to be his mama.
On the day he was released from the hospital, Charlotte and I walked around the cardiology ward and handed out felt hearts to all of the nurses and doctors we could find who had taken care of Teddy during his stay to pin to their scrubs. To this day, Charlotte and Teddy still hand out felt hearts to people – mostly to strangers. People who stop and talk to them in the line at the grocery store, someone who opens a door for us, the robbers on the train at Knott’s Berry Farm. For a little boy who was born with a defective heart, he’s got one of the biggest, warmest ones I’ve ever seen. He never goes to bed without giving his sister a hug and a kiss. And he climbs out of bed a MINIMUM of two times every night for “one more kiss. One more hug.”
Teddy, you are so strong, so brave, so loving and kind. From the day you were born, it was clear to your dad and me that you were never going to let anything slow you down! You look up to your sister so much, and you want to be a part of everything she does. You love cars and are obsessed with trains. Basically anything that moves! You love the Octonauts, the aquarium, and Knott’s Berry Farm. Every time we go, you ask to go on all of the biggest rides (we took you on your birthday, and you got really mad when we wouldn’t let you go on Exelerator!). I can’t wait until you’re big enough to take you on all the big ones, little boy. I know you’re just gunna love them! I love that you ask to go on “the coal mine ride,” even though it scares you – you are SO BRAVE and ready to take on any challenge! We love you SO MUCH, bubba. Happy Birthday, Teddy!
(Also, be sure to check out Charlotte’s 4th birthday from a few months ago!)