Sunshine in March is watery and thin but oh so warm after weeks of the kind of gray cold that burrows into the cracks like the dirt between the planks of my oak floor. My seatbelt tucked low under my belly, baby dancing the “mommy drank her coffee today” boogie, we waved goodbye to our daughter. She pranced up the hill into the zoo with some friends.
The day was too cheerful to be anxious. We bantered about whether this one would be a boy or a girl as I turned down the ramp into the underground parking garage at the children’s hospital.
Seven years, and the hospital elevator was just as dingy as the first day we walked in, carrying our firstborn to the emergency room. We knew our way to the cardiology clinic by heart now. Today we weren’t bringing our oldest, though — we were having a routine fetal echo for our fourth child because of our oldest’s heart condition. The two middle children had checked out fine, so we were just hoping a cardiology echo technician knew enough anatomy to tell us if this one would be a second son or a third daughter.
I liked having ultrasounds done at the children’s hospital because they keep their gel in warmers. No flinching when the tech squirts your belly as if it were a hot dog being anointed by ketchup.
The mood was light, and we both grinned like fools when the technician pointed out our little boy’s parts and we knew his name and started talking about who would sleep in which bedroom.
But when the tech went to get the physician to look over the pictures, my husband turned to me and said, “Did you notice?”
“She went through all the parts of the heart, but she didn’t say anything about pulmonary arteries.”
“Oh, no I didn’t. It’s probably nothing.” I was usually the one to catch these things and he was usually the one in denial.
But when the doctor came in, we both felt the room change. The lighthearted jokes dissolved into anxious anticipation as he moved the ultrasound wand around, pushing and tipping it back and forth to get a good look at our little one’s grape-sized heart.
Finally he turned to us.
“Your son appears to have no pulmonary arteries.”
We tried to soak this in. Another child with heart defects. We’ve been here before, it can’t be as bad as it was the first time, we know waaaay ahead.
“Is this simpler, the same, or more complex than Elli’s heart defects?” I asked.
“His situation is just as complicated as hers. We will keep an eye on him as he develops, and hopefully we’ll see things that were too small for us to find today. But he will need multiple heart surgeries and will see a cardiologist for his entire life.”
I felt like a cannon had just gone off next to me, the sound both deafening me and knocking me to the ground. I tried to breathe, tried to concentrate on what they said.
Twenty more weeks, echos every month, delivery at a high-risk hospital, immediate transfer to the cardiac intensive care unit, and newborn heart surgery if he was lucky.
How would I get through twenty weeks of waiting?
This post inspired by The Gypsy Mama’s Five Minute Friday. This week’s writing prompt was “Waiting.”