I never saw it coming.
The hours spent at doctor appointments, the coordination between specialists, the adding and subtracting of prescriptions—I never saw any of it coming.
I had a healthy pregnancy. Baby had a strong heartbeat at every appointment, and the anatomy scan showed an energetic, growing babe. There were no indicators that my water would break prematurely, that we would experience time in the NICU. Nothing hinted toward a hidden genetic condition or brain malformation that would complicate our child’s care.
Nothing prepared me to be a medical mom.
It was something that came fast and furious. Something I never wanted but now embrace. Something I wanted to disassociate with but now appreciate.
I vividly remember my initiation into the medical mom club. It was a cold, December morning, and I was exhausted from giving birth. I delivered my son the night before after my water unexpectedly broke at 34-weeks pregnant. Both physical exhaustion and emotional fatigue were consuming my body. I was dangerously close to experiencing a mental breakdown when two neonatologists entered my hospital room.
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Their exact words escape me, but the bottom line was our baby had to be intubated with a ventilator overnight, he had bleeding underneath his scalp, and he had received several blood transfusions to increase his hemoglobin levels.
Medical terms were coming in tidal waves, and I could barely keep my head above water.
The weeks that followed in the NICU nearly drowned me.
Concerns of low-muscle tone required a consultation from neurology, and the MRI ordered revealed an unforeseen brain malformation. While this provided additional information regarding his treatment, it still did not explain our son’s low muscle tone. Later, through genetic testing, we discovered a connective tissue disorder.
We were discharged from the NICU with our son still on oxygen and follow-ups scheduled for cardiology, pulmonology, neurology, general surgery (he had a hernia surgery while he was in the hospital), and physical therapy. We were managing oxygen tanks and several prescriptions. Appointment reminders were flooding my phone, and it felt like we were receiving new medical bills by the day.
Words that should only be known to encyclopedia enthusiasts were now part of my everyday vocabulary. I could write a short novel on dilated aortic roots and dysgenesis of the corpus callosum. If Jeopardy had a category on connective tissue, I would win the round. And I could have taught an entire college course on the use of home oxygen.
When you are a medical mom, you become a fast learner.
You don’t have a choice; it’s baptism by fire. Your brain is constantly on overload, like a laptop with too many tabs open, but you cannot close even one because, well, you might just need to reference it.
The beginning is hard–you really do not have time to think. You are too busy doing. You are absorbing, taking in your new reality. You are reading pamphlets and researching treatments. You are consulting experts and scheduling medicine reminders. You are prioritizing needs and finding balance.
These initial moments feel like they will never end. You feel like you will be treading water forever, like your liferaft will not be enough to sustain you.
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But eventually, these once inconvenient additions to your life become part of your everyday routine. You settle into a new normal, and you don’t even notice the accommodations you have had to make.
They are simply part of your life, a part of you.
Because somewhere in between the syringes and the specialists, you have changed. You have traded doubt for determination; transformed from fearful to fierce.
You might have missed it (after all, you have been a little preoccupied), but somewhere along the way, you had a metamorphosis.
The overwhelmed, uncertain mom who began this journey has grown into one who is confident and tenacious. She advocates with certainty, undeterred by adversity. She embraces these unique experiences and recognizes that they have prepared her for the obstacles ahead. She remains undeterred, assured that she is the best mom for her babe.
And while you may not have seen it coming, you realize that sometimes the very best things in life come from the surprises.