Where to start? At 28 we get married, at 29 get our first child and at 30 we welcome twins.
Wait, got pregnant again at 30 with twins or delivered them at 30?
Haha, delivered them. I was that breastfeeding Mom still figuring out how to handle a baby then boom, pregnant again. And just when I thought that was all, we realized that we were expecting twins.
Okay, life switched to the fast lane real quick, yeah?
Yeah, when we started parenting the three children. A one-year-old and a set of twins. Any parent will tell you that one child is A LOT of work. Ours were three, and we were just 30. At birth, the twins came out okay. The girl was however put on oxygen and so the attention shifted to her. It did not occur to us at that point that the one who would need all the attention in the next coming months was the boy. Not then.
At what point did you know?
I can’t say that I knew, at least not before the doctor’s prognosis. Thing is, I occasionally thought he was a fluid child.
Yeah, I don’t know how else to put it. I would hold him, and he would slouch. His twin sister on the other hand was firm and all bubbly- but again children are different so I would brush it off. But truth is, you can only brush it off for so long when you have twins. You notice all the differences and compare milestones. As a Mom, there is also that connection with your child that will tell you when something is (probably) off. I had that uncomfortable feeling that would just not go away. So on one evening (and several others to come) I told my husband that maybe, we needed to get the little boy checked. His first opinion was that we probably needed to be a bit more patient with the baby. The feeling that maybe something was off did not go away. At some point, you feel like you are just being paranoid and really need to be a bit more patient with your child.
Anywho, I came home from work one day, strapped him on my back and took him to the hospital. I walked there… it was not that far; but it was not near either.
(Folks, you get the picture? Me too).
The doctor did the checks and said that the child was in perfect shape-except that he had a murmur in his heart. Worthwhile if you could get his heart checked further just to be sure.
Did that scare you?
It shook me for a bit. Just a small bit. There was the comfort that came with the first part of the doctor’s comments-that he was in perfect shape. And that’s what I wanted to believe more. So I got home and told my husband that yeah he’s good, but there’s a murmur in his heart….
Coincidentally, our best couple dropped by around that time and I mentioned to them. She, the best woman-a doctor, had a cocktail of reactions all at once. To me, I could immediately tell that she had noticed the difference in the children but had been too cautious to ask or comment before. It was like it finally made sense to her and had just given her the answers for all the questions she had wanted to ask but could not because of how delicate a topic it was.
And did she say anything, did she ask?
Nuh, she instead said that she was going to immediately organize for an appointment with a cardiologist in Mater where she worked. And she did so rather quickly.
We took the twins to the cardiologist. Until this point, I had not for a moment thought that our baby was battling a congenital heart defect. The scans were done in uncomfortable silence and we waited in hopeful anticipation.
The silence finally broke. The cardiologist scanned both hearts again, this time explaining how a normal heart looked like (with the girl as the ‘prototype’) and then how a ‘not normal’ heart looked like. He had hole in the heart, his valves were not functioning properly either. Atrial septal defects he said.
He went on and on but my ability to comprehend anything he was saying was long gone. I don’t remember much of what he said but I remember the images of my baby’s heart to the last detail. I doubt I blinked at all even when my eyes got shiny, then wet and shortly after -fully soaked in tears. I saw everything with such clarity through that moment, occasionally opening my mouth to gasp for air because I was suffocating inside. I did not think or pause to feel the moment, I just looked and looked. And maybe I was looking for answers from the screen, or for the strength to take the news in and gather my maternal guard to be strong for our child, our very young family and for myself too.
The corrective procedure could only be done from India- and had be done before the baby hit 6 months.
Nothing was said on our way back home and even in that moment, we understood every word that went unsaid between us. That we barely had time to get the finances (that we did not have) in order, that we needed to figure out how this India story would work and get papers rather urgently; and yeah, we had three children between the two of us; and they all needed us (one a little more than the rest) …
(By the way folks, I don’t know if the wow there was necessary but that was my best contribution to the conversation at that point in time. And she got me just for the record).
So yeah, we decided that I would go to India with the twins and one nanny; and he would stay behind with the first born and the other nanny. Cigna insurance had come through in ways I had not imagined possible. Can you imagine they even covered for our tickets and my stay and that of El? Suffice to say we only had to worry about the Nanny’s stay. Which was covered anyway because we had raised a good amount of money during that time from family, friends and well-wishers. And so we left for India and for a moment life felt good again.
Nice, tell me about India…
No not nice. Forget everything I said before about life being tough, it was not… I was just joking, seriously. India redefined the meaning of tough.
The hospital was in Chennai. On the night before the procedure, I was instructed to prepare the baby for surgery. You know, no food , no fluids and so on and so forth. I woke up at 4 in the morning to a black out. The whole area was all dark, remember the Chennai floods?
Not quite but google is our friend folks, so here we go.
*On 1 December, heavy rains led to inundation in many areas of Chennai. By afternoon, power supplies were suspended to 60% of the city while several city hospitals stopped functioning…. For the first time since its founding in 1878, the major newspaper The Hindu did not publish a print edition on 2 December, as workers were unable to reach the press building. The Southern Railways cancelled major train services and Chennai International Airport was closed until 6 December.*
I lived through that, firsthand. The hospital was dysfunctional for days and hopelessly so because the generators were covered in water at the basement. I am grateful that it happened just before my boy went to surgery because he would not have survived without the life support machines after surgery you know. Lots of people in ICU died owing to the black out and floods. The surgery had to be postponed. ( and remember we were racing against the 6 months window). Meanwhile, Telcos were down and therefore I could not reach my husband or anyone at home. Just me, the kids and a nanny. We had not bought any food just yet and so the situation was bleak. You know, floods everywhere, black out, hungry and dehydrated for myself with two kids looking up to me for every form of nourishment. Our neighbors gave us some biscuits to keep us going. And for days we survived on biscuits and water-that we tapped directly from the rain through the hospital windows. Then floods went down and we moved to a hotel. Scratch that, we moved to a lodging that was quite shabby and I got diarrhea. A bad one.
Fortunately, Telcos got back up and the insurance got another hospital that could perform the surgery in New Delhi. Life started looking up and my diarrhea miraculously disappeared as soon as we got to new Delhi. I took in El for the surgery and went to look for an apartment right after because we needed to find a sustainable plan for our stay sooner rather than later.
Did you get one?
I did and thought the storm had calmed down. Then my nanny suddenly got dengue fever. So there I was, with a baby who had just gone through a major surgery, a nanny with severe fever, and another infant to take care of. My nanny was due for admission but that meant that I would not be able to visit my son anymore since I could not leave the twin alone in the house, and children are not allowed into hospital wards. We came to an agreement that they would not admit the nanny but I would be taking her to the hospital daily.
El was in ICU for 10 days, 8 of which my nanny was down ill.
Yeah, 10. It took him long to get back because his lungs had a lot of fluid that needed to be drained. The nanny was also not at a good mental state to take care of his twin, you know Dengue fever make you sorta mad. So when I say India redefined the meaning of tough, I mean these 8 days. When my son was in ICU, my nanny with severe fever and my other baby looking up to me to take care of her.
It got better though, my nanny recovered and I moved in to the hospital to be with my son after he left ICU.
Life in the hospital and away from ICU was bearable for the larger part, until one night when I was watching and noticed that the TV was moving, the bed too! It was a major earthquake. For the first time in this season, I prayed. Not really praying but I told God that we had had enough. “If you want us to live, let us -in peace. And if you want us to die, take us-now.“
We are here now so.
How did you release the stress during this time?
I never had the chance to release it at that time. I never even got the chance to just cry and let myself crash during this period because I had to ‘have myself together’ for the sake of my kids (and the nanny too). So 90% was held in … But at some point you are bound to reach your breaking point. For me it happened on one afternoon when I was having a regular chat with the doctor. It could have been something he said or his tone, or nothing at all… but that was my trigger. Every part of me fell apart and I started crying -uncontrollably. I cried every frustration and every heartache out. I cried for my son and for the days in the ICU when his little body was all covered in endless tubes and life support machines . I finally let out the tears that I held back on the day that he left the theatre looking like nothing I had ever imagined. For every day and night that I wondered if he would pull through this. So for many minutes , I let the tears flow, totally unable to express myself in words to the now utterly shocked doctor who was endlessly asking me if I was okay or needed some time out. Eventually, my voice got back and amid sobs, I told him that I had to get back home immediately. I was fed up with the hospital and my life there.
Shortly after my sobbing therapy was over ,I called my husband and told him that I was not going to spend one more night in the hospital so he needed to make it work. And he did, he made it work despite it being a holiday-26th of December.
When we got back home, I finally let the guard down. For two weeks, I was mentally and emotionally off. Going through such an experience can easily break you because of the toll it takes on your emotions as an individual and I am grateful this season did not break us as a couple.
What did you learn from it?
I did not take any life notes honestly. I just kept reminding myself that I was not an exception or special in any way. When life serves you with tragedy after tragedy in quick succession, it gets tempting to question God. Why me, why us? I mean, God , why really? But no one is more deserving of tragedy than another… and no one is exempt either.
His grace remained sufficient, people prayed with and for us. No actually, people prayed for us and I look back and think that their prayers held us. I had resigned to the fact that the outcome could go either way; and either way was okay with me because at the end of the day God had his plan that was beyond us.
And how’s the little one?
He is all grown now and he is catching up on the milestones. As a Mom, I feel so much pride seeing how far he has come.
*This is me blogging about my recent date which turned out to be a heart to heart session. Her story has been on my head since and I thought I could as well blog about it for you who is going through or has gone through a storm that almost broke you. I hope that it brought some sunshine your way and reminded you that it might be stormy now, but it can’t rain for forever.
It does get better with time: and it will!