I spend time being grateful. I meditate and scroll through loved ones my family and I are fortunate to have in our lives, but it’s been ages since I have experienced real gratitude, the kind that makes you shake your head at the gravity of what could have gone in a different, worse direction.
On July 1, our second daughter decided it was time for her first appearance, and we’ve spent these first weeks falling in love with our new baby.
At our one-week pediatrician appointment, our doctor listened to Miriam’s heart, stopped and looked at me, and put the stethoscope back to Miriam’s chest. The doctor informs me she’s noticed a murmur; we need a pediatric cardiologist appointment for our fourteen-day-old baby, soon. I asked her if sometimes kids outgrow them, and wasn’t it true that, sometimes, murmurs were nothing serious? Yes, sometimes they are nothing. This doesn’t sound like nothing…it sounds a little more like something. Even though I wanted to cry and totally lose it, I let myself think and act only in ways that could help improve the news I’d just heard.
My first step was to call Ben and tell him all the information I had: murmur, need cardiologist. My second phone call was the biggest favor I have asked for in quite a while: I had just met a pediatric cardiologist a few weeks prior—more coincidental still, he’d made the comment that if our daughter had any kind of heart issue, we could call him. I called his wife to ask for help; an hour later, we sat in the waiting room of the cardiologist’s office. I held Miriam, all swaddled up and cute and small, and I told her that if something was wrong and she had a problem with her heart, we would do whatever it takes to help her. Just four hours after the initial diagnosis, we had some news to smile (a little) about.
Miriam has two holes in her heart. One hole, the cardiologist said, most 11-day-olds would have if sonogrammed. The second hole, the one causing the murmur, is a defect but its location is not problematic. It will likely close on its own and shouldn’t ever pose limitations for Miriam.
Gratitude just begins to describe my feelings that Friday afternoon. We’ll keep an eye and an ear on her heart with periodic visits to the cardiologist; we’re fortunate this is the extent of her murmur. One thing this experience shows me is the importance of trying to find fortune in tough moments. My family is fortunate—fortunate the pediatrician heard the murmur, to have been able to see the pediatric cardiologist the same day; fortunate for the gentle reminder to be thankful for these small bumps that jolt thought patterns, reacquainting us with how precious life is.
Since having this experience and sharing our family’s story with others, I have met several moms who know what it is to have a child who isn’t completely healthy, some with more serious conditions than Miriam’s. These common struggles we share as parents become more productive when we know there’s someone who has been through the journey we find ourselves on, when we see how beautifully they persevered. We’d love to hear your story.