Dana P. Brady shares a story about walking through unexpected medical challenges during a pregnancy, and how she got through it. Now you can find the Kindred Mom book, Strong, Brave, and Beautiful: Stories of Hope for Moms in the Weeds, wherever books are sold. Subscribe to the Kindred Mom newsletter and receive a preview of the book today! Photo by Olesia Misty on Unsplash
January 20th dawned bright and cold. It was 2015. I lumbered out of bed, 42 years old and 30 weeks pregnant with our third son, Fletcher. I was looking forward to the day because I had an ultrasound appointment with the maternal-fetal specialists who were tracking my pregnancy due to my “Advanced Maternal Age.” It was to be my last appointment with them. If everything looked good, they would release me to the care of my regular obstetrician for the remainder of my pregnancy.
My husband, Jake, unexpectedly decided to come with me. It would prove to be a very good thing that he did.
At the clinic, the sonographer recorded images of Fletcher as she’d done several times before. During the ultrasound, she became oddly quiet. Sensing a problem, I asked what the baby’s heart rate was. She remained quiet but finally said aloud, “248”.
At that stage of pregnancy, the heartbeat should be no higher than 160. The sonographer stepped out to get the doctor. They both returned and Dr. Schwarz began to click quickly through all the pictures the sonographer had already captured. He pushed back from the monitor, took his glasses off, and rubbed his hand over his face with a sigh. He looked directly at us and began to explain.
“Okay, what we have is a supraventricular tachycardia or SVT. Your baby’s heart is beating so fast that it’s actually not pumping blood effectively. That has caused fluid to start accumulating around several of his organs.” He paused and then said, “It’s like your baby doesn’t want to make it.”
He told us to go directly to the hospital and he would call ahead to alert them of our impending arrival. Though it was every bit of two and a half hours away, Sacred Heart was the closest hospital with a Level III NICU and also the facility where our doctor had privileges. He sent us directly in our own car, not wanting us to wait any amount of time for an ambulance.
Jake and I walked out of the clinic, holding hands and exchanging a wordless glance. In that moment, I began to understand on some level that even though I was scared, God was watching over me. If Jake had not decided to come with me to that appointment, I would not have been able to drive that far by myself.
When we arrived at the hospital, doctors worked to figure out which drugs could be given in order to bring down Fletcher’s heart rate. The process of sorting this out required some trial and error, and I spent sixteen days in the Perinatal Care Unit as they dialed in the drugs and dosages. Finally landing on the right combination, I was discharged and sent home where I would be on daily meds and bed rest. Dr. Schwarz later told me I was on a “truckload” of powerful medication at doses higher than any regular cardiac patient would ever be, since the concoction had to cross the placenta to get to the baby. In fact, at discharge, Jake went to the hospital pharmacy to fill my meds and the pharmacist questioned the prescription because he’d never seen those medicines prescribed at such high dosages.
I spent the last eight weeks of pregnancy continuing the daily meds and visiting my regular obstetrician twice a week, both myself and Fletcher being monitored at each visit. I was admitted to the hospital two more times for overnight monitoring and adjustment of the medications. The medications were truly life-saving for Fletcher, but they were not without cost to me. I was constantly dizzy and nauseous for the remainder of my pregnancy. And all of this medical trauma was complicated and made even more worrisome due to an extremely stressful work situation in which I ended up being relieved of my duties. The departure from my job was not completely unexpected, but the injustice of it all was totally unforeseen. Throughout those few months, I navigated sickness, anger, and the pain of deep wounds due to all that was happening in our lives. Often all three at the same time.
Seeing the stress and trauma of it all, church friends and neighbors went into overdrive in order to care for us. We were inundated with meals, cards, phone calls, and heaps of love and care. We received prayers and messages expressing how much our community appreciated us. Our two older boys were always taken care of as well, from school pickup to ball practice to quick meals at McDonald’s. The respite those good people offered us from every other negative and scary thing that was happening in our lives cannot be overstated. They loved us and considered us as their own family. The consistent love and care felt like constantly having the arm of a good friend around our shoulders.
Fletcher was delivered at 7:30 am on the morning of March 31, 2015. He entered the world with a perfectly beating heart due to the residual amount of medication in his system. His oxygen was low, however, so after about an hour of kangaroo care, he was taken to the NICU, where he would stay for just over two weeks, while his doctors repeated the process of finding the right combination and dosage of meds to give directly to him. We brought him home in mid-April and began the process of giving him his meds around the clock. He (mostly) took them like a champ.
When I look back on those months and remember different moments from my hospital stay or the long hours spent by Fletcher’s crib in the NICU, I am overwhelmed by the prayers offered on our behalf by the people of God and the way our community held us and carried us through such a difficult time. Those good people of God showed me, in new and glorious ways, how the heart of God beats with our own hearts.
Fletcher is five years old now. He had a life-saving procedure just a month shy of his two-year-old birthday. He is a work of art to me. He genuinely enjoys life. He is pure energy and excitement. His smile breaks me wide open. He used to ask me where he came from, and without hesitation, I would always immediately answer, “Straight from the heart of God.”
Dana P. Brady is a pastor, a wife, a mom, and a budding author. She co-pastors with her husband, Jake, and together they are raising three boys. She enjoys reading novels, exercising, and studying the Enneagram. Dana feels she is in her sweet spot when ministering to moms with young children who are “in the trenches”. You can find her on Facebook, Instagram, and at her blog laundryontheline.net.