Over the net few months I will be featuring guest posts by mothers sharing their stories of motherhood in their own words. Instead of focusing on “moms who can do it all” my goal is simply give a platform to celebrate motherhood in all its forms. I am honored to be kicking off the Celebrating Moms Series with an amazing piece by Erin Kyler. Each time I read Erin’s story I have tears in my eyes and goosebumps on my arms. The strength of parents is inspirational.
I feel like every first time parent’s biggest worry is how to cope with the unknown. More specifically, something that it totally out of your control. I’m talking more than just the not sleeping, the “I have no idea what I’m doing” and the million other cliché questions. I’m talking about my brand new baby has something seriously wrong and I am totally lost and it is out of my hands.
Rewind to July of 2008. My husband and I were brand new parents to our adorable 6-week-old daughter Mckenna. We were lucky enough to be down the shore for a month long vacation with my family. Not only were we at the beach, but we had help! That meant we could get some sleep, which is what every parent secretly desires. One night, everything began to spin out of control. We were actually given the night off because my aunt was visiting and had grown children and couldn’t wait to get her hands on the baby. What we weren’t expecting was for Mckenna to cry for a solid 12 hours without stopping. Here we were telling my aunt, “Two or three times she will probably get up, no big deal.” After another sleepless night we got out of bed to see the belly of our little girl expanded to the size of a small basketball. I immediately knew that something was wrong; call it that “motherly instinct.” My father took her temperature and it was a whopping 104. Off to the emergency room we went.
I was an absolute wreck, as was my mother. I feel like it is always the man’s job to keep it together, although inside, I knew my husband was terrified. We walk into the ER of Shore Memorial and they immediately took her temperature. Now we were at 105. They admitted her right away. After a very long day/evening/night, they ran some tests and told us that something was wrong, but they had no idea what. I’m thinking to myself, how is this possible, you are a doctor. Truth be told, this doctor actually saved my daughter’s life. She told us that they did not have a pediatric unit there to look into this and suggested we get Mckenna to CHOP in Philadelphia immediately. An hour later, our little 6-week-old baby was on her very first helicopter ride, without her parents. We were not allowed to accompany her due to weight limit restrictions.
My husband and I got in our car and made the hour and a half drive to Philadelphia in silence. Too nervous for words. When we arrived, I felt like a celebrity. They knew who we were and were waiting for us in the emergency room. We rushed as fast as we could to see our brave little baby. The nurse from the helicopter told us that the entire ride Mckenna looked out the window taking in all the sights, not a peep from her. Never scared, never worried. The same kind of girl she is growing up to be.
The doctors took her back for testing and told us that our baby had fluid in her belly that isn’t clear, something terrible. They had no idea what it was. As I held my tiny baby, the doctor turns and said to me, “Your baby is critically ill.” I turned and looked at the horror in the eyes of my family. I looked back an the doctor and said, “I watch TV, critically ill means people die.” She replied, “Mam, your baby is critically ill.” I lost myself at that moment and the next 12 hours were a complete blur. I woke to even more of my family at our sides in the surgical waiting room. The doctors came out after 5 hours of surgery with very unpromising looks on their faces. I thought we lost our baby. They proceeded to tell us that Mckenna had a hole in her bile duct and that bile was poisoning her. She was hours away from not making it. They told us that because everything was so inflamed they couldn’t fix the hole and that there were currently tubes draining the bile that was spilling into her little body. It would be another two months or so and they would do surgery again to fix it.
The moment that I will never be able to erase from my mind was seeing my baby for the first time after her surgery. On a ventilator, two tubes coming from her belly, a tube up each nostril, and multiple IV’s. I spent that entire night at her side, crying, thinking why us. That question still to this day has not been answered.
Fast forward four weeks later. We spent sleepless nights at CHOP, the most magical place on earth. We awoke one morning to the tubes not draining any more bile. The doctors thought maybe the tubes had slid or it wasn’t catching the bile any more. More worrying as they ran countless tests again. The doctors come back with incredible news. There was no more fluid in her belly. The hole had miraculously closed. It was impossible to believe what we were hearing. They were going to keep her there for another few weeks to monitor her, but it looked as though another surgery would not be needed.
And that was the case. The doctors call her the “miracle baby”. Her surgeon asked if she could write a report about her. What happened to Mckenna had only happened to a very small number of people. About 100 reported cases ever, in adults only. She was an anomaly. For years we went back to CHOP to get checked and every time they sent us away saying how our child was a miracle. I knew that was the truth. Throughout those two long months, I never gave up hope.
The point of this story isn’t to simply tell of our horrific experience, but to give hope to any parents out there, especially first timers. Being a parent is simply the most gratifying job in the world, but there are times when it is absolutely terrifying. If you are reading this as a first time parent or a future parent, just remember, no matter what gets thrown at you, you can handle it. You are stronger than you know.
About Erin Kyler
I am the lucky mom of two awesome kids. Mckenna, who you just read about, will be five next month. The past five years have been a whirlwind of excitement and unknowns. We all have learned so much about life and about each other. Mckenna recently became a big sister in November! Zane is our little man and he has made our family complete. Mckenna is just an incredible big sister and Zane adores her. The love and affection between them melts my heart!
My husband Ean and I have been together for 7 years and are celebrating our 4-year wedding anniversary on May 8th. Dinner out without the kids! What a treat! Being a full time working mom has been a learning experience, but it has made me a stronger person for sure. Teaching is my passion and I love my job. My husband works in the solar industry, keeping the world green!
In our free time we love to play outside and take walks to the park. Mckenna loves to dance and is not into sports right now (nothing like her mom)! For now we are enjoying this adventure of being parents and raising a family, all the accomplishments and mistakes, and taking each day as it comes!
Do you have a story to share about motherhood? Please submit your stories to firstname.lastname@example.org.