Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Nicole's Story

I met my husband William, who has been called Tiger since childhood, in 2002. We had our first son in 2004. He was the first of four sons we had, all whom were born “sick” in one way or another. Our first two sons were both born with Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia (CDH). CDH is a birth defect where the diaphragm doesn’t form properly in the womb. The exact cause of this is unknown, though researchers believe it’s caused by both genetic and environmental factors. Our firstborn spent 19 days in the NICU and had surgery at just 8 days old. He’s one of a small percentage of CDH survivors, and now attends junior high. Soon after this, I had an early miscarriage.

In 2006 and 2009, we had daughters. On March 6, 2012 I was 26 weeks pregnant with Brayden and went into labor. Just before delivery, I had an ultrasound and the technician found that he also had CDH. Everything felt like a blur after that. I called my husband from the delivery room to tell him that Brayden had CDH. After having him, I knew he wasn’t going to survive long, so I didn’t want to see him. I finally saw him a couple hours after delivery due to my mom and husband begging me to do so. He only lived 36 hours. I felt emotionally numb after losing Brayden. Our other kids didn’t ask a lot of questions and seemed to understand. The local children’s hospital gave them lots of gifts to support our family.

After losing Brayden, I got pregnant again very quickly, but went into labor again at 26 weeks pregnant in October, just seven months after losing Brayden. We hadn’t planned to get pregnant again so quickly, and I felt both happy and scared about it. Since I went into full labor, I had an emergency C-section. I felt like this was a replay of what happened with Brayden, and it was a blur again. I had hemorrhages, and baby Camden was immediately taken to the NICU and never left. His health was up and down for nearly a month until the last few days when he declined quickly due to bleeding on the brain. I stayed in the hospital the whole time while my mom took care of our other kids. I clearly remember sitting next to Camden in the NICU being told there was nothing else that could be done, and then the doctors and nurses all tried to encourage me. I couldn’t believe I was losing another son.

Two years later I was pregnant with our youngest son, Talon, and went into labor at 34 weeks. Before his birth we knew he had dilated kidneys. I saw a neurologist while I was pregnant and after his delivery. He spent one week in the NICU. At just under one year old, Talon had his first kidney surgery and had another surgery at just over two years old. I’m constantly seeing doctors or specialists with Talon because he also has sleep apnea, autism, and trouble gaining weight.

In 2016, I had our youngest daughter, but her daddy never met her or knew I was having a girl. At just 29 years old, my husband Tiger passed away two days before Father’s Day in 2016. I found him at four in the morning not breathing. The kids were still asleep when the ambulance came and didn’t see anything.

At 36 weeks pregnant with our youngest daughter, I had a planned C-section. She had breathing problems, and then a collapsed lung, leading to a week-long stay in the hospital. The anesthesia for the surgery didn’t work right. The doctors believe some of it got to her, which caused the problem. Thankfully, she’s had no problems since then.

We moved to my mom’s house after Tiger died. I spend my days caring for my children and helping care for a friend’s child for a few hours each day. Our days look normal, but we talk about Brayden, Camden, and Tiger often. They were all cremated and their urns stand next to each other in a visible place. Even Talon knows which one belongs to each person. The kids share their memories of their dad and Camden. We have pictures all over of all of them, too.

Angelversaries are emotional. We celebrate the birthdays of all my children with cake and ice cream, and we also have a balloon release for Brayden and Camden. I rarely get a moment to myself, but when I do, I replay the losses of my boys and husband. I wouldn’t wish any of my struggles on anyone. 

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