(Dezi on the day that he was born, then getting kisses on the day he was baptized.)
The birth of my third baby was a long awaited miracle. After many struggles, he came to be by the grace of God and the wonder of science at the IVF clinic. We got everything we felt that would be needed. I went to all of my appointments, I ate well, I exercised. To be safe, we had a level 2 ultrasound read by a perinatologist (a doctor who specializes in high risk pregnancies). He assured me that my baby would be perfect.
When little Desmond William (Dezi) entered the world, he didn’t really feel the need to breathe. The picture above is the first time I’d really seen him as they had rushed him out of the OR before I could really see him. My first image of my little miracle baby… blue, attached to monitors, IV running. I was assured that he just had a rough transition into the world and everything should be fine. Oh, and he had a heart murmur, but we aren’t worried because the ultrasound was perfect and most murmurs go away on their own. Expect his didn’t. At 2 days of life as we were sat down and told about how our baby had Tetrology of Fallot. The doctors patiently explained with a heart breaking diagram how he had 2 holes in his heart, his aorta was misplaced, his pulmonary artery was too narrow, his heart was working too hard, was too big, and was off set to where it should be. All missed by the specialist. The shining light in the storm was that there was a surgery that could fix most everything. But isn’t there always a catch? They wanted him to grow and be bigger and stronger. They wanted to wait for 5-6 months?! That of course came with the understanding that he would slowly start turning blue and we would have a constant struggle to keep him growing.
As we were preparing to go home from the hospital, I got one of the best pieces of advice that I have ever been given as a parent. “You need to wear your baby.” I need to what?? The pediatrician explained to me that if I kept him in my personal space, people were less likely to touch him and share their germs. If and when he became sick, it would be life threatening, even just a minor cold. “Everyone is going to be asking what they can do for you. Tell them that you need an Ergo and they can all chip in and get you one.” Ok, if this is what my baby needed, this is what we would do. The mama bear in me had never been so strong. We took him home, ready to face any challenge that might threaten him.
Dezi was 2-3 weeks old when we finally got our Galaxy Grey Ergo. It was pretty easy to use. It didn’t take long to realize that not only did it keep people from touching him, it also kept him close so that I could feel his heart beat, feel his sweaty little face on my chest, feel his breath. It gave me a sense of strength and calm that I hadn’t felt since he was born.
Then a crazy thing happened. Someone asked me if I was part of the local babywearing group. What?! There’s a whole group just for people who do this? Really? So started my new-found love and addiction of keeping my baby close. A ring sling you say? Of course, I need to try that! He’s popping his seat, what do I do? A mei tei of course! This group was amazing! Not only did they offer me education and experience on babywearing, but enabled to me buy previously loved and broken in beautiful things. I still had a lot to learn, but I gave it all my heart and Dezi loved it as well.
(Wearing Dezi in my ring sling at our breastfeeding support group, our whole clan at Dylan’s Dragon Walk, an event to honor a baby who was lost to congenital heart defects.)
On November 5, 2013, We were admitted to Mercy Hospital in Des Moines for open heart surgery. His murmur had gotten so loud that I could feel it’s washing machine noise against my chest when I wore him. When he got upset and cried, you could lay next to him and hear it. I was beyond ready for him to be “fixed”. Dezi was 6 1/2 months old, weighed in at 14 lbs 6 oz, and was perfectly pink. His oxygen, which was expected to be around 80%, was at 100%. He was still on the growth charts, having been exclusively breast-fed. Have you ever heard a surgeon tell you that they can’t explain or understand something? Until that day, I hadn’t either! “There is no medical explanation for how well your baby has done.” His heart had deteriorated as expected, but his oxygen was perfect and his weight was good.
(The first time we saw Dezi after surgery, the first time I held him the following day.)
With a recovery as miraculous as his life, we were discharged from the hospital 4 days after his surgery. I’m sorry if the picture is a little too graphic, it’s the only way I could truly explain how extraordinary he was. These pictures were 4 days apart! While in the hospital I worked on my nursing Honors paper for my BSN. A persuasive paper on why you should wear your baby. If my baby did so well, imagine all the other babies that would benefit! I ugly cried as we left the hospital that day, insisting that I wear him because that was the biggest factor in how well he had done and wearing him had become a NEED. I was ready to start feeling normal again and this had become our norm.
(Heading home from the hospital and the welcome we came home to.)
My teacher was generous with my paper, given the circumstances in which it was written. She said that if she had a baby, she would definitely give babywearing a try. Good enough! I was ready to get past surgery and classes and try to remember what it was like to feel like a normal person again.
After settling back in at home, things slowly started to start feeling normal. I went back to work, Dezi continued to thrive! Then I crossed paths with one of the most brilliant people I have ever met, Dr. Nils Bergman. After listening to him lecture at a Breastfeeding Conference, I could only compare my feelings to what it must feel like to meet a rock legend. I was in awe of him and I fought the tears as I listened to him explain the neurobiology of why you should wear your babies and keep them close. He offered me the explanation that even my surgeon had failed to understand!
(Who can resist a selfie with their hero?? This is me with medical legend, Dr. Nils Bergman.)
Dr. Bergman runs a clinic in South Africa where there is no modern technology. He told us of the miracles he had witnessed of sick and premature babies growing and thriving with nothing more than being worn close by their mother. I wasn’t just another crazy, granola head, tree hugger (add your own descriptors if you wish). I was a practitioner of basic science! Wearing your baby helps regulate their heart rate, their breathing, their temperature. It keeps them calm and happy. Babies who are worn have a higher emotional IQ. It empowers the mothers to trust their instincts. It gives them peace of mind as they keep their baby close.
The month of February is important to me because it is Heart month. It’s the time of year that we focus on bringing awareness to our cause, our heart babies. I won’t bore you with all the statistics of how heart disease affects 1:100 babies born and is the leading cause of infant death. (Just ask me, I’ll give you all the resources and support you could ever need). What I would like to impress upon you is how wearing my baby potentially saved his life, and at the very least, make a very serious recovery very uneventful. How wearing Dezi saved my sanity. How much better it made “normal” life as compared to my big kids who screamed through every shopping trip, got sick frequently as babies, were just fussier! Babywearing isn’t just for the tree huggers like me! Every baby, term or premie, healthy or sick, benefits from being worn and held close by those caring for them. If you are reading this and understand my love of this “hobby” or as I now prefer to call it, scientific practice, please, share the love! I can only wish that someone had told me about wearing when my big kids were small. Post a babywearing picture on your Facebook page, give a carrier as a baby gift, let a friend try yours out. If you are interested in learning, go to BWI, find a local chapter, go to meetings, ask a friend! Ask a stranger you see wearing their baby, I can almost guarantee they will excitedly tell you all about their reasons for finding the love. Help normalize this great scientific practice that has been kept a secret from the general public for way too long!