Let me take you down memory lane. The days of occupying your time in class with that list of sacred baby names in the back of your binder. The days of daydreaming during class of what your life would look like as a momma. Or better yet, those days you spent carrying a baby doll everywhere…all the way down to your plastic carseat to keep them "safe" in the car!
Hello, let me introduce myself! My name is Tiffany and I'm a full time momma of 3 children. Those memories were fond and very real for me!! You see, I always dreamed of being a momma, and it was my biggest goal in life!! The countless nights I spent watching all our family friends children any time we got together, and the babysitting jobs I would get as a teen all the way through high school was a huge contribution to that. "Mothering" was always something that came naturally for me.
So in 2013, when I found out I was pregnant, I was super stoked! My dreams were finally coming true, aside from the intital having to tell my family because it wasn't that "textbook" pregnancy. You know which one I'm talking about…first comes love, then comes marriage…. Yea, that one! You see I had only been dating for 3 months so it truly caught my family off guard! But in my heart, I was ready. I was 24, and finally going to live out my dream of being a mom! The pregnancy was in reality pretty uneventful, minus a hemmorage at 16 weeks, and in July of 2014 I had my first baby girl, Reece! She was the picture perfect baby of what I could of asked for. And honestly, I thought I had motherhood by the horns…she was so easy! But, I knew she wouldn't be my only.
In 2016, I found out I was pregnant again!! To say I was excited was an understatement! Reece was 2, going to be close to 3 and I thought life was going to be great! She was going to be a great big sister, and I was sticking to my "picture perfect motherhood" with my idea of the "perfect age gap!" But, When I was 31 weeks pregnant, a pain that I could never ever wish upon my worst enemy, overtook my body! I ended up being transferred to a different hospital before ultimately landing in Iowa city 36 hours later finding out that my appendix had ruptured! I will never forget the words, "you need surgery but I can't guarantee how your going to come out…you might have a baby still in you and you may not…." Those words were some of scariest words I had heard to date as a mom. The what ifs…the fear….the uncertainty…they all hit real fast! That was the first time as a mom I felt completely lost and confused. Thankfully we both made it through surgery, and in March of 2017 I had my second baby girl, Taya! I should of known my little spit fire wasn't going to take it easy on me though. I remember when she was born thinking "ok…she's here…she's safe…we're done with the hard part!" But I was wrong. My 4lb 11oz baby girl ended up staying in the NICU, and at the same time my grandmother was admitted into the ICU of the same hospital. I never imagined I would have to bounce between two different floors of a hospital for 2 different family members that ment so much to me! My life was definitely flipped upside down in a blink of an eye, and for the first time I could truly recall the weight of motherhood was extremely hard to bear. Even though Taya only spent 4 days in the hospital, unfortunately 6 weeks later, we lost my grandmother. The guilt of trying to be there for her, and balancing a newborn at the same time is one I wanted to never re-live. But, knowing what my grandmother would of wanted me to do…I picked myself back up and finally started to enjoy motherhood, while still dealing with grief…until the next snow ball came rolling down life's hill!
The short little NICU stay, along with the 3 months of in and out hospital stays from ages 6-9 months, earned us a visit to Iowa city where we learned some very life changing news. Myself along with my 2 daughters have a genetic disorder called osteopathia striata with cranial sclerosis! Yea….it's as hard to say as it looks so we shorten it to OSCS! ;) This genetic disorder opened up a whole new can of worms for our family! We found out through research and information given to us that we were cases 101,102, and 103 in the whole entire world! We also found out that this genetic disorder can be lethal to pregnancies…especially if you were to get pregnant with a boy. So, given that information, and the fact that the girls had it as well, I was a) very lucky to have the two girls I have, and b) the chances of me having a boy were slim to none. My "picture perfect motherhood" dreams were once again shattered as the one thing I wanted was to have the chance at being a "boy mom".
Now fast forward to March 2022….you see I was at the point in my life where I had a 7 almost 8 year old and a just turned 5 year old. I had always wanted 3 kids, but just felt like at that point, what was the point? Both the girls were going to be in actual school in the fall, and I was finally accepting my dreams were just going to be dreams. Until, you guessed it, they weren't!
I found out I was pregnant again! I was pretty shocked, but due to what we found out we were 1000% sure this pregnancy was a girl. I mean it only made sense right!!? We picked out her name, bought a girl carseat and stroller and I was preparing to be a girl mom of 3. At 10 weeks I had the opportunity to do the DNA testing, and so we did it. We were shocked when we saw that X and Y on the results!! That fear, that uncertainty, that feeling of helplessness all came back! My feeling of joy for having a boy was quickly overtaken by the what ifs. They told me if I got pregnant with a boy, I probably would miscarry before I even knew I was pregnant. So now what!?
Well my pregnancy was full of doctor appointments and ultrasounds. Between the regular OB, and the high risk doctor who specialized in genetics, we lived the next 27 weeks in fear. We had no choice but accept the reality and fate of possibly loosing our son, but hoping for the best. We knew that more then likely even if we made it full term we would have some medical issues, but we just wanted to make it there. Thankfully, by the grace of God, in November 2022, our son Gunnar Wyattlee was born at 37 weeks! He was my biggest baby, and seemed overall healthy except having a little trouble maintaining his oxygen. We knew when he was born we had the potential to have a nicu stay, but nothing could prepare us for what was to come!!
He was sent to the NICU the following day after he was born, because he was struggling to eat and breathe at the same time so they wanted to monitor him. I knew in my gut at that point, our journey with our little man had just begun. On day 3, we ran an echo and found he had pulmonary hypertension, a pda, and an asd. They wanted to put him on just oxygen for a little while to give his lungs a break and hopefully help him recover. As much as i hated that, i kept trying to remind myself, "it could always be worse!!" But nothing could prepare me for the days to come! The next day, I arrived in his room and knew in my heart something was wrong. My little helpless baby was throwing up non stop and he had never had that issue before. The nurse reassured me it was fine, but in my heart I knew it wasn't…i remember calling my mom and telling her "something is wrong mom. This isnt going to end well." We spent the rest of the day running tests and found that his bowel had twisted and he needed emergency surgery! His pulmonary hypertension was also getting worse and he had aspiration pneumonia as well so they intubated him and whisked him off to surgery. Nothing can prepare your mommy heart to watch your helpless newborn be taken into surgery. I remember the sinking feeling and the what ifs…what if that was my last time seeing my baby… he was so little could he fight this battle? As a mom, all I wanted was to take on the battle for him, but I couldn't…I could just stand back and watch, and that was the WORST feeling in the world! Thankfully an hour later, they came and told me he was ok and made it through. I knew at that point my baby was a fighter, and I was ready to take on that fight with him. In the following days he coded twice, was intubated for over 2 weeks, had critical jaundice, and spent his first Thanksgiving in the nicu. Through all that, with the prayers and support of family and friends, we made it to through and he was finally exhubated and made it to through first month of his life! A milestone that seemed so small with the girls, became such a huge one for him. Unfortunately when we exhubated him, we could NOT get him back to wall air to get home. We spent the next month playing the game of weaning or not to wean. The doctors were stumped and were beginning to talk trach, because it was the only way in their eyes he was going to see outside the hospital walls. Once again, as exhausted as I was at this point, I knew there had to be another way. Something wasn't clicking, and I was bound to get to the bottom of it. I was not going to let my son be trached just because! And then it clicked…the day that changed my son's life!
We found that Gunnar’s jaw was to small on the bottom and causing his tongue to be an obstruction in his airway. In order to fix that, he had to have a procedure called a jaw distraction. It would require him to be re-intabated, and stay intubated for 10 days. They had to go in and cut his jaw on both sides, place plates and screws, and then over the course of 10 days turn those screws to advance his jaw. This was the last ditch effort to avoid a trach but it didn't come without some reservations. The PTSD set in real fast when I heard the words re-intabation. The what ifs…those fears…those uncertainties..they all came back but once again I had to trust that it was the right call. On January 4, I once again sat in the waiting room waiting for the news! After a 7 hour surgery, they finally brought him back to his room, and he was a champ! On January 15, I walked into his room to the best surprise in the world, my son was exhubated! He advanced so quickly on weaning down and on January 27, after 11 weeks, was finally able to come home!
I would be lying if I were to say at this point, life has went back to normal, because it definitely hasn't. We have had 2 hospital stays, one resulting in him being placed on oxygen full time since being home from the NICU, and We have had 2 additional surgeries as well. Our life is still full of doctor appointments, upcoming procedures and tests, and trying to navigate being a single income family because I'm not able to work due to Gunnars medical needs, but we are making it and taking it day by day!
Life has adjusted to a new "normal" but I still struggle with PTSD, depression, and severe anxiety due to everything I have been through on this journey of motherhood. I tend to sell myself short and try to brush it under the rug by saying "there's other moms that have it worse…pull yourself together…" I assure you that's not the answer. I have found that it only makes things harder. I am learning to accept the journey I've been placed on, and to be ok with having bad days here and there. It's completely ok to say, "yes I've been through a lot!" But what you do with yourself following your bad day. Do you continue to let it engulf you in your day to day journey, or do you let it make you a stronger, more compassionate, and ultimately the best mommy you could be!?
I am thankful for the journey I have been given, as weird as it sounds. Looking back, even though the trials, heartache, the what-ifs,I wouldn't have changed it because I wouldnt be the mom I am today without it! I hope that I have inspired or helped one of you to know your not alone in this journey.
Motherhood is hard and some of us have it worse than others, but at the end of the day, we're all mommy's together!