I choose my post titles for a variety of reasons. They might be song titles, or something cryptic to pique your interest, or more often than not something bunged in as I am just about to hit publish when I realise I've not thought of one. This time however my title has been chosen quite deliberately for search engine optimisation. I've noticed that if you have key words in your headings they get ranked higher than it they appear in your post body. I am not aiming for world domination through this blog but this is a post that I wish I had read nine weeks ago, and if another parent in the same situation as me finds it then the title will have done its job.
Nine weeks ago I was in the process of being discharged from hospital. Olive had to be checked before she was allowed to come home. The final check was going well until the stethoscope-wielding Doctor notice a slight irregularity in her heartbeat.
We were whisked downstairs and Olive was given a echo-cardiogram (an ultrasound of her heart). He discovered a small hole in her heart. "They are quite common" he said "this is the third I've see this week ... although ..." he faltered a bit "this is the biggest one." It was a hole of 1.8mm between her lowever ventricals.
The doctor went on to explain that in the womb the heart has lots of holes that gradually close up as the baby develops but occassionally they aren't all fully closed at birth; some will spontatneously close after birth others remain open. If the hole remains open the prognosis is variable - for some people it never affects them, for others there can be complications related to blood flow round the lungs.
We told we'd have a follow up in a few weeks and in the meantime we could leave hospital but we just needed to keep an eye on her if she has difficulty breathing whilst feeding - particularly if she starts to go blue.
Which was a comfort.
I was distraught. To the point that I couldn't tell anyone about her diagnosis. Just thinking about it made me feel cold and weepy. I didn't want there to be anything wrong with my beautiful, hard-won baby.
I also felt responsible.
Olive was unnaturally premature, she was induced because of my pre-eclampsia. I didn't blame myself for having high blood pressure but I did wonder whether I should have resisted being induced for a few more days rather than passively agreeing to it. Maybe one more week in the womb wouldn't have done me any harm but would have been enough to let her heart develop properly.
Since the diagnosis and our appointment with the specialist this week I've tried to put the problem to the back of my mind. It hasn't been hard. All my mother's intuition has told me Olive is doing well. After an initial falter, with jaundice and failing to gain weight, she has been piling on the ounces. She has been sleeping, gurgling, getting increasingly responsive and, most importantly, not turning blue or struggling to draw breath.
On Tuesday the specialist saw her. She still has a hole but it is tiny and, apparently, not affecting her adversely. The consultant told us that to all intents and purposes her heart is normal. She will have a follow up appointment to check how things are going. But not for two years, which indicates a distinct lack of urgency which is reassuring.
Obviously a hole in the heart can have a variety of implications, but if your newborn has just been diagnoised with one don't dispair. As we left the appointment on Wednesday the consultant was at pains to reassure us that Olive's heart is normal. I can take that.
In other news I've written about my first seven weeks as a mother here. And as a special bonus feature you get to see a picture of me with a tit out, all done in the best possible taste...