But She Looks So Perfect

After a long 24 hours of labor, with my friends taking shifts for the first 12 because my mother’s plane was late and my husband was still in Baghdad, I finally held my first baby in my arms.

They immediately put her on my stomach and she crawled up to have her first meal–and boy was she hungry! They warned me she might not be after such a long ordeal but this little girl was determined to get nourishment.

And my first thought was, “She’s exactly the same temperature as my body. It is like she is still part of me. She is so perfect.”

The first sign that anything was less than ideal was the oxygen mask they kept pushing onto my face and then onto the baby’s.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

“Her oxygen levels are just a little low,” they replied,”and we were a little concerned about her heart rate while you were pushing. Just give her a little of that air.”

Then, while I was getting to know my alert, pink, sweet little baby, I heard that word: murmur.

“We’re hearing a murmur. That’s not uncommon. The doctor will come take a listen. It is probably nothing.”

Later that day from the doctor: “Yes, definitely a murmur. She’ll need to see a specialist in San Antonio as soon as we can release her. A lot of times it is just a small hole that closes on its own. We’ll know more once the cardiologist sees her.”

I looked at my mom whose plane arrived in time for the second half of the labor.

“But she looks so perfect,” I protested.

And with the experience that comes with motherhood, my mother replied, “She is perfect.”

With my mother, I drove my baby down to San Antonio so we could continue breastfeeding along the way. Once there, the cardiologist told us that my baby had Tetralogy of Fallot, a complex congenital heart defect (CHD). Her heart was not going to just heal on its own. She was going to need open heart surgery, sometime before she was six months old.

We were lucky, though. There is a surgery for her, with a high success rate.

As I thought of my baby going into surgery and the scar that I would have to explain to her one day, I did not feel so lucky, though. And I started to cry.

The word “defect” was going to echo throughout my mind a lot over the next few months.

But my mother’s loving and wise words were also there to help comfort and reassure. Even if my daughter’s heart was not perfect, she truly was. And so was our new love.

Childbirth is such an incredible moment, and I’d love to know what went through your mind when you held your baby for the first time? By replying, you will be entered to win an exclusive Million Moms Challenge Gift Pack, which includes an iPad2, a custom-made Million Moms Challenge pendant and a $50 donation in your name to Global Giving.

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This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Million Moms Challenge. The opinions and text are all mine. Contest runs October 17 to November 13, 2011. A random winner will be announced by November 15, 2011.

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