What a difference a year can make

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This time last year I was taking a pregnancy test. Today, I am the mother of a healthy four month-old little boy who loves to smile and kicks his legs like crazy. The latter part of that sentence may not sound all that special to some. However, to a mother who was told her son would never walk, every stretch and toe wiggle is a miracle.

In fact, everything about my pregnancy has been a small miracle. My son was diagnosed with spina bifida 18 weeks into my pregnancy and by week 24 we were in Houston receiving in-utero fetoscopic surgery. I shared my surgery experience several months ago. When I wrote that blog post, I had no idea how everything would turn out. I am happy to report things have gone better than I ever could have imagined.

At 39 weeks and 1 day, Everett John Kerres came into the world at 5:01 pm, weighing 6 lbs and 7 oz. He was 19 inches long and absolutely perfect! I was even able to have a vaginal delivery, which is one of the many reasons why I wanted to have fetoscopic surgery at Texas Children’s Pavilion for Women.

Even though my delivery had some ups and downs, overall I could not have asked for a better birthing experience. I decided to go to the hospital on Sunday evening because I thought I was leaking amniotic fluid. However, after being checked by a doctor, it turned out that I was only dilated to a two and wasn’t leaking fluid at all. I was going to be sent home when Everett’s heart rate suddenly dropped for several minutes. I was given oxygen and an IV and told I would have to stay put just in case.

Over the course of the next 24 hours, his heart rate dropped again and I was induced. On Tuesday, Sept. 20, doctors broke my water around 11:30 a.m. and I labored on a birthing ball for several hours before getting an epidural. Ten minutes after I got the epidural it was time to push. Everett is my first baby and I didn’t really know what to expect. It was so reassuring to be surrounded by the doctors who performed my surgery and had been seeing me week after week. I think I inherited my mother’s “quick labor gene” because Everett made his grand entrance after only 15 minutes of pushing!

It’s hard to put into words what that moment felt like. As the doctors were holding him up, he shifted his deep blue eyes and looked right into mine. My heart might as well have exploded. I felt so much love.

Everett spent one week in the NICU and that was the hardest part of the entire process for me personally. Having to leave my baby at night so I could pump and get some sleep was heart breaking. It felt very unnatural, but the NICU nurses were amazing and helped ease some of my anxiety. I know that we are blessed his stay was so short.

Once he was given a clean bill of health, my little man boarded his first flight at only eight days old. It was my 29th birthday and bringing him home after four long months is the best present I have ever received.

During our initial diagnosis, we were given a very bleak outlook. But since coming home, Everett has been thriving! He has not needed a shunt and has full movement of his legs. He has been hitting all of his milestones and is even advanced for his age in the areas of neck and core strength. His right foot is clubbed, but treatment has been going very well. He looks pretty adorable in his special shoes too! We recently started catheterizing him every four hours to help drain his bladder and that has become second nature. At first it seemed scary, but now it’s just an extra step during diaper changes. When I think about the challenges he could be facing, it’s such a minor thing.

e smilingBecoming a mother has truly been the best moment of my life. I know that may sound cliché, but there is really nothing quite like becoming a parent. It is the most challenging and rewarding journey I have ever embarked on. Of course, Everett has helped ease the challenges by being such a happy and laid- back baby. He loves to smile, is always alert, and has taken every doctors appointment and medical test in stride. He has become such a chatterbox in the last few weeks and is rolling over every chance he gets. Whenever I start to feel overwhelmed, his strength and resilience push me forward.

While it is still unknown exactly what obstacles Everett will face, I am constantly reminded what a miracle he is and how far medicine has come. I will be forever grateful to the team at Texas Children’s Pavilion for Women and the excellent care they provided. What they do for families is life changing. Everett is only four months old, but he has already made a big impact on the world. My husband and I look forward to watching him continue to defy the odds.

To learn more about the Fetal Center, click here.

About Johnna Kerres, patient

I've always wanted to be a mom. I know it may sound cliché, but having children of my own is something I have always dreamt about. While I am still a career driven person, I knew that once I decided to start a family that would become my focus. I have always thought that there can be no greater job than that of a mother. Of course, when you dream about having your own little one…you don’t think about having a miscarriage or a child with special needs. However, that is the situation I found myself in.
Posted in Fetal Center, NICU, Surgery

One Response to What a difference a year can make

  1. Rachel says:

    I am so happy for you, your husband and your little one!!! Congrats to you all! My daughter was born with Spina Bifida 32 years ago and I try to keep up with all the surgical advancements. Just so happy…very, very happy all went well. God did a great job in helping the researchers, scientists and physicians make this miracle happen! Continued prayers and blessings.

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