WALTER DAVID KLIMAS: born at 8:20 AM on October 1, 2014 at Huntington Memorial Hospital in Pasadena, California, weighing 6 lbs 8 oz and measuring 19 ¾ “ long.
It’s remarkable how quickly time passes when I wish it would slow down the most. Walter will be two weeks old on Wednesday, and I am clinging onto the final moments when it is still socially acceptable to give his age in days. (The transition from hours to days was difficult enough, and I have been fighting the “week” word for the past few days.) Naturally I have heard (probably a million times), that “they grow up too fast”…but really, no one told me that one and two weeks would cruise past us all while Wally changes every day. I can already see how Wally’s features have changed: his face wider, tummy rounder, hair blonder, and eyes wide open. Our sleepy dream boy still finds plenty of down time, but spends a few hours each day awake and taking in his surroundings. Awake and not crying? Who is this baby and what has he done with my newborn? His expressions have grown sillier, and his coos and squeaks ever more entertaining.
We are undeniably and unconditionally, completely smitten in love. Though he has physically been a part of our lives for such a short time, I already can’t imagine life without him. Dan and I both entered parenthood with little “baby experience” – we quickly found however, that diapers and burpings are not so difficult, and that there is a comfortable ease in holding your own child, which comes so naturally and beautifully, we need not have worried.
I have been meaning to write this update for the last week, but every time I went to pick up my laptop, I ached at missing an opportunity to hold our little gift from God in my arms. As the days have settled down, I’m cozy with a loving husband on one side, and my cuddling son on the other. I need no further convincing that this is, indeed, what life is all about.
We have been overjoyed at how well Wally has been doing. At birth, we heard his cries as the NICU team relayed that our little boy was stable. He was not intubated (no breathing tubes) and was acyanotic (not “blue”, but the “pink” we had prayed for). Dan cut the cord, and I was able to hold my son just long enough to kiss his forehead, before Walter was whisked away to the NICU for continued monitoring and an examination by his cardiologist.
As we knew all along: Walter has tetralogy of fallot. All “four” defects are present: the overriding aorta (which will not be corrected), already some hypertrophy (thickening) of his pulmonary valve and heart muscle, a large ventricular septal defect (hole in the lower chambers of his heart), and narrowed pulmonary artery and valve. He also has a very small atrial septal defect (hole in the upper chambers of his heart) which is present in many newborns and may or may not go away on its own. However, our little warrior shows almost no symptoms presently. Looking at and holding little Wally, you would have no idea that he has a hurt ticker – rather, Walter looks and behaves like any healthy newborn. His oxygen saturation levels have ranged from 95% – 100%, meaning that at his present little size, his heart is able to pump enough oxygen to his lungs without trouble. As Wally grows, he will continue to be monitored, and we’ll be looking for any signs that his ToF is straining him.
Surgery is thankfully not now, but still in the illusive future. Though the repair for ToF has been done for many years (and continually improved upon), medical opinion varies greatly on the ideal time to perform the surgery. Right now we are likely looking at somewhere between two and six months. Ultimately, it is a weighing of the costs of continuing without the repair, against the risks of open heart surgery on a baby . It all becomes highly subjective, and we are currently trying to educate ourselves even further in order to help chose a provider and make a decision.
My delivery went incredibly smoothly, and was more or less uneventful. Wally’s birth was not remotely terrifying, and not nearly as painful as I imagined (though I likely have my epidural to thank for that). When I showed up in triage due to contractions and some concerns about possibly low fluid (which my OB later determined was fine), I was told that I was probably only in early labor and it may be a couple days. Thankfully, my OB kept me in high risk for monitoring. After being in high risk for about a half hour, I had my nurse coming in advising me that my contractions were four minutes apart and off the chart. With that, she helped me get admitted to labor and delivery as we approached midnight. Apparently a high pain tolerance can be detrimental to getting admitted to L&D because the staff doesn’t think the pain is severe enough to be in labor! (Who knew?) Eight hours later, Walter was born, and we were parents.
Dan was a wonderful support and partner – I am so grateful to have him as a husband, and father for Wally. I felt pretty great after delivery and with in an hour and a half was up, out of bed, and in my wheel chair, so I could be rolled down to the NICU to see my handsome boy.
A NICU BAPTISM:
Three hours after birth, Dan and I were met by Father Corral, a priest at St. Andrew’s Parish in Pasadena, for Walter’s baptism. The Chaplain at Huntington was a brilliant help in arranging the baptism (by contacting St. Andrew’s) and lovingly interested in Walter’s condition and health – he is truly an asset to the hospital. In the NICU, our little man was still going strong, and Dan was able to hold his son for the first time, and I could give Wally a few snuggles. The Baptism was simple and divine: I held Walt as Dan, and my parents (Granny and Gramps Mc) looked on. There was something so peaceful amidst the beeping monitors and tiny patients of the NICU, witnessing our son’s baptismal birth, now claimed for God and the Church. Dan and I have been given the humbling task of raising Walter to be a man encompassing the values of our faith, of goodwill, and self responsibility – and there is nothing I feel more compelled or called to do.
We quickly found that IV’s and wire monitors make skin to skin (and breastfeeding) highly difficult if not impossible, but it was consolation enough that we knew Walter’s condition was remaining stable. Walter spent two days in the NICU: Dan and I visited him often, and I was up and scurrying to his bedside every two hours to be present for his feedings (even if it only met watching a nurse bottle feed him formula, which was disheartening). With some help from a lactation consultant and encouraging family friends with expertise (hi, Julie Gravlin!) in days to come Walt and I would master breastfeeding and kiss bottles good-bye. On our third day in hospital (and my birthday), Walter was released from the NICU and allowed to “room in” with me. At last I was able to love on my little boy. While the previous days I had been up and about, back and forth from my room to the NICU constantly, on that last day, I spent the entire day in bed holding my son: it was bliss.
Friday, October 3rd, 2014 was my 23rd birthday. Lucky for me, I was given the greatest gift: bringing my “healthier” than expected son home from the hospital: stable and without newborn surgery. As our house in Camp Pendleton was not yet ready, and our movers had not yet arrived, we brought Walter “home” to Granny and Gramp’s house in Sierra Madre, to a sweet “Welcome Home” sign and balloons. The next week would be full of visits from dear friends, Grandma and Grandpa Klimas, a first outing to Church at four days old, and an escapade to the Huntington Library and Gardens. We also had our first pediatrician appointments (Wally’s happily gaining weight), and a cardiologist visit.
By the end of the week, our house was ready for move-in , and Dan and I are currently in the throws of unpacking and making our new home. Everything has progressed beautifully, and felt so right. We have felt everyone’s prayers, and couldn’t be grateful for the outpouring of love so many have shown for our Walter.