My name is Kimberly. I am an adoptive mom with a congenital heart condition. I started this blog to share thoughts on all of these aspects of my life and the ways in which they overlap, blend, and sometimes clash. In some posts, I’ll talk about what it’s like to be a plain, old mom. Other days I’ll comment on what it means to be an adoptive mom. And still at other times, I’ll reflect on how it feels to not only be a young adult with heart disease but also a young mother with a heart condition. In no way do I attend to babble on in long woe-is-me posts about the hardships I face with a heart condition. I think I’ll complain from time to time, but please believe I know it could be much worse for me.
About Me and My Heart
I have congenital heart disease, which simply means I was born with a heart condition. Technically, I was born with tetralogy of fallot. In layman’s terms, my heart was moved to the right of my chest and turned backward toward my spine, my pulmonary artery was extremely narrow, and there was a hole in between the two chambers of my heart. I received my first open-heart surgery at sixteen months to repair the issues. For the next fifteen years, I was followed by a cardiologist at NYU who kept a close eye on the leaks developing in my pulmonary and aortic valves. At fifteen, those leaks needed to be replaced, so I had my second open-heart surgery and successfully received two bovine (cow) valves. A few months later, I started having arrhythmias, which is a fancy name for an irregular heartbeat. For fear that I would enter a dangerous arrhythmia (the kind that originate from the ventricle instead of the atria), my doctors decided to implant a pacemaker/defibrillator that would save my life by shocking me (just like the paddles they use in the ER) if this ever occurred. So far, (knock on wood), I have never had a dangerous arrythmia.
Five years after the implantation, though, I was shocked for an atrial arrythmia, the harmless kind. I was shocked for the first time on March 13, 2002. In the next five years, I was shocked a total of about 10 times.
In the meantime, I met my husband, Anthony. Two years after we were married, my cow valves had had enough. They were replaced again in open heart surgery in 2010, the pulmonary with another tissue valve and the aortic with metal. Ever since then, I have been on Coumadin, which is a blood thinner that protects me from blood clots forming off the mechanical valve.
In the summer of 2013, I had my fourth open heart surgery to replace my tricuspid valve. This replacement should give me 10 surgery-free years after which I can receive a second replacement valve in a noninvasive procedure. The hope is that by the time that valve gives out in another 10 years, medicine will have progressed enough to offer me a new solution.
About Me and My Baby
Because of the cardiac history explained above, carrying and delivering a baby wasn’t necessarily an option for me. I explained this to Anthony early in our relationship and it simply didn’t matter to him how we had children. We did discuss my carrying a baby with my cardiologist but after she calmly and casually listed at least fifteen risks we’d be taking with my health, we decided against it.
We attempted surrogacy first since we had read it was often easier and faster than adoption. Our first try did not work and we decided not to try again. We wanted to adopt.
In June of 2010, we hired an adoption attorney. In the months following, we filled out mountains of paperwork and welcomed a kind-eyed social worker into our house for a home study. Once we were certified, the search began. We put ourselves on several websites, created a site of our own and an email address, advertised in different newspapers, and spread the word as far as we possibly could. The road was short for us, but it was still hard to travel. After fourteen months of many phone calls and emails, one trip to Georgia to meet a woman who turned out to be a con artist, and several bouts of tears, our dream came true. Rosie was born at three am. Three hours later, we got our first phone call from her birthmother. Thirty-six hours after that, we took custody of her and eight days after that, we returned to New York with our daughter in our arms.
She is now a thriving one-year-old with whom I happily and gratefully stay at home.
Everything Else About Me
- I taught English for nine years at my alma mater, an all-girl Catholic high school. Thus, I am a bit of a grammar freak. However, I also fully believe in poetic license. Sometimes an incomplete sentence just sounds better. Like right now.
- I coach a competitive varsity cheerleading team associated with the school at which I used to teach. It’s not pom-poms and rah-rah-shish-koom-ba. Well, we use pom-poms sometimes, but it’s a serious sport and a big part of my life.
- I have loved to write since I was a child, but hopefully I have improved since my first poem, which was about a homeless woman and included the line “She looks at me with a tearful face / as she curdles up in one small space.” No, curdles is not a typo. Perhaps I was trying to imply that the woman’s life was spoiled like old milk? Hey, maybe it’s not as bad as I thought.