Fallot's Tetralogy (Part 1)


Fallot's tetralogy. Two words that crippled my heart. Before this, I didn't know that there were any two words other than "break up" that could tear my heart apart. Yes, it sounds silly and naive and incredibly immature. There are probably a ton of other two worded phrases that could cause a heart break as such.

I didn't know that it could possibly be this hard to have a healthy baby. I never expected it to happen to me. I am at a prime age. I passed my triple test. I gave birth to my firstborn healthy – very healthy and also feisty. I thought my second-born would be like his elder brother. Healthy, fat and well. I thought we would pass the fetal anomaly scan with flying colours. The first time I heard of the words "fetal anomaly scan" when I was pregnant with my elder son, Ethan, I freaked out. I asked if I could opt out of the scan – the word "anomaly" was frightening. Turns out it was just a name. Just the name of a scan to screen for any possible abnormalities in a foetus' organs. I was nervous throughout Ethan's scan and the wait for his results. Thankfully, Ethan passed his with flying colours. His younger brother on the other hand... not so much.

On the 26th of March, I went for my scheduled appointment at the Prenatal Diagnostic Centre in Mount Elizabeth Novena. I was a lot more chill as compared to when I went for Ethan's. I had gone through it once, I knew what it was about, I thought there was nothing to worry about. Just a scan. Nothing frightening. We'll get it all done within an hour or less, the results would be great like his elder brother's and then we will be on our way home.

The scan began. The sonographer started with the heart. It seemed okay at first. Then I realised... she was scanning a lot more than usual. Taking a lot more measurements and pictures. I took a closer look at the scan. Something didn't feel right. It looked like there was a gap where there shouldn't be. I kept quiet. I didn't say a word. She clicked a few more buttons and what seemed like a projection of the blood flow in Nathan's heart appeared, more parts blue than red. That couldn't be good. Still, I kept my mouth shut. I didn't know what to say. I didn't want to interrupt her either. Actually, I think I was more afraid of disturbing her and bursting my own fragile bubble.

Finally she moved on to scan his other body parts. I took the effort to make some small chat. She showed me his face (I think he looks a lot like me), the five fingers on each hand, his penis which seemed large and so prominent on screen (lol), his spine, his toes, his brains and more. I couldn't resist and so I asked, "How is he? Everything okay?" I think I might have croaked at the last syllable. She answered "Mmm. Let me scan more and I'll tell you later." My heart sank. I didn't have a response. I stared at the screen in front of me and clutched my hands tighter together. My hands were clammy.

Fast forward to the end of the scan. Nathan was incredibly obedient. He finished his fetal anomaly scan in approximately 20-25 minutes. He took half the time required as compared to his elder brother. Ethan was super active during his fetal anomaly scan. Constantly punching the probe, turning around, rotating, circling... showing his protest that he didn't like being probed lol. Nathan on the other hand, just a few gentle first bumps on the probe, probably out of curiosity. It was easy scanning him and the sonographer managed to capture all the required shots swiftly and every image appeared beautifully.

I guess, I should have known. That was the first warning sign. The lack of activity in my belly. I could always feel Ethan. He was strong and active, constantly moving and reminding me of his presence. Nathan was quiet... too quiet. Sometimes I could feel his jabs but they were little and infrequent. Most of the time, I relied on seeing my belly move to tell that my baby Nathan was alive and moving. He was so different from his elder brother. I should have known that something was up.

The sonographer finished the scan and told me to make payment first and go back up to see her. She said that she needed to talk to me. I was anxious and calm at the same time. Braving myself for the worst. I texted my husband while I was making payment. I told him about my worry. I wrote, "His brain, legs, lungs, and penis were very good. I know cos she say “very good”. She said his penis was very prominent, big and clear 😂."

He replied, "Heart. Is missing." My husband could tell. Something was up.

He took the rest of the day off work and came down to join me. While waiting for my husband to arrive, I headed back up to the centre to see the sonographer. She broke the news to me. "There is something wrong with your baby's heart. I called your gynae and he said that he would like the baby to be seen by a paediatric cardiologist for a more detailed scan. When would be free? Let me arrange something for you."

I was numb. I tried to gather my senses together but my mind had gone blank. I gave an aimless nod. "Take a seat. We'll get back to you shortly". My legs headed for the plushed wooden chair and I plopped myself down.

An appointment was made for later that afternoon at 1pm. The paediatric cardiologist would come down to the centre and do a fetal echocardiography for Nathan.

The News Is Out


[Written Date & Time: 8 April 2019, 01:40am]

I am just done editing the photo... The photo of the post that would announce Nathan’s demise. It was something that I had been avoiding for the past two weeks. It was so hard editing the photo. The difficulties faced weren’t technical – I couldn’t keep the tears from falling, my vision kept blurring up.

The post is scheduled to be released later on this week. I prepared the caption a long time ago, well not that long. I wrote it on the night that I found out about Nathan’s heart condition. I wrote and saved it in advance because I knew that I would have a terribly tough time thinking of a caption now, having to recount the various emotionally-wrecking instances of the past two weeks, squeeze my messed up emotions into sensible words and tapping the “post” button. I was also trying to save myself from a teensy bit of heartache — the bit that would set me off the edge again, crying to sleep.

I don’t think I have ever cried this much or continuously for these many days in a row (14 days now and counting). On day 11, my eyes were so swollen from all the crying, I looked like I was suffering from a severe case of conjunctivitis. It was also then when I realised, I have to do my best and restrain my tears... all the crying was starting to affect my vision... I've been stressing my eyes out way too much. As you can tell from the day count, I am trying – and failing.


That bear. There is a story behind it. The whole family was at Ikea, shopping for furnitures for the new house. We bought a new place because of Nathan, for Nathan. There isn’t space in our current home to accommodate his arrival so my in-law’s decided to sell away this home of 25 years, to get more space for their second grandson. Oh, the irony of it, because now we will be moving in without him. It hurts so much to say this line.

We were at Ikea, shopping for furnitures. I walked by a mountain pile of this $1.90 bear and thought to myself, “This would be a nice first toy for Nathan.” I walked towards the husband. He saw the bear and raised an eyebrow at me. I defended, “It’s for Nathan.” We bought and brought the bear home. I’m glad I bought the bear. It is something to remember Nathan by. But damn, the bear... a second irony in this mess. That embossed heart on its chest. A stone cold joke.

Two days before the procedure, the husband held the bear in his hands, and he made a request. “Can we never buy this bear again?” I understood why. This bear is Nathan’s, it belongs to Nathan, it symbolises Nathan to us and thus it would unfitting for any of our other children to play with it like its their toy.