Happy Birthday, Joel!

One of our biggest anticipations has been the hope and prayers that baby boy would be healthy despite all the treatment I’m going through. After four rounds of chemo with me, Joel Lucas Moreno came into the world on March 6, 2018 at 8:04am! He weighed 6 lbs 13 oz and was 19” long. Most importantly, he’s healthy!

Skin to skin with mommy after delivery

Labor & Delivery

Disclaimer: For those that like to know the details of labor and delivery, read on. For those that don’t care for it, you can skip this section!

I was scheduled to be induced at 36 weeks. It was important to my OB that I was at least 3 weeks out from my last chemo treatment so my white blood cell counts had enough time to recover, but also she wanted me at least 36 weeks to allow the baby to develop more. I also couldn’t be too full term as there is already a risk of me delivering early. So we scheduled my delivery at 36 weeks and 2 days. The plan is to have a vaginal birth, as this has a decreased risk of infection and quicker recovery time.

The induction plan meant being admitted to the hospital the night before and starting the induction process to deliver the next day. Three days before induction, I was already 1cm dilated. I went for some walks that weekend hoping it would help naturally prepare my body more for labor. When I got admitted to the hospital, I was 2-3cm dilated and 60% effaced so it helped some.

They started me on pitocin at 12:30am. It was going to be nearly impossible for me to get any sleep if contractions were going to eventually start, so I asked for Ambien. It didn’t really help because as soon as I’d doze off, a contraction would wake me up. I asked for some IV pain meds which helped for a bit, but by 3:30am I was ready for the epidural since the pain became too much for me. I got the epidural at 4am and immediately after it, I laid back down and my water broke! The nurse said it was good timing. At this point, I was 5cm dilated so the nurse said things could now progress pretty fast. I was able to get some sleep thanks to the magical powers of the epidural.

Around 6:30am I woke up and started to feel pressure when a contraction came. I told the nurse and she checked me—I was now 10cm dilated! The baby was ready to go! They called my doctor who had to come in during Houston morning rush hour. The contractions had pressure but I didn’t feel a strong urge to push yet, so I was able to wait for my doctor to arrive. After 3 quick pushes, Joel came into the world at 8:04am!

He’s Finally Here

Anyone who has become a parent has probably experienced the unbelievably surreal feeling of your baby coming into the world. Roberto and I have been waiting for Joel since the moment we knew we were expecting—and that anticipation exponentially increased when we initially thought he had Down syndrome and again when I was diagnosed with cancer. Hearing his first cry and seeing him for the first time was an overwhelming moment of relief and happiness I will never forget.

After being reviewed by the neonatologist and multiple pediatricians and taking several tests, Joel is healthy. He passed his glucose tests, bilirubin test, and hearing test. His CBC blood counts are in a normal range. He’s eating well, pooping, peeing, and sleeping a ton—all the things you want a baby to do! We really feel that everyone’s thoughts and prayers for us and Joel have been answered. There is a chance his B cell counts are low due to my diagnosis, but it will catch up by the time he is 6 months old. Until then, we have to be extra careful he does not get sick.

A New Life

After two night at the hospital, we were discharged. We came home and are adjusting to our new life as a family of four (five if you count Luna). Not only am I trying to figure out balancing being a mom of two, but in a few days I’ll resume and eventually complete my cancer treatment.

Now that I’m not pregnant, my doctors will really be able to treat me. This means I can finally have a PET scan to determine what cancer cells remain and what treatment changes should be made, if any. Roberto said that the rest of this journey is all about me now. We now know that Joel is healthy. Now the focus is on me completing my treatment so I can be in remission. We dream of the day where the four of us can finally go somewhere together as a family. It’s not too far away.

Through this, my mom is helping us a ton with Joel and Camila. It’s helped me get extra rest time and also allows us to give Camila attention. Thank goodness for grandmas!

About Joel

Joel isn’t even a week old yet, but so far he’s a pretty easy baby. He’s eating well, sleeping a ton, and laid back. He cries only when he is cold and during diaper changes. He’s trying to establish himself as the man of the house because he’s peed on Roberto probably once a day, but hasn’t yet peed on me (knocking on wood).

What’s in a name? Joel is also Roberto’s middle name. His middle name, Lucas, means light or illumination. We picked it because he is the light to this otherwise dark journey we’re going through.

Someone More in Need

Shortly after I was diagnosed, I learned I was not going to be able to breastfeed as the chemotherapy drugs could pass on to Joel through my breastmilk (when he was in my womb, we had the placenta to help filter it). Although I’m not against formula feeding, this was probably the most disappointing part of being diagnosed. I breastfed Camila until she turned one and felt she has reaped the benefits of breastfeeding. I wanted Joel to have the same benefits. I accepted early on that Joel would be formula fed.

I did hope that we could possibly get donor breastmilk for Joel so at least he could get some breastmilk. Because of Joel’s possible low B cell count, we couldn’t accept just any donated milk. Donor milk from a milk bank was pasteurized and screened. I learned I could ask for donor milk while still in the hospital after delivery. However, I also learned I was not going to be able to get insurance to cover donor milk once we got home. After talking to pediatricians and a milk bank, I learned that I wouldn’t qualify for donor milk because Joel was able to have formula. If I wanted donor milk, I could pay for it out of pocket which could cost thousands of dollars a month.

My initial reaction was how unfair this was. I thought I had a good case of needing donor milk. I thought to myself, “I can’t give this to my child, why can’t they help me?” The milk bank informed me because the need for donor milk was because of the mother and not because of the baby. If the mother is unable to breastfeed, but the baby can have formula, insurance wasn’t going to approve it. Insurance would only approve it if the baby had a sole need for breastmilk.

It opened my eyes to a realization. There was someone out there that needs the donor milk more than Joel and I do. I have a healthy baby that is able to have formula. There are babies out there with health issues that are unable to have formula and their moms are unable to produce breastmilk. They need the donor milk more. No matter how bad of a situation you think you’re in, there’s someone else out there going through something harder that’s more in need than you.

Happy Birthday, Joel. Please know that your dad and I are amazed by your strength and will do anything for you.

6 thoughts on “Happy Birthday, Joel!

  1. Ashley Hegele

    So happy that Joel is a happy and healthy baby! He is adorable. Wishing you the best of luck in your last stretch of treatment

    Reply
  2. Matt

    Excellent news and a heart warming update!!! Continued blessing and prayers on your recovery and for Joel’s health.

    Reply
  3. Christine

    Yes, donor breast milk is a very high in demand commodity and it’s not cheap. There are even websites where you can buy it direct, though these are not pasteurized. I had a friend who had twins and one of the babies wasn’t doing so well and she had to beg the nurses to get her baby donor milk. I donated milk with both babies, it wasn’t much, but it all helps. I think most people don’t know of the need for donated milk, of all the babies that can’t drink formula. I think hospitals should mention it to all mothers after their baby is born, just so they know excess milk can be donated. That the liquid gold shouldn’t go to waste.

    Reply

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