While you are pregnant you dream about your baby’s birth. You wonder what it will be like to hold your baby for the first time–to look into his eyes or to hear her cry. It will be the perfect moment when mommy meets baby. But that picture-perfect birth was far from what Melissa experienced when she had to have an emergency c-section because her baby boy was in trauma. (You may remember we met her husband, Tolga, last June when we highlighted Dad’s during Father’s Day month.) We recently had a chance to catch up with her and chat. We were inspired by Melissa’s resiliency, hope and deep love. We know you will be inspired by her story of the miracle of motherhood. (Editor’s note – grab a box of tissues.)
Melissa, going back to your pregnancy with Baran, what were your hopes and dreams through your pregnancy?
I think I hoped what most mothers hope for—a healthy baby. Each time my husband and I went for my monthly check-up, we breathed a sigh of relief when we heard our son’s heartbeat. We simply wanted a healthy baby.
How did you know that something wasn’t quite right the morning you went for your emergency c-section?
My son was always very active inside me. He kicked constantly, day and night. He was born on December 21, close to midnight, but that morning, I didn’t feel him moving. I did what the books tell you to do—drink orange juice and lay on your left side, but despite doing that, I didn’t feel him moving. I called my husband at work and he encouraged me to call my doctor. I did, and I was told to get to the hospital for a non-stress test. Luckily, we heard my son’s heartbeat, but the technician told us he wasn’t moving. At that point, I started to panic, I knew something was wrong. I had such a strong feeling that my son was in trouble that I told the nurses a few hours later to “take my son out now!”
When Baran was finally delivered, you were told that he might not make it through the night and he was rushed to another hospital. What was that night like for you & how did you make it through it?
When I was told by my doctor that my son might not survive the night, I wasn’t shocked. I knew all along that something was wrong. I even told my doctor before my c-section that the baby wouldn’t be crying when he came out. She assured me that he would be, but I knew that he wouldn’t. My labor and delivery nurse even came to my bedside in the recovery room, crying, saying she was sorry she dismissed my concerns that something was wrong with my son. In reflecting on that night, I am amazed at my strong maternal instinct. I knew how the night would play out before it even did. It’s almost eerie to me. Perhaps God was preparing me for what was going to happen next. As a result, I wasn’t in complete shock when I was told the news. Somehow, I just knew that things weren’t right when I arrived at the hospital several hours before my son was born.
Once Baran was out of the hospital, the challenges didn’t end. What did you need to do to make sure he reached developmental milestones?
I’m grateful for Early Intervention’s services. Even though several developmental therapists showed up at my doorstep a few weeks after Baran was home from the hospital and the experience was overwhelming, I’m grateful my son had access to such services. For the past year, we’ve had several therapists monitor his developmental milestones. I am so grateful that he’s met every one of those milestones. I’m also very grateful that Northwestern Memorial Hospital has such a stellar NICU follow-up clinic. The doctors and therapists there monitor him very closely too. Being a new mom, I wasn’t sure when Baran should be reaching certain developmental milestones. I was also very hyper in the beginning, always asking his doctors, “should he be doing this?, or why is he doing this?” The best response I received was from Baran’s neurologist. At one appointment I asked this doctor, “Is it normal that my son does such and such. He responded, “It is for him.” After that I learned to stop monitoring my son’s every move with a microscope and to just enjoy him for who he is.
Any mom would feel angry at what happened, but you seem to be filled with peace. How did you get to the point you are at today?
I still have my moments of anger, but I’ve learned to live in the present, rather than in the past or future. I underwent several acupuncture treatments to help me overcome the extreme stress I experienced during and after Baran’s birth. That, coupled with the fact that Baran is doing so well, has helped me tremendously. I’ve had three doctors tell me that my son is a miracle. I don’t want anger to over-power my ability to thoroughly enjoy the miracle that God gave me.
We love the meaning of Baran’s name – why do you think that is the perfect name for him?
Baran means strength and resilience in Turkish. Actually, my husband and I chose this name before Baran was born. It was the only Turkish name we could decide on and one that English speakers could understand. Little did we know how fitting the name would be. My husband says to me all the time that Baran is his little hero. I truly believe Baran fought for his life—he wanted to live. He proved all the doctors wrong.
You are pregnant again! How are you able to deal with the fear of pregnancy problems and still enjoy your second pregnancy?
For some odd reason, and perhaps it’s maternal instinct again, from the moment I found out I was pregnant I’ve experienced a wonderful calm about everything. Yes, the doctor’s appointments are still stressful for my husband and me. We have our 20-week ultrasound coming up in a few weeks and we’re very nervous. However, deep down inside, I just feel calm. Maybe I’m finally learning to give up complete control over my life and just let things be.
Now for a quick glance into Melissa’s life.
What is always in your fridge? Whole milk and yogurt for my son (we’re trying to fatten him up a bit) and there always seems to be a rotting fruit or vegetable that we don’t get around to eating because we’re too busy :).
What keeps you going through busy days of juggling being a working mom? I absolutely love coming home to Baran. He is so happy to see me when I get home. It’s the best feeling in the world.
What book is currently at your bedside? I have a stack of books next to my bedside. I figure if I put them there, one day I’ll get around to reading them. I’m usually asleep within minutes of my head hitting the pillow :).
If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you live? For now, I’d like to live closer to my family in Columbus, Ohio, simply because it would be easier to have family close by. However, I do love Chicago—except for the long winters. Right now I’m wishing I lived on the small island in the S. Pacific where my husband and I honeymooned.
If you had a “free day” with no commitments or obligations, what would you do with it? I’d sleep in, then I’d take my son to meet my husband for lunch, followed by a trip to a children’s museum or nearby park, and then I’d treat myself to a massage and facial. Ahhh, it’s always nice to dream…
If someone was going to write a book on your life, what would the title be? One of my favorite quotes is, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?” by Mary Oliver. If someone were to write a book in my honor, I wouldn’t want it to be about me, but rather about how each of our lives is truly a gift that should be lived out to the best of our ability.