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  • Writer's pictureJen Chappell

Share Your Story: Baby Silas

"My name is Erin and I’m an RN living in Virginia with my husband James. Together we have three children: my bonus son, James Jr., our rainbow Bodhi, and our beautiful son, Silas, whom we carry in our hearts.

James and I were married in 2009 and opted to wait before trying to have a baby - I was determined to get my education and career as a nurse established first. Plus, we were having a great time raising James Jr.!

Fast forward to 2015 - one month before graduating from nursing school, we became pregnant! We were overjoyed and the timing was perfect. I loved being pregnant and felt an immediate connection to the tiny life growing inside of me. The pregnancy progressed well and every checkup was normal - until the day we discovered that our baby boy had a serious heart defect.

At 26 weeks (and the day after Mother’s Day in 2016), we learned via a level 2 ultrasound that our son had d-TGA. Dextro-Transposition of the Great Arteries is a birth defect of the heart in which the two main arteries carrying blood out of the heart – the main pulmonary artery and the aorta – are switched in position, or “transposed.”

I remember clearly being in the darkened ultrasound room with the tech, chatting up a storm and watching our son wiggle around inside me. She abruptly became quiet and my heart started to pound - the deepest part of me knew something was wrong. She left the room to summon a maternal-fetal medicine physician who also scanned my belly and then confirmed that there was a problem with our son’s heart. My memories of the rest of the day are hazy. I was shuttled into a conference room with a different physician who began to explain the anatomy of TGA and how it’s not a condition that’s compatible with life unless there’s immediate surgical intervention. I drove home in a daze and had to deliver the news of our son’s diagnosis to my husband. We held each other and cried for a long time. That day marked the beginning of a new chapter in our lives.

For the remainder of our pregnancy, we saw numerous cardiologists, pediatric physicians, surgeons, social workers, nurses, genetics counselors. We held on fiercely to hope that our baby boy would overcome the odds with the assistance of modern medicine and the finest physicians in our community. Meanwhile, we prepared a nursery - chose paint colors, crib sheets, stuffed animals galore. My aunt hosted a beautiful shower and we spent time with the people who mattered most. They surrounded us in love and support and grace.

We were induced at 41 weeks on August 2, 2016. After 29 hours of labor, our heart warrior Silas Lane Sadler entered this world on August 3, 2016 at 4:11 p.m. He weighed 7 lbs. 11 oz. and he was 20 inches long. We were desperate to hold our son, cuddle him, and whisper how much we loved him but our baby was indeed fighting for his life from the moment he left the safety of my womb. During all of the appointments and discussions with specialists, no one ever prepared us for the fact that he wouldn’t be pink (due to lack of oxygen) or the fact that he would have trouble breathing from the start. In fact, our sweet Silas was blue, limp and didn’t cry when he was born. Fear gripped my mama heart - this was never how I envisioned our labor and birth of our son.

Due to Silas’s grave condition, he was immediately taken to the NICU to be stabilized. About an hour later, one of the cardiac surgeons came to tell us that Silas needed to go to the cath lab right away. The original plan was that he would have his open heart surgery at about ten days old. We learned that the anatomy of his tiny heart was such that he required a procedure called a balloon atrial septostomy. We signed the consent and asked to see our son before his procedure. We were whisked to the NICU and we each gave Silas a kiss on his downy soft head. I snapped a quick photo of him and I am grateful that I did. It would be the last time we saw our son alive.

Four hours later, Silas lost his battle with TGA. There were unforeseen complications during the cath lab procedure. To say that we were stunned would be an understatement. In all of our research, late night conversations and the various scenarios we ran through our heads, I never allowed myself to think about Silas not surviving.

Silas Lane Sadler lived six hours - and his impact on our lives has been immeasurable. I am immensely proud to be his mama and I talk to him every day. To know me is to know that I am a type-A planner. The life I had planned is not the life I am living and each day, I am learning how to embrace that.

Silas’s legacy is huge - his death connected me to a tribe of other parents who grieve their children. These are my people, for sure, and we keep the memories of our children alive in so many ways. We say their names. We remember their special dates. We cry with each other and we laugh. We celebrate the big moments and we rejoice in the rainbow babies too.

On October 27, 2017 Silas sent a little piece of heaven to us in the form of his baby brother, Bodhi Lane Sadler. The last eight months have been a whirlwind of emotions - joy, grief, exhaustion, and more joy. Parenting after loss is complicated. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of Silas or talk to him. I would give anything to hold that beautiful boy in my arms again. I must believe that I will see him again one day and on that day, my mama grief will be healed. Until then, I soak in the snuggles of Bodhi, I relish time spent with both of my James - husband and bonus son. And I don’t take one moment for granted.”

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