Courtney Hayes, a 33-year-old swimming instructor and business owner, spent a lot of time dreaming about what it would be like to announce her rainbow baby.
But after four devastating miscarriages, Hayes had pretty much given up hope. And yet, for the first time in her life, Hayes had made peace with her her journey. Two months after her fourth miscarriage, Hayes took a trip with her girlfriends to Lake Tahoe, a trip that she says was incredibly freeing for her. She and her husband, Josh, had decided to pursue adoption, a decision that left them both with a sense of closure as well as excitement for the future.
Instead of focusing on getting pregnant, staying pregnant, or losing a baby — thoughts that had consumed her for the past 18 months — Hayes tells Babble that she just “let it go.” She swam in 55-degree water, ran 14 miles up and down a mountain without worrying about how it would affect her fertility, and did everything that she said made her feel like herself again.
“I laughed until I cried, I ate too much, drank some wine, and just felt like I was getting my life back,” says Hayes. “My smile didn’t feel fake. Trying to get pregnant and stay pregnant had consumed me … it was a huge weight off my shoulders to let that go.”
But shortly after Hayes returned from her trip, refreshed and relaxed, she felt something was different. After four pregnancies, she knew the symptoms pretty well. A test later confirmed that she was, indeed, pregnant. Naturally, the couple was faced with a rollercoaster of emotion. Hayes’ husband was particularly worried about what another pregnancy and potential loss could do to his wife after she had worked so hard to find peace.
And yet, despite their fears and misgivings, they were also excited. And they began to grow more and more excited with each passing week. “This whole pregnancy felt different and I felt more excitement from the beginning with this one than any other,” notes Hayes.
By the time they reached the 14-week mark, the couple had started talking about “when” they would have their baby — instead of “if.” At their 18-week scan, as Courtney and Josh counted fingers and toes and four heart chambers, they started to breathe a sigh of relief.
But then, the doctor came in to deliver the news that there was something wrong with their son’s heart. “It felt like the world stopped moving,” says Hayes of hearing the words that she had been fearing all along. “My own heart stopped at that moment.”
Their son was diagnosed with a heart defect called Truncus Arteriosus, a condition in which the heart only has one artery instead of two. The condition varies in severity but requires several open-heart surgeries and the extent of their son’s heart defect can’t be determined until he is born. Instead of the joyful rainbow baby announcement Hayes had hoped to share, she instead posted a heartbreaking update on her Facebook page about her son’s diagnosis:
Since then, Courtney and Josh have been struggling to sort through what their son will need when he is born, figuring out how to face a future so different than anything they could have ever imagined, and struggling to find the courage to fight for the baby they had dreamed of for so long.
“I have good days and bad days,” says Hayes. “It is a very strange mix of emotions. I am SO excited to be at a point in pregnancy that I never dreamed of. So there are moments where I feel complete wonder and immense thankfulness for this baby. He feels like a miracle to me. But, the fear of the unknown is consuming. I never thought I would feel pain that would compare to the miscarriages so soon, but the day of the diagnosis was the worst day of my life.”
Right now, Hayes is preparing to make the move to Philadelphia. Her doctors want her there by the time she is 32 weeks pregnant. Once she gives birth, her son will undergo the first of his surgeries at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
The couple does have family in Philadelphia to stay with, but they will still be paying their home mortgage back in Arizona and unfortunately, because the baby is due in early 2017, they will also be paying their insurance deductible and all the staggering costs of multiple open-heart surgeries for their son.
For now, the couple has put their immediate adoption plans on hold but hopes that someday, they will still be able to add to their family.
And while she admits that part of her is still hoping for a miracle, Hayes feels humbled by the time she has already spent with her son — and is taking cues from the little guy who is teaching his mama a thing or two about fighting.
“Just the fact that he is here and still thriving in my belly tells me he is special and a fighter,” says Hayes. “Although this is not how I imagined it, I have to believe this little guy has a purpose.”
If you would like to donate to help Courtney and Josh with their rainbow baby, they have a GoFundMe page set up for medical expenses for the multiple surgeries and other medical needs their family will need.More On