Supermommy 7 ~ Candice’s Story

I was always going to share this story with you; even before I created Surrounded by Supermommies. This mommy takes on everything with strength and guts and heart. She had taken on doctors and hospitals and preconceived notions on an array of subjects for her boys and she has won every battle.

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No mommy should have to watch her baby go under anesthetic, let alone have to see it happen repeatedly with both children for completely different reasons. As I mentioned in last week’s story, although I cannot wrap my head around any child having to need surgery, I am too aware of how many mommies have to take this on. What I feel would break me, these mommies take on with all their courageous hearts and just shine as examples of everything a mommy should be.

I have known Candice since she was 7 years old. She was very close friends with my sister throughout their school days. Candice was a little powerhouse, she always knew her own mind and was never shy to share it. As she got older she had to take on more and more and instead of it getting her down, she took that unbreakable spirit and took on every obstacle with fire. I have watched in admiration as she has overcome everything life has thrown at her and come out swinging. Her incredibly beautiful boys are so blessed to have a mommy like her and seem to have been born with her tenacious fighting spirit.

This is her story
Candice met hubby Francois when he moved in across the road from her when she was 15; they started dating when she was 18 and married when she was 22.

Candice (19) & Francois (23)

Candice (19) & Francois (23)

Candice was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at the age of 16. Bipolar disorder is when an imbalance of chemicals in the brain causes extreme shifts in mood from uncontrollable mania (excitement, euphoria, over activity, delusions and often self-destructive behaviour) to debilitating depression.

Pregnancy with Storm
Candice and Francois were excited to start their family and were over the moon when they discovered they were pregnant. Unfortunately, pregnancy wasn’t what Candice had expected; she was constantly bloated and swollen, and developed severe Carpal Tunnel Syndrome in both hands.

Preggy with Storm 1

She was also told that she would have to stop taking her medication for the bipolar disorder, as it was dangerous to the baby. Two months before her due date, the doctors finally put her on Espiride; which is not used to treat bipolar but is a mood stabiliser, so it was better than nothing.

In her own words
I didn’t enjoy being pregnant at all! I suffered terrible heartburn and I had very bad bursitis (inflammation specifically affecting major joints). I was working full time and Carpal Tunnel made using a pen or a mouse extremely painful. I was ridiculously tired all the time; luckily I was allowed to nap in the boardroom during my lunch hour.

I struggled emotionally, with the hormones having a terrible effect on my moods and state of mind. I believed it was what I had to do to protect my baby, so I held on as long as I could before taking the relatively mild Espiride once baby was at a safer stage of development.

The arrival of Storm
A week before Storm’s due date, Candice’s blood pressure spiked and she had to be induced for the safety of herself and her baby boy. After a long and difficult labour, Storm arrived at 3.83 kgs via a natural birth.

Screen Shot 2015-08-09 at 2.35.33 PM

In her own words
Not long after I began to push my midwife informed me that she wasn’t happy with Storm’s heart rate. I was a little bit worried but the midwife didn’t seem too stressed. She helped me out of water I’d planned to give birth in and up onto the hospital bed. After nearly twelve hours of drug-free, natural labour, Storm was finally
placed on me, screaming and squirming… absolutely perfect. We later got into the water together to allow him to experience it.

Storm nb 2

All I could do was stare at his tiny, perfect feet and hands. And his hair! He had so much hair. I cried exhausted tears of joy and whispered a prayer of thanks to the God who could bless us with such a gift.

Fear
The atmosphere soon shifted to alarm as they became aware of a deep, rasping sound coming from Storm’s chest. They were told not to worry as it was likely that he had just swallowed some fluid during the birth, which would clear naturally. The doctors and nurses didn’t seem concerned at all and they headed home happily. Six weeks later at his checkup, the rasp wasn’t any better.

6w

In her own words
The paediatrician wasn’t too concerned and simply explained that Storm had Bronchiolitis; a viral infection commonly present in the winter months in small children. At first, this sounded like a reasonable explanation, but when Storm’s condition still hadn’t improved three weeks later, we decided to seek a second opinion.

The new doctor diagnosed GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease) and with the help of a host of different medicines, his health started improving almost immediately.Smile

Fighting on two fronts 
Through all of this, Candice remained off her medication to allow for breastfeeding. Immediately after Storm’s birth, she was totally elated from the hormones; she had endless energy and couldn’t sleep even when she got the chance. It was a mania and was followed after two weeks by a massive tumble into a severe depression.

When Storm was four weeks old she was being plagued by obsessive thoughts and she realised that she needed to return to her medication. She was heartbroken to have to stop breastfeeding so early, as it was the only time she felt truly connected and happy with him and free from the incessant worry over his health. But to be the best mommy to him, she needed to make sure she was healthy enough to look after him.

C&S2

A turn for the worse
Just when they thought they had a handle on Storm’s health issues, things took a turn for the worst.

In her own words
When my husband showed up at my work one day I thought he had come to take me to lunch. But one glance at his face told me that something was very wrong. When he explained that Storm was at the hospital with my mom because he had stopped breathing, I felt the blood drain from my face and my knees threatened to buckle. The drive took forever. When we arrived at the hospital, we ran up to the doctors’ office. There was Storm, sitting on my mom’s lap, laughing and playing as if nothing had happened.

After hearing my mom retell what had happened, the doctor told us about a condition where a child gets so worked up that the body, as a defence mechanism, shuts down temporarily. A few seconds later the body automatically kick-starts itself and breathing resumes as normal. I’d heard of these ‘stop-breathing’ episodes but I didn’t believe that this was the case. The way my mom explained it, if the day-mom hadn’t been there to resuscitate Storm, he wouldn’t be alive.

Storm

Some weeks later, Storm stopped breathing again. I was winding him after a bottle, when his face suddenly contorted into a terrible grimace and he started gasping for air. I’ll never forget the frightened look on his face. I started jiggling him up and down, patting his back. We were home alone so I called an ambulance, but no sooner had I hung up than I felt Storm’s tiny body go limp against my chest. As I drew him away from me, all I could see was a mixture of blood, mucous and vomit. I yanked open our front door and shouted for somebody to help us. I kept praying. I’ve never been so scared in all my life. I really thought I’d lost him.

I carefully placed Storm on his side on the couch. Gently, I wiped his face, blew some air into his mouth; all the while patting his back. And then, as suddenly as he’d slipped away, he slowly began to breathe again. It was laboured and he couldn’t open his eyes; but he was alive. I phoned my husband and cleaned Storm up. As soon as Francois arrived, we headed for the hospital, leaving behind some very confused paramedics.

Surgery and a mother’s instinct
After about a week in hospital, the doctors scheduled Storm to have anti-reflux surgery to stop the vomiting. The doctors believed that that was the cause of the apnoea episodes.In hosp1

In her own words
I tried so hard not to worry, but it wasn’t easy. He was only 6 months old – a baby! After surgery at Vincent Palotti Hospital, Storm received physiotherapy and nebulisation twice a day to loosen phlegm.

After reflux op

Storm neb

Not over yet
Although Storm recovered well from the surgery, he continued to have apnoea spells. Candice was determined to get to the bottom of it all this time.

In her own words
I demanded that they do more tests as I wasn’t happy that Storm was still struggling to breathe. He underwent numerous tests and scopes at Red Cross Children’s Hospital under the care of two professors. These included a Barium Swallow, Laryngoscopy, Bronchoscopy and MRI scans.

Red Cross scope

ECG

According to them, Storm’s aorta was compressing his trachea. They called it Tracheomalacia. We were told that Storm would need further surgery by a cardiothoracic surgeon in order to relieve the pressure on his trachea. I was so scared for him. I’ve never prayed so hard in all my life!

On arrival at Chris Barnard Memorial Hospital on Sunday, January 27 (our wedding anniversary), Storm was sent for yet more x-rays that revealed a large cyst nestled inside his thymus. Why it hadn’t been detected before, no-one could say. The tracheomalacia was a result of this congenital cyst.

During a three hour long surgery, they removed the four centimetre large cyst and attached Storm’s aorta to his sternum (called an Aortopexy). He was 8 months old.NICU after 2 surgery

The eyes

Storm and I spent a total of 32 days in various hospitals. He went under anaesthetic four times before the age of nine months. He had stopped breathing for about 6 minutes – just 1 minute more and he could’ve had lasting brain damage. I thank God each and every day for the miracle that is Storm.baby behind bars

Long term effects
Before the age of one, Storm had contracted 15 ear infections. He had Roseola Infantum, Pneumonia twice, Tonsillitis numerous times and even contracted Rotavirus while in hospital; it wasn’t unusual for his temperature to be 40 degrees. He also suffered from numerous upper respiratory tract infections which kept him out of crèche most of the time.

Storm with Roseola (baby measles)

Storm with Roseola (baby measles)

In her own words
Storm’s immunity was practically zero. He had to have Immunoglobulin (antibodies) injections administered once a month for a period of 6 months. We had to put Emla patches (local anaesthetic) on his legs an hour before going to the doctor. By the second time, Storm had caught on and would start crying the minute he saw me with the patch. It’s not an easy thing, to hold your child down while a doctor inserts a 5cm long needle into him – each injection took 2 minutes to administer.

Parenting a sick baby
Although he wasn’t allowed to attend creche, Candice didn’t keep him away from friends and family. She made a decision to not allow his health issues to affect the way she parented him.

On a bike

Play

In her own words
I suppose in the beginning, I was a bit more concerned and protective. But I got so used to him being sick that it became the norm; fevers of 38 – 40 were a regular occurrence – I would just give him empaped, I didn’t even bother calling a doctor. I don’t think I treated him any different to how I would have treated him had he been healthier.

Storm
None of his health issues affected his development. He was a very healthy weight, he sat at 6 months, crawled at around 7 months, started walking a week after his 1st birthday and his speech and vocabulary were quite advanced too.

Sitting

Crawl

In her own words
Storm is the most beautiful, energetic, smart, loving little boy. He was recently diagnosed with ADHD, and started on Ritalin. He is an amazing child; although it can be incredibly challenging because of how alike we are, I am incredibly proud of him.

Mama Storm kiss

S&C

big kiss

Storm Feb 15

A new addition
It took Candice and Francois a long time to feel ready to take on pregnancy and a new baby. At the beginning of 2014 they decided it was time to expand their family. They were leaving nothing to chance this time around and met with her doctors to decide how best to approach it all.

Together they decided that she would go off her medication while trying to fall pregnant and as long as she could manage, but they also found the safest mood stabilizers to have on hand when she felt she needed them. They fell pregnant within 10 weeks and until then she was feeling surprisingly good without the medication. The pregnancy hormones soon started to affect her though and she became extremely anxious. By six weeks pregnant they decided it was better if she went back on the meds. The benefits outweighed the risks.

scan1

In her own words
I began to worry about everything, I was encredibly anxious and I didn’t want my stress to hurt him. By this stage, the risks of birth deformities was minimal as his organs were already formed. The medication I was going on was also commonly given to pregnant women, as it was both a mood stabiliser and an anticonvulsant, so women with epilepsy remain on it during pregnancy. The doctors weren’t worried at all, because it was so commonly used and so few people saw any side effects at all…

C preggers

The outlier
Candice had all the normal paranoia that comes with pregnancy, but because she knew the potential side effects of the medication, her paranoia had very real parameters. When the person doing their 4D scan stopped only a few minutes in and said she was unhappy with the baby’s top lip; there was of course shock and fear, but she also felt almost prepared for it.

4D Anomaly Scan

In her own words
My mom and Francois were with me for the scan. The words turned what was meant to be a happy and exciting moment in our journey into a very formal examination as they checked what else might be wrong with our baby. His nose was perfect and normal, and they couldn’t see his palate, so we had no way of knowing how serious it would be and if the cleft extended into his palate.

Breastfeeding
Because she was unable to breastfeed Storm due to medication, she was determined to breastfeed Phoenix. She was a little worried that the cleft lip would prevent that from happening, but she was determined to try.

In her own words
As soon as I told my midwife the diagnosis, she began talking about preparing a special “Plan B” feeding plan for him. It was the one thing I could do for him. I started researching it on the internet and through the images, I could see why there could be problems; but I went into it convinced we could beat the odds.

Belly

Storm loving P in tummy

Phoenix’s Birth
Candice’s water broke in the early hours of the morning before his due date. When they arrived at Vincent Pallotti hospital 4 hours later, she was already dilated to 9cm and was taken immediately to the delivery room.

In her own words
It was a full house; Francois and the midwife were there of course; but they also allowed my mom, aunt, my best friend and Storm to be there for me. We really wanted to involve Storm as much as possible in the whole process. During my pregnancy, we had already explained to him that his little brother would look a little different to other babies and why. We also showed him photos of other “cleftie” babies to prepare him. He was taken out of the room just before the actual delivery.

In labour

Holding mama in labour

6 hours after my water broke, Phoenix arrived on his due date 18 January at a very healthy 4.2kgs! Other than the cleft he was 100% perfect and healthy in every way. Storm was immediately brought back in to meet his baby brother and he was immediately in love. Having him there through the whole process made everything even more special.

Phoenix

Love at first site

The cleft
As soon as he was born, the midwife put her finger in his mouth to check his palate. There was huge relief when they discovered it was completely intact and the cleft was exclusive to his lip and gum. There was even more relief when he immediately latched when put to the breast.

Checking lip

In her own words
I put my beautiful boy to the breast as soon as he had been checked out and he latched like a pro from the first. Some mommies have to hold the cleft closed with their fingers in order to allow the baby to latch properly, but it wasn’t necessary for us. Amazingly, the cleft on his gum is slightly to the left of the cleft in his lip, so he is able to latch and suction perfectly to feed.

Latch

I dont think I realised how rare it was to be able to breastfeed a baby with a cleft until I saw the pediatrician and the nurses faces.

Not every day was as easy as that first one. I had the usual cracked nipples and then sometimes my nipple would get sucked into the cleft of his lip or his gum, which was excruciating. I sucked it up though. I used nipple cream and a nipple shield on one side for a few days. I love it though. I can’t believe we have made it to almost 8 months and we are still going strong. The bond it creates between you is incredible.

My hope is that by sharing my story, other mommies realise that it is possible for some babies with clefts to breastfeed; when I posted on mommy groups on Facebook there were mommies who were heartbroken because they had been told it wasn’t possible and so had moved baby straight into formula.

A new baby
bunny
There was a real fear in their family as they waited to see if postnatal depression would rear its head this time around, but the medication she was given held strong. Phoenix was the sweetest easiest baby.

Happy baby

In her own words
Francois was amazing and Storm also tried to help where he could. Sleep is a big deal when you are bipolar, but we were enormously blessed that Phoenix was a great sleeper from the very beginning, waking only twice a night for feeds. I also made sure I snuck a nap in the day with him while Storm was at school.

the boys

The next step
Because Phoenix’s cleft was relatively minor, it meant that there would be fewer and smaller operations. Not that it helped much in easing the fear and stress. Phoenix had his first surgery 3 days short of 3 months old and it was a great success. He might need a bone graft for his gum when he’s older if it’s a problem for him, but that would only be when he’s about 10.

In her own words
It was terrible and so incredibly stressful. I had to give him his last feed at 3:30am and he only went into theatre at 7:50am! But praise be to God, he wasn’t even fussy! No tears even. The hospital staff were amazing. His lip was numb after surgery so he couldn’t latch and was crying terribly and he finally managed to feed at 10pm when I got into bed with him.

Immediately after surgery

1 day Post surgery

The first week of his recovery was truly awful; I was so scared of hurting him and he hurt himself quite a few times. We had to keep him medicated so that he wasn’t in pain and he HATED taking meds.

Phoenix
Once those first weeks passed, his recovery was remarkable. He has healed so beautifully and is such a happy smiley little man. Phoenix and I have a very strong bond thanks to breastfeeding; it’s the most amazing thing. Storm is totally in love with him and loves holding him and snuggling in bed with him in the morning, he is an incredible big brother.

This smily <3

Phoenix 29Jul

Brother love

Final words…
Being a mom
I love being a mom. My boys are incredible and so strong. They have fought so hard and won. There is no mommy prouder in all the world.

Candice & boys

On having a sick child
ALWAYS trust your intuition. Your maternal instinct is extremely powerful; do NOT ignore it. If a doctor diagnoses something and there is any doubt in your mind that it is not so; seek a second opinion.
If your child undergoes any procedures that you are not sure about; ask questions. You have every right to know what is being done.

To mommies who want to breastfeed
Try everything before giving up. Don’t listen to the standard wisdom of any situation, you and your baby are unique and you will never know unless you try.Family love

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This mommy takes my breath away with her ability to take on anything and win. Her faith and ability to always put her boys first is total inspiration. The way she adapts to whatever situation she finds herself in.

This mommy held her baby as he stopped breathing; she fought every doctor who misdiagnosed him and got him tested until they found the root of all his problems that every one of them had missed; she wrapped him in total love and devotion as she watched him go under anesthesia four times before he was 9 months old. She did all of this while fighting for her own peace of mind. She then decided after 7 years to brave the journey through pregnancy again. Only to face the fact that even though she had done everything by the book, the medication she had to take to be the best mommy to both her boys had caused a birth defect in her second baby. She had to prepare her firstborn and herself for a baby that wouldn’t be like other babies; she had to prepare for the worst because they could not tell the severity of the defect; but instead of researching all that could go wrong, she researched how to overcome any limitations they might face. And then she had to walk back into a hospital with her happy flourishing breastfed 2 month old and watch him go into surgery.

She did all of this with unwavering faith that everything would be okay in the end. She didn’t let it affect her life, or the way in which she parented her boys. She gives them both her whole heart and all her courage and strength every single day.

She is a Supermommy.

Trust your instincts mommy. Nobody knows your baby better than you do. You KNOW when something isn’t right; don’t let somebody fob you off as a nervous new mommy. Fight for your baby and your mommy instinct. You are a Supermommy.

Trust your doctors when you have to put your baby in their hands. You have done your research. You have chosen the very best people to see your baby and you through what you are about to face. They will do every single thing they can to protect your heart. You have made the right decision. You are a Supermommy.

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Candice, you are incredible. You are a force of nature and I love that your boys have got that from you. You are making a difference every day by sharing your story with others. And you have made a difference by bringing up your amazing boys to be warriors as well. I am so impressed by the woman you have become. I have watched you grow into yourself and become an example for other mommies to follow. You are a Supermommy and I am so proud to know you.

I am asking you mommies to please share these powerful women’s stories; there are mommies out there feeling afraid and alone as they face the very things that Candice, Claire, Maz, Carla, Cassey, Lindsay and Melanie have faced. They don’t have to feel alone!

Please use the buttons below to help me reach out to them; share these stories with you family and friends and even the groups you belong to on Facebook, send it out into the universe on Twitter and Pinterest and Google+. The amazing women who have shared their stories are wanting to help other mommies; help me, help them, help those other mommies please.

Sending all the love xx

Comments

  1. Candice says

    Thank you all for your lovely comments.
    Rifda, I miss you!
    Megan, it wasn’t something I advertised – at the time I didn’t think it mattered for ppl to know. I really really struggled during that time though.
    Thank you for your kind words xxx

  2. Megan Nell says

    Being at school with Candice I wasn’t even aware that she was/is bipolar. Not that it would have mattered had I known, but, after having 2 healthy kids myself reading this makes me realize how lucky I am to not have had some of the experiences she did. But, the way I know her – she persevered and has two beautiful boys. You can be proud of the mom you are Candice. It takes guts and determination and you have both in bucket loads. Keep sharing! I’m sure you will inspire Mom’s out there!

  3. Rifda Davids says

    Well, we’ve always known you to be an awesome, courageous and inspirational lady, and we have to salute you on all your endeavours and may you just prosper!

    Regards,

    Rifda

  4. Shafieka Huynh says

    Inspirational story have nothing but admiration for you, your strenght. May God blessed you and your family always.

  5. Stacey says

    Wow , what an aweosme story!!!! Strong woman is all that comes to my mind. may you and your family be blessed. And may you continue to inspire others and stay stong.

  6. Nic says

    It’s really puts things into perspective, what a amazing woman. I must admit I shed some tears reading Candices story, a true inspiration.

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