All Moms struggle with guilt. Whether its choosing to go back to work a few weeks after her baby is born or wondering if she’s feeding her kids the right foods or any number of other situations, it’s a common feeling among all mothers. In my particular situation, I spent the first 10 months of Sol’s life feeling guilty that something I did (or didn’t do) caused Sol’s stroke. Again, this is a common source of guilt among Moms of stroke babies, and in 99% of the cases, the stroke was the result of a random mutation or a clot that no one saw coming. But, I always wondered if maybe I stopped running a little earlier or if I had passed up that occasional Starbucks Chai Latte, Sol’s situation would have been different.
Thankfully, right before we left DC, my feelings of guilt were put to rest.
After 10 months of choosing not to look at Sol’s MRI out of pure fear for what it looked like, I decided I would feel better knowing what it looked like. I asked Dr. Newport, the director of Georgetown University’s Center for Neuroplasticity, a woman who I greatly admire and trust, to view his MRIs and walk me through them.
Those 10 months of not knowing what those images looked like may have worked in my favor: based on what the NICU doctors had told us, I imagined the absolute worst – a sliver of healthy brain tissue and not much else. Not so much. I assure you, his MRI is still scary to look at. I learned that he had at least three strokes, one in the left MCA (ischemic) and one in left and right ACA (hemorrhagic), and these strokes were massive, completely destroying brain cells in these areas. The MRI also showed a spot in the right MCA, which could have been a fourth stroke or the result of blood in his brain after the brain injury.
Sounds like a lot, right? It is… BUT what’s promising is that, through the areas of research that Dr. Newport and her team are commanding, doctors are finding that if one area of an infant’s brain is injured, other areas on the other side of the brain can take over. For example, since the left MCA was impacted (this houses the speech centers, for example), the right MCA can take over those duties. Because both the right and left ACAs, the areas that control executive functioning (think attention and organization skills) were affected, we are unsure how his brain will rewire to compensate for these areas. In fact, we’re unsure how his brain will rewire altogether. Because the left side of his brain bore the brunt of the damage, we DO know that his right side will always be weaker. Other than that, how well he continues to recover is left up to God, good luck, therapy, and Sol’s will and determination. He could very well be wheelchair-bound or never gain use of his right hand, but watching him work hard on standing in therapy and seeing him concentrate to bring his right hand to a toy tells me that he will make strides in all areas.
And, going back to that talk of guilt, Dr. Newport said that, based on his MRIs, it was obvious that nothing I did during pregnancy and nothing that the doctors did during delivery caused Sol’s stroke. It was most definitely a clot or multiple clots that broke off from the placenta during delivery – nothing more, nothing less.
While this news doesn’t make Solly’s situation any better, it does put my mind at ease and allows me to focus more on creating the best environment for his recovery – and that WILL help him improve.