Sadly, though, our happiness was short-lived when 10 hours later, my doctor came in to deliver us the most shocking news. An HIV test that I had agreed to have in the recovery room only a few hours earlier, had come back positive and was going to need a much more reliable test called the Western Blot to confirm its accuracy. My doctor tried to reassure us that the so-called "rapid" test that the hospital performs is not always accurate and has been known to provide false-positive results in pregnant women during their third trimester. Since the blood that was used for the test was taken when I was still pregnant, there was a significant chance that the test would be a false-positive, but we would not be sure until the results were in at least 48 hours later. Unfortunately for us, 48 hours turned into 5 days of the most torturous waiting that we've ever experienced. And, during this time, not only was I requested not to breastfeed my newborn, but as parents we faced the most terrifying decision of whether or not to administer a preventive medication to our 12-hour old daughter that would reduce her chances of contracting the disease from 30% to less than 2%.
The first few precious days of our baby girl's life had now been tarnished by an unbearably heavy cloud of guilt and worry. At a time when we are supposed to be losing sleep over a crying, hungry baby, we were losing our minds with impatience. The guilt of what we had done to our child, the bonding I was losing out on because I couldn't breastfeed, the agonizing decisions we had to make, the shame of not knowing where I could have contracted the virus, all could have been prevented had I been tested earlier in my pregnancy as is standard practice for all prenatal providers in Texas. Very unfortunately my midwife never offered me this test and when my blood was tested, HIV was completely left off the slate. When the hospital nurse came into my recovery room to tell me that my chart didn't show I'd been tested for HIV during pregnancy, I didn't understand why the test had not been given nor the implications of getting a positive result now that my baby was born.
But, this isn't a story with a sad ending. While waiting to see a pediatrician at the Infectious Diseases office, I got the call with the results that I was definitely HIV negative and was told that the rapid test had indeed produced a false-positive result like it had done for many other pregnant women. The worst waiting game of our lives was over and we can finally get on with our lives as new parents to the most precious baby girl we could have ever hoped to call our own.
This incident, as tragic as it was for us, will forever be a part of our first born's birth story. My hope is that by telling it, I'll help prevent it from happening to other unsuspecting parents who may not have been given the option of a test early in pregnancy. It's the one and only thing that could have been done to prevent the horrifying week we spent in limbo. Now that we can move on with our lives, we're doing so without taking any single moment for granted. We're putting this behind us and doing everything we can to make up for lost time.
A few photos from this first week.