Discuss as:

Saving my baby girl from greater suffering, my gold-medal best

From TODAY Mom Marisa Langford

My story starts five years ago when my son Jake was diagnosed with a rare condition known as congenital adrenal hyperplasia. It is a lifelong condition that requires daily medicine. He is super healthy and an amazing child. (Thankfully this condition is not neurological or mental. We are blessed he is so healthy.)

After learning that our future children would have a 25 percent chance to have this same condition, we were not sure if we would venture into having more children after Jake. Our beautiful daughter Mia was born 14 months after Jake and thankfully did not have the condition. Here's where my Olympic parenting moment comes in...

So in January of 2009, we found out we were pregnant with our third child. After many heart-wrenching discussions about what we were were going to do if our third child were to have CAH, we decided to have prenatal testing done to see if our baby would have the condition. She was diagnosed with this condition on March 18, 2009 -- a day I will never forget.

With Jake, we never knew because he was our first and we didn't find out until two days after he was born. Because of baby No. 3's diagnosis, we were told of our options going forward, and being that it was a "she," CAH has many more consequences in utero. The only true option that I would have to "save" my daughter from many surgeries would be to take this medicine -- Dexamethasone (a steroid) -- for the duration of my pregnancy, to hopefully lessen the effects of CAH on her before she was born.

The side effects of the drug were terrible, and I knew this going into our decision. Insomnia (I only slept four hours a day for five months), weight gain (I gained 60 pounds on my small, 5-foot, 2-inch frame), mood swings (thankfully I have an amazing husband), of course the dreaded stretch marks (they are sooo deep and sooo big, I was devastated when I started to get them during month seven and there was no cream or ANYTHING I could use to prevent them) and also the "cushnoid" face. Many people who are on steroids for a long duration of time will get a puffy, swollen-looking face. I compare this experience to an out-of-body experience. I would look in the mirror and cry because I wasn't looking at me. By the eighth month I swore I couldn't last another day and just couldn't do it anymore. I was completely miserable.

On August 24, 2009, Shelby Grace was born. Only by the grace of God did I make it through this life-changing experience. She is now six months old, my body and face are back to normal, and I have this amazingly beautiful and healthy baby girl. She does have CAH, just like her brother, but the nine months I endured for her were like no other challenge I have ever faced. It was truly like the Olympics of pregnancy. I have trained for sprint triathlons before, and crossing the finish line and reaching that milestone is an amazing accomplishment. Seeing Shelby's beautiful face and seeing her smile make me feel like I have accomplished something greater than I ever will in my life. My family is my prize -- and seeing them every day is an amazing feeling, knowing I played a huge part in their being here.

Related stories: