Since day one of this pregnancy, I’ve had a gut feeling that something wasn’t quite right. Some might call it simply “mother’s intuition” but I know now those feelings came from a higher power above. Just ask Tyler; I’ve just known that someday we would face a challenge like this in our lives. I just didn’t dream we’d have to face it right now.
I excitedly walked into our ultrasound appointment, nervous but eager to finally find out the baby’s gender. Would it be the girl we’ve secretly hoped for, or an equally-loved, rambunctious little brother for Jack? The radiologist invited me back to measure and assess the baby’s growth while Tyler patiently waited with Jack in the waiting room for their turn to join us. We struck up polite conversation, and while I was bummed that I couldn’t see the monitor, I tried to keep calm. I talked about how we would love a boy or a girl in our family, and mostly prayed for a healthy baby. I talked about our impending move (next week!) to San Jose. I hinted that I felt much more nervous this time around than at my 20-week ultrasound with Jack, but reassured myself out loud that it was probably just my paranoia and pregnancy hormones. After all, I had been feeling the baby kick the past week or two so I knew a beautiful life was still inside of me, growing to its full potential.
Per routine, the radiologist asked if I had any family history of genetic disorders or problems. Nope, none that I know of. I then blurted out that my cousin and his wife recently gave birth to a baby with a severe birth defect (full trisomy 18) that died three hours later, but a case like that is incredibly rare. Just an unfortunate thing that happened to really good people. We continued our conversation, talking about Mexico and San Diego rent prices and how my doctor was out of town right now. Finally she let me pee (I had been holding a half-gallon of water for almost two hours at this point) but insisted on rechecking a few things when I came back. While I went to get Tyler and Jack from the waiting room, she consulted with a technician in the other room. And instead of routinely letting us have our long-awaited gender reveal, she sent us straight up to my OB to get our test results.
I told you I knew something was up. I could feel it in the ultrasound room, and I could feel it in the elevator. Tears were welling up in my eyes and I couldn’t think straight. If it wasn’t something critical, why would they have sent us up here immediately? As we met with the nurse (who, through no fault of her own, was able to tell us anything), I couldn’t hold my sobs in any longer and began bawling like a crazy lady. The nurse reassured me that my doctor would be back on Monday to read me the results. Then my knight-in-shining-armor (Tyler) insisted the nurse that we were sent up there for an obvious reason and though our doctor was out of town, she needed to find a doctor – any doctor – who could interpret the results for us NOW. We couldn’t wait until Monday.
She ushered us into an unused exam room, and there we waited. And waited. Those were some of the longest minutes of my life. Tyler and I both knew something wasn’t right, but neither of us could admit it to each other. We made small talk, conversing about the proper care of laminate flooring to his baby pictures that I sorted through that morning. Finally we were led to an OB’s office down the hall, who had to give us some of the worst news possible.
The baby has anencephaly, a serious birth defect in which a baby is born without parts of the brain and skull. If baby makes it full-term, he/she will either be still born or won’t live longer than a few hours (a day or two at best). There is a strong heartbeat and reflexes of the baby kicking and moving, but with the absence of a brain there is no brain function that an individual needs to live. The doctor reassured me it is most likely an unfortunate fluke, but I can’t help but feel as the mother like I somehow caused it to happen.
We have two options: we can choose to abort the baby or, at no risk to me, let it live its life, however long that might be. Being the Christians we are, abortion is entirely out of the question. It is our duty as parents to give precious spirits in heaven a body here on earth, and we strongly feel that this particular spirit was sent to our family for a reason. We might not even get to meet him/her in this life, but we know without a doubt God has a bigger plan and there will be one more child up in heaven waiting for us to join them.
I think the hardest part for me is trying to comprehend that I still get to help nourish and grow our little baby inside of me for the next few months. Each time I feel the baby kick and squirm it reminds me how precious and fleeting life really is here on this earth, and how I need to fight for the chance to live each and every day the best I can. And it makes me ever-so grateful for my husband and sweet toddler that wake up healthy and strong each day to tackle life with me.
Things didn’t go as planned. Our little family of three will stay a family of three here on earth a little longer than expected. We won’t need that third bedroom in our house quite yet. But I’m grateful for the plan of salvation, for the knowledge we have of eternal families, and that we know with a surety that life continues on after death. Our little baby has had the blessed opportunity to receive a body, and when it is time will continue on to the heavens where he/she is most needed by our loving Heavenly Father. I know now that this earth life won’t be the last time I get to be a mother, and I feel so blessed for that opportunity.
Life hasn’t gone how we’ve expected it to lately. We’ve had some major highs and some major lows. The veil on this earth is so incredibly thin between life and death.
But tomorrow is a new day and I would feel selfish and ungrateful to waste it. We’ve got a long journey ahead of us, and we hope you’ll join us with gratitude in your hearts for the blessings God has given us each and every day of our lives.