My first doctor’s appointment was a holiday, Martin Luther King, Jr Day. I remember this for two reasons. Daren was off work and was able to come to the appointment with Ruby and me. And also, I had plans to meet a friend for coffee after the appointment. We had been trying to connect for a while but because of her busy work schedule and my new role as a mom, it had been difficult. So when we realized we could both hang out on the holiday, we were pumped. Let me just knock out this appointment and then I’m all yours, friend! However, as we waited for the light to change, I knew that these plans would be canceled. I was already writing the text message in my head: Something is wrong with the baby. I can’t hang out today. Sorry. (Sad face)
I was happy Daren was with me at this appointment. This time we could share the responsibility of not listening to the doctor’s directions about birth control. We could share the shame of being “those people who got pregnant, by accident, three months after having a baby”. We could share the weight of this pregnancy. Of course, this was all self-inflicted disgrace. The receptionists and nurses were thrilled to see us and so excited that they got to spend another nine months serving us. I instantly felt so much love and pride for our growing family.
Dr. Deem was also excited to see us. She jokingly gave us a hard time about not listening to her, but seemed unfazed. After catching up, we talked about the logistics of this pregnancy. Due to my C-section, it would be unsafe to consider a vaginal birth less than a year later. So we talked about planning surgery a week before the due date, just to guarantee the little one wouldn’t send me into labor. Deem was about to send me to the lab, when she noticed in my file that I’d already been a couple weeks before. Because the blood work confirmed my pregnancy and provided a due date (August 20), she wanted to order a sonogram to hear the heartbeat and see our little 10 week old. She left and returned quickly; the sonographer could see me immediately.
Sonograms are equally exciting and terrifying. Its thrilling because you get to hear this crazy fast heartbeat inside of you and see this tiny blob moving around. And yet, it’s so scary because it’s hard to know what you are looking at, nothing makes sense to an untrained eye at 10 weeks. So as I laid there, listening to my baby and looking at the screen, I held my breath. And then she said it. The words that I knew I would eventually hear. I’m going to grab Dr. Deem. It looks like something is wrong with the baby. Something is wrong with its head. She left quickly. I looked at Daren and said, “This is not new news to me. I knew that something was wrong.” He grabbed my hand and we waited.
Deem came in with the sonographer and scrolled through the images. She was somber as she studied them and watched the baby in real time. She then confirmed something was wrong; the baby’s head and brain were not developing properly. She explained that there was fluid where the brain should be. She couldn’t accurately diagnose the birth defect this early on, but it looked like anencephaly. Birth defect? An-en-what? Is this my fault? Breathe! Don’t cry! Deem must have seen shame and fear overwhelm me. She quickly reassured me that it was not my fault and that this would not be a high-risk pregnancy. She then told us that she was going to refer us to another doctor that specialized in birth defects. She said that she would get us in by the end of the week, and then we would have a follow-up appointment with her. Deem opened the door to leave, looked back at the screen and said, “That’s definitely a baby!”
The sonographer handed me tissue to wipe the gel off my belly. She handed me more tissue to wipe the tears off my face. She hugged me and told us that she was sorry. I told her that I had known something was wrong. That God had revealed it to me and that I was just waiting to hear it confirmed. She listened, hugged me again, and told us that she would be praying for us. I believed her. She then walked us to the back door, a door we didn’t even know existed. We quickly realized this was the door for the parents that leave in tears.
Daren, Ruby, and I got in the car and just sat there for a minute. We got out our phones and tried our best to spell anencephaly. Daren googled it first and then told me how to spell it. He quickly told me not to click on the images. Too late. I read Wikipedia’s definition of anencephaly and then clicked out. I texted my friend. Something is wrong with the baby. I can’t hang out today. Sorry. (Sad face)