IT'S A BOY
Within the first week of knowing about the birth defect, I knew that I was supposed to pray for life. I was confident that this was the prayer that would be on my lips throughout the rest of the pregnancy. However, I had no idea what that meant. Am I supposed to pray for my baby’s life? Or the life of someone who will receive my baby’s organs? Or maybe the spiritual and physical life of my friends? Family? Strangers? And as soon the questions flooded in, my spirit knew. Pray for it all. So that is what I did; I began to pray for life. But if I’m being completely honest, I was hoping that my life would just get back to normal as soon as possible.
Pray for it all. So that is what I did; I began to pray for life. But if I’m being completely honest, I was hoping that my life would just get back to normal as soon as possible.
Looking back, I would describe my pregnancy in two parts: "Before 20 weeks” and “After 20 weeks”. Before 20 weeks, I really thought, even hoped, that this pregnancy would end in a miscarriage. My doctor had four previous patients with a similar diagnosis. And while three out of the four chose to terminate, the other lost her baby at 24 weeks. Deem told me that this was not uncommon with this kind of birth defect and would often say, “If we go full term” or “If we deliver”. I also read online that the fetus could “spontaneously abort” before actually making it to term. In my naïve mind, it seemed that the shorter the pregnancy the easier the suffering. The less I had to carry this baby, the less I would grieve. Right?
So when I started to bleed one afternoon, I was sure that I was having a miscarriage. I knew that some bleeding was normal; this was a lot. I called the nurse, but she didn’t seem too alarmed. She told me to monitor the bleeding, and she would have me come in the next day. The bleeding stopped and all I could do was wait, wait to see if this little one was still alive.
Daren took the morning off so he could come with us to the appointment. While I laid there, with my belly out, Daren sat in the corner, quietly, holding Ruby. The nurse could not find the heartbeat. She searched and searched. I knew it. I had a miscarriage. She gave up and left to grab Sherry, the expert nurse. I started to get nervous. When I looked at Daren, I started to cry. Wait a minute. Isn’t this what I expected? Even hoped for? Why am I so sad? Breathe. Don’t cry. Sherry came in and found the heartbeat immediately. I felt conflicting emotions. If I wanted my “normal” life back, why was I so heartbroken when I thought that we had lost this baby?
If I wanted my “normal” life back, why was I so heartbroken when I thought that we had lost this baby?
This exact scenario actually happened a couple more times before I made it to 20 weeks. With each visit to the doctor, my concern, even affection, for this baby seemed to deepen. However, there was still a part of me that thought a miscarriage was inevitable. And then before I knew it I was 20 weeks along. This is significant in any pregnancy because it’s time for another sonogram, the anomaly scan. The 20 week sonogram is exciting because the baby doesn’t look like a blob anymore. Parents no longer have to pretend that they know what they are looking at, because you can finally see movement and body parts clearly. And if the baby isn’t shy, the sonographer can usually determine the gender of the baby at this point. At the end of this sonogram, parents get to call their family with the news of a healthy, perfect baby. They get to post that first photo of their baby on any or all social media outlets: We are having a girl!!
And while all this is exciting, the sonographer is also scanning the baby to determine if the it is developing normally. This is when many parents find out that there is something wrong with their baby. But this scan was different for us; we already knew there was something wrong. At this sonogram, we were hopefully going to receive a solid diagnosis. Your baby, for sure, has… I laid on the table, looking up at the screen. The baby was developing normally, everything looked perfect. I saw its feet and legs, its spine and elbows, everything except the head. There was no clear profile, like we had seen with Ruby’s 20 week scan. She told us that its arms were stretched up, next to the ears, blocking the profile. I smiled, through my tears, and told her that’s how both Daren and Ruby sleep. The sonographer was quiet as she finished the scan, focusing on the head. When she was finished she told us that our baby had Acrania. She gently explained that the cerebral hemispheres were developing, but abnormally since the skull did not develop properly. She told us what we already knew: The prognosis was poor. Acrania came with a 100% mortality rate. Not compatible with life.
“Do you want to know the sex of the baby?” We nodded. “It’s a boy.”