The Ultrasound

“Renny” was born in April 2007.  She is our fourth child.  We have three boys ahead of her, including a set of twins.  The oldest was 5 and the twins 3 when I was pregant with Renny.  Though we knew we would be happy and accepting of whatever God decided, we really, really, really wanted a girl, and we really, really, really, did NOT want another set of twins!

At my 20-week ultrasound, we went in a little nervous but excited to find out the answers to these two questions of ours.  In the ultrasound room, my husband and I and our oldest son happily learned it was definitely not twins (yah!) and then we learned it was definitely a girl (double yah!).  After the unusually quiet ultrasound technician led us back to our room, my doctor came in the room quickly, sat down and looked us in the eye and said very matter-of-factly:  “The baby has some fluid in her brain.  It could be an isolated case of hydrocephalus and worst case scenario – spina bifida.”  What?  Fluid?  In brain?  hydro-what? spina bifida?  Everything started to become a blur, as I slowly nodded my head in vague understanding to the doctor.  She was calling the high-risk specialist to set up an appointment today if possible so we could get things checked out and find out for sure what was wrong.

Blur…All a blur…The doctor is back…we have an appointment for 1:00 (or 1:30 – I don’t remember)…As we leave a nurse asks if I had been taking prenatal pills from the beginning…I had been taking a multivitamin at first I say in a daze (I had become pregnant very quickly and a bit unexpectedly).  Then I hear in the distant background, “…It’s her third pregnancy…”  And some slight gasps…  (I later find out that one of my doctor’s nurses also has a child with spina bifida). We are rushed out the door, still in a daze…

On our way home I call my school to tell my co-worker that I will not be coming back in.  In trying to tell her about the results of the ultrasound, it suddenly hits me that something is wrong with my baby girl and my voice cracks, and tears begin to form in my eye – I do not cry much…and even though I was still in shock and was not comprehending much…I was realizing that this was suddenly serious…

I get to school and go to the office to tell the secretary about needing a sub – I don’t know why I went there – to get my things?  I probably could have just let my co-workers take care of it…but maybe I still felt I should be there to explain why I wasn’t returning…I don’t know….it’s still a blur…I find the secretary and say “I was just at my ultrasound….” my voice cracks again….more tears forming….”Is everything ok?!”  I shake my head no and she comes to me and gives me a hug – I can’t hold it in anymore…We go into her room, I give her the brief news…she’s going to try to find a sub.  I’m standing there…in a daze…lost…a few minutes go by and another co-worker comes in and says she was told that I was upset…I tell her…she gives me a big hug…more tears…what is happening?  I can’t stop the tears now – We go into a smaller room of filing cabinets so as to give me more privacy to….cry.  She runs to get my things so I do not have to see anyone…After what seemed an eternity, my things are here, the sub is being taken care of, I go back to the van.

The twins were at school, I think for the morning (our oldest had school in the p.m.)…we needed someone to watch them later so we could go to the other doctor for another ultrasound.  We call my mom at school (she teaches also) – what?  she isn’t there today?  at home?  We find out that she had taken the day off – appointment or something – and so we are able to use her to watch the boys.  Thank goodness – that part was easy.

Everything is still all a blur here…my mom has a worried look as we see her…she is calm though.  I think we ate some lunch before we left, but I don’t remember.  I even think we went to our computer and Googled spina bifida (bad idea as we now realize).  It didn’t look good.   When we get to the high-risk specialist’s office, we get right into another ultrasound.  He looks around on the baby – he and another person is looking for a “hole” where the defect would be, to confirm if it is spina bifida.  The baby’s front side is facing him, he cannot see the back; he tries and waits and waits and is about to give up when the baby flips!  Ah ha!  There it is!  they shout in rejoice.  Why are they rejoicing?  We didn’t want them to find something!  Stop being proud of yourselves!  They don’t get it…There is a hole, he says, a defect, so it is probably spina bifida.

Though I know there was more talking going on, I only remember that he says, I need to let you know that there is an option to terminate the baby.  Terminate?  For a brief, brief, half-second, the thought crossed my mind, in the sense that it sounded so easy….so easy…….why wasn’t my husband answering for me?  It would have been easier to let him talk….the doctor was waiting for a response….and suddenly, suddenly, my brief  irrational thought was quickly taken over by what I have known for years, my instilled values and beliefs that I held about life, and what I knew was right in God’s eyes, and what I knew was right but was just afraid right now…and I managed to say “We’re keeping the baby no matter what.”  And even though part of me was wincing because I did not know what this held for us, the other part knew that I had done what is right and good.

Ok, he says, let’s do an amnio to get more test results for more confirmation.  Something I had read about – the big long needle going into the womb – sounded scary before, but now, it did not seem quite so scary – not as scary as everything else that was happening to us.  The amnio is done.  He’s sending us down to a genetic specialist for a quick meeting; he could tell us more.  We go down to that doctor’s office.  He finds us and says he’s in between appointments and so only has a minute or two.  He tells us that spina bifida could mean lots of things, even death.  What?  Death?  He says more, but that is all I remember, that and the fact that the outlook did not look good.

We go home.  We tell my mom.  She looks concerned and there’s some silence and some sitting around, and I don’t even know if this was the same moment or if it was later, but I remember she says “We will love this baby no matter what!”  It was a commanding statement, and a statement I needed to hear.  I needed to hear that she was in it with us (though knowing my mom, I know she would have been, but everything was a blur…), and it helped.

That night (after looking it up more on Google – still a bad idea) I think I cried, but I don’t remember.  I do know that when I went walking the next morning as I had been, I cried the whole time.   Over the next few days I cried a lot, more than I have ever cried my whole life.  And at some point I prayed… Lord, if our baby girl is going to have hardships her whole life, just take her away, take her to be with you so she did not have to suffer.  It wasn’t even about me, it was about her.  Please take her, please, please, please, take her if life is going to be difficult for her.

And during those few days, I let my brothers know, my parents let our relatives know, my husband’s parents were told, and his relatives informed, all of our friends were told, and we asked everyone for prayers, lots of prayers, for the baby, for us.   And after a few days, maybe a week, we suddenly felt a sense of peace.  I knew – somehow knew – that everything was going to be okay.  I know for a fact that it was because of all of the prayers on our behalf….We have so many God-fearing, wonderfully Christian friends (who unfortunately live far away from us!).  God’s peace was on my heart.  He was letting me know that everything was going to be okay…whatever the outcome…everything was going to be okay.  And I was okay with that. 

Just a side note:  Some people, after finding out our news, did not know what to say. It was those people who said things like “It is going to be okay” and “We will love her no matter what” that meant the most to me.  Thank you to those who told me the words I needed to hear.

Throughout the rest of the pregnancy, our friends and family continued to pray – Because of our wonderful support system, we had family, friends of family, friends of friends, church groups, people we didn’t even know, praying for our little girl.   Though I still had some anxiety about the upcoming birth, I did not have fear.  God’s people were praying for her.  And God had not taken her to be with Him, which meant He was telling me she was going to be okay.

A week before Renny was born, we saw the high-risk specialist one more time for an ultrasound check.  The news he gave was grim.  Though of good size, she did not look good overall.  She had extreme hydrocephalus, so much that we could not even really see the brain, and so much that he predicted, quote, “You will have a very, very sick baby” and, when I questioned him as to what that exactly meant, he basically said she’d most likely have  a lot of damage done to her organs, i.e. brain damage and perhaps other serious problems.  Oddly, though I listened to his words and was saddened by them, I was not upset.  Instead, I sent out in earnest a request for urgent prayers, explaining what we had heard.  And after that, I knew God was still involved.