Thursday, January 28, 2016

Severe and Profound {Choosing Life: Chapter 5}

September 7, 2010

She and her husband arrived at the women’s clinic together for the highly anticipated 20 week ultrasound. Although she had an ultrasound around 10 weeks or so and saw the peanut that confirmed the pregnancy, this was the ultrasound where they really get to see the baby with all its little bits and parts. But since they did not find out the sex with their first two boys, they were not planning to find out this time either. For them, it's like peeking into a Christmas present before Christmas. It takes some of the fun out of delivery day.

They were ushered into the dimly lit room where the clinic performed the ultrasounds. She had been there before with her other two babies and nothing had really changed. The technician fired up the machine, put the gel on her stomach, warning her it might be a little cool, and proceeded to move the wand over her belly. The only difference this time was that they had a television screen up over her head instead of having to crane her neck to look at the monitor.

And there appeared the baby! Moving around doing its baby thing! The tech began to take a few measurements of its arms and legs. She pushed a button every now and then so that an image of what she was looking at would be printed for them to take home.

She began looking and measuring the head when all of a sudden she seemed to be in a hurry, pushed the print button a couple times, and then left the room. When she came back, they were told they were going to be sent to a specialized ultrasound doctor with a better machine in order to get more precise measurements.

In her naivety, she can honestly say she had no idea something might be wrong. Her husband, looking at the image printouts that the tech gave them, brought one to her and said, “Look at the baby’s hand.” She looked and said, “Oh, it has a funky hand.” (It kind of looked like a claw). So they figured the ultrasound doc would be looking in more detail at the hand.

They set an appointment for the next day.


September 8, 2010

She remembers going to the appointment kind of excited that they would see the baby in even more detail. They had nervously made jokes.

The gal that did the actual ultrasound was very kind. She took all the measurements like the other ultrasound tech would have done at the women’s clinic, only this time, she completed the job. Afterward, the doctor came in to have a look for himself. She remembers he was much more aggressive than the tech was when looking at at the baby, meaning, he applied a lot more pressure to her abdomen to the point that it was quite uncomfortable and it hurt. But she endured it, and they were then asked to come into his office to discuss the findings.

She was so clueless. Apparently this ultrasound doc was actually a doc for women who were having babies with problems. So after being told all the possible things wrong and the worst case possibilities that could result, they decided to break their rule and go ahead and find out the sex in case the baby didn't live to be born.

Facebook status, Sept. 8th, 2010: “Please pray for our unborn (20 weeks) baby BOY. He got a really crappy prognosis from the results of a detailed ultrasound this afternoon. The doc used the words "severe" and "profound neurological defects", as well as, he believes the limbs, especially one leg is deformed. :( “


She now definitely knew what a mom feels like when faced with the absolute (not maybe) knowledge that her unborn baby will face challenges to live. It was a sickening shock, and she was actually surprised at how many (she had assumed) pro-life/Christian friends and family said they would support whatever decision she made, although she is certain now it was all said in love, fear of the unknown, and wanting to be supportive in that moment of grief. And she certainly had to consider it herself. Was she going to live out her faith and convictions and trust her God, or take the easy way out? 

That night after the fateful ultrasound, she spent hours alone on the couch, crying out to Jesus, and begging God to just take him so she would not have to make such a decision. And then she realized that she didn't have to make that decision, that God had her baby's life in His hands. So she began to just ask Jesus to cuddle and hold him (and her) no matter what the outcome. She began to feel the peace that cannot be understood.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

To Austin: On Your 5th Birthday

Well Austin, you turned five today. You woke up with vigor, smiling, laughing, and kicking as if you were really going somewhere, ready to take on the world. You wriggled, arched your back, and threw your head back and forth as if you could propel yourself right off the bed and into a miracle.

I take that back. You are already in the midst of a miracle. In the beginning, I never would have predicted we would make it to this day. I really did think that even if you survived your birth, you would never make it to be 5 years old. Five years just seemed like such a long time to fight the odds that were absolutely not in your favor. Many kids with similar challenges have tried and failed.

Yet here we are. You, continuing to breathe, in...out, like you have done from day one, and me, continuing to breathe, in...out, right along with you. I remember your breaths in those first few days, shallow, raspy, tentative. Yet whether it was merely your human spirit that kept you alive or your body's natural survival instincts kicking in, I'll never know. But I don't think we were completely responsible for choosing life for you. We gave you the opportunity to live, but you had the final say. You chose life too. And in choosing life, here's what you've done for me:

You've challenged me. You have forced me to take on a project that has no end in sight, to get up everyday knowing that I have not fixed things or figured out just the right solution. And yet, you force me to keep trying. I can't give up; I won't run away. And little by little you and I make small progresses, slight changes that aid in your comfort, minor adjustments that aid in mine. And sometimes we regress. That's ok too. 
You've blessed me. I'm not talking about the things we think of when we say we are blessed like your darling little crooked smile, your belly laughs, your happy chirps, or your indomitable spirit. I'm talking about the mysterious, paradoxical, "beatitudal" blessings that occur when life persecutes. You've caused me to be poor in spirit and have to lean on others for their faith, to mourn and experience grief to depths I never have before, to take on meekness as I admit I'm not strong enough do this alone, to hunger and thirst after God for answers. 
You've loved me. You have managed to extend that trusting, dependent, newborn type love out over five years and will probably continue to into the future as long as you are dependent on us for every aspect of your care. It's a draining kind of love. A dependent love. A desperate love. You need me. But I need to be needed.

I had always held out this five year mark vaguely in the back of my mind as some kind of destination. For some reason, I had certain expectations of things that should have happened if you lived this long. I thought for sure that you would be holding your head up on your own by now, perhaps have a few understandable words in your vocabulary, maybe even be moving towards a crawl or even a walk. But now as we are hitting this arbitrary marker, I wonder what my goals for you should look like? What are my goals for me? Where do we go from here? How do we get on?

And yet. We will get on. We will wake up everyday, sometimes with vigor and ready to take on the world, and sometimes with fear and trepidation, feeling puny and needing constant care. We will be challenged, blessed, and loved by each other, by our family and friends, by our God. We will stumble, fall, and fail. We will get back up, shake off the dust, and renew our spirits. We will continue the miracle to whatever its end. We will continue to breathe, in...out.