[Read Part One of our story here.]
My husband and I walked into the doctor’s office for our 18-week ultrasound on a Friday afternoon in August. The ultrasound tech, Debbie, prepared me for the ultrasound as the three of us talked. She put our blank video in the machine so she could record the ultrasound for us to show to our families.
Debbie began working, describing what she was doing and what we were seeing on the screen. It was so neat to see our baby’s heartbeat and precious little body. Everything was fine at first; then Debbie got very quiet. She was concentrating on the same area, going over it slowly again and again. The phrase “deafening silence” was exactly what we were experiencing and I began to sense that something was wrong.
It really hadn’t entered my mind that there might be a problem with our baby. Everything had seemed so fine and normal with my pregnancy thus far. But the way Debbie’s face changed told me that something was wrong. She finally laid down the instrument and said that she was going to get my doctor. My husband and I talked quietly, wondering what she wasn’t telling us.
My doctor came in and took over the ultrasound. Then, very gently, he told us that he thought our baby had a neural tube defect, but he wanted to send us to a nearby medical university facility that had a better ultrasound machine to confirm the diagnosis. I am confident that the Lord intervened in allowing us to get in to the medical university on a late Friday afternoon. Already it was a sign of His goodness, as I can’t imagine having had to wait over the weekend to find out the condition of our baby.
During that fifteen minute drive, I remember staring out the car window and trying to absorb what was happening. What did this mean for the baby we’d been hoping and praying for the last couple of years? We didn’t talk a lot, not sure what to say.
No one was in the waiting room as we came in and filled out a brief amount of paperwork. I got ready for another ultrasound. I remember sitting close to my husband and him shedding a few tears as we considered that our dream of having a child might be ending differently than we had expected.
This high tech ultrasound confirmed my doctor’s suspicion; our baby had anencephaly. The woman explained that the neural tube is like a zipper. In spina bifida, the zipper doesn’t close in the middle, leaving the spine exposed. In anencephaly, the end of the zipper doesn’t close, leaving the brain exposed. A baby with anenecephaly can live in the mother’s womb, attached to the umbilical cord; but for all those months, the brain is exposed to amniotic fluid and begins to deteriorate. Gently but firmly, we were told that there was no way our baby would live outside the womb.
I was simply numb. I got dressed, then we had to meet with a genetic counselor. While there’s not a strong genetic link for anencephaly, she had questions she wanted us to answer. She was the first one to offer the option of an abortion. My husband and I didn’t have to think about that for a second. There was no danger to my physical health by carrying this baby and, though we already knew the outcome of this pregnancy, we would not end this baby’s life.
I cannot put into words how much those couple of hours forever changed our lives. Never again would I enter a pregnancy with only hope and excitement. No ultrasound would ever seem routine, no prenatal doctor’s visit just a normal occurrence. And never again would I look at my husband the same, for we became partners in a new way, walking through this tragedy together.
And yes, my relationship with God would change as well. I didn’t feel anger or bitterness as we left the doctor’s office for the drive home, still only numbness. There weren’t even tears at this point…my eyes were dry, I felt like I couldn’t cry. I could only think and think and think about what all this would mean.
And little did I know what the coming months would hold.
To be continued next Monday…