A year ago today we sat in the ultrasound room as a doctor presented us with a choice.
Since then I’ve felt, many times, that I should share this piece of our story, but something always held me back. Even now I’m anxious remembering those moments and considering how to piece together what I want to say so that this message comes across in the way I mean for it to. Please know that what I share with you is written in love but also a deep conviction of something that is so important to me.
And with that… one year ago today…
When we drove to our anatomical ultrasound I chatted with Steve in anticipation, excited to see our baby and find out whether we were adding a little boy or girl to our family.
When the ultrasound tech told us we were having another girl I laughed with happiness. I actually apologized to her because I laughed hard enough to bump her hand where she was scanning.
When she left the room saying I should walk around a bit to see if the baby would move for more pictures, Steve and I looked at each other with joy. I could instantly imagine our two girls at home, the sisters I’d always hoped for.
When she came back in with a doctor at her side my heart sank.
When that doctor looked at us with sympathy in her eyes and told us there was fluid in our baby girl’s chest I buried my face in my hands and cried.
And when we sat in another ultrasound room, in a different office, as the new specialist doctor told us that our baby’s combination of hydrops and a heart defect meant an almost one hundred percent mortality rate, we were given a choice. A choice whether or not to terminate the pregnancy.
A choice whether or not to end our child’s life.
Having already experienced what we did with Faith, we had some understanding of what the road ahead might look like. And from where we sat that day it looked like a very rough road.
We knew what a baby with hydrops could potentially mean for me physically. During the ten days I was hospitalized following Faith’s diagnosis I developed Mirror Syndrome in which my body mirrored what was happening to Faith. I began retaining so much fluid that I gained twenty-three pounds over three days. My lungs filled with fluid as well to the point of needing a chest x-ray in the middle of the night when my oxygen levels dropped too low followed by IV medication to decrease fluids and oxygen through a nasal cannula.
Not good stuff to say the least. And carrying another baby with hydrops meant I was at risk of this again.
We also knew the emotional turmoil of carrying a child who might die, and the odds they gave us for Hope were worse than what we had been told with Faith. Not to mention, Faith’s diagnosis came at 30 weeks and she was born two weeks later, whereas Hope’s diagnosis was at just 20 weeks with half the pregnancy still ahead of us.
That was the worst part for me. I had no idea how I would handle being in public doing “normal” things and looking increasingly pregnant all while knowing my baby would die. Claustrophobic is the best word I ever came to describing it – claustrophobic in my own body with no way to escape.
And here I must pause, because this choice we were offered breaks my heart.
An unborn baby is fully human. A life is a life and it is not up to us to play God and decide whether that life should continue or not.
It’s one thing to believe that. It’s one thing to say that. It’s another thing to live through it. To actually experience being there, being offered that choice.
For us it was an easy choice to make. We didn’t need time to think it over, didn’t even need privacy to discuss it. We knew I would carry our baby girl for as long as she lived, no matter the diagnosis or predicted outcome.
But how many people have sat in rooms like that one, with the weight of grief and fear and hopelessness, and made a different choice?
Try to imagine the emotional spiral of the day – from the anticipation before the ultrasound to the crushing sorrow of finding out your baby would likely die. Words can’t really express it. A tidal wave sweeping you under.
And what if you felt like the only lifeline being thrown your way, the only escape from drowning, was to terminate the pregnancy? To end your child’s life because that child didn’t have a chance anyway?
Please understand, I’m not saying we’re better or stronger because of the choice we made. I sobbed and screamed and slammed doors. I’m saying that we, as a culture, need to make a change. We, as Christians, need to show people that there is another lifeline – the only true and trustworthy lifeline – Jesus.
In situations like ours or in other scenarios where people are led to believe that ending a life is the most common, best, or even only choice, we need to be there to show them another way.
We need to stand up for the unborn children, even if they are only going to be here for a short time. In God’s book are written all the days ordained for each of us, when as yet there was not one of them (Psalm 139:16), and it is up to God alone to determine when those days end.
But we also need to be there to support, care for, and comfort the families presented with such an awful choice. Because it doesn’t end with making the choice for life, they have to follow through. They have to walk the difficult road. A road I couldn’t imagine walking without God.
And that is why I share our story. Because we were there, in that moment, with that choice, and we chose life. And maybe, just maybe, hearing our story could help someone else choose life too.
One year ago today, we made our choice. We didn’t chose to carry her expecting her to be healed, we chose to carry her because God gave her life and it wasn’t up to us to end that life. It would have been the right decision no matter the outcome.
But our story doesn’t end there…
When we sat down in the ultrasound room two weeks later the fluid that had filled our tiny daughter’s chest was gone.
When I closed my eyes and pushed her into this world early that November morning her cries filled the operating room.
When her big sister held her later that day my heart filled with joy over a moment we thought might never happen.
When I type these words late into the night I am thankful because I spent the day taking care of the daughter we were told would never come home.
When I look at her and her smile lights up her entire face I am looking at a miracle. I am looking at a life.
*Please know this: I don’t believe God healed Hope from the hydrops as some kind of reward because we chose to continue this pregnancy. He doesn’t work like that. I know families who have made the same choice we did and their precious children are in heaven.
I don’t know why God worked the way He did, nor do I know what Hope’s future holds as she still has so many challenges to face. But I know this, as I said before, the choice for life would have been the right one no matter the outcome.